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Working with "Draining Clients"

Often I hear massage therapists indicating that they are feeling drained after working - that their clients are somehow sucking the life out of them.

Do you often feel tired and exhausted after a day of working with clients?  Is your body in pain?  Do you run to the shower thinking that it will help to get rid of that excess energy you are picking up from clients?

Making a statement such as this says more about yourself than the clients.  Someone can and will drain you if you let them.  A statement of saying "I feel drained" is acknowledging a feeling - You are drained.  A feeling is just an indicator of whether or not our needs are being met or not.   A negative feeling such as this means that there is some underlying need that we have that is not being met.  

Our needs are often unconscious.  Carl Jung has stated "What we are unconscious of will become our fate."   All we need to do to see what we are unconscious of is to examine what we do have in our lives.

As massage therapists, it is often easier to see what others need and work to take care of those.  Knowing the difference between "caretaking" and "caregiving" can begin the process of discovering the underlying needs that we have.

"When we caretake we assume responsibility for our clients’ healing. When we caregive we support clients in assuming responsibility for their own healing.

In all helping professions it is necessary to discern whose needs are being met; the practitioner or the client… this is a major reason for supervision. At the deepest level the issue is over who controls the healing process, the client or the practitioner, and for how long? Difficulties arise when we inappropriately assume a parental or caretaking role with our clients."
                     Jack Blackburn
                      (see articles section)

Caretaking is another word for rescuing or "fixing". (see also The Drama Triangle) We are really on the Drama Triangle when we are trying to fix or rescue clients.  We are caretaking when we are constantly trying to give our clients advice.  We recommend that they go to our favorite health care provider. We give nutritional advise that is out of our scope of practice. 

There may be instances of certain people who are so called "energy vampires" who are extremely needy and work to manipulate others.   You will know the difference because you will feel immediately uncomfortable after the session or you will start noticing that you don't look forward to seeing this client.  

You do have a choice in who you work on.  One of my massage teachers always asked "Are you working on nurturing clients?"   We do have the right to "fire" any client that we don't want to work with for any reason.

The way to heal the "feeling that clients are draining to work with" is to discover the needs that are underlying the feeling.  When we can become conscious of this need and learn to get this need met in other places besides our practice, we will often see a soft shift in our lives. 

Working with a supervisor or peer supervision group can help you become aware of the ways you stay stuck in this pattern of caretaking. 


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