Massage Therapy is an an excellent modality for mental health.
The power of touch has long been known to comfort and heal. From the casual handshake between peers to the warm embrace exchanged between friends and family, we all know how good physical connection can make a person feel. There is a quantifiable effect to tissue manipulation offered through professional massage, and other healing touch therapies, that is not to be underestimated in our toolbox for better mental health.
As a physical therapy, massage affords direct stretch and manipulation of anatomical structures - muscles, joints, and tendons, for example. The areas of the body that need attention can be addressed directly through massage. But there is also an emotional component of touch, increasing a person’s awareness of areas where they may hold tension, allowing that tension to release, and enjoying the relief of diminished aches and pains.
Furthermore, there is also the safe space aspect of the massage treatment room. It is a place where a person can be quiet or is welcome to speak their thoughts. Clients can always be assured that the massage therapist’s professional discretion will respect their confidences. Given that many treatments are upwards of 30 minutes, and often an hour in length, massage treatment is one of the few spaces permitting such an uninterrupted amount of time with a healthcare practitioner. A massage therapist - unless having undergone specific training - is by no means a psychotherapist or mental healthcare professional. A massage therapist will focus on the physical complaints of the person on her table. But sometimes emotional concerns might arise and given a voice, thoughts or issues may float up as a client grows more relaxed during a treatment, and the massage professional can bear witness to this. That release of mental burden is often vital to a person’s sense of health and wellbeing. And many massage therapists keep a bank of referral notes to offer clients if they request further help, assistance that falls outside the massage therapy scope of practice.
For many of us dealing with mental health issues, confronting troubles in our personal lives, on medications that affect our experience of our physical bodies, or impeding - at times - our capacity to develop intimate relationships, having a dedicated healthcare professional who offers touch therapy can be an invaluable tool. Offering comfort, putting our minds back in touch with our bodies, addressing direct physical aches, and affording us a safe space in which to work towards greater wellbeing: these are all aspects of massage therapy that directly and indirectly work towards better mental health.
Alicia works her magic in Kensington Market, Toronto