What Clients REALLY want

An article by Gerry Pyves – NO HANDS Massage Founder & Creator

In Psychotherapy practice, the reason clients give for coming into treatment are as varied as the stars in the heaven and defy any categorisation that I have come across so far. This is why it is so important to spend time pinning down exactly why a client comes for Psychotherapy. Sometimes it takes me and the client several sessions fully to uncover their true motivation in coming for therapy. This process is called ‘contracting’ in Transactional Analysis and I swear that 90% of the therapy is often completed by the time they have properly identified their true reasons for coming to sessions.

Contracting is one of the most significant processes taught in Transactional Analysis and I have translated it directly across to the Massage treatment room and now teach this within our NO HANDS Massage and Transformational Touch Therapy training.  In Massage, I have found that when we actually listen to what clients say, they come up with six broad categories of why they want a massage.

We help them identify their reasons for Massage, not by asking what their ‘physical problems’ are. No, we ask them what ‘outcome’ they would like from this treatment. What would they like to feel at the end of the treatment, when they walk out the treatment room? After all, if we ‘get what we focus on’ then why would we spend so much time focusing on problems and pain?

A word of warning: this idea of asking the client for what ‘outcome’ they want from the Massage is deceptive – it seems blissfully simple, but in truth takes serious advanced training and supervised application to get right. This one approach to engaging with clients has transformed more clinical practices than any other I know – but has also been dismissed as “not working” by therapists who have tried to put it into action without actually receiving any training in it. You can experience it as a client by booking in with one of the NO HANDS Masters and it is taught at level 3 of the NO HANDS training – TRANSACTIONAL BODYWORK.

I soon discovered that there are six different categories why clients come for Massage, and each required a COMPLETELY different approach to the sort of touch provided and a TOTALLY different sort of training. It was to help other Massage therapists identify which category their clients wanted and how to deliver these different Massage treatments, that I set up the NO HANDS Academy for Transformational Touch Therapy and the complete training programme through to NO HANDS Master and Transformational Touch Therapist. These six categories continue to ring true and are described below.

Before this I want to make offer a key insight:

“Beware the ‘R’ word.”

Clients will always say “I want to feel Relaxed.” This is the most disingenuous word in Bodywork. It means absolutely nothing. One person’s ‘physical’ Relaxed is another person’s ‘mental’ Relaxed. This word ‘relaxed’ is the client’s ‘blah, blah, blah’. When someone says “How are You?” and you replay “Fine” it is simply ‘Blah, blah, blah’.  The word ‘relaxed’ is the same in the treatment room. If you are not willing to go beyond the ‘R’ word, you will never find out why your clients are really coming for Massage. If you do go beyond the barrier of ‘relaxed’, then this is what you may find:


Deep, powerful NO HANDS MassageThis is often the first reason that clients give for coming for a Massage. “Please Doc, fix my neck.” At first. This is their way to justify getting the support from another human they need across all levels of their being – not just their physical body. Often persisting with a client, letting them know that you see they are a real human being who has feelings and thoughts, as well as a body, creates a space for the client to reveal a reason for coming which has nothing to do with the physical.

Having said that, where it is a genuinely simple structural issue they want resolved, many of the ‘structural problems’ are not specific at all. The ‘neck problem’ is very often only properly addressed by Massaging the whole body deeply and powerfully. Because fascia is contiguous, there is no real knowing which part of the client’s soft tissue holds the key to their unlocking. It is best to just do the whole body, anyway. So why then, such a tedious fascination with only the site of the injury or problem, from our structural experts? If fascia really is contiguous, then the real problem could be anywhere, or everywhere.

The most true saying I ever heard about Bodywork is Where it is, it isnt and where it isnt, it is.

This simply means that we play the game of ‘expert’ at our own peril. Most structural problems originate in the fact that the ‘suit’ that is our soft tissue has shrunk. It is much more effective to loosen and stretch the whole ‘suit’, rather than repeatedly mending the same old tear, over and over again.


Many clients are understandably reluctant to say they come for Massage because they need nurturing touch. Very few even realise that this is a valid reason to book a Massage. This is not surprising as we live in a society that seems hell bent on convincing us we must be injured, in pain, or have something that is ‘wrong’ with us before we can ever ask for help – let alone a Massage.

  • What if the one illness that this planet suffers from most is the lack of soothing touch?
  • Who will let them know what is missing, who will tell them about the amazing medicine that is touch itself, if we do not?
  • Is it any surprise that instead of touch, people go and get their ‘jollies’ from conflict, drugs and crime?

‘Folks need strokes’ the saying goes, and if we don’t get our strokes from Massage then we must get them from somewhere else, healthy or unhealthy. The level of violence in any country is simply the measure of our profession’s failure in that country.

Mostly people that need nurturance will say that they come for Massage because they are ‘stressed out by their lives.’ When pressed they will finally admit that they ‘want to feel mentally and emotionally calmed and soothed’. Maybe they are busy people who never give themselves time to stop and breathe, and feel how they are really doing. Maybe they spend their whole life looking after others.

Let me be clear, this is not a ‘pamper’ Massage. A pamper Massage suggests we do not really need it. It is a choice, an extra, an ‘add on’. A nurturance Massage is nothing less than harnessing the profound healing power of Massage to enable the mind and body to harmonise itself back into balance. The purpose of the treatment is often so they can once again ‘enter the fray’ of life, reinvigorated with hope and optimism. All they need is 60 minutes of beautiful soothing, nurturing touch.

This treatment is as similar to the ‘Structural’ massage treatment as a wart hog is similar to a dolphin. This is flowing and continuous and is aimed at wrapping the client in a smorgasbord of pure and heavenly touch.

Who would deny them this, or relegate it to being a ‘superficial’ area of bodywork? The muscles and bones may not need fixing, but the soul of another human being just turned up for healing.  Are you scared of this?

You probably should be


I suspect that almost all illness springs from a disconnection from the immense wisdom that lies in the human body. Reconnect with this innate wisdom and almost all illness and unhappiness would be wiped from the face of this beautiful planet. That’s what I believe, anyway. If I did not believe that, then I would have chosen to spend my life in politics doing my very best to stop war, poverty and the mindless destruction of this oh-so-fragile planet. Instead I spend my time doing what I can to encourage people to live in harmony with this oh-so-fragile body.

Those clients that are aware of this lack of connection often complain of feeling ‘ungrounded’. They often have a sense that they need to reconnect with themselves, again. Maybe they spend all day suspended in the ungrounded ether of the internet. Maybe they have an abusive relationship or trauma that causes them to want to ‘get out of their body’. Whatever their reasons, they do not feel as if they are fully living in their body, but are floating slightly out of it. Most mental health conditions that I have come across stem from losing the amazing ‘reality check’ of our bodies.

The purpose of this treatment is to enable them to, once again, ‘feel’. They need time and weight so they can reconnect with themselves through their body. Touch offers them the chance to focus their mind on the actual ‘feel’ of their being. It is only through our senses that we can truly ‘land’ into our reality. For this they need a very slow and very deep Massage that is completely different from the Nurturance treatment. Above all, they need to be taught how to breathe and be given time, during the Massage, to experience their breath fully.


So many people lack energy these days. They walk around chronically exhausted, many like zombies. You can see them walking down the streets staring vacantly into space with no life in their movements or their gaze. Occasionally they have an artificial ‘caffeine or alcohol induced’ burst of energy but they soon return to their zombie-like stupor. Whatever the reasons for this depletion, and I suspect they are legion, many clients come for treatments simply because they realise that they have no energy, and are fed up with this.

Many clients in this category need Massage because they have been chronically ill or suffer from terminal illness. Some have survived cancer through massive doses of chemotherapy and their immune systems have been massively weakened.

Some people who need this Massage treatment are just permanently exhausted through ‘overdoing it’. They have no energy. They survive through artificial stimulation and creating lots of drama in their lives. Mostly they just feel drained. These clients, when asked, often say they want to feel ‘their old self again’. The purpose of this treatment is to allow the body’s own natural and deep reservoirs of energy to rebuild again. This is achieved by very still and very light touch. Again this bears no resemblance to the sort of Massage treatments already mentioned.


Whether it is because of a toxic lifestyle or toxic relationships, many clients turn up wanting to be ‘cleaned out’.  They want to purify themselves again with the Massage equivalent of a cleansing ‘fast’. They have often allowed themselves to get overweight through eating the wrong foods, or eating too much or exercising too little. This is a firecracker of a Massage, where the therapist is moving so fast, sparks should fly! It is the therapeutic opposite of the still ‘repletion Massage’.

These are often the clients who are either on a ‘health drive’ or who feel ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked’ in their energy. If they are on a health drive they are looking for the nausea and headache of a really good ‘detox Massage’. If they feel stuck or blocked in their energy, then they are looking for a Massage that will unblock the flow of energy in their body’s meridians. They want a Massage that stimulates the body into detox.

This is why I describe this treatment as a ‘firecracker’ of a Massage – it really needs to get the metabolism moving again. The only danger in this treatment is if you have not noticed that their need for a real ‘buzz’ in their  body is down to chronic depletion. What they need in that case, is still and quiet repletion, not noisy whizz bangs.


NO HANDS Massage in actionFinally, many clients, when pressed, will admit that they are really looking for a transformation in themselves and in their lives. Whilst it is useful to know that this is the ‘hidden agenda’ of their treatments, unless you have had specialised training in ‘body psychotherapy’ (or Transformational Touch Therapy), then this is the one contract that is beyond your scope of practice and you must say so. It is still one of the six reasons why clients come for Massage, however.

Most Massage therapists learn about this powerful effect of touch from their clients or from their own personal Massage treatments. Clients get off the table and start talking. Or they come in after six months and say “I have to tell you what all this has done for me.” We often hear about it retrospectively.

Those clients who come with lots of ‘niggling problems’ and never seem to get better may fall into this category. Like the people who endlessly visit the doctors with one complaint after another, they are not being honest with themselves about what is really going wrong in their lives. So they talk far too much before the Massage and seem to linger in a very ‘needy’ kind of way at the end of each treatment. These are the clients that you have to book in another client immediately after their session is scheduled to finish, because if they do not see another client waiting, they will never leave!

Helping a client identify that they are actually looking for some kind of personal transformation could be the first step they take toward an actual resolution of their problems. If you are not qualified to work with them in this, this is the person who needs to seek out a Psychotherapist.


In all of these six categories, we can see the value of ‘probing’ for the answer to the ‘existential question’, namely why are you here with me? Why are you not out enjoying yourself doing sex, drugs and rocknroll?

Doing this in a sensitive and timely manner is at the heart of NO HANDS  training. Is it psychotherapy training for Massage practitioners or touch therapy training for psychotherapists? I’m not really sure. All I know is that it works.

In the UK we now have hundreds of Massage therapists who have full practices because they have been trained to address all six of the reasons why clients really come for a Massage.

If the health and fitness injury can convince the public that they will DIE if they do not exercise, then surely we can be saying a little more than “let me fix your broken car” for Massage? The research shows clearly that we are far more likely to DIE from lack of tactile stimulation than we are from lack of exercise, or even from lack of food.

If we explain to our clients that touch really is essential for them to stay healthy and live a full life, then we have regular Massage clients for life. That is the real secret to the success of NO HANDS Massage across the UK.

Massage is not a luxury. It properly lies at the very base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The need for touch. To survive. A basic human need, not a luxury at all. Not just for when injured. To actually live.

Who will tell the public this, if not us?

Go tell.