At first I started offering an introductory shorter session as a marketing tool, to give clients a brief taste of my work, and a chance to meet me without a big commitment. They’ve never been used as a sales pitch–I just like to give clients the opportunity to make an educated decision on their treatment plan, without being pressured.
Fortunately, most of my work shows fast results, so in 30 minutes of hands-on-bodywork I have a good opportunity to show the potential. Before and after this manual therapy part, we have time to talk, go over medical records, do a short evaluation, and discuss treatment options. I am very honest here, and explain clearly what medical research I’m aware of, and where we have gaps in knowledge and must rely on trial and error.
That makes me popular with skeptics and clients who have spent a lot of money and time with practitioners who promised a lot, and delivered little.
After several years of offering introductory sessions I found that it doesn’t only allow the client to try me out–I can try out the client.
First, in an evaluation of posture and movement, I can see patterns of strain and restrictions, and I get a better idea of how likely it is that my work will help. But even more important, I see how the client responds to directions about modifying their posture, or moving in a specific way. Within the first few minutes, I already know how much body awareness a new client has, and that makes a big difference on my treatment plan.
In the manual therapy part of the First Visit, I notice how their soft tissues respond to touch and mobilization techniques, and how sensitive the nervous system is.
Since some people can get sore after treatment, and a few (fortunately very few) could even have muscle spasms, it’s good to start with a shorter session anyway.
Only clients who have received a lot of bodywork and know how they respond should schedule for longer sessions (60 or 90 minutes or even more).
If I have a new client who has not gotten any bodywork or massages, who is rather sensitive, and who starts out with a whole hour of hands-on work, I’m running the risk of intense reactions and side effects.
So I’d be very careful in a first hour–maybe a little too careful, and then I’m not getting the full results.
The First Visit gives me the chance to try out how the client responds, and in the days afterwards, the client gets a clear impression on how my work affects the body, and how long the results last.
Once my clients come back for a full session (usually 60 or 90 minutes), they can report back to me, and I can treat them accordingly–very carefully, with a focus on nerve work if they had averse reactions, or with a lot of deep manipulations when they responded well to the short treatment.
The First Visit also includes a lot of practical advice, and that’s especially valuable for clients whose first visit is the only one they can afford. I like helping clients out of pain, so I’m happy to offer this one-off option at a lower price, and I use the time to refer them to other professionals, massage therapists, medical doctors, or sometimes even massage schools.
I usually give information on what pain is, how pain intensity changes depending on experiences and expectations, and especially how nutrition, sleep, and exercise influence not only overall health, but also pain.
Of course clients also come with other concerns than pain–some want to improve their posture or movement patterns, some want to age gracefully, some are looking for advice for their kids, especially during growth spurts.