Ten Ways to Avoid Practitioner Mistakes and Misunderstandings

Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 03:10 PM

NHPC practitioner performing massage on client

Everybody makes mistakes. It is a normal part of life, and it is how we learn and grow. Even in your practice as a holistic health practitioner you will make mistakes.

However, some of these mistakes are avoidable, and some can affect how your client perceives the treatment. Making mistakes too often can make clients unhappy and cost you business.

In this blog post, we will outline ten common mistakes practitioners make and how you can correct or avoid those mistakes altogether.

1. Being Unprofessional

If you are constantly cancelling appointments or running late, your clients will start to look elsewhere for a practitioner. It is important to return all phone calls, emails, and texts from clients in a timely manner.

Cancelling appointments when you are sick or when there is an emergency is okay, but remember not to make a habit of it. If you need to cancel appointments for an extended period of time, be transparent with your clients and suggest a different practitioner they can visit while you are away.

You should also always act professionally while you are with a client. This means maintaining respectful conversation, dressing professionally, not texting while you are with a client, and respecting any reasonable requests they have.

It is important to remember that you are a health care provider and must embody the same level of professionalism you would see from other health care professionals.

2. Talking

Whether it's talking too much or too little, it is important to be mindful of your conversation when a client is on the table. If the client comes in and states that they just want to relax, respect that and keep the chatting to a minimum during the treatment.

While you may want to chat with a client who you have grown to know well, it is important to follow their lead on the amount of chatting. Don't feel like you have to talk through all the gaps in conversation. Check in with your client regularly and keep chat professional.

Be aware of crossing boundaries while you are chatting; don't chat with the client about your personal issues. Chatting should pertain to the treatment.

If you are finding that the client is chatting too much, tell them that you can concentrate better on the treatment if the space is quiet.

If the client is finding that the practitioner is chatting too much, it is important that they also speak up and let them know that they would prefer chatter kept to a minimum.

3. Temperature of the Treatment Room

If your client is too cold or hot, they won't be able to relax. Clients should be comfortable so they can get the most out of the treatment.

If you get too hot giving the treatment, wear lighter, breathable clothing so you can keep the temperature warmer for the client; they are the ones who are undressed on the table.

If you turn the heat down at night in the space in which you practise, ensure you arrive with enough time to warm the room before your first client arrives. You can also use space heaters and a heated table pad to ensure the room is comfortable for the client.

Always check in with the client throughout the treatment to ensure they are comfortable.

4. Too Much or Too Little Pressure

Each practitioner will have a different way of practising, and each client will have a different tolerance for pressure during treatment. If a practitioner does not adapt their pressure from client to client, it can cause discomfort and pain.

It is important that the practitioner adjusts the amount of pressure they use with input from the client. Asking the client if the pressure is comfortable throughout the treatment is important.

Watching for physical cues, such as tensed muscles or holding of the breath, from the client can also signal whether the pressure is too much. If a client asks you to use more pressure, provide it only if you retain proper body mechanics. Don't hurt yourself.

5. Not Meeting the Client's Needs

If a client comes into their appointment with a specific area of concern, it is important that you meet that request, as long as it is in your scope of practice.  Straying from what they have asked of you, or completely disregarding it altogether, can make for an unsatisfied client.

It is important to manage your time efficiently to ensure that you can complete what the client has asked of you. You and your client should discuss the goals of their treatment before it even starts and prioritize based on that discussion.

If the client's request is outside of your scope of practice, it is acceptable to refuse their request and explain to them why you made that decision. Knowing what not to treat and being able to say no to something outside of your scope of practice is just as important as knowing what to treat.

You can refer the client to a practitioner who does perform what they have requested. If the client continues to push for a specific treatment after being refused, you can refuse to treat them completely.

6. Not Asking Enough Questions

It is an industry standard for massage therapists to perform a thorough intake and assessment before each treatment with each client.

Failing to do this is not only failing to follow the common standards of practice, but it also opens up the opportunity for an unsatisfied client at the end of the treatment if all of their issues are not addressed.

Check in with the client throughout the treatment to ensure that they are comfortable and everything is going as they would like. Get their consent before practising anything new with them.

7. Not Getting Informed Consent

Informed consent means that you explain the treatment procedure and assessment to the client first, before they consent to it.

Assuming that your client is comfortable with something before asking them about it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a practitioner.

It is imperative that you get informed consent from the client before treating them in a new way, especially if you are touching sensitive areas.

8. Overpromising and Under-delivering

If you claim that you practise a certain modality, have certain qualifications, or have a specific practice style, you need to be able to deliver on those claims. You should be able to provide the type of treatment you advertise.

If you are unable to perform a specific type of treatment, don't claim you are capable of it. If a client is promised a deep tissue massage, and receives a massage with little pressure, they will be disappointed and unlikely to come back.

Not delivering on a treatment reflects poorly on you as a practitioner. It can appear that you are uninformed or that you are being dishonest about your capabilities.

If you want to enhance your abilities, take continuing education courses.

9. Unwelcoming Treatment Space

How a client perceives your treatment space can impact how comfortable they will be during the massage.

If the client comes into a cluttered, cold room that smells bad, and has an uncomfortable table, their treatment will likely start off on the wrong note. The client may develop a perception about how the massage will go based on the physical setting of the space.

If the client comes into a warm room with no clutter and peaceful music, it can set the tone for the massage to be relaxing. Consider how you want the client to perceive their treatment when you are developing the space.

10. Poor Attitude

While it is normal for everyone to have good days and bad days, emotion should be kept separate from your work. Clients come in for a treatment to find relief and relaxation, and showing your bad mood to a client can be detrimental to your treatment of them.

Keeping a positive attitude is a form of professionalism. Keep your personal and professional lives separate, and have a positive attitude around your clients, even when you don't feel like it.

If you are feeling down, take a moment to think about how projecting your negative attitude onto the client will affect your business.

It is also important remember to take care of yourself. Listen to your body.  If you are feeling tired or burnt out, take a break. Pushing through and not practising self-care can mean burnout, exhaustion and, even injury in the long run.


While every practitioner will make mistakes throughout their career, many mistakes can be avoided with proper planning and being conscious about how you perform your treatment.

Following the suggestions from this blog post can help you reduce the likelihood that you will make these mistakes.

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