Holding Space

What do you do when a client has an emotional and/or physical release? I'm new to massage, but I have five years of experience working with clients on my table, mostly with Reiki and Shamanic healing work. I have had many clients break down emotionally during a session, and a few who have had panic/anxiety attack reaction as well. The strength and beauty in our work is our ability to create a safe environment. A place where the client's body, as well as their mind, feels like it's OK to let down. Sometimes it can be hard to know what your client needs when they are in the throes of an emotional release. Often, at least for the client, when this happens it can be unexpected and scary and what we need to do to help with that will vary with the situation.  As body workers we are nurturing by design, we have good instincts around this. Trust it, this is what you are here for. One of the most important things that I teach my Reiki students is not to go into that anxiety place with the client. Recognize that their bodies are moving trauma that has been with them a long time and allow them to release it how they need to. Don't rush it. Understanding that your client is not having a medical emergency is essential. Anyone who works in this way needs to have at least basic first aid training so they can recognize the signs of an actual medical emergency. This will allow you to remain calm and grounded so you can hold the space your client needs.

Sometimes the client will be understandably scared by the experience, they might be crying, hyperventilating, dizzy, their limbs might be tingling. Reassure them that this will pass. Try to get them to slow their breathing. If it's appropriate place your hand (or their own) on their belly and ask them to breathe into it. Placing the other hand under them, sandwiching their abdomen, is often helpful. Try to get them back into their bodies. Water and a bite or two of something sweet can help to regulate their blood sugar. (see, candy and health care CAN coexist!) Usually keeping physical contact in some way helps, but again using your instincts is the best course of action. Watch their body language to see what they need. At the end of the session, be sure to have a conversation about this. reassure them that this is a positive thing. Our bodies have an incredible ability to protect us from trauma, we can store hurt away in places that can keep us safe and allow us to move on with our lives. Sooner or later though, some of that needs to move. Creating an environment where this can happen is a gift to your client, and an amazingly humbling experience for the practitioner. Going after this kind of reaction should never be the goal (unless you are specifically doing somato-emotional release work) but we should all be able to hold a clear, strong and loving space for this work when it occurs.