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What Is Touch Interpretation?

At the heart of it, Touch Interpretation is a form of art that is really about you:

  1. Your filters

  2. Your experiences

  3. Your ability to sense; intuition

  4. Your ability to read into what your client tells you about their needs and body

  5. Your latest training and understanding

  6. Your hands leading the experience, with your mind close behind (not the other way around)

As many new therapists discover, there is a natural gap that exists between learning massage techniques and how your touch becomes 2nd nature to you and your clients. The gap closes the longer you practice massage and understand your new skills. However, I believe that there are ways that you can close the gap faster.


The answer as to how to bridge this gap? It’s about trusting your hands to tell you what to do and being open enough to follow them.

This “letting-go” process is powerful and all artists, including massage artists, must learn to allow it to happen to evolve into the therapist or artist they wish to be.

Blending It All Together into a Touch Experience

To me, the massage field is unique and similar to learning how to paint a picture.


An artist takes colors and a picture in their mind, paints the imagery onto a canvas, and the art of that painting can convey an emotion to someone. This is known as the artists’ intuition and interpretation. The outcome is their unique perspective of their environment.

Massage Therapists take many components and turn them into a form of communication through touch. How you touch and the feeling it leaves with your client is your touch intuition and interpretation; your art form.

There are 3 ways to start opening your hands and mind to the opportunity of deeper self-expression.

The 3 Main Landmarks of Developing Touch Interpretation

  1. Letting go

  1. Refining your skills

  2. Developing your own, unique way of expressing

Practice Letting Go

This process is about realizing that you have all the raw ingredients to create something unique and wonderful with your hands. The creation part of this is about allowing all those ingredients to come together naturally as you go along with the process and for the expression to become itself. This is not a mentally driven motion or the “hands running wild” on their own without thought.

This is blend of both; the mind seeking and following and the hands expressing, feeling, interpreting and blending with the mind. Some things to keep in your thoughts as you approach the empty canvas of the massage table for each session are:

  1. Letting go of what your mind says; the chatter you have from learning your art

  2. Truly giving over to what your hands tell you; allowing feeling to have a chance to talk to the mind

  3. Feeling a part of the moment with the massage and the canvas you are painting the picture on

  4. Expressing through your hands with the mind following closely behind

I believe this is where you find the greatest joy in what you do. These are the days that you find yourself loving what you do and feeling like you created an experience, not just gave a massage.

Refining Your Skills

Refining your skills is about reaching for higher levels of interpretation and using each session as a way to practice feeling and allowing.

  1. Being present in your mind is essential; listen with your hands.

This is not just about repeating a series of massage strokes. It is about really “feeling” with your hands first, and adapting your application based on what the body tells you.

  1. Interpreting what your hands say as you go; not telling your hands what to do as you work on the body.

It is essential to always have an outcome of the finished work in your mind, because you will reach towards this goal while being open to following the body as it guides you to that goal. It is a partnership in health between your hands and what the body needs. Again, listening with your hands is no different than you do with your ears in a conversation, so that you know how to respond to the conversation.

It takes time and practice to learn how to communicate with the body in this way. However, this art form is the peacefulness that your feel emanating from therapists that have been practicing massage for a long time. This feeling is what many strive towards not really understanding that this is what they are looking for.

Developing Your Own Unique Way of Expressing Your Art

The very first thing you must do is to let go of the need to perfect or to perfect in someone else’s technique.

  1. Find the pathways that fit your expression AND matches your client’s needs and wants at the same time.

  2. Caution: while this is about you learning art, this is still not about you. It’s about how the body you’re working on is accepting the touch of art you are applying.

  3. This is taking what you know and applying it to each new situation and creating the desired outcome to the best of your ability. “Pleasing or Pleasant” are the words that come to mind

I believe this is what Massage Therapists call the feeling of “Balance” that comes

from a massage that touched the client and therapist at the same time. It is a moment in time where something invisible was created. Much like a dance, but it has a lasting feeling that changes the people involved.

The art you create with your hands and mind cannot be seen, but it leaves an emotion that changes many things around itself. This is the essence of healing.

Challenge You to Start Practicing Your Art

I want to challenge you to just try listening with your hands. How do you do this?

How does an artist learn to paint a picture? They just start painting. I am sure at first, what they paint, versus what they see in their mind doesn’t match very well. It will be the same for you with massage. You may struggle at creating the experience in your hands that you feel in your mind. There will be frustration and a desire to quit trying.

I want you to think about the things below as you practice, fail, become frustrated, start again, grow, adapt and learn:

  1. Remember why you became a massage therapist

  2. Appreciate all you have learned

  3. Let your hands steer you

  4. Blend together what you know and what you feel

  5. Always have an intent in mind to work towards

And last but not least, find the JOY in what you do and create. That, my friends, is the secret to being a massage therapist for many, many years.

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