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What Is Too Early?

I was recently asked by a client "Am I too early?” It wasn’t the first time someone arrived early asking the question. This is a great question for clients to ask and new therapists to address while building their business, so let’s dive in.

A phrase that has become a part of our work culture goes, “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” In our culture today, appointments and the idea of “early” depends on who you are interacting with, what the circumstances are and what expectations are in place in business as well as personal interactions.

If you aren’t sure or are new to a therapist's office, asking this question is a good idea! When it comes to appointments with massage therapist's who work from a home office, arriving on time or 5-10 minutes early is common. Personally I suggest my clients arrive on time or 5 minutes early, but I plan for 10 minutes just in case someone beats traffic and arrives earlier than that. However to answer the original question above, anything beyond 10 minutes early may end up catching me while I am still setting up, cleaning up, turning over the table, bumping in to my previous client, or knowing my mom drops off French toast for me!

Home offices such as mine, are usually set up without a formal waiting room. Therapists will tell you what is necessary especially on your first appointment when you fill out your health history. Every set up is unique and each therapist works differently; one therapist may be capable of turning over their table and getting ready for the next client in 5 minutes while another may need 15 minutes and a snack in between. As therapists this is something that we have to learn for ourselves and plan for accordingly.

When setting up a massage business a good way to plan how much time you need between appointments is to do a practice schedule using friends and family. Time how long activities take and write it down. First have someone fill out a health history, have an in-take conversation, and have them get on the table. Second, have them get off the table and redress, have an out-take conversation, re-book them, and re-set the table. Adding time to write notes is optional but suggested as writing notes for each appointment while it’s fresh in your mind preserves important details and clarity, while writing multiple session notes later may cause them to be fuzzy, vague, or sessions may bleed together. Now add the time it takes to do both above, add 10 minutes, and round to the nearest 5 minute increment. Many therapist work with a total around 10-30 minutes between appointments.

With time and practice I have learned how much time I need between appointments and to expect and be flexible with surprises. Honesty and flexibility are always the best idea even if something feels awkward or difficult to say. I usually tell clients that show up extra early if I am ready for them or if I need a few more minutes to finish setting up. I remind myself that clients don’t come for my spectacular facility amenities but for my technical skill and professional intention in every session.

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