When I started my private practice here in Portland, I started booking 30 minutes between sessions. I don't have an assistant or receptionist working for me so I need that time partly because I process payments and schedule future appointments myself. But more than that, that 30 minute cushion of time is important to me because I get to have focused check-ins with my clients before rushing them onto the massage table, have a solid 60 or 90 minutes of dedicated hands-on massage time, and a little bit of time after the massage to let people orient slowly back into the day.
I've watched clients come frantically up the steps to the front door, and then at 3 minutes "late", wrestle with whether to spend an extra 2 minutes using the restroom prior or deal with the discomfort of having to go while on the massage table because they don't want to give up any more of their massage time. When you aren't in the situation, it might seem a pretty silly decision to consider. Clearly, use the restroom so you can fully relax during the massage!
But, this isn't an unusual or surprising situation. We live in a culture where time is valued as money. If a client schedules at 9, they generally know (or assume) they are paying for the hour between 9-10. And it's reasonable to assume someone else has paid for the next hour.
Clients tend to be extremely conscientious of my time. Rather than needing to give a lecture on the value of an hour, I'm more often letting someone know, "It's ok. We'll still be able to do the full hour". And if someone is late enough that I can't do the full hour, I let them know up front what we will be able to do that day.
But again, scheduling and the allocation of time are handled differently by different people and in different locations. That said, I've never met a massage therapist who is excited about cutting time off of anyone's session because they are late. As much as possible, I think it's fair to say that all therapists would prefer to give you the full 60 or 90 minutes of time scheduled in dedicated time on the table. That said, other factors beyond a therapist's goodwill can affect that ticking clock.
Some massage therapy practices book only 10-15 minutes between massage sessions. In those cases, the therapist really has no room to flex or accommodate any sort of tardiness or extensive conversations prior to having you get on the table. If your appointment is at 9, the clock starts ticking at 9 whether you are there to begin the session or not. It's the only way a therapist is going to stay on time with their schedule, and they are generally doing their very best to make sure they are ready to dedicate the appropriate time to each session.
Generally, no matter where you are going for your massage, do plan to arrive on time.
But, if something comes up and you are a few minutes late or you are just curious about how your therapist will handle the time, just ask them. A clear understanding of the situation can go a long way toward peace of mind. Then, for whatever time is available to you, even if it does mean a shortened session, you'll be able to fully relax into the time you have.
Previous posts in this series:
#1 Is it Normal to Experience Pain After a Massage?
#2 Why Are Massage Therapists so Uptight About the Word Masseuse?
#3 Umm. Can You Change the Music?
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The image is by Heiko Klingele and is used in accordance with Creative Commons Licensing Laws.