Build trust + communication with PPALM

There are many excellent reasons to become a massage therapist, but nobody enters this profession because they'’ve got a burning passion for paperwork.

For most massage therapists, paperwork is what needs to happen in order to get to the good stuff, the hands-on work. It’s often a cover-your-butt solution, something legally prudent but not terribly helpful, considering the amount of time it takes. Attitudes towards record keeping range from equanimity to downright animosity; it’s definitely not the highlight of any massage therapist’s day.

Given the history of SOAP notes, it’s no wonder massage therapists don’t find them to be the most useful task on the planet. The SOAP format, so often taught in massage schools, was developed for people in the medical field. It’s important to know how to write SOAP notes if one is working in a hospital or clinic where it’s a standard format, but why try and twist information about a massage client into a format better suited to nurses? Using SOAP notes leads to questions like, “Okay, so I saw the bruise with my own eyes, but she explained how she fell and hit her arm on the steps this morning, so do I mention it under Subjective or Objective, or both?” or “If I write anything under Plan, will somebody think I’m prescribing future treatments and accuse me of working outside of my scope of practice?”

Susan SalvoSusan Salvo thinks there’s a better way. Susan’s been involved in massage for the last 30 years as a therapist, author, and educator, so she knows the realities of the work. She understands that one of the most important things that massage therapists have and that other medical professionals lack is the time and ability to develop a deep understanding of their clients and a personal connection to them. SOAP notes, for all their positive features, fail to capitalize on this, and are generally written without consulting the clients. In many cases, massage clients never even see the notes that have been written about them.

Enter PPALM. PPALM stands for Purpose (of the visit), Pain, Allergies, Lifestyle, and Medical history/Medications. It’s a format for gathering important information from your client and putting together a treatment plan. And because it’s filled out together with the client, it builds the trust and communication that people crave, while allowing them to participate actively in their own massage. The flexibility of the format means that it can be used just as easily by massage therapists who work in spas, provide in-home massage, or see many clients in quick succession during sporting events.

On developing a thriving massage practice, Susan advises her students, “Clients will come back to you if they have a positive experience with you and your work.” Whether you love it, hate it, or simply put up with it, the way you collect information about your clients and develop a treatment plan is just as much a part of your clients’ experience as the actual hands-on work. Learn to do it well, and the process can go beyond mere effectiveness into the realm of being a perk, something your clients appreciate and look forward to. At that point, you’re definitely not just covering your butt anymore!

Interested in learning more about PPALM and how to incorporate it into your massage practice? Susan Salvo teaches participating massage therapists how to “throw away the SOAP” in the Tools for Touch CE Class Bundle from May 21, 2013. Never dread note-taking again!

Click the button below to take Susan Salvo's online PPALM class today!

- At Peace Media