Updated date:

How Early Should You Arrive for a Massage Appointment?

Leeann Hysaw has earned 11 years of experience in massage therapy having graduated from Lincoln Technical Institute in 2007.

Is the Length of a Session the Same as the Length of a Massage?

Most often, when someone books a massage they are given a block or slot of time. This time is their massage session, and it does not always refer to the time of the massage itself, which sometimes leaves clients confused if not a little upset. For instance, you may call and request a one-hour massage in the 1:00 pm appointment slot. The secretary may tell you, "your session starts at 1:00, please arrive a few minutes early for paperwork." You arrive at 12:45, fill out your paperwork, and the therapist comes at 12:50 to take you to your room. You speak with them for five minutes, or so then they leave, allowing you to undress, then they come back and begin massaging you. When the session ends, they ask you to get up slowly, dress and open the door when you're ready. When you sit up and look at the clock, it reads 1:55. What has happened? You booked an hour massage at 1:00 pm, and you even arrived early—why didn't your session end at 2:00 pm?

The truth is many massage establishments offer sessions in blocks of time that do not always represent the time of the actual massage. The 60 minutes you are booking is actually 50 or 55 minutes of massage and 5 to 10 minutes of speaking to your therapist and undressing/dressing when they leave. This breakup of the time in the session is typical of many franchise and chain massage studios and is used to streamline the process of massage and get clients in and out like clockwork. That does not mean their therapists are any less skilled than in other establishments. However, it does cause a good deal of confusion to the client when they come in thinking an hour massage means 60 minutes of actual massage. They often leave feeling like the massage therapist cheated them. In most cases, the therapist is merely doing as the owner or manager instructed them but if you are unsure you can bring it up to the front desk by asking what the session time includes or how it's broken down.

Getting to the waiting room early also lets you start relaxing before the massage even begins.

Getting to the waiting room early also lets you start relaxing before the massage even begins.

Arrival Times

When a client books a massage, they are booking a therapist for a particular block of time. These sessions vary depending upon the establishment in question, but the block tends to be around 60 minutes in a larger chain studio. What they include in these time slots can also vary and, in the case of 60-minute blocks, often include massage and non-massage time in portions of the session. If a client books a 60-minute massage scheduled for 1 pm, then the client should be in the waiting room at least 10-15 minutes beforehand in case there is any paperwork to be filled out. Arriving early also allows time for the therapist to be alerted to their arrival so that they can prepare the room. This time regulation ensures that the massage can start on time.

Also, in most cases, if a receptionist tells you that you have a 1 pm appointment, it means that the massage section of the session is due to start at 1 pm. Your therapist will want to take you in before that time to give you an opportunity to speak with them about what you are looking for and allow you to undress in private before the session officially beings. For example, for a 1 pm appointment, you should arrive at 12:45. Your therapist should come and get you from the waiting room by 12:50 or 12:55. Retrieving you before the scheduled massage time gives you time to speak with them and undress before they return and begin your massage at precisely one, allowing you to receive your whole massage time, 50-55 minutes, and your session will end at 1:55, depending on the establishment.

Differences in Time Management

Not all studios follow this method of scheduling however they will typically not be far off from it. A common this is for the times to be shifted slightly, for instance, if they consider 1 o’clock your start time as well as your arrival time they will push the point where the therapist brings you into the room to about 1:05 and have them starting the massage by 1:10 and ending it at 2:05. This process is a crucial reason why arrival times are significant. As long as you arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled session, you should be guaranteed to get your whole massage regardless of how the establishment runs the time management of their massage therapists.

The Sections of a Time Slot

Sections of massage and non-massage time divide massage blocks in most chain establishments. While many places advertise a 60-minute massage and mean 60 minutes of massage, this is not always the case. If you find you have booked a session at a studio that offers 60 minutes, but they have included non-massage time into that booking, you can expect, for the most part, to be brought in just before or at your appointment time with a few moments available to speak with your therapist and undress. This portion of your massage session is non-massage time, time built into your massage that does not include actual massage and can be put in before and after the massage itself. Remember that this time usually is only 5 minutes so any more than that may eek into the massage portion of your booking. To get the most out of your time know what you want to discuss before going in, so you can get right into the massage as soon as possible. Then your massage time, the part of the session that includes actual massage, is the massage itself and can be from 50 to 55 minutes long. After the treatment section of your time ends, you will get dressed.

In some establishments, they include this time plus some time speaking with your therapist into the end portion of your session as another non-massage section, for instance, dressing and undressing times may be regulated to five minutes before and five minutes after a massage with 50 minutes of massage in between. Other establishments give you 5 minutes to dress and undress with 55 minutes of actual massage time. The time you spend speaking with your therapist is time removed from the space meant to be used by the therapist to do other duties like cleaning or writing notes. It is also the time when they may use the restroom if needed, so if your therapist seems a little distracted while speaking with you, there may be a good reason for it, the establishment may not be giving them ample time between session to allow them to perform their duties on time.

Lateness and What It Means for the Massage

Everyone runs late occasionally no matter who they are. In massage, the client or the therapist can run late or perhaps the studio could have made a mistake while booking people but, in the end, a studio and the therapist will most likely do whatever they possibly can to give you your full time or else compensate you in some other way regardless of who was late. Most of the time a studio will allow a client five minutes after their booking time before they consider them late because they think of that time as a part of the undressing time, not the massage. So, if you are about 5 minutes late be sure to rush in and get undressed as quickly as you can, and you won’t have to worry about losing any massage time. However, if you are more than 5 minutes late for your appointment, you will not be able to receive the entire massage section of your time slot. Most places will book client’s blocks of time back to back to each other with little to no time at all in between so if you are late but receive your full massage then every client who comes after you will be taken in late. Repeatedly taking in clients late in this manner is not very good for business and most managers would not like a therapist who does this often and may even resort to letting them go If the problem persists. However, even when going into a massage session ten to 15 minutes late, there is still a fair amount of time and you are entitled to any time remaining, so it’s best to enjoy what you have left.

If you arrive on time and it is your therapist who takes you into the session late, rest assured that you will get your full time regardless of what time slot you booked. Any time a therapist is late retrieving you from the waiting room will be given to you, pushing your session back. If you are due for a 1 pm massage and are brought into the room at 1:15 then instead of ending at 1:55 you will finish at 2:15. If for some reason you are unable to adjust, like for instance if you are due at another appointment and cannot stay till the 2:15 end time then speak with the front desk about the issue. Since it is on the establishment, not you, that the time had to be altered, they are responsible for the problem and will most likely remedy it by rescheduling you for another time or even offering you free upgrades or a free session depending on the preferences of the manager on duty.

Ask Questions

With so many different types of massage establishments out there working under multiple and varied business models, it can be difficult for someone to know what they are getting when they pay for a massage session. It can be particularly hard to determine the session breakdown when the prospective client is new to massage or doesn't get them regularly. To find out how session times are broken down you can look for a notice about it. Many businesses may place the session time explanation on their website, so that's always a great place to start. Others might post the information at the studio but likely, it may not be easy to find, and therefore, the best method of figuring it out is to ask. When you call the studio let them know you are considering booking a massage, if you are looking for an hour massage let them know this and tell them you are wondering about how the session time is broken down, or how much of it is actual massage time. The blocks of sessions vary, some places may offer a straight 60 minutes of real massage and others, as I mentioned previously, will book 60-minute sessions with 50 to 55 minutes of actual massage but it varies from studio to studio so do not be afraid to ask them about it. It's better to know what to expect in advance, so you are not disappointed later.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.