Adele Appleton, MFHT, shares how she supports a male client with stress using Indian head massage

In our Summer issue of International Therapist magazine (Issue 133), we published ‘Man Kind’, a feature looking at the benefits of physical therapies on supporting male mental health.

Adele Appleton, MFHT, contributed a case study to this feature. ‘Jamie was 35 when he first came to see me for Indian head massage and reflexology in August 2013, writes Adele.

‘He had been visiting another therapist until then who had recently stopped practising, so was looking to find someone who he felt comfortable with. 

‘He has always been open and honest at his visits. In the initial consultation he stated that he suffered with anxiety and depression, he also said he experienced tension headaches and often felt tired. He did not want to take medication for his anxiety, preferring to manage it himself through therapies, a tool he found particularly helpful.   

‘Jamie has been coming to me now for over six years and during this time we have built a strong but professional relationship. I found a pattern developed; if life was going well for Jamie, I would see him monthly but if he was experiencing stress, the sessions would be weekly. Jamie gets affected by seasonable affective disorder over the darker months, so sessions also tend to be more regular in winter. 

‘At the start of each, visit, Jamie and I have a brief discussion about how he is feeling and what he is looking for from the session. This can vary from deep massage on the shoulders and neck, to a much gentler, nurturing massage with relaxing oils and some reflexology. All sessions include a 10-minute head massage as Jamie finds this particularly relaxing. Sometimes he will chat and other times he falls silent; I’m always guided by him as to whether to feed the conversation. As a trained ‘Heal Your Life’ coach, I believe many people lack self-love, so I do encourage this when I feel it’s appropriate. Jamie can arrive to some sessions in a tense and anxious state, but always walks out calm, relaxed and in a more positive frame of mind. 

‘Over the years I have talked to Jamie about other ways he can support his mental health. As a nutritional therapist I’ve recommended eating more oily fish, fruit and vegetables and reducing sugar and alcohol intake. During a particularly anxious time for Jamie I also recommended gratitude journaling, which he responded positively to and still uses as a tool.  

‘Jamie himself says that his anxiety and depression are much better controlled since finding holistic therapies. His body feels a lot more relaxed after a session and when his body is relaxed, he feels better able to control his mood.  

‘I believe that mental and physical health are connected. The mind has a huge impact on the body (consider the placebo effect, for example) and science shows the majority of serotonin is produced in the gut, so gut health is hugely important for people with mental health issues. 

‘Despite social improvements, I think men feel pressure to hide their feelings so I think it’s crucial for a therapist to develop a strong bond of trust with their client and create an environment which allows them to feel safe enough to open up.  

‘The tips I would give on spotting when a client is feeling low are: 

  • A change in behaviour, for example if they’re usually chatty but suddenly quiet, or vice versa. 
  • Increased muscle tension 
  • Mention of a stressful event during conversation 

‘I try to use open language to give them the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling if they want to.’

Adele Appleton, MFHT, specialises in nutrition, massage, reflexology and reiki. Adele runs her own therapy practice, Poynton Holistic Clinic, based in Poynton, Cheshire.

FHT members can access the full Man Kind feature at fht.org.uk/international-therapist-archive

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