What kind of massage do you like to get?


I often get this question from my clients and colleagues.  The answer is “the kind of massage I give to my clients”…i.e., a massage perfectly tailored to my needs at that moment.  This is a weighty goal and quite an ambition to achieve perfection in a massage session, but it is quite often achievable.  As a therapist, my goal is to achieve this in every session or at least address the client’s most emergent issues to their satisfaction.  To establish clear rules for communication early during the consultation and during the session and after the session, I ask for client’s goals for the session, I tell the client exactly what I’m going to do, the massage tools I’ll be using such as hot towels and any specialty oils, and that I’ll check in with them from time to time during the session.  I set goals for the session and the client’s expectation in order to determine whether or not I have achieved those goals and the client’s expectations have been met at the end of the session.  Clients will tell me right away if they prefer little conversation during their massage in which case, I’d check in a couple of times about pressure and keep all chatting to a minimum.  I’d make sure to let the client know that they can tell me if they need me to adjust the amount of pressure, areas on their body to be cautious of due to a prior injury, room or table temperature, body cushioning to make them more comfortable or to better address their issues.  These things are simple yet crucial to the success of the session and go a long way in establishing a trust relationship with my clients.  The time I spend with a client is very valuable to me as a therapist in that it’s an opportunity to practice my craft and honing my skills through learning from the client’s body and client’s feedback, and most importantly, facilitate healing in the client.  For me, the time I spend with another human being should be enjoyable and productive in a sense that some objective is achieved whether it be towards learning a new skill or as simple as passing the time relaxing, enjoying nature, or just letting the body and mind rest.  Yes, resting the body and mind is productive because only after your batteries are recharged can you do a better job in your daily work.  Getting a massage is currently a weekly ritual for healing my body and it’s something I look forward to more than anything else at this point in my life.  If my budget allows it, I’d get a massage every day but it’s a goal to work towards.  As a therapist, each session with a client is an opportunity to be thankful for the work and the benefits of being paid for doing what I love to do, and for my client’s generosity in sharing their time with me.  A great part of living is sharing my life with those around me and caring for them as if they’re my family.  This is why my clients are considered part of my family.  I also feel like I’m a part of their family when I work in their house.  This aspect of the work is a perk.  It feels nice to be part of a family, the feeling of belonging to a circle of people who cares whether you live or die, how well you’re doing, when you’re coming to see them and sharing your latest adventures.  Come to think of it, this is the chitchatting that often goes on in my massage sessions with those clients or therapists who like to talk of course.  In the end, it’s therapeutic, whether you’re the kind of person who likes to get on the massage table and take an hour-long nap or get talk therapy along with bodywork.  Either way, it’s all therapeutic for me and hopefully for you, too.

A unity of time and place…

My friends and fellow mortals…

Each year around the holiday season (Nov thru Dec), I spend more time looking inward which gave rise to lots of questions about what I value most in life.  This year, I questioned my understanding of my religion and the more I asked, the more I realized how little I knew.  So I went back and relearned all the things I thought I knew before about good and evil and relating these concepts to Christianity.  For instance, I thought I had a good grasp of philosophical and psychological ideas in religion and those doctrines put forth in the Christian Bible, both the Old and the New Testament.  Just to test my knowledge of Christian religious foundation, I subscribed to The Great Courses Plus (click The Great Courses Plus) and listened to four courses: Why Evil ExistsThe Old Testament, The New Testament, and The Historical Jesus.  Boy, was I in over my head! I was both embarrassed and ashamed of my own ineptitude and delightfully amazed at how much I gleaned from these lectures. Not only was I listening intently and intentionally, I was so engaged that I actually looked up some of the cited sources in the lectures and have begun to listen to lectures on Introductory Latin.

I am never more receptive to religious teachings than I am right now, all because of the imminent Christmas (herein, XMAS) holiday and the joyful mood it brings to my heart and the colorful decorations that have beautified my home. My XMAS tree (albeit an artificial tree since I’m generally against cutting down perfectly healthy pine trees in their youth) is hands down the most impressive indoor XMAS tree in my housing development.  Sure, my neighbors may have the dancing lights projected onto their house facade but their sparsely lit and barely ornamented XMAS tree can’t hold a candle (pardon the pun) to mine. I must have spent between $300 and $500 on this fantastic creation: 7 1/2′ Alberta spruce, tree skirt, 7 boxes of multi-color string lights, 1 set of As Seen on TV dazzling string lights (by the way, its controller has 3 modes: still, glimmer, show), 1 box of 40 glass ball ornaments, 50 additional ornamental birds, elephants and all manners of ornamental wild beasts, and 1 star tree top.  I still have red, blue, gold and silver garlands to put on, but my husband halted my assault on the tree because any additional weight may just topple it over.  In the house, I have string lights wrapped on my stair railings and on the front windows.  There’s a tastefully appointed pinecone-shaped wreath hung outside my front door.  There is a 2-foot XMAS tree (again, artificial) in my bedroom since I can’t be in a room in my house without some visual reminder that it’s XMAS time. This year, I’ve started playing XMAS music even before the start of Halloween.  I had XMAS carols and silver bells jing-a-ling-ing  in my head after the Fourth of July, just to tell you how many months I’ve contemplated this year’s XMAS. Yes, for those observant few of you, the above description was tinged wth a bit of pride, the deadliest of the deadly sins.  I’m sure of one of two possible punishments are in my future: being forgiven for my devotion to XMAS or being struck down by lightning which hasn’t happened yet so for now, I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

But I digress.

The first goal of this meandering message is to remind you that there’s a unity of time and place that starts you down a certain path in life that may lead to something wonderful and unexpected, or perhaps wonderful because it was unexpected.  For me in having listened to those audio lectures this Christmas, it’s about finding illumination (both visually and figuratively) and deeper appreciation and gratitude for the person of Jesus, his simple yet powerful teaching of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.  I am my brother’s keeper.  As much as I begrudge the idea, I can’t help wanting to help him and keeping him safe from harm.  I still love the kid as much as I had the first time I laid eyes on him as a baby, no matter how many times he’s disappointed me.  While on a job this past summer, he got his finger smashed with a large brick and had to have a third of it amputated.  I cried my eyes out the first time he showed it to me, and still did every time I saw him changing the bandages.

Another phenomenon that occurs this time of year is that I am abnormally generous to everybody I know for some crazy reason and thus I tend to look half-crazed with guilt for most of November and December because of the lingering thought that I haven’t given enough or done enough to help out somebody.  During many a December, I overextend my credit cards with shopping until I get a vivid vision in my head of next month’s bills and the inevitable accompanying near-fatal feeling in the foundation of my stomach, BUT this year, I was much wiser and spread that threat evenly throughout the latter half of the year.  I bought XMAS presents starting in June and hid them in obscure places where no one would think of snooping.  For instance, I purchased about a ton of Japanese-style 5-toe socks for my guys and stashed them on top of one of my bookcases.  All year, nobody bothered to look in the half-open bag (hint: hiding things in plain sight).  I’d bet my family just assumed that dusty, half-open, nondescript, slightly crumbled bag contains some junk I couldn’t bear to part ways with, next to a half-dozen nondescript bags and boxes (of family heirlooms I had to keep for posterity) that inhabit the top shelf of my bookcases.  Just a couple days ago, I asked my husband to pull that bag (full of socks) down for me, and he was helpful to take it down and politely handed it to me without asking what was in it.  I thanked him then hurried away to my gift wrapping station and executed what had to be the most ghetto gift wrap job in my life so the content would remain secret.  I was mumbling “Ford GM Chrysler” (my new way of not calling the Lord’s name in vain) curses as I was struggling to cut out the wrapping, cover and tape up 4 separate bags of socks in black and gold gift wrappings during the two whole minutes. I honestly don’t know how I had done it.  However sloppily the results were, those socks were completely wrapped up presents.  I had never done anything so fast in my life save the one time in boot camp many moons ago when I was trying to down a whole tray of food at lunch in just a couple of minutes.

I do digress a lot.

The second goal of this message is to let you all know that this is the time to think about peels.  No, I’m not referring to orange peels or banana peels or peeling the wrappings off your XMAS presents.  Actually, I am talking about peeling your face and body for renewal. Need I remind you that I am an esthetician?  You’ve spent all year frolicking in the yard or basking in the sun or trekking the globe and sure enough, your skin has taken a beating, although you may not have noticed it.  Even if you haven’t done anything but worked in an office all year long and saw little daylight, the closed-air system of your environment must have left your skin depleted of natural elements of the open air.  Your skin is the largest organ in the body.  It continuously grows at its deepest levels and pushes upward to the surface.  Regular, prudent and gentle exfoliation (shedding) of dead skin cells and careful, regimented skin care are extremely important to keeping your skin functioning optimally and be that first line of defense for your body from foreign invaders like germs, solar radiation, and harmful environmental factors.

Winter is the perfect season to shed off what (for some of you) may be months or years of accumulation from your face and body.  If you’re planning ahead to look your most glorious next Valentine’s Day and backtracking 6 weeks, you’d fall right into this XMAS and the coming New Year timeframe.  Mid-December is a great time to get a facial so you can look your absolute best at a XMAS party or New Year celebration.  Right after New Year’s the time to get a peel or another facial.  At 3-week intervals, you have enough time for 1 peel cycle for newbies (factoring in a few weeks of skin preparation), or 2 peel cycles for pros who have peeled often enough where their skin is already prepared.  Body scrubs, seaweed, clay and mud masks, and chemical peels are a great way to exfoliate, nourish, recover and reveal a new face and body after a long year of hard work or hard play, or both.  You are a unity of one mind and one body one moment at a time – a unique being in the universe.  There’s really no separation between the mental and physical you.  You have a duty to take care of it and show appreciation for its functioning perfectly on demand.  Your generosity toward your mind and body unity gives it the best chance of functioning perfectly for many years to come.   Oh, don’t forget to get a massage each time you get a facial or body treatment.  It’s fabulous.

We (you and I) tend to forget about our skin health because our bodily pain is more obvious in our consciousness.  Our face stares right back each time we look in the mirror.  Because we look at ourselves so often that we don’t notice the appearance of laugh (or cry) lines on the forehead and sides of the nose and mouth and crows’ feet at the corners of the eyes or the brown spots on the left cheek and back of the left hand due to more exposure to UV rays while sitting in the driver seat.  Between the three or four things we do while driving or working or busying the busywork of what we call “living”, we’d overlook the occasional wrinkle or callous or a bit of swelling or sagging that tends to creep in over time and usually stays. This is not a lecture but a reminder for us to be kinder to ourselves first and foremost because if we are not well mentally and physically and don’t feel our best and most confident each time we look in the mirror, then we cannot help others, at least not as much as we want to, no matter how selfless we think we are. Health glows from inside out.  If your inside is healthy but your outside is dull, wrinkled and prematurely aged, you need to peel off the outer crust and reveal the younger, more vibrant person for all the world to see.  Aging is inevitable but aging gracefully and slowly is both an art and a skill that I believe anyone of us can learn and master with confidence.

Come see me for a massage, body wrap, facial or body peel this holiday season.  Take advantage of one of my special holiday discounts and give a spa gift to yourself or a loved one so they can also look and feel their best.  I guarantee it’ll be one of the best things you can give someone on this most joyous of holidays.

Here’s to you, my regular clients, thank you for sharing your 60 minutes or 90 minutes or 2 hours with me or for however short or long a time we had together.  I am a better person for having worked with you to alleviate your pain and hopefully in some small way, improve your life and well-being.   It’s been an honor and privilege to join you on your journey to better health.

To my future clients, if you are not sure what type of alternative healing you need, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me to discuss your issues.  I have had people soliciting my advice many times when they felt confused and didn’t know who to turn to or which direction to take. My client base is diverse.  I have worked with children, young adults, career office workers, small business owners, new or soon-to-be moms, athletes, weekend warriors, seniors, terminally-ill patients, post-surgical rehab patients, amputees, PTSD sufferers, cancer survivors, aging grandparents struggling to keep up with their newborn/young grandkids, new dads in pain from chasing after their toddlers, and folks from many walks of life, age groups, races, cultures, and languages.  If your problem is beyond my skill level, I’d be happy to refer you to other treatment avenues.  I invite you to come and experience one of my services whether it’s a massage for chronic back pain or skincare to deal with your acne or you just need a new hairdo.  Let me join you on your journey to more vibrant and perfect health.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season full of hope, happiness and much sharing in the company of your most treasured people!

Yours with gratitude,

Maxine Nguyen, LMT, Esth.

To Stay or Not to Stay…

With one Massage Therapist…that is to say…to stick with one massage therapist and not bounce around town “therapist hopping”…is the question of the day.

This question came to mind as I’m thinking about the reasons why I do or don’t stick with one therapist.  The answer is a complicated one.

Over the past 19 years since I wandered down the windy path to massage therapy, I had to shop around while I’m in-town and out-of-town for a massage therapist who has the “right” skills and does just the “thing” that alleviates my pain on any particular day.  Here are some characteristics I look for from my “favorite” therapists.

  • Is a listener and not afraid to ask questions to clarify
  • Possesses a varied set of skills from many modalities
  • Appropriately uses massage techniques on the body
  • Has a curious mind and eager to learn new things
  • Suggests thoughtful solutions and explains why
  • Speaks clearly and uses correct English grammar
  • Has a good sense of humor
  • Enjoys a good joke and occasionally tells a tasteful one
  • Is never inappropriate, vulgar, or confrontational
  • Observes draping and personal boundaries in treatment room
  • Very polite and has professional appearance
  • Honest about his/her level of skills/training
  • Shares knowledge and willing to teach me something new
  • Has a good understanding of anatomy and physiology
  • Respects my time but flexible enough for add-ons
  • Has an impeccable reputation and lives up to it every session
  • Is very intuitive and gets on the same wavelength with me quickly

If I find a male or female massage therapist (or esthetician) who possesses most of these characteristics, I tend to stick to them like a bee to honey.  You see, I believe in my ability to “train” (i.e., make a request and give feedback) a therapist, who already has a good foundation in knowledge and experience, to do what I need her or him to do.  Over time, sticking with one therapist (or maybe two) who knows my body and medical history is a tremendously rewarding experience and saves a lot of time.  I don’t have to rehash the laundry list of issues each time I see him or her.

With that said, I am at heart an experimenter and like to explore new territory and sample the bodywork flora and fauna when I travel to a new city for work or pleasure.  The local spa tends to be my first stop (after checking into my hotel).  If I travel to the same place week after week, chances are I’ll find one or two “favorite” therapists that I would see on a weekly basis.

Regardless if I am on travel or not, once in a while, I will seek out new hands to work on me, just to see if a new person can show me a novel technique to work out a stubborn knot or a cool way to stretch chronically tight areas.  This is what works for me as a client (who is also a therapist).  I imagine this is how other massage enthusiasts behave also.  In the end, if I have to go seek out a new therapist and forever leave the old one behind, it’s OK because that’s the way life is…it changes constantly…my needs change constantly…so I move on.

Namaste (oh yes, I AM a former yoga addict)

Q & A

Question 1:  What services are included in Spa Party Services and how are they priced?


  • Flash facials (20-30 mins/person) – cleanse, exfoliate, mask, moisturize, protect
  • Brow Waxing (5-10 mins/person) – clean, shape-up with waxing and tweezers
  • Short Massages (5-15 mins/person) – feet, hands, shoulder, scalp, back
  • Long Massages (45-60 mins/person) – for small groups
  • Chair Massages (10-15 mins/person) – for office/employee events, dinner/birthday parties, bridal showers

If you want just chair massage, pay the hourly rate for Chair Massages.

If you want to include non-chair massage services in your party menu, pay the hourly rate for Spa Party Services, then pick the services you want to customize the menu to your list of attendees.

However you want to structure your spa party, make sure you have good estimate on the number of attendees and the services they want so you will know how many hours and which type of service to book.  For more information, please click Bodywork & Waxing.

Question 2:  What do I need to consider before getting a facial or body peel?

Answer: Clients wanting facial or body peels must consider coming to our spa for a detailed skin consultation to determine if they are eligible for peels.  In a 30-minute session,  we will discuss with you your skin concerns, review your medical and beauty treatment history and possibly administer a patch test to make sure you can handle chemical peels.  Peels can be very effective to deal with certain skin conditions but they are not for everyone. Only through a skin analysis can we know the most appropriate treatments for your skin type and condition.  Oftentimes, peel alternatives may be a better route.  For more information, please click Facials & Peels.

Question 3:  Why are there so many bodywork modalities and how do I know which one is right for me?

Answer: Clients, especially those who have traveled widely both domestically and internationally and have experienced many types of massages, ask if we are trained to perform certain techniques so we list them on our bodywork menu.  However, in reality, a massage session is customized towards the needs of a particular client.  We put a price on a bodywork modality as a guideline based on how much extra effort (beyond what’s needed to do a relaxation massage) and additional training (beyond a typical massage school curriculum) required of the therapist.  You will be charged for the modality used predominantly in your session.  For example, if all you have is the usual stress and tension in your body and no injuries or medical conditions and you asked for a Swedish or perhaps a deep tissue massage, you won’t be charged for a massage you did not get such as a medical massage or lymphatic drainage massage.  You are paired with a therapist qualified to give you the massage most appropriate for your needs.  By providing the most updated information about your bodily conditions when you schedule your appointment and on your intake form and communicating to your therapist before, during and after your session are key to having a successful and satisfying experience at our spa.  For a description of each modality please click services menus: Bodywork & Waxing.

Question 4: Can I sit with my child during a service?

Answer: Of course.  We ask the parent or guardian to sign a consent form for a minor receiving service at our spa or at the client location.  The parent/guardian may stay in the same room while we perform the service on the minor.

Question 5: What do I do if I feel sick after a massage or facial?

Answer: Communicating with your service provider prior to getting a service is key to determine if you are well enough to receive the service.  It is critical to understand factors or medical conditions that rule out massage for you.  When in doubt, please review Massage Contraindications in the Blog section of this website.  You can also find it by typing “massage contraindications” in the Search box.

Even with a thorough pre-service consultation and precautionary measure during the service was taken, you may still develop a reaction to a chemical ingredient or massage movement that you may not have known before.  Therefore, communicating with your service provider during the service is also key to minimizing adverse reactions to the service.

If you still feel ill after a service and you have left our spa, depending on how severe your condition is, contact the spa and ask for advice (for a mild reaction such a rash) or in the case of severe reaction, seek immediate care from a qualified medical professional at a qualified medical facility.

It is important to remember that any service is provided to you with your expressed permission through your signed consent form.  It is your responsibility to communicate to your service provider your preferences or tolerance for the amount of pressure or certain movements during a massage/bodywork or ingredients during a chemical treatment whether it is a facial, peel or hair service (removal/waxing/shaving or styling).

Question 6:  How much clothing do I have to take off for a massage or facial?

Answer: As much or as little as you’re comfortable with and still allowing your service provider to administer the service to the body area.  This being said, we observe draping standards defined by our profession whether it is hair care, skin care or bodywork.  For example, getting a massage while uncovered is not acceptable at our spa or at the client location.  We uncover only the body part being worked.  For more information on draping requirements, please browse various sources listed in the Useful Links blog posting.

Question 7: What’s the difference between an LMT and RMP?

Answer: In Maryland, massage therapy falls under regulation by the The Board of Massage Therapy Examiners.  There are two levels of credentials: Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and Registered Massage Practitioner (RMP).  An individual who is licensed (LMT designation) is required to have 60 hours of college credits and 600 hours of massage school credits.  LMTs may practice in a medical health care provider’s office, hospital, or other health care facility for the purpose of providing massage.  An individual who is registered [RMP] is required to have 600 hours of massage school credits.  RMPs may practice in non-therapeutic massage settings such as private businesses, health clubs and spas.  RMPs MAY NOT practice in a medical health care provider’s office, hospital, or other health care facility for the purpose of providing massage.   Both designations require proof of passing one of these exams: NCBTMB, MBLEX; and the Maryland massage therapy jurisprudence examination.   Click here for more info.

Useful Links

American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA):  www.amtamassage.org

AMTA Page on massage therapy for health conditions.

AMTA Page 25 Reasons to Get a Massage

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB): www.ncbtmb.org

Myofascial Release Article on Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_release

Touch Research Institute:   http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/

Rolfing/Structural Integration:  http://www.rolfing.org/

Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP):  www.ascpskincare.com

Massage History Timeline: http://www.massageschoolnotes.com/the-timeline-history-of-massage/

Massage Warehouse:  http://www.massagewarehouse.com/

Bodywork Mall:  www.bodyworkmall.com

WebMD Article on Massage Style and Health BenefitsClick here

What is Draping?  Click here.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) Article on Benefits of Massage:  http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1080/The-Benefits-of-Frequent-Massage

Simplified/Short list of Massage Contraindication:  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/knowing-when-not-to-massage.html

State of Maryland Massage Board Website:  http://dhmh.maryland.gov/massage/SitePages/Home.aspx


Here’s a decent list of references for massage therapy:



Massage Magazines/Journals:

*** Massage Magazine:  www.massagemag.com

*** Massage and Bodywork Magazine:  www.massageandbodywork.com

*** Massage Therapy Journal:  www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/mtj/index.html

*** Massage Therapy Canada:  http://www.massagetherapycanada.com/

*** International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork:




YouTube videos on “What To Expect in a Massage Session”:



Massage Contraindications

Massage therapy appears to have few serious risks — if it is performed by a properly trained therapist and if appropriate cautions are followed. The number of serious injuries reported is very small. Side effects of massage therapy may include temporary pain or discomfort, bruising, swelling and a sensitivity or allergy to massage oils.  The following are some common conditions that may be generally or locally contraindicated for massage.  Below the list of general and local contraindications are the areas of caution.  Please read carefully.  When in doubt, consult your primary care physician when considering the use of massage therapy.


General Contraindications – massage not performed on person at all. Local Contraindications – massage not performed on areas having the condition
o    systemic contagious or infectious diseases, including the common cold

o    acute conditions requiring first aid or medical attention

o    severe unstable hypertension

o    significant fever.


o    Acute flare-up of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis

o    Deep vein thrombosis

o    aneurism

o    frostbite

o    local contagious or irritable skin conditions

o    open sores or wounds

o    recent surgery

o    recent burn

o    varicosities

o    malignancy


Cautions about massage therapy include the following:

  • Vigorous massage should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders, low blood platelet counts and by people taking blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin.
  • Massage should not be done in any area of the body with blood clots, fractures, open or healing wounds, skin infections, weakened bones (such as from osteoporosis or cancer) or where there has been a recent surgery.
  • Although massage therapy appears to be generally safe for cancer patients, they should consult their oncologist before having a massage that involves deep or intense pressure. Any direct pressure over a tumor usually is discouraged. Cancer patients should discuss any concerns about massage therapy with their oncologist.
  • Pregnant women should wait until their 2nd trimester before considering prenatal massage therapy.  They should consult their health care provider before using massage therapy.


Note: Massage therapy does not constitute medical treatment and is not a substitute for a medical examination or diagnosis. If you are dealing with a serious health condition check with your health care provider before seeking massage therapy and make sure you inform your massage practitioner of any health conditions that may affect the work.