At the start of your first session, a professional practitioner will conduct a thorough health, diet and lifestyle consultation. This will involve finding out about any medication that you take, recent operations and illnesses and your reasons for trying reflexology.
The practitioner will explain how reflexology works and what to expect in the session. The reflexologist also informs you that reflexology does not treat specific illnesses and is not a substitute for medical treatment. You may be asked to sign a consent form.
It is okay, and even expected, for you to ask questions. You should feel comfortable communicating with the reflexologist. If the practitioner is not forthcoming with information, or is dismissive of questions or concerns, this could be a “red flag,” and you have every right to terminate the appointment.
Starting the session
For foot reflexology, you will lie or sit down, remaining fully clothed except for your shoes and socks. The practitioner may wash your feet and soak them in warm water, then position them at his or her chest level.
Generally a session lasts between 30-60 minutes. You can rest or talk during the session at your discretion. If you fall asleep during the session, you will still receive the benefits of the treatment. Feedback during the session is encouraged, and of course, you can request that the session stop at any time.
Regardless of your health condition(s) (for example, migraine, nausea, sciatica) the reflexologist focuses on the entire pattern of the reflexology therapy, starting at the toes and working down the foot. A complete reflexology therapy session uses many different techniques and includes all of the points on both feet (and perhaps the hands and ears).
By working all of the points, the reflexologist addresses internal organs and glands as well as muscle groups, bones, nerve ganglions during a session.
If you have a specific condition, such as migraines, the reflexologist will carefully feel and work the area corresponding to the presenting problem. However, they will also work all areas of the foot with gentle pressure, because, according to reflexology theories, this allows the nerve pathways and congestion to release and promotes the relaxation response for the entire body.
How pain and discomfort is handled
The first thing to understand is that the reflexologist stimulates the nervous system to do the work of balancing and releasing; it is not the therapist who “fixes” discomfort. In other words, “releasing pain” is not the model; the goal is rather to bring the whole body into balance, and then the pain will subside. Throughout the session, the reflexologist will stay present, grounded, and in a calm and centered state of awareness.
What reflexology feels like
Experiences with reflexology sessions vary from a general feeling of relaxation, to a sense of “lightness” or tingling in the body, as well as feelings of warmth, a sense of “opening,” or “energy moving” from the practitioner’s pressure to the specific body area.
Other reactions during the session range from physical to emotional and may include: Sensation of being cold or chilled, perspiration of hands or feet, feeling light-headed, laughing, sighing deeply, overwhelming desire to sleep, thirst, loose, relaxed muscles and organs, and entire muscle relaxation all over.
Again, Reflexologists do not diagnose
Reflexologists do not diagnose or tell you about any congestion or tension they observe on the foot. One of the theories of reflexology is that the body will nurture and repair itself once released from stress. If the body is extremely stressed, the reflexologist may refer you to a medical team or another treatment, if appropriate, but at no time will he or she give medical advice or diagnosis.
The end of the session
Most reflexologists have some type of calm, peaceful way of closing the session that involves stroking the foot and holding the limb in some manner. The important aspect is for you to feel comforted and nurtured.
Scheduling follow-up sessions
The number of sessions varies and is determined by the client’s health and reasons for seeking reflexology. Results from reflexology are often subtle and are cumulative. Thus, you are more likely to see greater benefits from regular sessions (for example, once a week for six weeks) than if you had a session once every six months.
The Federal Government requires reflexologists to become certified with the Department of Health. Otherwise, cities and states have distinct requirements and regulatory agencies for practicing reflexologists.
There is also a code of conduct and standardized care associated with national certification. In order to maintain certification, reflexologists must qualify annually and support their certification with continuing education courses.
In addition, instructors of reflexology must be accredited by the American Commission for Accreditation for Reflexology Education and Training, which measures their ability to meet national, professional standards.
Contact American Reflexology Certification Board (arcb.net arcb/find-an-arcb-reflexologist) for a list of nationally certified practitioners.