Story Massage Programme for Adults

We are often asked about the Story Massage Programme for adults. Is it suitable? We talk to three amazing Best Practice Winners who prove that the answer is a resounding YES! Find out the benefits of sharing positive touch combined with story and song with adults with a whole range of physical and learning difficulties including Parkinson’s and Dementia.


Our Best Practice Winners in the Working with Adults category are:

Angela Philpott, Independent Complementary Therapist

Davina Brownrigg, Freelance Musician, Singer and Vocal Animateur

Jaime Ballett, Manager, Out and About Dorset Ltd.


Angela Philpott

Angela is an Independent complementary therapist working at Strode Park Foundation in Kent, a charity providing opportunities and services for children and adults with physical and learning disabilities. Angela works with adults aged from 18 to 98! Angela trained in the Story Massage Programme back in 2014 and she says it is one of the best training programmes she has completed as it can be used in many ways – for individual and group sessions.

The Story Massage Programme has been particularly beneficial for giving Angela the tools to communicate with a 34-year-old client with learning difficulties and scoliosis. The client says very few words and wanders around all day and night, so sitting still is a challenge. Angela started sharing Story Massage sessions with her, often nursery rhymes which she enjoys, sometimes only a few minutes, sometimes longer depending on the mood of the day. During the longer sessions, which can last up to 30 minutes, Angela says there is plenty of joyful eye contact, smiles, and head nodding. Her favourite massage story is ‘Lolli Ladybird’s Got Spots’ written by Pete Wells.

After one session with this client, Angela was sitting quietly feeling a bit tired and stressed with some aspects of her life. Her client came over to her, still smiling and holding focussed eye contact. She came up close and placed her own forehead on Angela’s forehead then held her hand. The client’s carer said: ‘This is her version of a cuddle, and I’ve never seen it before.’ It was a very emotional moment for everyone who witnessed it.

“Clients love to have their names added to massage stories and rhymes. During ‘Wheels on the Bus’, for example, we might include ‘Mary says wait for me, wait for me, wait for me’. This is greeted with smiling and eye contact showing engagement and enjoyment.” Angela Philpott, Independent Complementary Therapist working with adults with physical and learning difficulties.


Davina Brownrigg

Davina is a freelance musician, singer and vocal animateur working with South Birmingham Parkinson’s UK Singing Group. She finds that combining the Story Massage strokes with a song helps hold focus and attention, which in turn seems to help reduce muscular twitches – and brings a lot of fun and engagement to her sessions. Davina also enjoys sharing massage stories with her husband and 16-month-old son at home.

Davina uses the Story Massage Programme as a half-way point in her singing sessions with the Parkinson’s group. The sessions begin with physical stretches, breathing and vocal warm-ups, then move to singing some rounds and/or unaccompanied music that requires some brainpower to navigate. This is followed by a massage story/song as self-massage which allows the group a moment to stop, slow down and take in the music through a kinaesthetic approach. Davina demonstrates the Story Massage strokes for use on arms, chest or legs and then clearly shows how this can be combined with the words and music. The session finishes with a singalong with Davina’s ukulele. 

“One of our most successful massage songs for the group is ‘Rock Around the Clock’ as a self-massage on the legs. The Story Massage strokes mimic the style of dance moves that would usually accompany the song such as The Circle for the time on the clock. It is a well-known song that adds a layer of comfort and gives a lively, active feeling that wakes up the mind and body for the rest of the morning.” Davina Brownrigg, Freelance Musician, Singer and Vocal Animateur working with South Birmingham Parkinson’s UK Singing Group.


Jaime Ballett

Jaime is manager of Out and About Dorset Ltd, a day care facility in Poole for adults with severe to moderate learning difficulties. Since training on the online course, Jaime and colleagues have integrated the Story Massage Programme at the start of the day to structure the day ahead and help everyone feel calm and prepared. Massage stories are also used to help manage a challenge such as going to the dentist. Jaime has noticed a real improvement in skills of self-regulation in familiar and non-familiar environments where individuals may feel anxious.

A key ethos of the day care facility is to enhance independence and social interaction by creating opportunities where adults can feel in control. Jaime says the Story Massage Programme is a fun and inclusive activity that helps build trust and positive relationships particularly for people who struggle with communication. Adults feel empowered as they can choose a massage story from a whole box of different stories. They can also choose whether or not they want to take part or watch others. Some like to lie on the floor, close their eyes and just listen.

“The Story Massage Programme offers an activity that adults with varying levels of need can enjoy as a group. It doesn’t require any pressure to ‘perform’ or ‘do the right thing’ so everyone can relax and have fun together.” Jaime Ballett, Manager, Out and About Dorset Ltd.


More feedback from our Best Practice Winners

“One member of the group has Parkinson’s and dementia and he struggles to follow instructions, verbal or written and also remember them. His wife joined the session and noticed how much he engaged and copied my actions. She said how much they both enjoyed taking part in the singing massage together.” Davina Brownrigg, Freelance Musician, Singer and Vocal Animateur working with South Birmingham Parkinson’s UK Singing Group.

“The Story Massage Programme is a fantastic resource that can accommodate every individual. Have fun with it. Let people make up their own stories and do the strokes on you too. Use music, props, and visuals. You can make a session as long or as short as necessary. It is so inclusive; the possibilities are endless.” Jaime Ballett, Manager, Out and About Dorset Ltd.

“We have used the Story Massage Programme with a client who used to pinch and scratch members of staff at the care facility. We are slowly introducing touch therapy and massage to help minimise the pinching and scratching.” Angela Philpott, Independent Complementary Therapist working with adults with physical and learning difficulties.

“When sharing a massage story with my young son at home, we tend to change the Story Massage to suit the moment. If he asks for a daytime story, we include the most invigorating strokes to fit with the story. Nearer bedtime, we include more soothing strokes to help him settle for the night.” Davina Brownrigg, Freelance Musician, Singer and Vocal Animateur.


Would you like to train in the Story Massage Programme?

Are you working with adults? Are you inspired by the work of our Best Practice Award Winners? Find out all about the Story Massage Programme online course here: Story Massage Training Online.

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