A massage for Mom is a great gift.
Online gift certificates available on my website.
It has come to my attention that some people love deep tissue for the pain of it and not necessarily the therapeutic benefits. Sometimes this causes dilemmas for me in treatment. On the one hand, deep tissue feels great at certain times because there is a genuine need for deep “kneading.” The problem comes when people want pain and there is really no therapeutic reason to inflict it. Can people become addicted to the endorphins released from painful massage techniques in a manner similar to other addictions? Or is there a “no pain, no gain” mentality at work that really runs counter to holistic practices?
The idea that it has to hurt to be effective is not really very productive, in my opinion. To inflict pain on healthy tissue seems…well, a bit weird. If there isn’t a knot, a trigger point, some anomaly or something to work with, should massage hurt? And should you ever be bruised? I’m sure there are many differing opinions but I have a gut reaction and an inner conflict when I feel someone would like pain when there is no condition requiring me to cause pain.
Deep tissue, by definition does not equal pain. It means deep and anatomically accurate work. Period.
If there is pain, then there are areas that need attention and most likely over time–not a big ripping or poking in one session. To work deeply without warming tissue and loosening fascia is an excellent way to get repeat clients because the tissue will most likely “snap back” if all the more detailed work in the surrounding areas is ignored. And yet, this is what many clients come expecting.
I will say that the marketing of “deep tissue” has something to do with it. Many spas charge more for deep tissue and people therefore feel as if it is a more valuable service that they should request (without really having any idea what their bodies need or what they are talking about). Why are they charging more? If a massage therapist has good body mechanics, it should take no more effort (and maybe less) than to do any other kind of massage. In fact, for many massage therapists the detailed movements and requisite concentration of myofascial release and neuro-muscular techniques (for example) are far more difficult to perform than a generic deep tissue massage.
But prices and marketing aside, my real concern as a holistic therapist is in feeding the beast–the beast that has to hurt and experience something extraordinary in order to feel that something worthwhile is happening. Maybe I spent too many years working with teenagers but it feels a bit “emo.” How about some controversy:
Do some adults use deep tissue massage like adolescents use cutting?
Sometimes I feel this is true. Other times it seems that at play is what used to be referred to as a “Type A” personality. There are people who want something done to them that will be noticeable immediately and that something is best signified by pain. They don’t want to relax (which really helps if your aim is to give them pain), they don’t want to change anything about what might be causing the problem–they just want to be “fixed”, with no effort on their part. In fact, I believe the pain is the sole attempt at effort. If it hurts, they have participated in their wellness and “paid their price.”
So are we really offering an endorphin rush in the form of superfluous deep tissue massages that are really just code for, “Make it hurt!”
Hurt can release endorphins which can reduce hurt in other areas: I’m guessing psychological, emotional, spiritual…
I think the gist of my discomfort with some of the requests I get for deep tissue work is that the massage desired seems to be actually in service of unhealthy defenses rather than in support of wellness. I don’t really have an answer to my dilemma. Usually it sorts itself out. I try to meet people where they are at but I will not hurt where hurt is not indicated.
Pain may be necessary when there is a physical reason to interact with bodily tension but when pain is requested as an uninformed requisite of a “good massage” or as a distraction from inner pain (or numbness), I recoil.
Healing from certain situations and conditions is not easy. Don’t let anyone say it is. But massage should be affirming, encouraging, and nourishing to body, mind and spirit. Pain for no reason has no place.
…More about the effects of massage (coming soon)
These are a few of the misconceptions regarding massage that I have encountered. I won’t get into the associations with prostitution and sexuality as that is a whole other article about which I have much more to say. These are just a few concerns that have been discussed in the course of my work and a few simple responses that hopefully clear up some common massage myths.
You have to get naked: With hundreds of types of massage available, this isn’t necessarily true. With Swedish, deep tissue and some types of stone therapy you do need to have the areas you want worked on accessible. You should always only be asked to undress to your level of comfort and be told how that will affect the work that can be done. Most licensed professionals will take care that only the part of you being worked on will be uncovered (un-draped) at any given time. You should never be exposed in an uncomfortable way. Breasts are not uncovered except in extremely specialized and rare conditions and genitals never should be un-draped without your permission and a good medical reason.
You should feel safe and secure at all times and communicate or get up and leave if you are not. That being said, know that the lower back and the hips are connected, as are the leg muscles and the gluteals. If you are experiencing certain types of tension, injury or strain, it may not be possible to adequately treat the entire muscle and its attachments without attention to some places that many folks would rather leave covered. Again, it is always up to you. You are paying, the massage is about you and anything that adds to your stress or makes you feel uncomfortable is counterproductive. (If you are specifically looking to be naked and un-draped, that will be the subject of another article.)
There are many, many forms of Bodywork and Somatic Therapies such as Reflexology, Reiki, Polarity, Acupressure, Therapeutic Touch, etc. that are effective with comfortable clothing on and do not require undressing of any kind except taking off your shoes and perhaps getting your hair mussed. Even then, you should feel in control and able to communicate what is best for you. In holistic massage therapies you are considered the expert in your own healing process and you are in charge of your own care.
Massage hurts: It can, but only if you need certain work done. Deep tissue, trigger point and even reflexology can involve pain when knots, tension and trigger points are worked with. Again, you should feel in control of the pain level and NEVER let it be excruciating. Having a good relationship with your therapist in which you can speak freely is essential. There is no benefit to just being hurt! Which leads me to:
It has to hurt to work—No pain, No gain: At the risk of making some folks mad, I am going to say that this is a really common misconception that I feel is particularly detrimental to the very folks who are its biggest proponents. As I said, there can be pain involved in areas of chronic tension and releasing that tension through massage can hurt but the amount of pain should always be controlled by you.
Endorphins are released when we experience pain and that can get some folks “addicted” to a form of massage that may not be productive in the long run. There are knots that can be “melted” with gentle forms of bodywork and even energy healing, and if that works, shouldn’t it be tried first? Massage and touch alone can release endorphins. Too often, the “no pain, no gain” mentality that is at work in this myth is a TYPE A, striving, stressful, even punishing attitude that is counterproductive to removing the cause of stress. Short-term, relief is felt but the underlying dynamics are not addressed and may even be fed.
Massage is a luxury: I’d like to challenge that. Infants deprived of touch not only fail to thrive, they can die! Although the necessity of touch to adults, adolescents, and children has not been adequately studied, the infants make a pretty profound statement. Therapeutic touch is not easy to give to oneself and even in relationships, touch may not be healing or address our whole being. In cases of illness, injury, mental distress, disability, dementia, isolation, life transitions, etc. touch is such a part of being human and being validated that when it is absent, we can lose ourselves. Many times, the people who need touch most are the most neglected.
Many of us spend money on far more luxurious things than our health and well-being. And yet, massage can be costly. If you are truly in need of services and can’t afford to pay full price, talk to different practitioners and see what can be worked out. While we all have to pay our bills, (massage therapists included) many practitioners will be willing to work out a deal for someone truly in need and committed to their own healing process.
I need to be in better shape (smell good, feel better, lose weight, etc.) before I get a massage: This is a very common feeling and attitude however most massage therapists tend to love and respect the human body in all its states, sizes, and conditions. In fact, massage can help improve self-esteem, increase body awareness, and can improve body image as well. All of these things are, in my opinion, helpers (if not prerequisites) to accelerating the changes we desire to make.
It has been said that you have to accept yourself as you are in order to change. It is a paradox but one that I have observed to hold great truth. If we are in a negative relationship with our bodies, it is that much harder to take care of them in they way we need to and to honor their needs. Massage is a way to honor our bodies just as they are, which can be a catalyst to then making changes or to accepting conditions that cannot be changed.
As to smelling good: You should be clean for a massage but refrain from using harsh scents, perfumes, and over deodorizing. All this focus on removing every scent from our bodies is like saying something is wrong with our natural state. It is only a marketing technique but one that may make us feel even more self-conscious and negative about our physical presentation. Massage therapists are perfectly comfortable with the natural scents of a clean body.
Lastly, you do not need to be happy, peppy, in the mood for conversation, etc. Many people are dealing with chronic illness, progressive disease, painful conditions, and the stress and distress of life circumstances. While not all massage therapists work with mind/body issues, all should be accepting of whatever you bring to the table and be capable and willing to accept you as you are.
Massage is for women: Many men just get massages on vacations when they are talked into it or when something really starts to hurt. Regular massage for regular men is still not part of mainstream culture and yet, professional athletes get massages all the time to address injuries and also to enhance performance when there is no injury. Many massage therapists specialize in Sports Massage which is (as the name implies) specifically for sports injury and to maximize the ability of muscles to work well under frequent or constant use. Sports massage is obviously for both men and women but tends to be more popular with men (perhaps because of this myth) and because not all massage settings are places where men feel comfortable. But men get stressed too and wellness, prevention of stress-related disorders, and places to let go of the striving, competition, and care-taking roles that may be outdated are becoming increasingly popular and valued.
Conclusion: There are many great ways we can take care of ourselves: massage is just one option and isn’t right for everyone. Hopefully this answered a few questions and can help you make up your own mind about the benefits and types of services available from massage therapists and whether massage is something worth investigating further.
I did not introduce more holistic, mind/body practices here: I will save that for another day but be aware that there is a whole gamut of services available that delve more deeply into the emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of healing and are particularly suited to improving our relationships with our bodies, helping manage our attitudes towards chronic illness and pain, working with death and dying, grieving, loss, making or accepting life changes and integrating many of the previously distinct treatments for our whole selves.
Our bodies really aren’t separate entities from our minds, thoughts and spirits. Our thoughts, memories, worries, etc. all affect our physical state (as shown with stress) just as our physical condition can directly affect our minds (injury, illness, medications, hormones, etc.). It only makes sense to treat our whole selves in a holistic manner and to awaken and strengthen the innate healing powers of our own minds and bodies as we seek balance, restoration, relief and wellness.
Starting a Career in Massage Therapy: What You Need to Know
One of the most frequent comments massage therapists make about their occupation is, “I feel fortunate to have found work I love!” They feel this way because a career in massage therapy allows them to help people in a meaningful way with a high degree of personal contact. Massage therapy provides an opportunity to express very positive values about caring and well-being in their work in a way that is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Massage is a healing art as well as a science. It requires a balance of academic and technical knowledge, clinical skills, manual dexterity, sensitivity, and awareness. Nearly everyone has the innate resources to touch another with care and confidence. However, it takes a sincere desire to help others, along with a commitment to the time, energy, and focus necessary for the training process in order to become a solid practitioner.
The field of massage therapy is growing rapidly in response to the public’s expanding interest in forms of healthcare that promote well-being and a higher quality of life. Consequently, massage therapy has the attributes of an emerging profession undergoing relatively fast-paced change. For example, professional standards for both individuals and massage training programs have markedly advanced and increased over the past five years. Standards in the field are not always uniform, though this article will point out the most prevalent standards.
The God particle no longer a theory | The Australian
HUMANITY’S understanding of the origin of the universe after the big bang has taken a historic leap forward with the discovery of a subatomic particle that scientists have been searching for and theorising about for almost 50 years.
In jubilant scenes in Geneva and Melbourne, physicists learned that scientists working at the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland had found what they believe to be the Higgs boson or “God particle”.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced the “milestone in the understanding of nature”, saying it had found a new subatomic particle consistent with the Higgs boson.
“The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe,” a CERN statement said.
The God particle no longer a theory | The Australian
Peter Higgs, 83, the shy and softly spoken British physicist who, along with two other groups, published the conceptual groundwork for the particle in 1964, expressed his joy yesterday. He said he was “astounded at the amazing speed with which these results have emerged”.
California Massage Therapy Awareness Day
by National Holistic Institute
Love massages? Love holidays? How awesome would a massage holiday be?
The State Assembly has declared January 12, 2012, “California Massage Therapy Awareness Day!”
Just over two years ago, state-recognized certification began through the California Massage Therapy Council. With over 27,000 CAMTC-certified massage professionals to date, the California State Assembly is recognizing the strength of the massage therapy profession by naming a whole day in our honor.
Massage is an ancient healing art that can be traced back to most cultures in some form or another. It got a bit lost along the way with associations to shady massage parlors and luxury pampering but is on its way back as a healing practice and therapy for mind, body and spirit. Massage can be used to treat many types of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual conditions. It can help reduce stress, promote relaxation and can work to prevent some of the conditions generated by chronic stress and tension. I am focusing here on the more traditional, body-oriented forms of massage and will write separately about more holistic, somatic or integrative therapies.
A current definition of massage cited from the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) is “the application of soft-tissue manipulation techniques to the body, generally intended to reduce stress and fatigue while improving circulation.” Within this spectrum are numerous techniques, trainings, and specialties. Some of the more common styles you may encounter are these:
Swedish Massage: This is probably what most people think of when they think of massage. It is one of the most widely practiced forms and is the basis or “backbone” of many other adjunctive techniques. Swedish massage uses a variety of strokes, varying in pressure from light, flowing movements to deep, focused manipulation of the soft tissue of the body (muscle, tendon, ligament, etc.) Strokes are directed towards the heart to increase circulation and aid in lymphatic drainage and may also involve tapping, kneading, rolling and other percussive or vibrational movements. The benefits of Swedish massage may include generalized relaxation, reduction of stress, dissolution of scar tissue adhesions, increased circulation, and an improved relationship with one’s body.
Deep Tissue Massage: This is another very popular form of massage that is usually combined with Swedish massage or another relaxing technique that warms and loosens the muscles and fascia to prepare for deeper manipulation. Deep-tissue/deep-muscle massages affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia and are, as the name implies, a physically deeper level of work. This technique requires advanced training and an understanding of anatomy and physiology. Deep tissue can help with chronic muscular pain, injury rehabilitation, and can reduce inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendonitis.
Hot (and Cold) Stone Massage: The most widely known form of stone massage is hot stone massage but actually stones of all shapes and sizes of varying temperatures (ranging from 32 to 140 degrees) can be used during a stone massage to elicit physical healing, promote mental relaxation, and to affect muscle and tissue through the practice of thermotherapy. Generally, the stones are used as an extension of the practitioner’s hands, using manipulation techniques such as Swedish and Deep Tissue to treat the body. Hot stones encourage the exchange of blood and lymph and provide soothing heat for deep-tissue work. They can loosen muscle tissue and fascia for deep muscular work and provide pain relief in conditions best treated with heat. Cold stones aid with inflammation, muscle toning, and moving blood out of the area to reduce swelling. Alternating heat and cold brings the entire body into the healing process, with a rapid exchange of blood and oxygen and alternating rise and fall of respiration rate as the body seeks homeostasis. Hot and cold stones (as well as semi-precious stones and crystals) may also be used in conjunction with more spiritual and energetic forms of healing.
CAUTION: Stone therapy is not just a luxury spa treatment but potent “medicine” on a holistic level. Because of the profound effects of thermotherapy, stone therapy is contraindicated or should be used with care under a physician’s recommendation by a trained professional for many conditions such as: hypotension and hypertension (because the stones affect blood pressure), diabetes (if there is any numbness, loss of sensation, nerve damage), certain heart conditions, pregnancy, skin diseases, rashes, acne, and people on medications that affect sensation or pain awareness/threshold, etc.
Trigger Point: Trigger Point is often part of Deep Tissue and Swedish Massage and involves palpation or static pressure on a painful point or “knot” with the intent to release the tension and return blood flow to the congested or blocked area. Trigger points are nodules or taut bands in the muscle fiber and pressure on a trigger point may stimulate pain in another area of the body (referred pain). Trigger points can be very painful when touched and communication between practitioner and client is crucial. The pain should never be excruciating and should be controlled by the client who communicates verbally or non-verbally when a certain threshold is reached.
Usually the therapist will locate a trigger point (they feel like small lumps, tangles or “crunchy” spots) and apply compression while asking the client to breathe into the spot and remain relaxed.
The therapist will hold pressure on the spot until she/he feels a pop, release, or flow in the muscle. This doesn’t always happen the first time and trigger point may be repeated until the knot and the pain subside. This is great for areas of chronic tension and spots where we habitually “hide” our stress and for releasing old patterns related to strain and injury.
(Note: Trigger points are not the same as the “tender points” used to help diagnose fibromyalgia.)
Pregnancy or Pre-Natal Massage: Pregnancy massage is another specialty that requires specific training, and, in later stages, can require special equipment as well (pillows, bolsters, etc. to create comfort and provide access to the back when lying on the stomach is no longer possible). Pregnancy massage can reduce stress (stress hormones are passed on to the fetus), honor changes in the body (which can be disconcerting), and help alleviate the aches and pains of low back, ankles, neck and shoulders, etc. as the body adjusts to carrying more weight in different places.
Other techniques commonly used alone or in conjunction with Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage are: Myofacial Release, Neuromuscular Therapy, Lymphatic Drainage, and Trager. These are only a few of the types of massage available. The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) has a list of 250 different types and styles of massage if you would like more definitions.
Wow, I’m so glad I asked myself that….
It is amazing for me but then, I felt called to massage years ago (even though I resisted the calling for decades). So now? I love my work and have a great group of loyal clients that inspire and refresh my work. I do research for them and strive to always get better at what I do–no longer abstractly but for very real people and the issues they bring to the table.
I really love the work and have become much better at finding the people who can most benefit from my particular style and energy and essentially, I am creating my dream job. I work for myself, which has its drawbacks and much bigger benefits. I do have to manage the business side, which takes time and energy but I set my own hours, decide on my own style and setting, and work as I am best able, without having to offer a “salon specialty” that is not resonant with my abilities or aims.
There are a lot of things that can’t be taught or told in massage school. There tends to be an idealized and generic view of jobs available. I have written of the nightmare jobs so now for the joy I have found in my work. (I’ll set the part about starting my own business aside for the moment. It is complex and requires a very different skill set than massage.)
The massage itself is amazing, beautiful, awe inspiring at times, and surprising as well. I never have the same day twice. I do more than just massage and that is part of my joy in the work. I have a background in mental health and I use energy healing in every session (because I can’t stop it even when doing very clinical or medical work) and I have found clients who suit my philosophy: Don’t just survive, THRIVE! And: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Ghandi
So while I do all kinds of work, ranging from post-surgery myofascial release (almost like physical therapy) to pure energy healing, my clients tend to be those wanting to be and feel their best and striving to better themselves in order to care for others and do good in the world.
If you don’t love all kinds of people and all kinds of bodies, you may not be a great massage therapist. I feel gratitude for the beauty of the intimacy of touch and the ability to be able to heal in such a natural and primal manner. To me, it is a privilege to be allowed into the usually private world of skin, touch, and caring and I cherish the work. I love all kinds of bodies: young and old, thin and thick, aged, scarred, damaged, spotted, wrinkled, veined, flabby, saggy, supple, dark, light, male, female, hairy, arthritic, athletic, beautiful to the world: beautiful to me.
I feel great about encouraging and reinforcing the care of every body in every state and I am glad that I never have to reach for love or compassion in my work. It is always there. I feel the body as an extension of the soul of the person. It holds the memory and the story of their journey. If there is something they want to change, I will help them but that help always starts with pure acceptance of who they are in the moment.
So even if I am at home before going to the studio and don’t feel like working, the second I put my hands on someone that feeling disappears. In fact, when I work, I disappear. My hands and energy feel like ears. They listen, travel and respond. They look and search and my ego is nowhere, my thoughts are erased. I am a vehicle for what needs to be. My mind doesn’t wander. I don’t even know what my mind is. It is utterly engrossing, completely engaging, wordless, thoughtless, mindless, but soulful.
I have realizations or impulses that I follow but the process is much more like inspiration and the thoughts, even if very concrete, seem to come from another place. I am able to draw on my knowledge of anatomy, the nervous system, techniques and methods, but it is like the artist painting or the jazz musician improvising–not thinking of technique but simply using the skills naturally as the need arises.
I seem also to have a knack for relaxing people. In fact, it may be more than just a knack since many people who have enjoyed massages their whole lives have come to me on the first visit and fallen sound asleep, which they say has never happened before. I have a theory that this is a resonance with the trance-like state I go into and has something to do with entrainment. I release the squirrels in my brain and theirs follow…
So what’s it like? Awesome, if you love people–their bodies, their stories, their journey, their dreams, their hopes, their angels, and their demons. If you are in massage for the money and don’t really like ALL kinds of people. Good Luck. If you want people to love you for what you give them, but can’t love them–Good Luck. If you are trying to heal others in order to scratch your own unhealed wounds, please get help. Learn to receive before you try to give. You don’t have to be perfect, but you need to get yourself out of the way. You need a place for yourself to be cared for. You need a life and someone to listen to your stories or you will interject your own.
You also will need good personal boundaries or it will be tough when you are confronted with people who want to eat your time and money, or get you to give them what you are not comfortable giving. I can say more about this another time. If you do just love the money, there probably are great jobs for you. But be aware that you will attract what energy you give out. If you really want to have a great, rewarding job that helps others and is inspiring to you, do your own work on yourself to heal, receive, learn, and study. It can be a beautiful calling and you will know if it is yours when it won’t relent. And ask for help, find mentors, get your own massage and energy work always. Become awesome and you will have a dream job that gives you more than enough money and leaves you thankful each and every day.
Hopefully, you have asked and answered some questions about yourself, your style and preferences before you look for a job. Knowing who you are and where you are in your life can help you find a job that is right for you and keep you from getting into a burnout situation, such as a turn-and-burn factory.”Turn and burn” is generally used as an insider phrase denoting the practice of serving client after client with the sole aim of making money, not building relationships or caring for clients or practitioners. In many spa franchises and even high end spas, the massage therapist gives a 50-minute or hour massage and has 10 minutes to turn the room and sheets and get the next client in while someone else takes their money and very strongly encourages them to rebook. If you have been a client at this type of place, you know the feeling of being a commodity and not a human. To me, it kind of betrays the meaning and purpose of massage therapy and most certainly violates all the ideals I have for my practice.
In addition, the physical and emotional requirements are intense for the therapist. (Not to mention, I seriously doubt the hot stones are properly sanitized or cleaned for the next client. Stones exfoliate and I really don’t want someone else’s dead skin cells rubbed into me. I just hope the therapist had time to wash his/her hands and go to the bathroom in the minute they may actually have had to themself.)
So this is the job of a lot of newly graduated massage therapists. The sell is good by these companies, after all, they are in the sales and marketing business, not really healing ventures. You may be expected to perform up to seven hours of massage a day as well as sell packages and products to your clients. If you don’t have all your hours filled with clients, you may be paid what you would get working at McDonalds. Either way, the job is a nightmare.
A reasonable commission for a local spa is 20-40% but that is for clients booked. If you do not have a client, you may still only get $8-15 an hour. (Or be told not to come in…) Beware of jobs wanting to hire you with an existing following of clients. They do not have the work for you and are looking for you to bring them income. If you have a loyal following, it’s time to consider working for yourself.
Venues with steady clientele already in place are a better bet: Resorts, cruise ships, chiropractors, wellness centers and co-ops may have a more steady stream of established or seasonal clientele but often want at least 2 years of experience. This is where making relationships while you are still in school can be helpful. You may be able to get in if you know someone and do some extra work to prepare for what they want.
So say your employer charges the higher than average (but easier to do the math on) rate of $100 and hour. If you get 35% you will get $35 plus a possible $15 dollar tip. Wow, that’s $50 bucks an hour. However, how many hours realistically can you do in a day and how many hours does the employer really have to offer? An average is about four hours a day. That, in fact gives you about the national average salary for a massage therapist in America of about $43,000 a year (including tips) but before taxes.
However, if the job charges $80 an hour and you are at 20% commission you will get $16 an hour plus hopefully a big $15 dollar tip. That is $31 an hour and even at a lucky 5 hours a day, 5 days a week (which can be grueling), with everyone tipping generously–you will gross around $42,000 before taxes.
Be aware that linking up with medical practices such as chiropractors, physical therapists, sports medicine clinics, etc. may have a more steady stream of referrals for you but people don’t tip what they consider to be medical treatment. And your appointments are more likely to be 30 minutes and chiropractors take really weird breaks, which are great for self-care but may not fit in with the other demands of your life..
I think what I’m saying is don’t expect to be lucky without making some luck. Do your research while you are still in school. Build relationships, learn about who you are in the field and what you want. Start envisioning your dream job from the outset and by all means, be realistic when getting a student loan.
Dream jobs? I don’t know what your particular dream is but they do exist. Look for places that have healing at their center and not money. Look for practitioner-run venues where there is a greater chance of having your profession honored. Be really good at what you do and add specialties that are in demand and of interest you. (Deep-tissue is a must for most places and part of virtually every accredited school curriculum. Also, pre-natal, hot stones, and geriatric massage as baby boomers age.)
I don’t really want to discourage anyone whose heart is truly in this. Massage therapy can be a beautiful career but if you are in it for the money, I wouldn’t want to go to you and you may be disappointed in the initial income. If it is your dream, dream early and often and big, and take steps before you get to the job search phase to make your dreams happen. And don’t worry if you have to pay a few dues along the way. If you see them as stepping stones instead of the real end, you can survive and move on.
I already have a dream job in the healing field and am looking to get to the next level. This is my dream:
I want to make a place where massage therapists are happy to come to work, have time to care for themselves and build relationships, and get weekly supervision as well as weekly massage and bodywork to keep them feeling great.
I want to create a place that gives true quality service and is a pleasurable environment for all who enter.
I also want to offer respite to those who may not be able to afford care.
I’d love to be able to start with special needs kids and their parents and caretakers of elderly or chronically ill family members.
In this article, I will be talking about looking for your first job as a recently graduated massage therapist. There truly is a wide range of options out there and knowing who you are and where your particular skills and passion lie is the best place to start. So now that you have completed your training, here a a few more questions:
Did you absolutely love anatomy and physiology?
Are you fascinated by the body and medical/therapeutic applications of massage?
Were you perhaps more interested in the energetic aspects of massage?
Do you want a long-term relationship with clients or does this not matter to you?
Do you love the atmosphere of a high-end spa or that of a medical office?
What is your goal in giving a massage?
Do you tend to deal with physical symptoms, aches and pains and their immediate relief?
Do you love deep tissue work?
Is getting knots out like popping bubble wrap to you?
Do you like helping people relax and teaching self-care techniques?
Are you more interested in western medicine or complimentary and alternative practices?
As you envision continuing your studies with CEU’s, what areas of practice appeal to you?
Who did you most enjoy working on as a student and why?
Who did you least like working on and why?
If this is your first career, you may need a bit of luck or to know someone to get a better than a grueling entry-level job. While you are still in school, be a client at the places you imagine yourself working. Get to know your local community of like-minded practitioners. Use social media, interact on professional organization websites, ask questions, research your areas of interest, interview practitioners (you can do this much more easily as a student) and if, possible, find a mentor or guide of sorts.
One misleading factor in understanding what you will be paid as a massage therapist is the price you are used to paying as a client to get a massage. In most settings, the massage therapist receives only a portion of what the client pays and that portion can be very small, depending on your experience and the type of setting employing you. The average salaries for massage therapists are reported to be around $43,000.
Understand that this is an average and many therapists have worked their way up to better salaries through experience and client following. The other thing not reflected in the salary statement is under what conditions you may be earning your money. A massage therapist working at a franchise such as Massage Envy or Elements receives just a bit over minimum wage as base pay. They are expected to sell to their clients, work hours and shifts that do not honor any type of self-care or healing, and are greatly responsible for the high burn-out rate of new massage grads. These franchises are money-making ventures created and bought as businesses not necessarily in the service of helping others, but rather, cashing in on the growing desire for more massage in our country. For an inside scoop, see what real people are saying about Massage Envy.
And from another franchise: “I currently work for Elements and I think it is outrageous how poorly the therapists are paid. I end up doing massages for $8/hour. They don’t base your pay on experience and expect you to do a lot of other busy work.”~post on job site forum.
If you got into this field either for the beauty of helping others, or to make money. I suggest you avoid franchises at all costs (no pun intended)! Not only do they tend to underpay and take advantage of their workers but they are known for not paying if they don’t have the clients, making sales a primary goal of massage therapists, and when they are busy, forcing a “turn-and-burn” schedule on practitioners.
So what is “turn-and-burn” and what is a reasonable starting salary?