Dreaming of working as a massage therapist? Having worked in the industry for 15 years I have seen my fair share of changes and transformations in the world of Massage. Want to know what it’s really like to be a Massage Therapist? You’ve come to the right place. Here are my confessions of a Massage Therapist and why you may want to reconsider this career option for yourself.
The Story of my Massage Therapy Career
In 2003 I began my post-secondary schooling at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta. Little did I know that this decision would impact my life so fiercely. Due to the fact that I was taking my courses part time, my one year program turned into a 3 year journey.
By the time I finished my diploma I was 23 years old and eager to start my career as a Massage Therapist. Although my post secondary schooling taught me everything I needed to know about the human body and anatomy, it did not prepare me for the real inner workings of a career in massage.
One of the courses focused on ethics. Ethics class ran over numerous scenarios of situations that you may be faced with during your career. These were focused on communication with clients, how to deal with disgruntled clients and most importantly, inappropriate behaviours and your role as a professional.
In theory and on paper it all sounds pretty straight forward. However, back in 2005 Massage Therapy was still considered a fairly second rate profession and was unregulated. Massage therapists were not even considered massage therapists according to the City of Calgary business licensing committee. The official title was “Massage Practitioner”. Massage Therapists were also placed in the same category as “Escort Agencies” and “Body Rub Practitioners”.
No wonder the stigma is still present with this profession.
Massage Therapy Insurance Changes
Before 2012 in the province of Alberta anyone could claim a massage therapy treatment for their extended health benefits. In order for you to get a “Massage Practitioner” business licence you needed a minimum of 50 hours of post secondary training. 50 hours was all it took to get a job working as an un-official massage therapist in Calgary. (250 hours was the minimum in Alberta.)
One can only imagine what types of clinics were hiring these so called massage therapists. 50 hours of training hardly even gives you proper anatomy training. Let alone the hours spent learning pathologies, physiology, orthopaedic assessment, techniques and even my favourite, ethics. *Insert sarcasm here*
For those working in the industry the dogma that was associated with being termed a “body rub practitioner” would still take years to offload. As we start the new year even now there is a stigma that still follows massage therapists. Having worked in numerous clinics with numerous health care professionals throughout the years, the undeniable substandard of massage therapists is still quite present.
What comes next for Massage?
One of the most valuable requirements of massage therapy is the need for proper regulation and continued research into the therapeutic benefits of massage. Massage therapists aren’t just here to rub aches and pains away. Massage therapy as a modality should be viewed as a powerful form of soft tissue therapy.
Although it will take years for massage to be viewed as first rate when you stack it up against physio or chiropractors, there are many in the field that have earned their place amongst the big shots.
Confessions of Massage Therapy
Even in the best of times one can question their role as a massage therapist in the world of health care. It is true that what we do is still viewed as an inferior form of therapy by those in the health and wellness sector. When you take into account our training versus that of physio there is no comparison. My hours of education don’t come close to that of a physiotherapist or a chiropractor. But what I lack in education I make up for in experience.
10,000 hours of hands on practical experience in my field. Over the last 15 years I have touched thousands of bodies, all shapes and sizes. It is true I remember people’s bodily odours and birthmarks more than I do their faces. When you deal with clients one on one for hours on end you get to know their bodies more than their personalities.
Even though I have created and continue to foster strong relationships with my clients there are still things I will not tolerate when it comes to my work. Punctuality is high on this list. Is my time not as valuable as a Doctors? Does my designation after my name signal your lack of respect for my profession?
However, life tends to throw us curve balls ever so often and plans can change. Keep in mind, we are living in a wonderful age of technology and information right at our fingertips. Not calling and simply forgetting about your appointment makes me question your disposition. Most clinics have cancellation or no show policies in place but for some reason, most clinics do nothing to implement these.
It can be quite difficult to make a schedule when clients are constantly running late or even worse not showing up at all. No shows are by far the most frustrating to deal with. Implementing a strict two strikes and you’re out policy will save you the headache.
Let’s all be adults here and understand that we do not operate on caribbean or island time. Unless I’m IN the caribbean or ON an Island.
Confessions of a massage therapist
There are two types of massage therapists, those that genuinely care about their profession and want to help their clients and those just do it for the the paycheck.
In order for you to be successful at your chosen job you need to have discipline and the right attitude about what you do. That can be said about any profession out there. A lack of sympathy won’t get you any closer to your goals and you will just float through your life probably feeling extremely unfulfilled. I’ve been there. And I’ve been there with my career.
Having worked alongside many other massage therapists there is still a “not my job” type of mindset in the industry. I am constantly surprised by the novice as well as the veteran that some tasks are not theirs to bare.
For example. Anyone considering this line of work needs to know that there are parts that you will have to do and not get paid for. Such as laundry. If you choose to work in a clinic with laundry services you are amongst the privileged. For the rest of us, roll up your sleeves.
If you over coddle people, if you protect them from everything that’s sharp, you make them dull and narcissistic.Jordan B. Peterson
The final narrative of a massage therapist
Becoming a massage therapist comes with it’s own set of rules and guidelines. Being comfortable touching people is crucial to your survival in this industry. If you’re even slightly uncomfortable being around people you may want to rethink this career choice.
As a massage therapist you will not only have to treat the physical aspects of your clients but some will seek mental and emotional support. Know your own limitations and draw boundaries. Make it clear to your clients that you are not their spiritual advisor. Although I’m sure some therapists think they are. What happens on your table in your room, stays there.
A valuable asset to have as a massage therapist is your ability to keep sane in silence. Many wonder how you deal with the physical demands of your job, but the more paramount question is, how you deal with your sanity.
Keeping sane in your own head is a mental game you will have to learn to tackle on your own. Many clients do not talk while in treatment. Those are the times you are faced with keeping yourself company. Couple that with dim lights and soothing music and you’re on your way to the straitjacket in a padded room.
Whether you choose this career path or not, know your own limitations. Mentally as well as physically. Also, don’t be a spectator in your field. Show up and step up. As a working mother I shouldn’t have to yell at my co-workers to help with laundry, I already do that at home.
meraki [may-rah-kee] (adjective) word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be