How to become a massage therapist?
If you’re physically fit, love the idea of working with your hands and helping reduce pain in injured or stressed-out people, this could be a good career choice for you. Massage therapy is the therapeutic use of touch by hands, elbows or feet on the body. There are many different systems of massage but it is commonly used to help physical or emotional problems. Many massage therapists prefer to use a holistic approach, as they believe that emotional or personal problems lead to physical conditions such as stiffness or tension. The best massage therapists are physically fit. You don’t have to be tall or muscly, but you do need to be strong (don’t worry if you’re not now though, you’ll soon tone up once you start training!) You need to be friendly, calm and professional. Your clients are putting their body in your hands, so they’ll need to feel comfortable and at ease. Plus clients whose muscles are relaxed are easier to massage. You have to be self-motivated and disciplined. Many massage therapists are freelance (self-employed) so you’ll need to work hard to build up your client base to ensure you have plenty of people to massage. Clients expect you to be clean and tidy. Think about it – would you want to be massaged by someone who looked shabby or smelled bad? Very important is that you are sensitive listeners with good communication skills. You’ll find some clients will really open up – while others won’t want to talk at all. Could you cope with both?
Regardless of why they’re there, having a massage is an incredibly intimate experience for a client. Being able to put them at ease right away, and having the confidence to deal with their issues personably and professionally, will be similarly key to your success.
To work as a successful massage therapist you should be comfortable with close contact with clients and be able to develop empathy with clients and appreciate what they are going throug and recognise when to refer clients to a qualified medical doctor. You need to be able to keep client records and have the commercial skills required to run a business.
Massage therapists work in an array of settings, both private and public, such as private offices, spas, hospitals, fitness centres, and shopping malls. Some massage therapists also travel to clients’ homes or offices to give a massage.
Most massage therapists, especially those who are self-employed, provide their own table or chair, sheets, pillows, and body lotions or oils.
A massage therapist’s working conditions depend heavily on the location and what the client wants. For example, a massage meant to help heal an injury may be carried out in a well-lit setting with several other clients receiving treatment in the same room. But when giving a massage to help clients relax, massage therapists generally work in dimly lit settings and use candles, incense, and calm, soothing music. Sessions usually last from 30 to 90 minutes depending on the client’s needs. Most work takes place in a quiet room with a massage table.
Because massage is physically demanding, massage therapists can injure themselves if they do not use the proper techniques. Repetitive-motion problems and fatigue from standing for long periods are quite common. Therapists can limit these risks by using good techniques, spacing sessions properly, exercising and, in many cases, regularly receiving a massage themselves.
You won’t need to have a degree in order to become a Massage Therapist. However, some employers may prefer you to have a certification recognised by the Council for Soft Tissue Therapies (GCMT), or another form of specialist training to get started. It’s also possible to get into massage therapy through a beauty therapy apprenticeship scheme, though the range available in your area will depend on the jobs market, and the skills that local employers are looking for.
Massage therapists can improve their job prospects and earning potential by becoming more qualified. Moving from Swedish massage to Deep Tissue or Sports, for example, opens up a new potential client base. The experience gained as a massage therapist is also invaluable to anyone going on to become medically qualified as an osteopath, physiotherapist or TCM practitioner. Further years of study are required in these cases.
Would be great to have a few introductory courses in different kinds of massage to begin with, to get a feel for it and to see if you like it. If you enjoy receiving massage, that’s a good start, but remember as a therapist you’ll be offering massage all day and although it can be very meditative, giving massage is not the same thing at all. I’d also think quite carefully about the area of massage you’d like to get into and this is where a life coach can help because choosing how you’re going to work taps into your values, as well as your skills as an individual.
The question of whether to make a gradual transition or to jump straight in probably depends on the kind of person you are but it’s important to be really honest with yourself and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are before making the decision.