1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?
I am a solo practitioner and I recently converted a portion of my home into a very relaxing massage practice which has allowed me to really personalize my bodywork and create a wonderful massage experience for my clients.
Because of the intensity and uniqueness of my work, I usually see no more than two or three clients a day, to make sure that I can give them the best massage experience possible. I am also able to leave at least an hour in between my clients which leaves them plenty of time after the massage to relax on the table or freshen up in a private bathroom with a shower. It also allows me time to refresh between clients so I do not get drained physically or spiritually/energetically.
2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?
I originally got interested in massage and body work through my involvement in boxing, traditional martial arts and then Mixed Martial Arts. I was a professional Muay Thai kick boxer for several years and I fought in several different countries including Thailand, the Philippines, Canada and the United States and I was fortunate enough to win a Title Belt and hold it for a couple of years until I retired from the sport.
It is obvious that your body takes quite a beating as a professional fighter, what is not so obvious is that your mind and soul are challenged to their limits as well. So during these years I sought out many different body work styles and relaxation practices.
After my career as a professional mixed martial arts fighter I moved on to a career in finance (that is a natural segue right?) which has its own set of challenges. Again, bodywork and relaxation were the main things that I found which could help me with these challenges; and it was not just receiving bodywork but also giving bodywork that I found healing and relaxing. So after 15 years of pushing up against the edges of massage and bodywork, I decided to plunge right into the middle of it.
3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.
I think that the biggest concern that I had about entering the massage profession (and that my wife, family and friends also voiced) was whether or not a career in massage therapy would be intellectually satisfying for me (at the time I was a retired professional mixed martial arts fighter and 12+ hour a day hedge fund manager with more than a slight ADD proclivity).
In hindsight, it was a naive concern. The human body, mind and spirit is infinitely more complex and confounding than any financial issue or spreadsheet I have ever encountered. Not to mention the immense sense of self-worth, of knowing you are in the right place doing the right thing, when a client who is overcome with tears of joy hugs you and tells you that this is the first time in years they have been pain-free.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
I have developed my own style of massage that I call Deep Lomi. I developed this style using the relaxing full body Hawaiian Lomi styles as a base for my work, then I slowed the flow down significantly and made the work much, much deeper.
I also integrated what I think to be the best techniques from traditional Thai Massage and Thai Yoga as well as techniques from various sports massage and relaxation response modalities.
Top Three Contributing Factors to My Success
1. Passion! My passion to provide my clients, each and every individual client, with the best possible massage experience possible.
2. Teaching! Teaching is learning. I teach massage at a massage school and in public workshops. Teaching others makes you raise the bar for yourself. I trade with other highly competent therapists and we learn from each other as we take care of each other. I also host private retreats for therapists so we can share our knowledge and experiences.
3. Trying! I am constantly trying new things and asking for feedback from clients and regular sessions, from students at the massage school and from a special group of clients I have affectionately labeled my “Massage Test Dummies” who allow me to try out all sorts of crazy ideas on them and then give me a very honest feedback on how those ideas are received.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I like that my deep Lomi massage style allows me to be almost intoxicatingly relaxing and yet at the same time also very therapeutic and very, very deep. It also allows me to express myself through my bodywork which I find to be very satisfying.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
I honestly like most everything about being a massage practitioner, Body worker and healer. Sometimes the hours are not exactly the way I want them to be (nights, weekends, etc.) but I can attract more day time business if that really gets to be a concern.
7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?
More passion for the art of what we do, the soul of who we are and the beauty of our calling as healers. Sometimes I think with all the focus we are placing on being recognized as medically significant that we discount the beauty and wonder of our profession. In my mind, we are medically significant, socially significant, personally significant and a wonder to behold.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I plan to practice my entire life. Massage and bodywork is more than a job or even a career to me at this point. It has become a large part of who I am and how I feel that I relate to others, it brings additional purpose to my life. In addition, giving a massage is extremely relaxing and therapeutic for me on many levels. I would miss it too much if I were to leave it behind.
Obviously I will slow down at some point and do less massage overall and more of the types of massages that nourish me the most, but I do not see a time when I am unwilling to practice. Unable maybe, but definitely not unwilling.
9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?
I run a Couple’s Massage Workshop business (Power of Touch Workshops) with my wife who is a physical therapist. We have had over 1,200 couples attend our Three Hour Couple’s Massage Workshop in the last couple of years and many have come back for advanced workshops as well. We are truly honored to be an ongoing part of so many couples lives.
10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?
I was too sure of who I wanted to be as a massage practitioner and the type of clients that I wanted (and the type of massage that I wanted to do). I was pretty successful in building an initial client base and reputation only to discover later that I found a different style of bodywork more personally fulfilling.
To that same end, I see several graduates of massage school that I think have the potential to become wonderful, maybe even magical, body workers; who go to work for a company or person who effectively tells them not only what they are going to do but also who they are going to become as a therapist.
So make sure and color outside of the lines, take CE classes that look really cool and trade with other therapists who are brilliant, crazy or both get a real good idea of who you want to be and what you want to do. It does not even matter if you’re wrong, as long as you’re the one that changes your own mind.
11. What would you advice someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?
Aside from some of the regular metrics (job placement, % of students that graduate, % of students that pass the exam, curriculum, etc.), try to get an idea of what the school’s reputation is in the local community. Search online. Find alumni and give them a call.
Call the largest massage practices in the area, ask for the owner and tell them that you are evaluating what massage school to attend, see what they can tell you. Also try to determine how vibrant their alumni community is. People never want to leave a good school and they develop lasting bonds with their school and alumni community.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
Wait until you can afford school and some free time after school so that you are not forced into taking the first job that you are offered after you graduate. Also, make sure that you understand the economic reality of being a massage therapist in your area. The easiest and most non-biased way is to check out the actual job listings in your area to see what is actually being offered.
Other than that you can talk to self-employed therapists and therapists working for chiropractors, spas and retail chains (etc.).
13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?
Touch people and see if you really like it. Not just beautiful people, but real people with real pains. Sit in on classes at schools or even continuing education courses (just ask, we are a really helpful community).
14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?
There is so much focus on legitimizing our work and becoming part of the traditional medical community, which I applaud, but I hope we don’t lose our passion for what we do and our understanding that bodywork is an art and a wonderful way to express ourselves while we help our clients.
15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.
As odd as this may sound my biggest passion as far as hobbies go outside of healing people is fighting people. Jiu Jitsu and MMA. Actually, it is not so much about fighting people at this stage as it is about learning more about yourself. Your abilities and your limitations. As well as helping your training partner learn more about themselves and their abilities and limitations.
Joe Lavin, LMP, CPT operates Touch Factor Massage and Bodywork. You can reach him on his website here.