Massage therapy is a profession that requires many skills in order to master the physical demands of the job, become proficient in the day-to-day exercises required of the massage therapist, excel in promoting and running your own business, and keep clients happy over the long term.
A complete skill set that will allow you to become successful in this field involves a combination of hard technical and soft skills. This article will shed light on some of the top skills to consider developing for a successful future career in massage therapy.
Your Ability to Learn and Acquire New Skills
One of the most important skills that an aspiring massage therapist (You) will need is the ability to learn in a classroom setting. The professionalization of the massage therapy industry within the last 10 years has led to a general standardization of required curriculum in a classroom setting.
Although the learning format and difficulty is not the kind required in an advanced university program, it still requires reading and writing comprehension skills, teamwork and leadership skills, and spatial recognition of hands on training skills. Most programs offer between 500 to 750 hours of classroom learning to meet State requirements.
These classes range from introductory classes on anatomy, physiology, eastern and western massage techniques and introduction to business operations to advanced therapeutic massage techniques, business accounting, and advanced clinical diagnosis.
Most programs build upon previous coursework so that later classes require prerequisites and an understanding of basic massage therapy educational frameworks to develop a higher understanding of physiology and how massage can help heal that physiology.
Physical Fitness Requirements are Important
You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Massage therapy is a physically demanding career. The burnout rate among massage therapists is quite high compared to other professions because of its physically demanding requirements.
Therapists that do not schedule necessary physical breaks between massage appointments often burn out quicker. One of the skills that would help you in this career is to be able to mentally and physically prepare yourself for a day of massage. Although this sound like it should be easy, it is not.
Performing 4 to 6 hours of massage in a day is physically demanding and can cause repetitive strain injuries to wrists, fingers, elbows, lower back and shoulders. Ensuring that you are physically fit, not overweight, eating healthy and getting lots of rest are skills and mindsets that will ensure a long career within massage therapy. Someone that is overweight or obese will have problems in the industry due to the physical demands of the job.
Learning when to say no is a skill that is absolutely necessary to be a massage therapist in order to maintain the longevity of your career. Without taking charge and realizing that your own safety is at stake when you overexert yourself will doom your career to failure within a short amount of time.
Repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel, ligament and tendon tears and joint degradation can seriously shorten your career and need to be taken seriously to ensure your continued success. Always listen to your body, take periodic breaks and vacations (even if they are ‘staycations’) and take very good care of yourself.
Customer Service Skills
Massage therapy is an intimate and personal journey between a therapist and the patient. Of if you are a business owner between the business and its clientele. This journey is one usually of physical and spiritual dimensions that create a specific bond between patient and therapist. This relationship can be severely harmed by improper customer service techniques.
Rude or abrasive behavior towards clients will only serve to harm your own career. While it is not necessary to be joyful and bubbly all the time, it is necessary to treat customers with respect and dignity during and after a massage session.
Professionalism must be maintained at all times in reference to the national standards and best practice code of conduct which should be followed at all times. Putting a person at ease while they are in pain can be one of the hardest skills to master consistently.
Entrepreneurship / Business Skills
The majority of massage therapists are business owners (often as ‘solopreneurs’ working on their own). Owning your own business is not the same as working for someone else.
You need to be proficient in many additional skills including accounting, sales and marketing, massage therapy, customer service, and more than anything else have an entrepreneurial spirit. An entrepreneur is someone that sees an opportunity, seizes upon it, and provides a necessary service at a quality price. Being able to recognize niche markets and creating contact networks are necessary skills that will enable your massage therapy business to succeed.
The best skills that an entrepreneur has revolve around motivation and time management. As your own boss you will need to be motivated to acquire new business even if sales are not your strong point. As your business develops you will also need to perfect scheduling and time management tasks to ensure the most profitability for yourself while providing excellent service to your clients.
Soft skills are those skills that do not directly affect your business or ability to be a massage therapist. The first includes strong communication skills that allow massage therapists to communicate with their patients in developing a diagnosis, setting the patient at ease, or simply developing a great client / patient relationship.
Communication is the key in most healthcare fields and massage therapy is no exception. A great communicator will also increase the value of their business because their clients feel highly appreciated, wanted and satisfied.
The second set of soft skills necessary to be an effective massage therapist includes developing good hygiene habits. As part of the healthcare industry massage therapy requires a high level of sensitivity towards good hygiene. Although most in the industry consider proper hygiene a matter of taking care of the massage table, lotions, and other precautions with patients it is also necessary for your personal hygiene to be at a high level.
The most important thing to keep in mind when considering personal hygiene should be taking care of your hands and nails. Your personal hygiene habits should also include ensuring fresh breath and no malodorous body odors.
You will be able to expedite your career and/or business success in massage therapy by focusing on these skills during your educational period and throughout your career.
The continuous honing of these skills will help you maintain a professional attitude while at the same time continuously performing at a high level. These skills need to be developed and recognized at an early stage, preferably before your education begins so they can be honed to expertise during the education period and for the rest of your career.
The good news is that no one is born with all these skills. You can learn them. And it is never too late to learn. Identify which of these you need further development in and go out there and get the training you need to get better.
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