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 currently teach massage therapy full time at Alpha School of Massage, Inc., where I have been teaching at for 20 years. Additionally, I maintain a license as a Registered Nurse (RN licensed for over 35 years). Since 2003, I have taught continuing education to massage therapists in live seminars.
I am in the process of finishing my website, where I can offer home study / web based continuing education to massage therapists. Jacksonville, Florida has been my home since 1956.
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 was working as a Registered Nurse in 1995 when a friend introduced me to the massage profession. I took a position teaching anatomy & physiology at Alpha School of Massage (thinking it would be a temporary position), and fell in love with the massage world. I have focused on this profession with an intense passion every since then.
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 did not have any real reservations about massage school, but was somewhat concerned about whether this could actually be a financially and emotionally rewarding career when I first looked at the profession. I had not heard or read much about professional massage before I began my teaching career at the school.
Since my time and efforts would be in this field, I began searching for more information about massage, how it could affect the human body, what opportunities were available for therapists, places that would hire therapists, compensation for therapists, etc.
4) What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialty was always in medical massage, focusing on shoulder, neck and back pain. My background in nursing prepared me to research these areas and possible methods to help people with pain in those regions, so I read everything I could about massage and took hundreds of hours of continuing education classes on the subjects, and contacted local physicians to provide my services to their patients.
5) What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
It is extremely rewarding to be able to provide pain relief to those who could not find relief with any other type medical practitioner. It led me to the desire to share my knowledge with other massage therapists so they could also help their patients/clients.
That began my practice as a continuing education provider for massage therapists. This has enabled me to actually help many more people in pain than I could possible treat by myself. It remains extremely rewarding to see the excitement in the faces and voices of massage therapists that take my classes.
6) What do you not like about what you do? Why?
There really isn’t anything that I do not like about being a licensed massage therapist and a teacher of massage to students and licensed therapists alike.
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?
If I wanted to change anything about my work, I would have already started to do so. At one point, I wanted to spend more time with providing continuing education materials to therapists across the country, and so I followed through with that desire and am now writing and offering many online massage courses, as well as offering more frequent live classes.
8) How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
Why stop doing something that you love? As long as I am able, I plan to continue teaching massage to as many people as I can.
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?
My entire time is focused on massage therapy!
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?
Maybe I have been lucky, but I can’t think of any real mistakes I have made since starting this profession.
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?
Several things come to mind when advising prospective students about choosing a massage school. Make sure that the staff actually has experience working in the field and that they have in depth knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, pathology, and massage theory concepts.
Almost anybody can show how to perform a basic massage routine, but few can actually explain why each part works. Find a school where the instructor actually understands the concepts of how massage works. Also, make sure the school will work with your schedule.
Visit the school, talk with the instructors, then spend some time with a few current students and see how they feel after being enrolled at the school . See if they feel they are getting their money’s worth or if they are just left on their own to learn. Of course, compare costs!
Some private schools charge over $20,000 in tuition while community colleges charge about $3,000. I have not seen much difference in what a student gets with either the $3,00 school or the $20,000 school. Alpha School of Massage charges about $1,200 for an entire 900 hour massage therapy program and offers excellent instruction. More costs does not mean more benefit in the massage school world.
12) What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
Look around for schools that will work with you. Find a school with reasonable fees, check for grants, loans, etc. Payment plans can usually be worked out.
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?
Continue studying when you get your license! You are never finished learning about massage and how to improve your sessions, especially with anatomy and pathology. Consider finding a mentor in your area, since they can provide you with years of knowledge and experience that you will need.
Finally, never be satisfied with where you are at and what you know about the human body and how to help it function at it’s best. Keep up with current research and question everything you are taught in massage school. Frequently, therapists are exposed to myths about massage or we find that what we knew needs to change based on current science and research.
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?
The massage profession will continue to expand and be more accepted by the public and medical community, based on new research about the benefits of massage therapy. With all the musculoskeletal issues our younger generation will face (including many pain conditions) influenced by modern technology and lack of exercise, this is a promising field for current students and therapists alike!
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.
Dancing is my favorite hobby. Being a southern male, I also love sports, especially college football (GO Seminoles!!) Been a Seminole fan every since attending Florida State University in the mid 60’s. Strangely, the Florida Gators are my second favorite team. (Not a hater!)
Michael L. Garcia R.N., L.M.T. can be reached on his website here.