Catherine Slagell Loves the Freedom and Flexibility a Career in Massage Can Offer Her Family

Catherine Diane SlagellI am the sole proprietor of Back On Track Therapeutic Massage Center in Bridgewater, Virginia. I have one therapist working for me as an independent contractor. We have hours Monday through Friday and see approximately 20 to 30 clients per week.

Our specialty is deep tissue, therapeutic massage. We focus on working problems out of the body. This is how I have marketed my business and Back On Track has a reputation of dealing with pain. We have helped many clients to facilitate their bodies in the healing process. I have built the business by word-of-mouth referrals alone. I live in the Town of Bridgewater, VA.

I graduated from high school in 1987. I went to work for a local Chiropractor in Northern Virginia in April of 1988. I was his assistant and worked directly with patients. The Dr. and office manager used massage therapy to prepare patients for their chiropractic adjustments and so they began teaching me some massage techniques.

I enjoyed the work and found that I was helping people feel better. I got all kinds of positive feedback from patients as to how much better they felt after I worked on them. This was so exciting to me because, up to that point, I had never found my niche`. So the spark of interest in massage therapy was ignited.

My main thought, in regards to getting a massage therapy degree, was I wanted to help people. I found that I had a great passion for people and it brought me such joy to see others happy and healthy. I knew this would be a career, that if I ever married, that I could raise my children while working part-time giving massages out of my home.

The concerns that I had about massage therapy was the stigma that “massage” had 25 years ago. I was concerned about my reputation. This is why it took me until 1993 to finally decide to go to school. Also, I really didn’t know where a close massage program was and started researching at the local library. I was very particular about the school I wanted to attend. I had a page long list of requirements that I insisted on when making my decision.

Some of the points on my list were: proper draping rules, focus on straightforward massage therapy modalities, a full-time program, and somewhere in the South.  So I left Virginia and headed to North Carolina in the summer of 1993. I graduated from massage school in the spring of 1994 and returned to Northern Virginia and went back to work at the chiropractic clinic where I worked back in 1988-1993. I stayed there until I got married in 1997.

Again my specialties are therapeutic massage with a focus on ridding the body of pain. I think the top three factors of my success are:

1. Being honest and dependable with my clients. I always return phone calls promptly and never cancel appointments unless it is an emergency. People know when they have an appointment with me that I will be there to greet them and provide them with their needed therapy.

2. I am a good communicator. I listen to my client, give them my care and concern and try my best to provide them help with the problem that they have. I have always had a gift making people feel comfortable. I go the extra mile for my clients. If there is someone that is suffering with cancer or has a loved-one dying, I provide free massage therapy as I feel the need. I take meals to clients when there is a death in their family, I host a yearly client appreciation dinner for my clients at my home. I prepare a full-course meal and we visit. All these things help the client to feel special and this is my goal. This is not just a means to make a living, it is my goal to help my clients physically, mentally and emotionally. I feel there is a spiritual aspect to this as well. This relationship with clients is a way for me to minister to people on a daily basis.

3. I give a good massage. I feel that the therapeutic work is what sells. The combination of the above two factors and therapeutic massage is a winning combination.

I like my specialty because I see results, my clients experience results and they keep coming back and refer their families and friends. This is the most fulfilling career a person can have, but it takes dedication and hard work.

The thing I don’t like about my work is the physical demands of therapeutic work. I have been doing this for over 20 year and if you include the 5 years before I got my degree, it is around 25 years. I have some back problems from all the hard work.

I think the thing that is the most frustrating to me about this work is that I see so many therapists that are in it for the money. They have no passion for people and they give mediocre massages. So many therapists don’t know how to communicate well with their clients and most of them are unaware of the reasons why they are not successful in this industry. There are multitudes of people that need the help, that this profession can provide, but they are disillusioned when they experience what some therapists provide. This does not help the reputation of massage therapy in general.

I would like to share with other therapists the way I have been successful. I would like to teach others how they can be successful too. With hard work and true dedication, it is possible to be a true success in this industry.

I am currently attending our local community college. I am taking general education courses and plan to attain my associate’s degree. I then want to get into physical therapy assisting. My plan is to change careers by the time I am fifty years old. I have about 6 years to go.

I do not have another business or job. I am attending college, taking 6 to 7 college credits per semester. I have two daughters and a husband. So I stay busy running the business, massaging clients, school and family.

I feel I did everything right when it came to my massage therapy career. It has been a rewarding experience and I have helped many people in my life. I would caution people that want to go into massage therapy to thoroughly investigate their options on massage schools and make a wise choice. There are a lot of schools out there with the wrong focus. It’s big business and that is not what the focus should be when choosing a school.

As far as advice for massage school, I would say understand what to look for in a massage school:  As I said above, do not attend a school that is big business. Find one that is compassion and caring centered. Figure out what your focus will be in the massage therapy profession and seriously consider a deep tissue, therapeutic massage focus. This is what people need and there is a world of people that need good therapists.

I worked for 5 years before I went to massage school and I saved enough money to pay for my education and living expenses while away from home. I would advise people to save money, get a loan, borrow money from parents or do whatever is necessary to attain funds to follow their dreams.

I don’t have any more advice for an aspiring massage therapist beyond what I have mentioned earlier in this interview.  Find a good school, work hard, care deeply and honestly for your clients, go all-in to help others and don’t go into it for the money alone. If you have a passion to help others, it will come through in your work.

My prediction for the massage therapy industry is that it will become more and more accepted as a viable medical profession. Massage therapy will become an accepted preventative maintenance program for better health.

My passions outside of my job are my family, my education at community college and being a good friend, wife and mother.

Catherine Diane Slagell is a Certified Massage Therapist through the NCBTMB. She is a member of the American Massage Therapy Association and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. You can reach Catherine on her website at:

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

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