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 massage therapist living in McLeansville, North Carolina, which is on the outskirts of Greensboro, NC. I own my own business, and am an independent contractor at The Grandover Resort and Conference Center and at A to Zen Massage, Yoga & Wellness.
The Grandover Spa has about 16 massage therapists who perform Swedish, Deep Tissue, Volcanic Hot Stone, Sports, Prenatal massage and Reflexology and dry brushing and body scrub treatments. I schedule myself 4-hour shifts Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
A to Zen Massage, Yoga and Wellness is a group practice of currently 15 practitioners (almost half are massage therapists) offering massages using techniques from Swedish, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone, Warm Bamboo, Sports, Prenatal, Reflexology, Cupping, Reiki, MyoKinetic, Myofacial and Aromatherapy to customize each client’s session. We offer Health & Wellness Coaching, Esthetics (facials, waxing, etc.), Rossiter, Permanent make-up, Yoga, Tai Chi and more.
I also own my own business, Hands In Harmony Massage, NC, and am the sole practitioner. I occasionally rent a flex space room from A to Zen to see personal clients. I offer mobile massage to clients I have met or are personally recommended by friends or current clients. A few colleagues also hire me to do chair massage throughout the year at businesses and colleges.
I schedule myself about 30 hours a week for both A to Zen and Hands In Harmony Massage, NC. Currently, I have clients about 17-24 hours a week.
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 found massage through my step-mother in 2010, when I was 42 yrs old. My father had recently passed away and my step-mother and sister went out one afternoon and got massages while I was spending time with my brother. When they came home, they were such different people –relaxed, calm and ready for whatever was to come next.
I looked at them and said, “I want to do that for people.” I came home, researched and started massage therapy school within 3 months. I had my first massage about a week before classes started, because it was a pre-requisite to get in the program. The massage was great and I knew I had made a good decision.
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 didn’t have any doubts about massage being my next career. I had two other careers I could not return to, restaurant management and law enforcement dispatching, after being robbed and suffering from debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for 7 years. I had tried a couple other ventures back into society without the success I would have liked, but I just knew massage was what I was supposed to do. I love my career and the potential growth in so many different avenues is amazing.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialty would have to be relaxation. I enjoy clients who come in with an ache or pain but who simply want to relax. My goal is to ease/eradicate the pain in a gentle, coaxing manner where the client doesn’t realize the depth of the work being done with the muscle; then have the client utterly relaxed, almost -if not completely- asleep.
The top three contributing factors to my success today would be caring, giving, and learning. I care about each client I get the privilege of working with –not just about the session length, but about their life and how I can encourage them to incorporate the benefits of massage into their lives. I give of myself to people –if I have something that can help someone else I want to share it. I need to keep learning –I am truly happy learning about what matters to me: massage techniques, business, flowers, dogs and more.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I like relaxation because it’s like a re-set button. When computers start (or keep) responding slowly, freezing, or just not acting right we will often turn them off then back on –re-setting them- then they usually act right. I think relaxation can be the same for people. As stress builds they’re often less able to think quickly, react in ideal ways, to feel happy ~after a massage, they often are refreshed and able to start over again. So, if you have a stressful life, you need relaxation sprinkled liberally to help keep you at your peak! I enjoy my career because I help people be their best.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
I want to offer and introduce massage to disadvantaged, struggling people. People in shelters, pregnant/abused women, caregivers, and families with sick children … they often are financially challenged yet would benefit tremendously from massage. Why don’t I like this? Because I have bills to pay and cannot simply give away massages all the time. I found one therapist in Washington DC who created a non-profit organization to fund exactly that –so, that is one of my long-term goals.
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?
The first thing I’d like to be different is the apprehension many clients have towards male massage therapists. A massage therapist is a person with a skill set. Period. I understand there are people with fears, religious beliefs, or other similar reasons where a male therapist wouldn’t be appropriate, but for the general client looking for a massage the gender of the therapist should be a non-issue.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I intend to practice massage until it is physically impossible not to –I have taken a wonderfully fun class, Hot Rockin’ Reflexology and Sweet Feet Aromatherapy, that taught me how to perform reflexology with hot stones (much less stress on fingers) using aromatherapy (I love essential oils!) –so, when the day comes that a full body massage is too difficult, I can sit next to my client with a foot bath of essential oils, hot stones in a roaster, and still be doing what I love! There is another technique I’ve recently learn about that is also very gentle for the client and therapist, MyoKinetics –on my wish list of techniques to learn!
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?
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?
~Understand that there are gray areas in massage, just like everything else.
~No two massages will be exactly the same. Each client needs something different each session – do an intake that asks questions to determine what they know they want/need. That will give you a good starting point; then pay attention to what you feel as you work their muscles.
~A Swedish/Relaxation massage has many therapeutic benefits –just as other modalities do, don’t dismiss it as ‘just a massage’. That Swedish client can become a lifetime client, who shares your work with three friends. Those friends share your work with nine friends who share with twenty seven –and if they come in monthly, that will fill 30 hours (45 if they prefer 90 minute sessions). All from ‘just a Swedish massage.’
11. What would you advise 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?
Make sure the school is accredited. Talk with graduates, students, instructors, advisors for the school – listen to their words, pay attention to their body language, too. Talk with massage therapists you cross paths with –where did they attend school? What’s their impression of the school/s you’re considering?
Physically go to the school/s you’re considering; walk around, talk to people there, see what and how you feel about the facility. Was it welcoming? Encouraging to you and the people there? Did you feel like you would be appreciated there? Can you see yourself learning and growing there? Trust yourself – if you don’t feel comfortable keep looking.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
Never give up on your dreams – check for grants, scholarships, financial aid, loans. if you can’t afford it today, start saving – in 3 months things may change!
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?
1) Practice, practice, practice! If you have paying clients –fantastic! If not, friends will thank you from their hearts! You will become more proficient and confident with your skill set the more experience you have.
2) Expand your knowledge – school is a foundation to build upon; build your passion
3) Everyone – wealthy, poor, and in between – will thank you for respecting them by giving your best
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?
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.
Outside of massage, I adore my boyfriend of 10+ years and our fur-babies – four dogs, two were rescued from shelters, one was fostered then adopted, and the last one literally walked up to my boyfriend in the driveway (the owner eventually asked if we’d like to keep him, we said yes!).
Elaine Phillips is a Licensed Massage & Bodywork Therapist. She is part of several organizations including: Massage Without Borders, NC Representative Volunteer. You can reach Elaine on her website here, at her Facebook page here, or on her LinkedIn page here.