Corporate Pro Turned Massage Therapists Filled Gaps in Her Own Training by Starting Her Own Massage School

Jaylyn Brannon1. 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 as well as a business owner. I have had a private massage and consulting practice since I became licensed in 2007. My private practice is run out of my home. I have a room that is a dedicated massage treatment room.

I am set up to provide typical Swedish massage as well as hot & cold stone, and prenatal massage. I just moved to St. George from Mesquite, NV, so I am rebuilding a clientele in my new location.

My clientele mostly consists of friends of friends, family members, residents of my neighborhood, people my husband works with, and people that are referred to me by colleagues and friends.

I have a very diverse clientele that range from athletes to pregnant mothers, I even see doctors and chiropractors in my practice. Having been involved in alternative medicine for more than 25 years, I find that I typically see clients who have been everywhere else and have not received any relief for their symptoms. I can often assist them greatly, so my niche has been people who also want to be educated in how to change their lives with bodywork, nutrition, and energy work methods they can employ at home.

I am also a managing partner in a new massage school that will be operated at The Skin Institute, a privately owned Esthetics School. Based on local trends, we expect our typical annual enrollment to be about 30 students per year.

Our school will operate a 750-hour program that provides the minimum amount of education required for licensure in at least 48 states. Our program can be completed in 6 months or less, and the schedule is very flexible because it combines in-class hands on training as well as online coursework and lectures.

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 decided to become a massage therapist while I was returning to college as a single-mother, earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Administration from UNLV. I had been a Resort Hotel General Manager prior to that, and I wanted all the education I could get so I could open a destination spa/wellness center.

A colleague told me that if I wanted to run a spa, I had to be a licensed massage therapist, an esthetician, or both. So I decided to go to massage therapy school. I have known about massage as a career since I was a teenager. One of my best friend’s mothers was a licensed massage therapist, and she seemed to greatly enjoy it.

I wanted to have the knowledge I needed to manage other massage therapists, and I also wanted to learn more healing modalities, as I was already a Certified Master Herbalist and a Nutrition Trainer. It seemed like a perfect fit.

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.

My biggest concern at the time was the daily schedule for school, the cost, and what return I might make on my investment of time and money. I eventually decided to pursue my education in massage because I realized that I could make enough money part-time to fund the rest of my college education while being able to set my own hours and be my own boss. I loved the independence and autonomy.

I decided to go into massage education several years after being on my own in a private massage practice, and after having worked for a couple different spas. I noticed that there were some major gaps in my education that I had to fill myself. I was very fortunate to have had the business background that I did, and the additional training in nutrition and anatomy/physiology, as these were the biggest gaps I saw in my training. I noticed how those gaps greatly affected others who graduated massage school with me.

I wanted to ensure that students were not only given all the education they needed to be greatly successful, I wanted them to have the very best in resources to help them long after they graduated.

I wanted to provide a school where the students were not only treated with respect, and as future colleagues in a profession I love, but I also wanted a school where the driving goal was ensuring that the students had all the knowledge they needed to be successful in treating clients, obtaining employment, running a successful practice, and most of all… being able to get their license immediately after graduation.

I also wanted their training to be far more flexible, but also structured enough to ensure that students graduated in a timely manner.

4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?

My specialty is pain management. I have been very successful in treating clients with chronic, even debilitating/disabling pain, who have had no other relief, including surgery and large doses of pain medication. I also do a lot of nutrition training and helping my clients learn how to control pain and inflammation through their diet.

My husband is a heavy equipment operator, so I also find a lot of my clients come from the construction industry, and I am able to help them restructure their bodies so they can handle the pressures of their jobs and daily lives.

The top 3 contributing factors to my success are:

  1. I have a very solid education in the foundational massage techniques with lots of anatomy & physiology training.
  2. I have a diverse background and training in numerous related modalities that gives me lots of “tools” in my “toolbox” to pull from when I encounter a problem issue with a client, and
  3. I am highly professional and educated in how to operate a business. I know how to minimize my expenses, maximize my income, how to pay less in taxes, how to look very professional for very little or no money, and how to manage it all behind the scenes in an efficient, simplified way that is less time-consuming.

5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?

I love it when a client comes in feeling terrible (not that I enjoy it when they feel terrible), I just LOVE it when they leave my treatment room completely amazed, shocked, even speechless (and yes, some in tears) because they feel so fantastic after a session with me. That makes what I do worth it!

I love being able to spend my life in service to others. I love being able to educate them about how their bodies work, and how to properly take care of them. I love empowering others. I spent a great many years of my life feeling helpless and hopeless.

Having re-built my life from ground zero, and knowing it can be done has given me a depth of understanding and compassion for those who are experiencing the same thing. I receive incredible joy in seeing the light go back on for someone else. It is my bliss.

6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?

The only aspect of my job that I would prefer to not have to deal with is when clients request inappropriate types of massage. I have had this happen on a couple occasions, being so close to Las Vegas, NV.

It’s a concern for my husband, and I don’t particularly like embarrassing someone else when I have to be frank with them about it. I would prefer not to have to deal with that.

Thank goodness it’s only happened a few times. I have now learned how to avoid this type of client by the way I advertise and how I interview my potential clients.

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?

1.  I would require more education than what many states consider the minimum for a massage therapist. I would like to see an Advanced, or Master Bodyworker licensure program, something that differentiates the Spa-type massage therapist (who typically provide only relaxation massage) from medical, sports, or rehabilitative massage therapists. Something that requires more medical training, but also gives massage therapists the tools they need to be truly effective. I believe bodywork is a highly under-used therapy that can yield amazing results, and it would be wonderful if it was seen as not only a relaxation and even a spiritual treatment, but also as more a part of the medical profession.

2.  I would like to see more insurance companies covering massage and its related services as a part of preventative and rehabilitative medicine, and on the other side of the spectrum, I would like to see less prejudice against the practice of massage from a religious/spiritual perspective. I believe that massage is a wonderful tool for healing because it incorporates both the clinical aspect of healing the body with the relaxation and emotional healing of the mind and spirit.

3.  I wish the massage profession had better software, with more robust features, at more affordable prices, to manage our practices.

8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?

I plan to practice for the rest of my life, or as long as my health will allow me. I take good care of myself to ensure that I can. I will continue working to build the new massage school, and may possibly begin franchising it so I can spend my life training world-class professional massage instructors.

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?

Yes, while I am rebuilding my practice, I am working part-time doing accounting for a transportation company, and I am also working part-time to put together the new massage school. I find it works out quite well.

I work at the transportation company in the morning from 7am to 2pm. I have my massage schedule available online for clients to book any appointment from 3pm to 7pm on weekdays, and all day on Saturday. When I’m not working on massage clients, I am working on the school and I am spending time with family, or doing administrative tasks.

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 felt very guilty in the beginning, about charging a decent price for my services. I always felt like I needed to discount it in some way. I didn’t think people would want to pay a good price for my massage.

I wasn’t valuing myself and what I had to offer. As a result, I found that my clients didn’t value it as much, and didn’t return as often. I also did not acquire the right equipment when I started out.

I have made sure, that in putting together this massage school, our students will be equipped with all the proper tools and supplies they will need to begin seeing clients as soon as they are licensed, without the need to purchase anything additional unless they choose to.

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?

I recommend they look for a school that will give them a well-rounded education, solid foundational knowledge, lots of clinic experience, training in the techniques most employers expect a massage therapist to know, a solid education in how to run their business and/or negotiate terms with an employer, and LOTS of anatomy and physiology. I suggest they compare schools, and ensure they are comparing apples to apples.

I suggest they look at how long the training will take, how flexible they are, how up to date they are on licensing requirements and educational standards, and ensuring that their school is as professional as possible, while also being very personable. I would look for a school that has very experienced and qualified instructors. I would look for a school that is dedicated to seeing 100% of their students graduate on time, and be able to pass their licensing exams on the first attempt.

12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?

I recommend that you speak to your bank or credit union about a student loan, talk to your school to see if they have financing options or can provide you with information on agencies that do provide financing. I suggest they also talk to family members, and look for government grant programs.

There are lots of options for people wanting to go back to school. There’s also always the option to get a part-time job and use it to save for the cost of massage school. I have colleagues who got second jobs cleaning houses to pay for their courses.

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. You should think about whether or not you want to be in a very intimate environment with your clients, touching them, (smelling them), and talking with them.
  2. You should ask yourself if you are capable of being presentable and professional.
  3. You should ask yourself whether or not you see yourself doing it for the money, or doing it for the job.

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?

I believe that with the new Obamacare in place, and seeing how restrictive mainstream healthcare is becoming, we will have a surge in the alternative, preventative, and complementary medicine fields, of which massage is one. I believe more and more people will flock towards natural forms of healing in an effort to be more independent and in charge of their own bodies and lives.

I believe we will see a surge in massage therapy treatments as a whole, and as a result, we will begin to see a greater need for highly trained, professional, and qualified therapists who understand how to treat their clients various and ever-changing needs.

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.

I love being happy. I love showing others the way.

Jaylyn Brannon, is a Certified Master Herbalist and Licensed Massage Therapist. She is also a Nutrition Education Trainer, Master Reiki Practitioner, BodyTalk Graduate, EFT Practitioner and Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. You can reach her on her website here.

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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