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 live and work in Santa Barbara California. I have a solo practice but have had various times were I have employed up to five other therapists. I see between 27 and 30 clients week and specialize in medical and therapeutic massage. I get a lot of referrals from chiropractors and physical therapists.
I’ve had my space in Santa Barbara for 10 years but have been doing massage since I was about 20 years old. I see men, women, elderly, children, pregnant, terminal, athletes and just plain stressed people. But I don’t do Swedish, so people know they are getting some deep work done when they see me.
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 don’t think I actually chose massage. I think it chose me. Even as I was a small child I would sit behind my dad on long car trips and rub his neck so he didn’t get headaches. In high school during drama club and other meetings students would sit down in front of me and ask me to rub their shoulders.
I very accidentally apprenticed with a woman in college who showed me that I had a skill and talent for massage and bodywork. I was about to leave for California to pursue my acting career and she encouraged me to look at massage of the sideline. When I landed in Hollywood I studied further added massage here and there. I did it on and off for years but it wasn’t until I moved to Santa Barbara California that I decided to pursue it as a full-time thing. Mainly because I couldn’t get it out of my system.
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 really have any concerns. I knew it was so right for me; it seemed like such a calling I didn’t ever really question. We did have three schools to choose from and I had a tough decision of deciding which one would fit me best. I already had so much training, but honestly just needed more hours so I was looking for a school with a short program.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialty is medical massage and the majority of people come to me because of injuries, accidents or stress issues. Even my secretaries that don’t have a specific injury are dealing with high stress and looking to me to help them. The three contributing factors to my success are my ability to run a solid good business. My massage talent. And my personality, including my sense of humor and ability to relate easily to people.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I’m a pretty outcome based person so I like doing the medical massage including deep tissue and Trigger Point because I can usually see immediate relief or progress. I love massage in general because I get to help people. I have had the ability to meet so many phenomenal people and get to know about their lives and help and make changes for the better. The conversations I have with everyone from a 15-year-old soccer player to the 105-year-old great-grandmother have allowed me to evolve so much the person. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
As silly as it sounds I would really like long fingernails again. There are also times where it becomes overwhelming where I just don’t feel like I can put my hands on one more person. Massage takes a lot out of you not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually as well.
Because I’m dealing with clients who are in a lot of pain or sometimes terminally ill it definitely has an emotional draw on my psyche. And there are some times that dealing with people is a challenge. A few weeks ago a woman peed in my trashcan. That was a day I wanted to change careers…or at least clients (oh man…).
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 could change anything about the industry I would like people to stop calling us masseuse. That drives me crazy. I’m a massage therapist. I would like people to understand that we are a legitimate healing modality and not just a fluffy feel good thing. And I would really like people to be aware that there is still sex trafficking and sex issues surrounding the massage profession. Many people are suffering at the hands of very overbearing slave drivers and are basically being forced to do what they do. Very few people realize that is probably happening in their town.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I plan to practice until my body will not let me practice anymore. Now that I’m back in full-time I can’t imagine ever going away. I have a few choices after I’m done with physically doing massage. I am currently studying to be hypnotherapist to specialize in pain management and stress issues.
To me that is a perfect thing to add to my practice and then transition into after I’m done. I’m also thinking about starting a massage school. And, I do a lot of media. I have my own TV series and do a lot of TV and radio. I’m hoping that the lecture circuit, TV thing works out and I can do that after I’m done with the hands-on work.
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?
I work full-time as a massage therapist but I also write books, do TV and radio, write and contribute to articles, and do public speaking. And believe me there are days the juggling is tough. I am typically on the phone or on my computer in between every massage I have. I work most evenings and weekends doing the non-massage part of my business.
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?
It’s really hard to do when you’re just starting out, but you don’t have to take every client. If you have crazy makers or people you don’t like don’t see them. It’s tempting because you need the money and you’re building your client base but for what it’s doing to your health and your mentality is not worth it.
Fire people if you don’t like them. And keep good notes. I used to be able to hold every bit of info about every client just in my head. My memory was amazing. And thousands of clients, lectures and a PhD later…my brain isn’t quite as organized. I wish I would have written more down.
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?
The unfortunate trend I’m seeing with most massage schools right now is they will take anybody as long as they have the money. Really look at their curriculum, talk to graduates, talk to the teachers and see if it’s right for you. They will probably take you if you ask them to. Make sure, of course, that they are approved by your state and they give you the right and enough hours to be licensed in the way you need to be licensed. And in the modalities you want to do. If you want to focus on spa work, don’t go to a school that focuses primarily on sports massage.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
Most massage schools that I’m aware of offer a payment plan. If you feel strongly about going to school go for it.
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?
Take care of yourself. We caregivers often ignore our own needs. This sounds silly, but remember the human body isn’t always pretty. You will be dealing with hair, smells, dirt etc. Understand that you have to love and respect the body to do this job. Because believe me, there are moments is actually pretty gross. Make sure you love what you do and take it very seriously. If you were going into this because you think you’re going to make a lot of money, think again.
You are dealing with people’s lives and their health and their bodies. Know what you are doing and know that you really want to do it or don’t bother. And consider that it may take a while to build your practice. Don’t think you’re going to graduate and suddenly have 20 clients at a week hundred dollars a pop. It takes time, energy and good business sense to build your business. I actually wrote a book that can help you do that.
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 have conflicting thoughts about the future of massage. I am seeing these shopping center massage places that have popped up as cheapening the industry. I see wages really low compared to what I was making when I first got out into massage world. We have to start asking for what were worth and not accepting $15 an hour as a fair wage.
On the flip side of that I see people really relying on massage as a health modality. Doctors and chiropractors are taking it more seriously and they are realizing that we can actually affect change in people’s health. This makes me optimistic that soon massage will be considered as much of a part of our wellness plan as our regular doctors, exercising and chiropractic.
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, writing, speaking and educating I do hip-hop dance and flying trapeze. Those two things keep me sane and keep me in good shape. I enjoy good food and wine with my husband. I love laughing at my cats. And I love teaching others about massage health and business. And public speaking is a huge passion of mine, can’t get enough of being in front of people.
Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT, and award-winning author, speaker, practitioner and expert can be reached on her blog at www.thealternativemedicinecabinet.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook here.
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