From Casinos to Massage Therapy, Michelle Viesselman Advices to Hire Professionals When Buying a Massage Business

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 Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been a massage therapist for 15 years, specializing in medical applications. I have worked as part of a neurological rehabilitation team for most of those 15 years, as well as, having a private practice and teaching.

I owned a small wellness center for several years, which was a very enlightening business experience. Currently, I am continuing to work with neurological injury , including TBIs, spinal cord, and related injuries, as well as other rehabilitative work. I have extensive training and experience in multiple modalities that relate to the type of work that I do.

I, also, teach the massage therapy program at Nevada Career Institute, a medical careers college, and work with the Nevada Community Enrichment Program specializing in Traumatic Brain Injury. I am in my 60s, so, I keep my private practice small.

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 food and beverage cashier in a large Las Vegas casino, making good money and benefits. During this time, I was also practicing herbalism, and studying naturopathy. My mother-in law was diagnosed with ALS, which she survived with for over 7 years. During this time, I helped her with herbs, slow and only mildly effective, and massaged her hands and arms.

The massage gave her immediate relief and comfort. When she died, I decided that I wanted to become a massage therapist. I was in my 40s and had 20 years in the casino, so I quit my job, with all of its benefits, and went to the best, at the time, massage school in my area.

I had 6 years of university under my belt, and, yet, this program challenged me daily. As soon as I graduated, literally the day after my last final, I started my continuing education. This is my passion. There is no better feeling than making people feel and function better.

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 main concern was to get the best education that I could. I gave up a lot, financially and security-wise, to pursue this career, but, I never questioned the correctness of my decision. Over the years I saw, because of teaching and being a continuing education provider, a lot of the problems that arise in my area related to massage , its practices, sanitation, and ethics.

I was asked to be part of the newly forming state board that would govern my field and decided that it was important to take part in this process. I believe strongly that it is not enough to see a problem, once that is done, you must be part of the solution. If you are not part of the solution, then, you are part of the problem; and apathy Is rampant in this field.

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

Medical and Rehabilitate massage, with a focus in brain and spinal cord injury. The top contributing factors to my success is 1) Passion for the work, 2) An un-abiding desire to constantly learn more through research and continuing education, and 3)the ability to truly Love my clients/patients.

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

The first thing I like about my specialty is that I get to be part of giving people, who have been devastated by their injuries, a chance at a more normal life. I get to make a difference. In my area of practice, many of my patients/clients are walking miracles, many of them were not expected to live, but they did. Every day I get to make a difference in people’s lives, as a therapist and as an instructor. It doesn’t get better than that. I am twice blessed.

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

I love all of what I do. I guess, if I were pressed to it, I would have to say that what I don’t like is the slowness of the medical field to fully understand what massage brings to the picture. I believe that surgery, for instance should be a last resort and in the case of disc and nerve compression problems, massage should be used before choosing surgery.

I have had doctors, surgeons, and physical therapists send patients to me who were considering spinal fusions, to see if lengthening the muscles creating compression might alleviate the symptoms and keep them from having surgery. I believe that this happens far too infrequently.

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?

Obviously, I would change the way in which we interact with allied medical professions. I would, also, educate new therapists about how important it is for them to participate and become part of regulating their own field. I would, also, like to see massage therapists be able to get the kinds of benefits that other health care professionals enjoy.

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

Well, that is an interesting question. I am in my 60s now, and still can’t imagine not doing what I do. I would like to eventually slow down, but, I really feel that as long as I am physically and mentally able, I want to continue to work in my field, at least part time.

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?

No, everything I do is either as a therapist or as a Massage instructor

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?

One big mistake is, in business, thinking like a massage therapist and not as a business person. I purchased the wellness center from the therapist who owned, I was renting a room from him at the time. I trusted him and the things he told me about the establishment, the contract with the landlord, etc.

Much of what he told me turned out to be, not exactly true, and had I taken the advice of those who had my best interests in mind and engaged an attorney, etc., I would probably not purchased this business. Being too anxious to rush into you “dream business” and not properly contemplate a business plan makes you vulnerable.

So my advice to other therapists would be to enter slowly into owning your “dream business”, trust no one, utilize professionals to help you, i.e. attorneys, accountants, whatever it takes to make certain that your interests are protected.

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?

First of all, ask to see the textbooks, meet the instructor{s}, make certain that the class size is small enough to permit you to have a one on one relationship with the instructor. Make certain that you understand how intensive the program will be and that it is supported by online or on premise tutoring. Talk to people who have graduated from the program and/or students currently taking the program. Also, in my opinion, you want the program to exceed the hours required for your state licensure.

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

In this day and age, any school that is properly certified can assist you in obtaining financial aid.

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 – Make certain that you have a passion for the work. If you don’t you will probably not last long and not enjoy yourself in the field. 2- Learn to leave your personal life (baggage) at the door, this is about the client, not you. 3-Never stop learning.

You should consider how you feel about people, can you be completely nonjudgmental; how you feel about constantly researching and learning, this is necessary to be a good therapist.

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?

If this field is right for you, it can be the best thing you have ever done. I look forward to each day and am excited about each client.

I believe that we are just now beginning to see the first light of the dawning of massage as an integral part of patient care, as it is in Europe. I believe that the future of massage is amazing.

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 don’t have a lot of time outside of massage, but I do enjoy cooking, creating my own massage creams etc., dabbling in herbalism, and exploring new experiences.

Michelle A. Viesselman, LMT, NCTMB, MMP, CLT can be reached 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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