I am the owner of a therapeutic massage clinic in Ashland, Oregon. We currently have 10 massage therapists who are independently contracted with us at Siskiyou Massage. I am also a licensed massage therapist, but my role now is the director of the clinic.
I see my job as being like leading an orchestra. There are many beautiful aspects of running a business like this and I enjoy helping everything run harmoniously. I started the clinic almost 5 years ago and we have been growing steadily every year. We are known for being the place to go for recovering from soft tissue injuries.
I think, like many, I first became interested in being a massage therapist for the flexibility that it offers. I have usually preferred to work for myself and it seemed like I would be able to support myself relatively easily and maintain some flexibility in my schedule.
I had recently relocated to Boulder, Colorado after farming for several years in New Jersey and I was working at a health food store. I was being introduced to many new ideas and healthy lifestyle choices and I was meeting a number of massage therapists who were customers at the store.
The moment I really considered going to a massage therapy school was while on vacation in Guatemala I met a woman from New Zealand who had recently graduated from the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. I considered the coincidence more than fortuitous and really picked her brain about the school and her experience.
When I returned to Colorado I met a couple more new graduates from BCMT who were traveling by making money setting up chair massage booths at music festivals. That further impressed me and I signed up for the 2-year program. I was 29 years old.
I never thought twice about the commitment to the program or the career. I knew that at the very least, I would learn great life skills and perhaps massage therapy would just be a stepping-stone to something else.
As a massage therapist, I have always been interested in helping people recover from pain and injuries as well as helping maintain healthy tissues so that injuries could be avoided. I specialize in orthopedic modalities. The top three factors contributing to my success?
1. I have always been good at making people feel comfortable and accepted.
2. I have a strong sense of empathy which has given me the drive to figure out how to help my clients.
3. I have never stopped studying and trying to advance my work as well as the massage therapy profession.
My career has been incredibly rewarding. I can’t imagine any other career where I would have been able to positively affect so many people and help make such profound changes in their lives while giving them support to heal, grow and be who they are.
Orthopedic massage, in particular, has been the key to my career happiness. Being able to work consistently with folks who really want to make change is what has given me such gratification and allowed me learn so much about myself in the process.
There is nothing that I do not like about what I do.
Shortly after getting out of massage school, I realized that one of my missions was to be an educator of the benefits of massage therapy and to try to elevate the profession in the eyes of the public and health care fields. It is difficult for a referring doctor to know what kind of background a massage therapist has.
In any given city you may find a therapist working with 300 hours of training and another with great clinical skills and 2000 hours of training. Since there is no differentiation in our profession for different levels of skill and education, the health care field including medical doctors, chiropractors and insurance companies often put the entire massage profession in the lesser skilled category. If I was to change one thing in our profession, I would create a different certification or licensing level that required more initial education as well as continuing education.
I had a private practice for 12 years and worked in a therapeutic clinic setting for 3 years as well. I reached a point where I felt like I needed to change careers. I thought of going back to school but thought I would try opening Siskiyou Massage Clinic first. Now I have created my perfect job. I do see clients occasionally, when I want to, I teach advanced bodywork classes and I have an active roll in providing an excellent place for a number of people to work.
I would advise folks that are looking for massage schools to remember that massage school should just be the introduction to your education. Once out of school, start to choose a direction that you would like move in your career and find teachers that help support that. By further educating yourself right after school you set yourself apart from the rest of your classmates and the hundreds or thousands of other graduates from your school. Clients will recognize the difference.
If someone would like to go to massage school but cannot afford it, I would recommend working very hard to save the money to go. Debt is very difficult to repay.
I will repeat myself here because I think it is important. I would advise an aspiring massage therapist to go into the school of their choosing with an open mind and heart. The massage therapy profession is broad; it covers a huge spectrum of modalities. A massage school is a very basic first step into the profession.
Go into each class ready to learn as much as you can whether you think you will use the information in your career or not. What I’ve experienced myself and seen with other successful massage therapists is that we don’t decide who our clientele is and what kind of work we will be doing.
Our clients decide that for us. Learn what you can in the school so that you will have a foundation. Then, immediately set out to learn more through the best teachers you can find in the modalities that are most interesting to you. And never stop. This will set you apart from the thousands of other graduates from your school.
The massage therapy profession is becoming more and more accepted as a resource for people that are injured or wanting to maintain their health. Health care in our country will continue to evolve and massage therapy will take a larger role in the years to come. I recommend supporting the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork as well as other professional organizations so that we can have a bigger voice together.
I live in a beautiful place, a valley between two mountain ranges. Outside of my professional life, I mountain bike on the trails outside of town and road bike along the country roads through the vineyards and pear orchards. I spend time with my family going to many, many sporting events that my stepdaughter is involved with. And I enjoy watching my baby daughter grow into a toddler and become who she is becoming.
Philip Whitmore, LMT, NCTMB is the Owner/Director of Siskiyou Massage Clinic. You can reach him at his website here.