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 currently work at a water park resort spa as well as having a home office. I live in Richmond Illinois and work out of Gurnee Illinois when at the spa. Clientele at the spa is mostly vacationing families looking for relaxation. At the spa we offer Swedish, Deep Tissue, Aromatherapy, Hot Stone, Prenatal, as well as several body wrap packages. From my home office I offer much the same but I specialize in oncology massage. The spa practice has a relatively large clientele base however not many are regulars as most are people vacationing even though the spa is open to the public.
From my home office, I have a relatively small practice since I have purposely not put too much into advertising just yet. All of my current clients were obtained through word of mouth. I am new to the area and have been located in a temporary home office. My permanent home office is being constructed now and is due to be ready September of this year. I hope to put much more into advertising and grow my business at that point in time.
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 chose to go into the massage field after my mothers diagnosis of cancer. I was beginning nursing school at the time, had 4 daughters at home (3, 8, 12, 15), my husband was always deployed being active duty navy and I was at the beginning of a divorce. I have been interested in healthcare for quite some time and even though I do not agree with all of western medicine, I thought nursing would get me in the door to a good career in the healthcare field. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and my daughter with lymphedema in her foot.
My mom wanted alternative care for her cancer treatment and part of that care was massage but she had a very hard time finding someone educated enough and willing to work with her given her diagnosis. My daughter needed weekly massage for the upkeep of her lymphedema and that became very expensive. I quit nursing school and enrolled in my local massage school. I immediately fell in love with the profession. I want to help those with physical ailments that require massage in order to give them a better quality of life. I enjoy the spa environment and hope to combine the 2 as I am currently completing my permanent home office.
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 questions or concerns about the pursing massage therapy. I knew I needed to be certified in order to be of real help to people. After seeing how difficult it was to find proper treatment for both my daughter and my mom, I realized there has to be more people out there like them who truly NEED massage therapy to maintain quality of life. I wanted to be that person who could provide the service for people just like them. Of course I was concerned with how much the program cost but I used F/A and that helped tremendously
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
My specialty is oncology massage. The top 3 contributing factors to my short term success up to this point is a tremendously supportive husband and family, great word of mouth advertising from family and current clients and the training I receive thru CEU’s on a regular basis.
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I love specializing in oncology massage because I KNOW I am making a difference in the way people feel about themselves. During treatment there is so much stress and anxiety and massage relieves a lot of that – even if just for temporarily. The ability for a person living with cancer to receive compassionate touch is something that is greatly desired and not many can find. My career is very rewarding, both in the spa and at home.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
I suppose the only thing I do not like about my career is the image that often goes with being a massage therapist. People do not see massage therapists as people who are in healthcare. Typically we are seen as either a luxury or a form of prostitution. People need to understand that massage is NOT a luxury – it is a requirement for good health care.
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?
I would allow massage therapy to be billed to insurance as easily as any regular form of healthcare. People NEED massage therapy far more than they are receiving it and it is because they cant afford to pay for it. We as massage therapist cant afford to charge less and still run a business. I would love to charge less so more people could get a massage, but I have over head to pay for. If insurance would allow us to bill, more people would be able receive care.
I would educate mainstream Doctors about the benefits of massage. It seems many Dr’s have the perception that we are incense burning wanna-be witch Dr’s. If more Dr’s would recognize massage therapy for what it is, we might get somewhere in the field of healthcare.
I would incorporate massage therapy into hospitals, for both the staff and the patients. Massage therapy doesn’t only belong in the spa industry or in a chiropractic/physical therapy office. People in hospital settings need us too. Obviously there are conditions that would contraindicate what we do and in those situations we would not interfere. However I believe there are many instances where our services would be beneficial if we could just get through the doors.
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
I plan on practicing as long as my body will hold up. I am hoping that is at least the next 10 years! I am currently studying to take my Certified Personal Trainer Exam so that I can better be able to help my clientele with their body needs. I would like to focus my personal training career towards working with oncology patients and people with similar pathologies.
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?
Refer to question 1. I work at the spa 3 days a week and am available by appointment only on 3 days a week, I am not available on Sundays. I also juggle a family schedule.
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 am still relatively new to my career. I received my license only a year ago. I don’t know that I have made any mistakes that I have found thus far. I am VERY careful with money and making sure that my business does not go into debt before it even gets off the ground. I am sure to keep very meticulous records as well.
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 would recommend a school that is accredited. Outside of that I would visit schools to see the environment and of course money always matters. I have seen massage schools that are very clinical and hospital like and others that are very laid back. I would have never survived a hospital like setting. My school setting was very relaxed. We sat in circles on the floor!
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
I am the person who wanted to go to massage school and couldn’t afford it. Financial Aid and grants are lifesavers. Without them I would not have been able to go to school. Always apply for 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?
- Make sure this is a passion – not just a job choice. You have to LOVE what you do or it will never last.
- Don’t jump in over your head too quick. Good things come to those that wait. Start small and it will grow. Small steps can make big changes.
- Make a business plan. Plans change sometimes but that’s ok! But you have to have a goal at all times to work towards.
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 think massage therapy as a profession is going to begin to be more widely accepted in the health care field as people begin to take charge of their own health. The job market is already increasing for massage therapists and I am so excited to be a part of this field.
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 work, I am a mother of 4 daughters and a step son. I am recently re-married to the most wonderful man there could ever be. When we are not working we spend as much time as we can with our kids keeping them as active as possible. I enjoy reading health related books and articles when I have free time.
Teresa L Smith, LMT, NCTMB is a Licensed Massage Therapist in Illinois. you can connect with her on Facebook here.