Want to know how to succeed as a massage therapist? It starts by enrolling in massage therapy school, earning a solid education and gaining hands-on experience, but it doesn’t stop there. We talked to several Avenue Five Institute graduates who now work full time as massage therapists to discuss their careers and how their education continues to shape their day-to-day experiences at work. The result? Some incredible tips for succeeding as a professional massage therapist that we are excited to share with you.
6 Tips on How to Succeed as a Massage Therapist
1. Don’t take the curriculum lightly (even if it’s not your favorite topic).
Justin, who graduated in March 2017, shared a story in which he was tasked with performing an uncommon wrap procedure that he had never done before. “I wasn’t a big ‘spa guy’ in school, of course, now I work almost exclusively in spas,” explained Justin. Still, he had learned how to perform wraps in school and good thing he listened because he needed the basics to pull this one off. Despite his nerves, Justin was able to complete the wrap successfully and realized it was actually easier in real life than it was in school since, as he said, “we are taught to prepare for the most intense scenario.”
So, even if it’s not your favorite topic, always take the time to listen and digest what you learn in school because you may need it one day.
2. You will learn so much during your internship.
In class you learn all the basics to build a solid foundation, but it’s during your internship and hands-on experience working with clients in the Student Spa where you’ll learn the bulk of your knowledge. One specific thing never works for everyone, so you must have the intent and openness to apply what you do know and work to customize it to each person. Working on real clients is the only way to develop the skills necessary to do just that.
3. You never stop learning and growing, even after you graduate massage therapy school.
The body is complicated and there are never ending things to learn about it. No two people are the same and as you’ll learn working in the field, you’re going to come across people that you don’t know how to help right away. For instance, one of our former students shared a story about a client who wanted an hour of abdominal work. Her first panicked thought was: “What am I going to do?” Followed by: “I’m going to set my intention and help this person.”
In the end, the client was happy. It’s experiences like these that help you grow as a massage therapist.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when working on clients – communication is so important.
If you want to know how to succeed as a massage therapist, you must get comfortable asking questions. Very few people will be direct about what they want unless you ask. Ask things like: is this enough or too much pressure? Does that feel good? Ask questions about their body; what hurts, how does your back feel on a regular basis? What types of activities have you done throughout life that may be impacting you physically? For longer sessions, ask clients what area they’d like you to focus on for the last portion of the massage.
Communication is important during the massage and after as well. Follow up with clients after their session to find out how they feel; are there any tender spots? Does anything feel better or less tight? Does anything feel worse?
Most of the time, clients won’t tell you what you really need to know unless you ask. That’s why communication with clients is so important – let them know you are there to listen and encourage feedback so you can get better at your job for them, and for everyone you work with.
5. Create boundaries to maintain professionalism
Open the space for clients to talk to you but don’t enter that space. If a client wants to talk during their massage, let them, because talking may be part of their therapy. Opening yourself too much can be dangerous for you and your client. For instance, clients are going to share personal stories filled with deeper emotions like sadness and anger. Our former students come across this all the time and they recommend relying on boundaries to maintain professionalism.
Always keep your opinions to yourself. Let clients talk politics or whatever, and just encourage breathing and relaxation. Otherwise, seeing 6-8 clients a day can leave you exhausted at the end of the day. This becomes easier to do if you ground yourself before and after each session, which brings us to tip #6 for how to succeed as a massage therapist…
6. Always ground yourself before and after conducting body work.
We asked former students what they continue to connect with from their days at Avenue Five Institute. Robi, who graduated in 2016, said grounding practices are something she still relies on to this day. She continues to start and end her massages the same way she was taught in school, using the same ritual to ground herself and create intention.
According to Taylor, who graduated in April of 2017, giving a massage is a grounding experience in itself; a place to escape the stress of everyday life. Even still, it’s important to ground yourself before performing body work so you can put your own life, opinions, and drama aside, putting good energy out there and truly helping to heal the people you work with.
How to Succeed as a Massage Therapist – Step #1: Enroll in Massage Therapy School
At Avenue Five Institute, our family-like culture fosters long lasting relationships and a supportive network of friends, colleagues, teachers, and professionals that you can rely on. Learn more about our Massage Therapy Program.
We welcome you to come check out our school to see if we are a good fit for you!