Why It's Important for Massage Therapists to Choose a Specialty
Posted Feb 28 2011 11:00pm
When massage therapists finish school and begin working, they might not immediately think of developing their skills for a niche market - after all, massage school is just the beginning, and you learn some of your most invaluable skills on the job! While most massage therapists focus on perfecting their Swedish and deep-tissue skills before moving on to advanced modalities, it is always a good idea to continue to think about how you want to develop your massage career. This way, you can take the classes and training necessary to develop your specialty early on.
Making the Most out of Continuing Education
Throughout the nation, massage therapists must abide by a professional licensing code that requires continuing education in areas such as communicable diseases, CPR training, ethics, and general education. While many massage therapists take the minimum number of courses, or pick available courses close to home that are convenient or inexpensive, it is important to take advantage of this educational opportunity, and pick classes ahead of time that align with your specific interests. For example, students who have considered furthering their massage career within Reiki, neuromuscular massage therapy (NMT), or medical massage should consider that these modalities require several lengthy and in-depth courses, and can take several months, or years to fully complete. And while the process toward this type of certification is indeed more time consuming than, for example, a weekend class in hot stone technique, it is a step toward a worthwhile skill that not only boosts a resume, but also brings in new clients, helps massage therapists market themselves more effectively, and lays the groundwork for a lengthy and profitable massage career.
Start by browsing different continuing education options offered at schools in your immediate area, as well as regionally. Educate yourself about the time requirements, cost, and specific details about each modality, and truly consider what it takes to become a seasoned professional in that field. This way, you can maximize your time and money on required continuing education courses.
Sports Massage, Reiki, Pregnancy Massage, and More
When you envision yourself working as a massage therapist several years down the line – where do you see yourself working? In a chiropractor's office? For a ballet troupe, football team, or running club? Maybe in a holistic center, spa, or independent practice? Every massage therapist enters the profession for various reasons, and it is important to understand what excites and motivates you about a massage career. Some massage therapists are particularly athletic or interested in sports, and it is this type of therapist who is most often attracted to sports massage. Therapists who enter this practice often work with athletes before, during, and after sports events to prevent injuries, and to treat existing injuries. Medical massage encompasses several techniques, and can include sports massage, craniosacral therapy, and NMT. Medical massage and its associated practices are often performed by therapists with an interest in injury treatment and prevention as a full time massage career. Other massage therapists gravitate toward energy healing, such as Reiki, which is purported to create a healing effect physically, mentally, and spiritually. Therapists who hold an interest in Reiki may also be interested in acupressure, or aromatherapy. Therapists who wish to expand their practice to accommodate pregnant clients may be interested in becoming certified in pregnancy massage, which enables massage therapists to understand and perform a medically appropriate massage for a mother-to-be.
Whatever your interest for a long-term massage career, there are continuing education training courses available to further your chosen specialty. Again, think about why you want to pursue a specific specialty, and what you think it will give back to you and your clients. Do you see yourself utilizing the specialty skills for years with your clients? If so, carefully consider with whom you will spend your time and money. Find the right program and begin another educational journey. You and your clients will benefit from your endeavors as you pursue your preferred niche in the vast world of advanced massage education.
Certification and Training
Finally, sometimes continuing education classes and experience aren't the only thing massage therapists need to practice a specialty in the field. Check with your state licensing board to ensure you have met the minimum credit hours for a special modality. To date, there is no licensing body for Reiki, but it is required to have achieved a "Level III" status in order to promote yourself as a Reiki master in your massage career. Likewise, pregnancy massage is not governed by an accredited body, but most continuing education providers will not issue a certification until the student has completed a minimum number of credit hours, typically supported by graded exams, practical sessions, and homework. For certification in neuromuscular therapy massage as a career, massage therapists must take continuing education courses, schedule and sit for an exam, and receive a score evidencing competency in the field. The school or instructor of an advanced massage therapy specialty should be able to explain any applicable certification requirements.
Finding a specialty is an excellent step for massage therapists in their long term career, as it not only enables them to become well educated and better able to treat clients, but exposes the therapist to a whole new field of massage, and its benefits. So if you're considering developing a specialty, do your research, ask questions, and have fun learning about how you can further your massage career while helping your clients.
About the Author
Laurie Craig, the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Jerome Perlinski American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year award, is a respected health science educator, who serves as a subject matter expert and test item writer for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. She has also participated in test item writing for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. With more than 25 years of varied experience in massage training in Atlanta, Laurie used her in-depth industry knowledge to open Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia. She combines her unique teaching skills, professional acumen, and passion for teaching with a comedic edge that students remember and embrace years after experiencing her classes. To learn more, please visit www.georgiamassageschool.com.