Why It’s Important for Massage Therapists to Choose a Specialty

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.

The Importance of Continuing Professional Development as a Massage Therapist

Some professionals, such as physicians and nurses, are required to complete a certain amount of continuing education each year. This is to make sure they keep up to date on the newest techniques available to help their patients. While having a massage therapist license might not mean you must take continuing education, it is still very important and you should consider it a high priority. After all, you are helping heal individuals just as doctors and nurses are. It is important that you provide the utmost up-to-date service to your clients. Most professional associations require it these days and you insurance may depend on it.

Continuing professional development or education as a massage therapist will not only benefit your clients, but you and your employers (if you work for a company) as well. Employers love for their employees to keep up-to-date on the latest techniques that apply to their field. This means that no only do they have a skilled and qualified employee, but they are providing the best service possible to their clients. Even if you work as an individual massage therapist, the same rules apply. By continuing your professional development, you can let your clients know that you have the skills needed to provide them with excellent massage therapy. This will keep clients happy and happy clients are returning clients. Acquiring new skills will also allow you to charge more for your services. Clients who find a quality massage therapist with credentials to back up their services will be willing to pay more for a massage. You can also increase your business by offering different types of massages. If you were trained in Swedish massage, consider looking to other types of massages to help expand your massage repertoire. Look at continuing your massage development by taking classes in different types of Asian massages such as Thai massage, Thai foot massage, Thai herb compress massage or Chinese Tui Na massage. You may want to study more conventional western forms, such as sports massage, pregnancy massage or aromatherapy massage.

If you are already well versed in Asian massage techniques, maybe you should focus your continuing professional development on a specific part of the body. There are courses which concentrate on the assessment and treatment of upper limbs, cervical and thoracic spine, freeing the shoulder, freeing the lower back and hips, focusing on the lumber spine hip/pelvis and lower leg. There is deep tissue or Remedial massage, which works on specific joints or muscle groups. Going even deeper we have neuromuscular therapy, which focuses on pain relief in specific ‘trigger points’ and deepest of all, there is myofacial release, which works to release tension in the connective tissue layers.

To continue your professional development as a massage therapist is very important to both you and your clients. Check with your local clinics and community colleges to see what classes are offered that might help compliment the techniques you already know.