People love my neck work for a reason, it rocks.
I don’t mean to brag…except that I do.
I absolutely love when people get up off of my table, speechless at their new found range of motion, smiling and rotating their head, trying to articulate how much they liked it.
Some would say it is an intuitive process, that I’ve just always known what to do to get the kinks out…somewhere inside, I am simply a true healer. Some would say that it is a gift from God.
…and they would be utterly W. R. O. N. G.
It is a learned skill. I learned it from my girl, Sandee. She is this awesome massage therapist who I met through the Las Vegas Massage Therapy Meetup Group. One day we were having coffee with the meetup group and networking, the next thing I knew I was in my birthday suit on her massage table (read: heaven) and she was schooling me on the fine tuned art of neck-working. She drastically changed (improved) the way I work with people’s necks and shoulders. And I love her for it!
I am a big fan of networking with other massage therapists. Why? Because one of the best ways to learn new things is to connect with new people. To meet people, face to face, shake their hand,and see what they have to say. To learn new techniques, get business advice, and keep abreast of what is going on in the industry. To “talk massage” with people who actually care, and will laugh at anatomical jokes with the word “fascia” in them.
I am also a big fan of learning in general and an [aspiring?] champion of self education. I’ve learned from many other massage therapists, in person, through good books, and online.
As a new massage therapist, with absolutely no start up money (when I came in to this career I didn’t even have a bank account, for goodness sakes), the internet was my best friend,,,and further back, from the time I received my first computer at 15, a paleolithic hand-me-down from my aunt with a 500 MB hard drive, I have been a huge fan of self education. As soon as I started massage school, I hit the ground running…digitally. I was lucky enough to work for an answering service that specialized in medical accounts, so I was free to use company time to learn as much as I wanted to know about the medical field. While in some ways, that was one of the jobs that taught me that I didn’t want to work for other people, in other ways it was invaluable to my development as a competent therapist. During the day I would learn all of this wonderful information at school, and at night I would cross reference that with what I was learning in the medical field.
The fact is, the face of education is changing. It is starting to look a lot more like my night shift and a lot less like dorm-living and $30,000 a year in debt.
There are tried and true methods of getting the right information to the right people, and I am not going to deny that a classroom full of people is one fantastic way of doing that…not to mention the merits of earning an actual degree…but the world is changing and education for education’s sake is becoming more easily accessible, more cost effective, and more diverse than we may have ever dreamed. Non-credit courses, some even from Ivy League universities, are popping up all over the internet on platforms such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Other learning platforms such as the Khan Academy are teaching advanced mathematics and physics to anyone who has an internet connection and the gumption to take it on.
Hey you, have you ever wanted to know what it was like to sit in on a class at Harvard? MIT? Georgetown? Berkeley? Ever wondered if you had what it takes to pass the course? Well, now you can, with the click of a few buttons. Though some classes require a great deal of prerequisite knowledge and skill, there are also countless beginner’s courses. Khan Academy, for example, literally begins at the beginning: 1+1=2.
But let’s dial it back a bit from months long college level courses, and take a look at the bite sized lunch hour educator, Youtube.
I have learned a lot of different techniques from a lot of different places. In fact once, I was on the elevator at the Tropicana hotel here in Las Vegas. As I was on my way up to my client’s hotel room, the digital display in the elevator was playing a promo video of someone getting a massage at their newly opened spa, Glow. For 21 stories, I admired a technique that the therapist was using on their client, a certain way of working cross body on the erectors that looked pretty easy on the wrists. I tried that technique a few minutes later and my client and I both seemed to like it. I use it frequently now, and have a new tool in my kit, all because I was on the right elevator at the right time. It is possible that someone, somewhere has a trademark on the technique, considers it part of their proprietary modality, and charges people hundreds of dollars to learn it. I, with respect, blow raspberries in their general direction.
I’ve learned a lot of techniques from videos, some that I happened across in the elevator, and some that I searched for on Youtube. When I first started school, Facebook was in its infancy. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Facebook groups to choose from with thousands of massage therapists from all over the world. If you have a question, you can post it and usually have a myriad of opinions within minutes. Joining the Massage Practice Builder Yahoo group, which I discovered in 2010 (and which was an email group and has since transitioned to an awesome Facebook group) was a step in the right direction, but nothing as diverse and convenient as the many social networking resources we have available now. Searching online for information about massage was hit or miss, but also a lot of fun. Playing Youtube roulette looking for massage technique videos led me to some interesting and tawdry places, but also to a lot of hidden gems.
I’ve learned techniques for muscle working, draping, spa services, and lots of other aspects of the business both on and off the table from helpful and timely youtube videos. I soaked it up like a sponge. I think it has made a big difference for my business and the way I approach my never ending massaducation. (As portmanteaus go, I’ll admit that one is pretty terrible.)
So, here we are, 1100 words in (Are you NOT entertained?!) and I am finally getting to my point: what does education mean to you?
Lately I have pondered this a lot. I worked a chair massage gig with a therapist who is relatively new to the field, and we came to the discussion of prenatal massage. I was familiar with his level of education because we went to the same school. He mentioned being interested in prenatal massage but “knowing he couldn’t practice it until he was certified.” I questioned this, and the conversation led to the fact that someone told him this. He really thought that until he received a prenatal certification, he couldn’t touch a pregnant client.
Legally, (and this is to the best of my knowledge, so if I am wrong please send me a link to the law you are referencing) any licensed therapist who has prenatal training can massage a pregnant woman. They don’t need a special certification, that is what our licensing is for. Ethically, they need to be trained, but that doesn’t mean paying hundreds of dollars for formal classroom training. The information regarding best practices and contraindication is out there, waiting to be learned. With the exception of understanding possible contraindications, avoiding certain techniques, proper positioning and proper draping…massaging a pregnant woman is much like massaging any other human person. They aren’t aliens.
I respect that prenatal certification courses exist, and I understand their intent in providing a thorough education for people who are interested in specializing in, just want more information about, or need more confidence in performing prenatal massage. I like that the certification exists to help clients understand that these therapists have received additional training, it is a good piece of mind for an expectant mother to see that credential when trying to determine who they will see. I would like to take one of these courses one day. However, there is a lot of confusion around the idea of continuing education certifications both for therapists and the public, and what is truly required.
Someone who hasn’t completed the certification course can not call themselves a certified prenatal therapist – but they most certainly can legally work with pregnant women, as long as they have some training, formal or informal, and know what they are doing.
When they finish their core curriculum and complete the requirements to become a licensed, registered or certified massage therapist they become a professional. The core curriculum is supposed to teach them enough to be a competent bodyworker – to know the difference between a pregnant and a non pregnant body, to know how to do a proper intake, to know the difference between a technique that will nurture a body and a technique that will harm a body. These are the basics.
That is why I find it so distasteful that people keep insisting that anything but live hands on classes is somehow a lesser education, or even forbidden. That a technique can’t possibly be learned, except in person. That seems to me to be a very narrow point of view. There is a lot to be learned online, and putting the techniques into practice, as a competent and educated therapist who isn’t knowingly infringing on someone’s trademarked work and has done their homework, is not wrong.
If I can learn Quantum Physics or Neuronal Dynamics in an online class – why not foot massage? It isn’t Rocket Science. Though if you are interested in that, I’m sure you can find the right course to get you started.
So go on with your bad self. Google and learn. Use your educated mind, logical deduction, and social media resources to select quality material that will help you be of better service.
Always honor your teachers.
…and always take every article, ebook, class, video and blog post with a grain of salt. Question everything, and grow.