Seven things about massage therapy I learned from teaching toddlers.

You think you learned everything you needed in massage school? Forget that. Here’s what six years of working with two-year-olds taught me about being a great massage therapist.

1. Taking turns matters.

You will get your chance to relax, to deal with your personal problems, to break down, to chat about your interests, to cry. But while you’re giving a massage, it’s not your turn. Learn to be patient.

2. It’s mean when you won’t share your toys.

There’s no room for trade secrets in this business. You’ve got two hands, some oil, and a human body in front of you. The rest is just gravy. Playing hard-to-get with your colleagues because you see them as the competition, slapping a trademark on your particular take on deep tissue massage, refusing to mentor students and new therapists for fear they’ll steal your ideas … it’s petty. You’re a special snowflake, okay? Anybody else trying to be you is going to spend a lot of energy and end up with mediocre results.

3. Poop happens.

Also drool, snot, sweat, and period blood. Latex gloves and bleach, my friends. Latex gloves and bleach.

4. Everything can be interesting.

If you’re bored, it’s not the world’s fault, it’s yours. There are ants on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky, and glue sticks have an unusually satisfying flavor. Searching for the causes of a headache is like reading a good mystery novel. Find the wonder. Just because you don’t see it yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

5. Eventually, somebody’s going to throw a tantrum.

A tantrum is an outsized reaction to a real or imagined problem. If the problem is real, it’s important to fix it. But know that the fixing won’t necessarily stop the tantrum right away. The nice thing about tantrums is that they’re exhausting. They can be scary while they last, but nobody can keep it up for long.

6. Everybody changes.

You will change. You will grow. You will pick up new values and new vocabulary, and learn to do new things on your own. Your body will do things you never anticipated it would do. The same is true of your clients. Expect it.

7. Everybody likes to have their back rubbed before a nap.

Seriously, everybody. Some quiet music, a soft blanket, and a back rub. There’s nothing quite like it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any toddler understands the value of regular massage. Maybe it’s time we learned that for ourselves.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist and recent Midwest transplant to Dallas, Texas. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you like her writing here, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

Enemies

ninja killing pirate

“If I had an enemy then my enemy is gonna try to come and kill me ’cause I’m his enemy” -The Black Eyed Peas

Pain is not your enemy. Hunting it down and beating it into submission will not help. Getting angry when it refuses to respond to your treatments will not help. Pain is a symptom and a signal, and sometimes an unfortunate fact of life. But it is not your enemy.

Money is not your enemy. Blaming your career and personal problems on its unwillingness to flow your way will not help. Being unwilling to spend any of it thoughtfully and intelligently to advance your career or your personal life will not help. Money is a tool and a part of society. But it is not your enemy.

People soliciting sex are not your enemy. Calling them creeps and perverts will not help. Getting angry about the fact that they’ve accidentally called someone who doesn’t sell sex will not help. Prostitution exists everywhere, whether it’s legal or not. But it is not your enemy.

Your competition is not your enemy. Trash-talking them in front of others will not help. Putting effort into destroying their business instead of building up your own will not help. Competition means you have to work hard to stand out. But it is not your enemy.

There are two problems with making false enemies out of situations, people, and things:

  1. Vanquishing enemies is a full-time job. Just ask any superhero.
  2. Enemies have a habit of fighting back.

If you can’t get past the need to do battle with your foes, find the ones that are actually out to do you harm: your complacency, your insecurity, your unwillingness to try something strange and new. Whatever it is, make a plan for kicking its ass. When you do so, you might find that the very folks you considered your enemies turn out to be your strongest allies. Mr. Do-you-do-light-sensual-massage has certainly helped me land a punch to my unassertiveness, and money is a great cheerleader when laziness comes to call.

That’s the nice thing about giving up on old hatreds. When you pick your battles, there’s a great chance you’ll actually win.

Kat Mayerovitch is a licensed massage therapist practicing in a nonprofit chronic pain management center in Cleveland, Ohio. She also works as a copywriter, volunteers like mad in local community development, and plays the ukulele. If you liked this, Kat writes more good stuff at LMT or Bust.

photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

Dr. Pimple and Mrs. Glide (A Narrative on Dual-Licensure)

Back in 2006 and early 2007, when the Las Vegas housing market was near its manic peak and Bentleys with blacked out windows shat hundred dollar bills from their tailpipes whilst cruising down nondescript suburban streets, the Las Vegas spa industry reached a corresponding crescendo.

Caesars Palace upgraded their outdated spa to the 55,000 square foot, 51 treatment room Qua, complete with a mineral water infinity pool with integrated light therapy, and an Arctic Ice room that shed faux snow precipitate from a ceiling vent. The wheels were already in motion for the opening of the Canyon Ranch Spa Club expansion at Palazzo, the opulent spa at Steve Wynn’s Encore, diamond-infused massages at Trump, and the Mandarin Oriental’s 5-star spa facility at City Center when 2008’s economic outlook knocked the wind out of Vegas’ sails. As new properties rolled out on The Strip, a to-die-for spa was a non-negotiable amenity for any high-end resort with a desire to compete for precious tourist dollars.

I was working as a full-time massage therapist at an unofficially 3-star, off-Strip Las Vegas resort spa in 2008. Economic times were tough across the country, and especially tough in the Las Vegas valley, where unemployment exploded and still hovers between 11% and 13% to this day. Construction, sales, real estate, and tourism folk were feeling the pinch as homes sank underwater, homeowners gasped for air, and visitors to the land of sun and sin clutched at their wallets with death’s grip. I went from $400 and $500 days of doing 5, 6, and 7 massages per work day in early 2007, to $50 and $150 days of doing 1, 2, and sometimes no massages per work day throughout the following year. I was lucky to have maintained full-time employee status with health care benefits, as many massage therapists at different properties were downgraded to part-time and on-call status during this time. Believe it or not, it was a stressful time to be a spa employee.

With nothing but time on my hands, and in light of Qua’s reputation for hiring massage therapists who were also licensed estheticians (skin care professionals), I decided to pursue an education in skin care, so that I too could become “dual-licensed”.

I continued to work full-time at the resort spa while I attended esti class in a beauty school facility that also trained hairstylists and nail technicians. Thanks to the intelligence of my instructor, and the mature yet fun personalities of my classmates, I really enjoyed myself. I almost didn’t mind dragging my ass through 10-hour days of all things spa, 7 days per week, for 8 months straight.

After I graduated and passed my licensing exam, one of the fabulous estheticians at work took me under her wing and gave me some much appreciated on-the-job training. With the support of my management team, I was now performing facials, waxing, makeup applications, and body treatments, in addition to our full repertoire of massage services. I was making extra money selling skin care products to our guests, and the added service variety was giving my anatomical massage tools a well deserved break. This was fun!

What? Do I have something on my face?

Time warp with me…through 2009, when I went to work at a brand new 4-star resort spa as a massage therapist, but kept my dual-licensed position at the original spa…through 2010, when I worked two jobs like a mad woman, but saved enough to put some cash toward buying a house…through 2011, when the tourist dollars started to come back to Vegas and a damn shoulder injury forced me to scale back, allowing me to publish my first ebook as it sadly relegated my esti career to the back burner…through 2012, when I dedicated myself to working on continuing education projects, creative outlets, and the birth of a new dream involving my beauty school license, hope, and a funky business plan unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s way too soon to predict how 2013 will play out, but I’m always almost irritatingly optimistic for the future.

 

Have you ever considered adding esthetics training to your massage therapy toolbox?

 

Let me start by stating that everyone’s dual-licensed experience will be entirely unique.

As far as training goes, it’s up to you to measure the ROI on dedicating 6 to 12 months of your life, and between $8,000 and $12,000 on a second license (not to mention recurring licensing fees and any applicable continuing education.)

Finding spa employment as an esti, at least in Las Vegas, is generally tougher than finding massage employment. When money is tight, I’ve found that people are usually more likely to splurge on a massage over a facial or body treatment. That being said, there are waxing boutiques here that specialize in bikini and Brazilian waxing, and they seem to be doing really well for themselves. Waxing clients tend to be very loyal once they find someone who gives them just what they’re looking for. Research your local market before you commit.

If you work for someone else as an esti, you usually can’t pick and choose the services you’re down with performing. You’ll likely be expected to do facials and different kinds of waxing, and sometimes body treatments and makeup applications, regardless of whether you enjoy doing them or not. Again, do your research locally.

A few of the single-licensed estis (and a handful of massage therapists) that I’ve worked with over the years appear to harbor a certain level of resentment toward dual-licensed individuals. Maybe these single-licensed spa personnel fear that dual-licensed therapists are threatening their usefulness, or are making them appear to be less motivated, or are taking appointments that should (in their eyes) belong to them. I’m not sure, but haters, look: I’m really not that special. If I can go to school for two different things and maintain two different licenses, so can you. That being said, some spa management folk prefer to avoid rocking the boat, and forbid departmental crossover. You shouldn’t assume that getting hired as a massage therapist necessarily means you’ll be able to whip out your wax sticks just because you’re dual-licensed. If you have a dream spa job in mind, it can’t hurt to book a service there and politely interview your service provider about these things as a preemptive strike.

If you’re working on your own and you’re interested in becoming dual-licensed, I’d recommend pursuing it. It’s likely to give you more flexibility in the services and packages you can provide. You’ll also enrich your knowledge base with skin care skills and product ingredient prowess, and your focus on facial massage techniques will no doubt lead to marriage proposals and gifts of delicious pastry.

If you’re a guy and you don’t think this applies to you, think again! Male estis are the minority, but becoming an esti and rocking the Y chromosome is not unheard of. (FYI: It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gay. And you’re probably already a male massage therapist, so you should be used to any and all client assumptions regarding your every waking moment.)

In addition to variety and cash, one of the best things that my esti license has given me has been a sense of freedom. I’m less worried that I’ll suffer a career-ending injury, and I’m less concerned that antiquated local massage establishment laws (that still associate therapeutic massage with sex work) will keep me from opening a business of my own if I choose to do so.

According to many financial planning gurus of our time, diversification is an important concept to bear in mind when planning for the future. In a similar fashion, it’s not unwise to keep learning and adding skills to our massage therapy portfolios if we plan on making a living doing what we do for years to come.

 

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.