Spa Style Massage Add-Ons & Continuing Education

Just a quick post to let you guys know I just put a new NCBTMB approved CE course up on my site

If you need CE hours, cool! They’re super affordable. 

If you don’t need CE hours but you’d like a little add-on inspiration, please feel free to download the course at absolutely no charge and without obligation. 

Thanks for hanging out with us for another year! Here’s to a productive and fulfilling 2016!

Why You Should Listen to Amanda Palmer

Don’t get upset when she tells you early on that she performed unlicensed massage therapy as a college student. 

Keep listening. 

In the final chapter she’ll tell you about an intense moment she shared with a (licensed) massage therapist years later.  

Those, dear friends, are the two obviously massage-related tidbits contained within Amanda Palmer’s masterpiece, The Art of Asking. Everything else in the book is about art, passion, humility, bravery, honesty, communication, life, death, illness, depression, and navigating uncharted territory. It’s about success, trust, and being human. It made me cry more than once. 

More specifically, Amanda (an accomplished musician who happens to be married to Neil Gaiman) talks openly about her hugely successful crowdfunding adventure, the process of building a relationship with her audience, and what it’s like to build a future with someone who’s very different from yet very similar to herself. There isn’t a person out there who could listen to this audiobook without learning something. My opinion? This thing has got the potential to be life-changing. You should have it a go. 

2015-10-25 15.00.19

My sister gave me the hardcover version for Christmas last year, but I’ve taken to listening to Audible during my morning walks so I downloaded it there, too. Amanda not only narrates her own work, but this version is crammed full of Amanda’s music (newer tunes as well as stuff from the Dresden Dolls days). The Audible version is definitely the way absorb this for maximum enjoyment (and Audible even gives new members a free audiobook with zero obligation). 

I don’t usually review books on The Young Thumbs, but this one is too important to ignore. Have you read/listened to it? What did you think?

Closing Down

Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Tracy Bradley. Tracy has been practicing massage therapy since 2003 in rural Arkansas. When not massaging she can be found sipping Cherry Coke, watching cat videos, reading massage discussions, or hanging out with her family. She publishes a client-centered blog at The Comfort Zone Massage. Her 8-year-old daughter creates stories about her two zany cats at Cat With a Chat. Tracy is moving over a hundred miles from home to begin a new adventure with her family!

***

One month and then my massage business is closed. A month. No more clients, no more sheets, no more hot towels, no more. I feel like I’ve never done this before even though I left a different place 4 years ago. I wasn’t as emotionally involved with that place, I suppose. This place, this business is like home. I’m leaving home.

What will I do with my hands now? Will they miss the feel of flesh gliding under their fingers? Will my skin shrivel up and dry out without the daily use of massage oil? My hands, who have caressed, kneaded, rocked, pushed, pulled, rubbed, and comforted humans for the past 12 years, won’t know what do anymore. Will they lead me around searching for an aching shoulder like a forked limb leads one to “witch a well” for water? I apologize in advance to those I hug. My hands will surely try to massage your back and shoulders in what should be a brief moment.

Have you ever closed your business? Have you ever had to tell your massage clients you’re moving away and never coming back? It’s a difficult task.  After almost 4 years working as a massage therapist in a small town I’m moving away. Telling loyal, regular, make-their-appointment-before-they-leave clients is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done.  The first eight years of my massage career were extremely part-time. The past four years were more than full-time. They were full emersion. I fully devoted most of my brain, heart, and soul to growing this business and caring for my clients. And now it ends.

I spent the week telling clients I’m leaving. A few were devastated. Most were supportive of my family’s new opportunity.  We cried. We hugged. We talked it out.

I will miss these people. Even with “good boundaries” relationships are developed. People talk. Living in such a small town many of us go to the same church, family members work together, kids attend the same schools, we go to fundraisers together, etc. We conduct our lives side-by-side. Boundaries are there but they are different than someone who lives in a place they never see their clients outside work.

All this said, I’m ready for a break. I’ve been “all in” for quite a while to make sure I supported the family while my husband was in college. I loved it most of the time. The Hustle becomes such a rush!  You try something to get more clients and your week fills up!  You write a blog and people read it and tell you they like it.  You develop a way of doing things, communicating with your clients, and operating your business. You get shit done. You try a new promotion that flops but it is still a rush because you get to brainstorm again. It never stops: the planning, writing, researching, talking, etc. It can’t stop if you want to stay busy.

I’m tired. I’m ready to shut that part of my brain off for a while. I’m ready to see if there is a Tracy inside me. She wants to laugh and smile and read and write and play and stuff.

Transition

This is a guest post from our friend Michelle Giles, a Phoenix, Arizona based massage therapist and continuing education provider. You can learn more about Michelle here

***

You are a well-oiled machine. Body mechanics spot on. You’ve learned exotic massage techniques from all over the world.  You use many interesting products. Your sacred work space is beautiful. You love your clients. After 10 years you’ve hit your professional stride…or was that a wall?…made of bricks.  

Wait. How many treatments have you been doing a day? Between six and eight. Are you taking breaks in between sessions? Very few, with clients stacked back to back. Since school ended you have been striving, building, advertising, networking and flexing your boundaries and schedule to accommodate clients, never considering how this might impact your body. After all — you love what you do. 

I injured my right arm, shoulder and chest wall simultaneously last January. I didn’t feel it coming — no aches, no warning shot, nothing overtly physical. The signs were there. Subtle things. Things that can be mistaken for general fatigue; a neck ache, headache, or malaise that drifts into life from time to time. It’s easy to get lulled into a feeling of comfort when business is great. It’s also easy to get lazy with self care when you feel good and nothing hurts. 

I tried slowing down, putting more space between clients, getting acupuncture and physical therapy. After a few weeks of that routine, the reality of the situation weighed heavily on me. I was really hurt. Not “get a massage, take a few days and sleep it off” hurt, but “out of commission” hurt. Stubbornly, I still saw a few clients a day for another week. I refused to acknowledge that I was hurt — after all, I had worked so hard to build this. Then a miracle arrived disguised as a disaster — my landlord sold my studio out from under me. I lost my office and was forced to take a break. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Once home, I did some research. I read articles about injury and professional burnout.  One fact stood out from the rest: “The burnout rate within the massage industry has been estimated at 50% to 88% within the first 3 to 5 years after graduation according to a study completed by Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, a reputable industry organization.” I am not sure how many of us know and absorb that statistic. I have been a full time massage therapist for 15 years, and had no idea it was that high. 

I was depressed for about a week, alternately sleeping and crying.  An MRI revealed severe tendinosis and RSI injuries surrounding the area, and it would take between one and 5 years to heal completely. My PT was very honest with me — no amount of therapy could help at this stage. I felt frenzied, I wanted to will it better with salves and treatments. The simple truth was rest and accept.

Looking for gifts within life’s challenges is tough. My mind wanted to ruminate on loss. I made the conscious choice to use this time to reinvent and rethink my entire approach.  Epiphany: I was in the next stage of my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to take seven months off. This is what I did with that time:

  • Sold most of my belongings from my old office to create a new environment
  • Designed a 200 square foot massage office in the garage behind my house
  • Designed and built (enter my husband’s building skills) 8 large wooden planter boxes to grow herb and plants to make infused oils and salves. Also functions as a courtyard space to separate work and home
  • Learned to use Himalayan salt stones instead of hot stones
  • Learned to use Chinese cups and gua sha tools
  • Bought a product called Armaid to begin rehabbing my arm
  • Learned how to foam roll and use racquet balls for self care
  • Applied for and received my continuing education provider number enabling me to teach continuing education classes out of my new space
  • Learned how to create my own scrubs, soaks, lotions, lip balms and deodorant
  • Created my own website with the free ABMP tool (simplistic, but great)
  • Rested, stretched, soaked, and focused on my new self care needs

I had emailed my client list when I began my sabbatical, emailed them again when the office was done, then emailed a small group of regulars to let them know I was coming back in July…slowly. I began by taking one client a day a few days a week for a month. Then two clients a day a few days a week for two months. After two months, I emailed the rest of my clients announcing I was back to work. It has been seven month since I have been back.  I only see three clients a day. I schedule morning, afternoon and evening- leaving hours in between each. No compromises. My clients have loved the new modalities, the fresh space, and knowing no one is stacked right after them. They take their time, and so do I. What a change. My patience and new approach has paid off, and last week I realized my arm doesn’t hurt at all anymore. I will never return to my old way of doing business; it was outmoded.

Professional transition is inevitable. As our bodies age and change, so should our approach. Self care, exercise and diet need also change as we do. What worked in the beginning of our careers won’t always work. 

Injury is a great teacher.

That Magic Massage Moment (A Poem)

That moment when, 
Your client’s leg begins to stiffen,
There’s a gradual resistance,
And you retreat gently,269001-20150111
Adjusting the technique,
Testing the waters,
Ever cautious,
Ever respectful,
Of their space.

Then you hear it,
The smallest of snores.
Then a glance, 
Feigned casual interest,
Quick to catch a glimpse of the clock,
Or the art on the wall,
Should they catch you peeking,
And think it a stare.

Their head lolls to the side gently,
Their neck has softened,
And they are comfortable in their body,
And comfortable in the moment,
And they begin to expand.

No more shrinking into themselves,
Arms folded over navel,
Abs stiffened,
Ankles turned in,
For a pleasing silhouette.

Just them,
Resting.
With a nice soft jaw and a nice soft snore. 
Suspended in that dream space,
Neither asleep nor awake,
And their bodies expanding,
Unwinding,
Blooming,
Taking up glorious space,
That was always theirs to play in.

The momentary resistance subsides.
You smile a little smile,
Of working hard at work worth doing.

You are doing well.
They are doing well.
All is well and right in the world,
For at least another 42 minutes.

That moment is a feeling of pure joy.

If I could bottle it,
I would. 

 

The Young Thumbs Take Las Vegas

During Wednesday’s episode of The Massage Nerd Show, Allissa, Ryan and I made an announcement worthy of attention from the finest massage therapy news outlets and celebrity gossip magazines:

ON JULY 24th 2014, THE YOUNG THUMBS WILL TAKE OVER LAS VEGAS…AND YOU’RE INVITED!

That’s right, friends! Starting around noon on the day following the World Massage Festival’s four-day Vegas run at the Tuscany Suites & Casino, we are going to eat, workshop, eat, drink, conspire, eat, and shenanigize our hearts out! The festivities will be centered around the Fremont East neighborhood of Downtown Las Vegas, an area north of the Strip and home to lots of exciting, new and innovative development.

We’re still working on the deets, but so far we’ve decided:

  • This day will revolve around fun. If you’re looking for boring, we will only disappoint you.
  • Components of the event will be optional. Want to lunch with the crew, but skip out before the workshop (topic TBA) begins? Not a problem! Care to meet up later on in the evening instead? DO. IT.
  • The day’s expenses will be minimal. You’ll be responsible for paying for your own eats, drinkies, and any extracurricular entertainment. Know that we are totally committed to keeping the workshop super affordable too, because we love you.
  • Emergency Arts will be accommodating our workshop space demands. They are located at 520 East Fremont St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. If you’re looking for lodging in Young Thumbs territory, there are gobs of (affordable!) hotels in the ‘hood.
  • Further details will be posted on theyoungthumbs.com as we get closer to the blessed event.
  • Any questions? Please ask ‘em in the comments section below.

Watch the three of us talk about this stuff (and more).

Please save the date, and pack accordingly. :)

***

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.

Found in Translation: A Transgender Rights Primer for Massage Therapists & Spa Folk

I.

At age eighteen, I was an activist. I was a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, and an active member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). I womanned tables during The Vagina Monologues, attended punk rock feminist conferences across the country, marched on Washington, and Took Back the Night. I went to massage school, worked, and volunteered. This was what I did during my last decade in New York, and I loved it.

My dear friend Alicia and I, brides for equal marriage. Rochester Pride Parade, 2005. Photo by Davette Glover, http://zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

My dear friend Alicia and I…brides for equal marriage! Rochester Pride Parade, 2005
Photo by Davette Glover, zectaproductions.com. Used with permission.

Then I moved from Rochester to Las Vegas. My NOW ladies encouraged me to remain active with the organization by way of the Vegas chapter. This didn’t happen, mainly because I looked for but didn’t find the level of community involvement and outreach that I had become accustomed to in Rochester. Besides, I was setting the foundation to begin a new life in a new city, and these things take time. I focused on meeting people, going back to school and working – and had become a slacktivist of the highest order, with a side of soul-sucking, conformist banality.

Things started to change in 2009, around the time of my non-traditional, Herve Leger bandage-dressed Vegas wedding (and you’ll notice I’m still—and always have been — a Lipomi, thank you very much). Convinced it was bullshit that a straight screw-up like myself could tie the knot while same sex couples were denied the right, my better half and I registered with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) instead of with Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Kwik-E-Mart, etc., so our wedding guests could make a donation for marriage equality in our names. We raised some cash, and avoided ending up with mismatched china and six toasters.

Now here I am, four years later — once again a student, and now a business owner – feeling the irresistible pull of community involvement. Thanks to the other activists (and just all-around inspirational people) I’ve met over the last year or so, the volunteerism fire in my soul has been stoked, and I’m ready to get out there and do unto others without collecting a fee once more.

 

II.

I like good people. I like it when good people fly in the face of convention and challenge the misguided status quo. I like it when good people are able to live their respective truths, and my heart breaks for people who can’t, for fear of violence, abuse and/or pain.

Recently, in chatting with a massage therapist friend over hot beverages, the topic of transgender massage therapy clients came up. My coffeemate pointed out that it’s tough for trans clients to find service providers they can trust. I thought back to the multiple instances during my years in the spa industry when a co-worker would burst into the employee break room and shout “I think there’s a he-she in the relaxation lounge!”, or a receptionist would yell “Did a he-she come in today? Because I couldn’t tell if they were a man or woman on the phone, and I said ‘sir’, and then they said they were female! WTF?”, or any number of equally ignorant-sounding vomitisms. It turns out this petty stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, with the more substantial, submerged portion of the ‘berg being something I hadn’t given too much thought to until this coffee convo took place.

Some things* I’ve recently become aware of:

  • Transgender rights can vary greatly from state to state, so you really ought to look into your state’s laws regarding gender identity and discrimination. You can do that here. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nevada is among the more enlightened states located in America the Beautiful.
  • In Nevada (and several other states), it’s illegal to deny trans folks access to “public accommodations”. A driver’s license that lists someone’s sex as “male” does not necessarily mean they MUST use the men’s restroom, locker room, changing room or spa, if they identify as female. If someone identifies as female, for chrissakes, they should be allowed to use the women’s facilities.
  • Different states have different requirements for changing the sex field on a state-issued ID, like a driver’s license. You can read more about that here.
  • Spas have been reported and/or sued after denying trans customers access to gender-specific facilities. Here’s a story about a spa in Virginia, and here’s one about a spa in the Chicago area.
  • Ignorance of transgender and genderqueer issues in the workplace reeks of hospitality failure. Will “sensitivity training” (barf) on LGBTQ issues ever be a part of employee orientation curriculum in the mainstream workplace? I’m thinking it’s time.

I could go on and on about society’s related gender issues — centered around a collective fear of feminism, aggro females, sensi males, penises, and nudity in general – but I won’t, because there’s a short-blog-post soapbox right here with my name on it, and I only have two feet. <3

(Many thanks to the intelligent, talented, wonderful people who helped me with this piece. You know who you are.)

*Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney. Antidiscrimination laws change all the time, so do yourself a favor and do your own research specific to your own situation.

***

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.

Playing Telephone

Did you ever play Telephone as a kid? The game where you sit in a circle or line, and one person whispers a phrase to be passed along, neighbor to neighbor, until the end of the line is reached? The person at the very end repeats the phrase as he or she has heard it, and everyone giggles at the way the phrase has transformed along the line. Whispering is not the best means of communication, and we all interpret things in our own way when we can’t hear accurately, passing phrases along to be interpreted anew. Hilarity ensues.

DSC_0226_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile

As massage therapists, we play telephone quite a bit. It’s not usually funny, but sometimes it is great fun. Other times, it can get a little messy.

Let’s start with the fun: Hands on! We learn techniques in school, and then we get out into the world and find our groove. Formerly differentiated petrissage techniques merge into one another, effleurage swoops into new and more graceful curves, sometimes friction moves in a shape that is neither strictly cross-fiber nor exactly circular. The moves we were taught become our own, and new ones grow from them, and we fall into flow. Or we take our own weary selves for massage and steal the therapists’ best moves  feel things that are new and different and work them into our own sessions. Sometimes, we’re not sure what the technique looked like or how it was accomplished, so we interpret and approximate as best we can, usually with subtle changes. Maybe we even use our new technique when giving a massage to a fellow therapist to be absorbed and re-interpreted all over again. At the end of the telephone line, we have many massage therapists practicing personal, unique massage, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Less beautiful is when we play Telephone when we talk about massage. We learn so much in school about anatomy, neurology, and pathology. If we don’t peruse our notes from time to time or find other ways to brush up on information, it can get muddled. We are only human, and we may drop key pieces over time, filling in the blanks with our own explanations, and we might even misspeak from time to time. Have you ever had a conversation with a client about a particular muscle or pathology where you found yourself floundering? I have. It’s not pretty. Luckily, there’s something we can do about this.

There is one more rule in the simple game of telephone. When you are the one receiving the message, about to pass it on, you can call “Operator” and have the phrase repeated. When you’re playing Telephone with children, the rules vary on the number of times you’re allowed to ask for clarification. In life, you can ask as many times as you want, however frequently you desire. When you take a continuing ed classes to review techniques, refine body mechanics, or add new skills to your repertoire, you are calling the Operator. When you review information that’s become hazy over time or keep an eye out for new research, that’s calling the Operator, too, and can keep you from sounding hazy yourself.

Playing Telephone keeps massage therapy vibrant and diverse and personal. Calling the operator from time to time can keep us all fresh and engaging. Lately, my Operator has come in the form of PubMed, old handbooks from massage school (thrown over in favor of the internet for years, but books have felt more direct for me lately), hand scrawled notes from continuing ed classes, and The Massage Therapy Foundation website. Who’s your go-to Operator these days?

 

Megan Spence is a Licensed Massage Therapist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She is continually astonished by just how much she loves her work. You can read more about Megan’s adventures in massage and various other things body-related at Bodywork Brooklyn.

Turning Warm Leads Into Well-informed Clients

Looking for some suggestions on how to get, manage, and effectively turn warm leads into “a client on your table”?  I’ve got some practices, here, in lead gathering and use that apply to primarily a sole-proprietorship but can also apply to any business.

Even before I started professionally practicing massage therapy, I knew I had to get as many people on my table as possible, and the more diverse in body type, considerations, and client goals, the better – I was going to open my own private practice someday.

But, before I even got out into the massage therapy world after my basic training, I knew that I had to come out from under my shell..and actually talk to people to get them on my table.  Student Clinic prepared me for that one-on-one interaction and encouraged me to get my hands on as many people as possible AND gave me a tool to keep track of everyone I had on my table [during Clinic]…and off the table [that I had talked with about massage therapy].

head-scratcher

In the beginning, and with people that I talked to (trying to get them on my table) understanding that I was “new”, I had a hard time getting contact information, much less talking about what I would do with it once I got it from that person.

I thought a good method would be to direct “people on the street” to my website, where they could sign up for an occasional newsletter that I would publish and learn more about me – that way I could get their email address.

Then I thought, a good way to get “people at gigs where I was doing chair massage” to get on my table was to include a space for the chair client’s email address and permission to contact them on the release form.

Then I thought, why don’t I get “people at a wellness event/fair” to sign up for my contacting them via email.

These, unfortunately for me I learned, were really permanent warm leads that I was creating.  However, the web-disseminated information about massage therapy I did create to serve these warm leads allowed others who would search for a massage session and become my client find me (based on relevant search results, in “massage”) through my various (and consistent) business listings and profiles, and book with me based on my web presence or presentation.

Following are some practices I use to effectively and for-the-long-term interact with potential clients and some techniques I use to create, through my database information, working relationships as “people who get on my table”:

Contact [Enrollment] – anyone is a potential client.  Be aware that personal relationships can also be professional relationships and that your sister will eventually hold two or more roles in your professional practice: sister, client, referrer – be sure you put her in the appropriate-named database categories, too.  Treat every Contact as your client, and treat their contact information, permission, and intent like gold – because it really is fortunate that they want what you have to give.

admtCreating a List – collect contact/business cards.  If they don’t have one, ask for their name/phone #/email address [to write down] so you can keep in contact with them about that awesome, enthusiastic conversation you just had with them about massage therapy.  Any other information you think is important to know/note: also include that in the information you collect.

Storing your List – when you get their phone number through their business card or verbal information, keep it in your phone or, better, an online service that is seen through and interacts with your phone/website.  Often times when someone calls you, Caller ID may fail – if their name & phone number are already in your phone, you’ll know who it is right away and be able to minimize or avoid altogether that awkward feeling of that “I recognize your voice, but…who are you, again?” moment.  Also: computer spreadsheets, paper spreadsheets, paper address books, contact databases in a local email client (Outlook, Eudora, etc) or online (Gmail, Yahoo, etc) are efficient ways to keep the information permanent – in electronic version, you’ll definitely want to BACK UP your information or print it out on paper every once in a while to assure you never lose it.

Using your List – regarding contact information: if you have the ability to categorize your contacts easily, do.  I separate non-clients and clients in my database with color coded categories in Outlook for easy access later, for things like creating client letters, broadcast announcements, and the like.  Regarding email addresses you got in an online form: I use Google’s Feedburner to automatically send out my blog website’s RSS feed entries to my Feedburner-subscribed email list.  This is so I know that everyone interested in the information but who are not necessarily my client get the feed they subscribed to on my website.  With Feedburner, I can manually enter email addresses that I have collected and have “permission to market” on file.

Once you have your contact list started, populated with people who are “warm” leads (aka, of whom you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting) and of whom you have permission to market, start the scheduled emails.  Stay ahead of the game by always having more than enough articles to publish.  If you have specials to promote, make sure that you include that information (maybe even a link to a permanent webpage featuring the details of the special) somewhere in the email.

Maintaining your List – the best rule of thumb that I have used is: take care of it now.  Any delay in adding or removing a contact from your list only reflects on you as apathetic and uninterested in the needs/desires of your audience.  Most email systems, like Feedburner, Constant Contact, Email Brain, will have automated unsubscribe links within each email sent – easy for the recipient to Unsubscribe if they want.  But make sure manual entries and deletions to these permission-based list are done promptly – your efforts will be appreciated, leaving you looking professional…and possibly worth electronically- or professionally-reconnecting with at some point.  I like the automated emails that state “did you mean to unsubscribe?” or “if you would like to re-subscribe at any time, please click this link” in the unsubscribe confirmation emails – I keep these for future (resubscription) intentions.

The following suggestions are based more on ethical considerations moreso than business practice or practice-building:

DOs – establish permission-based marketing

checkedCollect business cards – it has always been my understanding that if someone gives me a business card, it is implied consent to contact them.  That said, I only contact them with their business card information about the “thing that we talked about” when they gave me their card.

checkedUse “sign up/in” sheets at events – include a space for [your client’s or potential client’s] email address AND indicate, somewhere on the form, that you’ll contact them [in the future] with…well, you decide: newsletter, specials, surveys, etc.

checkedCreate a form on your website that collects a visitor’s email address – when they are asked to sign up, they are usually promised something: a regular newsletter, specials notifications, first-time client offers, and the like.  You can make it worth their while – to be in your database – if you personally email them an article you wrote, a “tips”/information sheet, or even an infographic you have permission to use or made yourself to connect their website entry with you personally.

DON’Ts – spam

uncheckedCollect email addresses anonymously or “harvest” them from sites that explicitly state that using the information on the site in ways other than the purpose of the site (which is to connect massage therapist(s) to clients, for massage therapy purposes, et al).  This type of information gathering is not permission-based and will get you blacklisted on the major email services (AOL, gmail, Hotmail, etc) or account terminated on web-based email list management services (Email Brain, Constant Contact, , etc) if you are reported as “spam” – to the ISP, mail service, or list management services through their no-spam “unsubscribe” policies.

uncheckedPut people on lists that they did not sign up for.  The fastest way to lose an electronic client…and possibly a live one…when they figure out you added them because they were in your database and not subscribed or interested in the information you started sending them.

uncheckedSend too many communications by email/RSS feed – when you do more than monthly newsletters that have advertisement or promotion in them, “overbearing” comes to mind of the reader…and every time they see your email header in their Inbox.  This results in a behavior modification that not only hurts your business but also your identity/reputation.  If you send an article ONLY of interest to your email database – and make it relevant to the service and/or product you purvey in another space (like a booking webpage), link it in the footer or signature of every email you send out.  I promise: people will always know where to find you when you are consistent in placing your contact information there.

 

Now, if you’ve read this far AND are not familiar with all these concepts, your head might be swimming – please ask questions, give suggestions, confirm/deny, or feel free to leave your favorite smoothie recipe below.  Maybe you’ll be able to put down the Dramamine before you’re done typing 😛

What are some ways you collect contact information, methods you use to connect with warm leads, or “best practices” for maintaining a relevant database for your practice or business?

Research and Approaches to Healing

research

I’ve been thinking a lot about research lately. Rather, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I used to think about research and how, lately, I seem to do so less and less.

I was a psychology major in college and, as such, had to read lots of research and execute a few studies. Quantitative methods was required for my course, and, as much as I see the place for quantitative research, constructing and executing just one “gold standard” double-blind study in an academic setting with plenty of help and guidance mostly taught me a) that I did not ever want to do it again, and b) that quantitative research is complicated and often imperfect, and as a bonus, it reinforced my belief that many people tend to misread, overgeneralize, and overstate the extent to which studies “prove” things. I do not mean to suggest that it doesn’t matter. Quantitative research matters very much, gives us valuable information and insight into this world of ours, and results in crazy advances for all humankind. I’m just not the girl to carry it out.

Qualitative research, on the other hand? Oh how it makes my heart surge. Qualitative methods was not required for my course, and it was a pretty small class. I understand why. To do it properly requires hours of transcription and coding and analysis, and, at the end, you essentially wind up with a story. It’s a little less sell-able  a little less shiny, a little less likely to turn up in the health section of the Times than quantitative studies with control groups and placebos and scientific method set out to measure the effects of one thing on another (unless, of course, there’s either a quantitative element or a large enough study to detect quantifiable patterns). It doesn’t disprove a hypothesis, and thus it is often sidelined, but I think it is pretty important stuff. It provides new ways of listening, new insights into stories. And stories matter. You can’t extrapolate from them the way you can with quantitative research, can’t say that the experience of a handful of people that you have carefully taken down and parsed and come to understand will predict the experience of another, but that doesn’t mean those experiences don’t matter. They do.

The other day, I saw a post from the marvelous Melissa who administrates Anatomy in Motion’s Facebook page (on the off chance you are not already up on it, Anatomy in Motion is a fantastic app she and her husband created, and they post great content on Facebook that yields many interesting discussions). She was dismayed that someone was posting anti-massage sentiments on some of their infographics in a vaguely troll-like fashion. I had plans to leave the house within a few minutes of seeing her post. Because internet drama bests my feeble time management skills time and again, I chose to forego brushing my hair and packing my bag for yoga in favor of scanning the recent posts to see what this guy had to say. What I found was a fairly straightforward post from Anatomy in Motion citing some information about TMJ (it didn’t mention massage as a treatment), and a response from someone declaring that massage does not ever help this ever, and that no study has ever shown that it does. Ever. He used some language that didn’t sit well with me. It wasn’t foul-mouthed by any stretch, but he suggested that telling people that massage helps with TMJ dysfunction merely adds to the misinformation that “consumers have to wade through.” I felt a little lumped in with snake oil salesmen. I didn’t like it. I left the house as planned, and when I next looked at the discussion, someone with more time than I (OK, it was Melissa/Anatomy in Motion) had hopped onto PubMed and posted four great quantitative studies demonstrating the effectiveness of massage in treating TMJ dysfunction! Problem solved!

But my wheels had been spinning since I’d left the house. The snake oil association had got me thinking about the way that so many people approach healing, about our reliance on research that we take to be cut and dry, but that rarely is, on the reluctance to trust intuition and give complementary care a fair shake. I appreciate the studies that demonstrate that massage helps people who are suffering from TMJ dysfunction. I look for new research fairly regularly, share it when available, write blog posts promoting new information from time to time. I love that stuff. But I was twelve years old when my jaw first slid out of place and started popping every time I opened my mouth. I’ve had TMJ problems longer than I have not. And, when I pin the clavicular attachment of my SCM and tilt my head to the side, I feel the stretch through my neck, up into my masseter, feel a slow and achy opening in the joint itself. And that matters just as much as any study.

Sometimes, it really can feel like we are wading through information. There is so much we don’t know about the human body. For people who don’t “believe in” or use acupuncture, the meridians and elemental associations sound like mumbo jumbo. For people who don’t know about massage, I imagine talk of trigger points can sound similar. But it’s pretty commonly accepted that massage works on muscles, and muscles act on joints, and it has always made sense to me intuitively, long before I ever had a massage, back when I was just a kid with a cranky, painful jaw, that pressing the muscles could help ease the pain.

When I studied qualitative methods in college, in addition to course work and our main study, we had to submit a reflection paper at the end of the term. I remember vividly hand-drawing a cover (a little juvenile, perhaps, for a college paper, but the word “reflection” was in the assignment, so I guess I kind of went for it). I drew a human form, gingerbread-man-style, arms and legs and head, but empty, and I filled in the body with interlocking puzzle pieces. What I loved about my study, which was entirely interview based, was the idea that, rather than looking at people through the lens of an external hypothesis, I started from an open-ended place and let all data arise from interviews, from the individual. I loved my qualitative methods psych class for the same reason I now love massage: all the answers are within the individual, the pieces fit together always, in a unique and fascinating and way that has something to teach us.

The truth is that much massage research usually relies on both quantitative and qualitative measures, and it legitimizes the field, and it informs techniques, and it is fabulous. My issue is not with research itself, but with people like the man commenting on the TMJ post (and other posts, apparently, that I didn’t catch), who insist that the only effective treatments are those that have been pinned down and scrutinized and documented via quantitative methods. I wish that experience and common sense mattered a little bit more, that feeling a change in a joint, however subtle, was enough to demonstrate effectiveness or, at the very least, to not inspire rage. Massage helps me. It helps my clients. As much as I love research and will continue to use it to try and legitimize the field to nonbelievers, the stories I’ve seen of massage working wonders, however few and however undocumented, are just as important to me.

 

Megan Spence is a Licensed Massage Therapist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She is continually astonished by just how much she loves her work. You can read more about Megan’s adventures in massage and various other things body-related at Bodywork Brooklyn.