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

Tips and Accepting Them

There are many ways for a gift to be given: under a tree, at a party, in the driveway…but there is always some level of trepidation for receiving gifts, especially for me in my professional life.

I am a Licensed Massage Therapist.  There are several images that come to mind and situations where massage therapists are part of a personal health or mental regimen for a client/patient that make the MT a facilitator or procurer of better health.  There are also positions in which massage therapists are considered, for all technical purposes, healthcare providers, like in a rehabilitative or preventative sense.

Although I do not advertise that I either accept or don’t accept gratuities offered following a massage therapy session that I facilitate for my paying or non-paying client/patient, I am often confronted with what is to me, from a business standpoint, an awkward situation: receiving a tip.  To receive or not to receive?

If I accept, will it become a regular thing for this client to tip?  Well, I think I first have to ask – is this something that this client normally does (or doesn’t do, in the case this situation never happens with this client)?  I never assume that it is a habit, and much less a habit that I will strive to hope or see happen in the future – if I do, then I will be “working for tips,” which is not in my work ethic.  I charge a fair price for services rendered and only expect payment for the service as agreed upon with my client/patient.  So, what’s next?

Is this tip the result of a Pavlovian behavior pattern?  In other words: is the client/patient used to tipping massage therapists or any service professional?  Is this a behavior I want to encourage by setting a precedent of accepting the tip?

After I have decided on the nature of the tip and whether or not I should accept it without question or challenge, it may seem like the end of the story.  But let’s dive a little deeper…

Are massage therapists considered service professionals or healthcare professionals?  They are each to each clients’ needs.  If a massage therapist serves a “relaxation” purpose, or the clients’ expectations are for “relaxation” – usually resolve for a mentally-stressful situation – then I see a massage therapist as a service professional.  If the purpose is to rehabilitate, prevent, or maintain good health (like in a program), then I see a massage therapist as a healthcare professional.

Next question: is it appropriate to tip service professionals?  Yes, societal practice and situational results encourage a sense of gratitude that is often expressed in an economic transaction – the tip: that “extra” money/gift that is given to the provider for a job done “above and beyond” the regular price paid.

Is it appropriate to tip healthcare professionals? Not always – In my experience, other-than-massage-therapist healthcare professionals focus on the altruistic nature of their work and may not consider their service to be qualified to establish an “above and beyond” ability that “service-oriented” professions often make a goal and, thus, do not expect the same behavior from their patients.  I might even go out on a limb and say that Tipping may be perceived as a capitalistic behavior and that healthcare (from an individual healthcare professional’s viewpoint) is not as capitalistic in nature.

This classification massage therapists playing the role of service or healthcare provider is a complicated one, but to me, and for the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the classifications have made a distinction in the nature of the compensation given by the client/patient.  There are certainly different roles, like each of these, that indeed a single massage therapist can fulfill.

Tipping sends a message: I appreciate you, professionally: more than you’re charging me.  When these messages are not clear is when the tipping conversation/questions comes up: I don’t know if I should tip you or not, so I will to be safe (socially-speaking); I expect a tip because I “always” give extraordinary service (from the service provider’s viewpoint); or, I do not tip my doctor so why should I tip you (or expect a tip, from a healthcare provider’s viewpoint)?

My policy, no matter if I’m playing the role of service or healthcare provider, has always been “Tips are never expected, but always appreciated.”

Do you want to refuse a tip more than once? – you can be a staunch supporter of the work ethic that says: it’s too weird to accept more pay that I have already agreed to.  There are boundary issues that may be important to you to avoid with the implication that a client/patient may gain some “advantage” in the client-patient/therapist relationship.  I suspect that that is the main reason for healthcare providers’ “no tipping” policies, and definitely respect it.

Do you want to have a “no tipping” policy?  – do you make it clear, prior to the session, that “tips are not accepted”?  This may precipitate a rogue tipper or two (to actually tip, despite policy), but that would be the most-professional (and likely –effective) way to create the expectation of your client/patient.

In my practice, I do not speak of tipping – when asked, I state my policy “never expected, always appreciated”…so why do I “not talk about tipping”?  I believe it is a personal choice, and not one that I have or want control over.  When I am offered, I accept based on the role I am playing: service or healthcare provider, and often after I have refused.

Here are a couple of examples of my First Refusal:

  • “Thank you so much for the thought: I really appreciate it, but why don’t you use it for your next massage [or a massage package] – when do you want your next massage?”
  • “Thank you so much – tips are not necessary.  I appreciate your commitment to massage therapy – may we apply that to your next massage?”

Here a couple ways I practice humility when receiving a tip after refusing it once:

  • “Thank you so much for your tip – I will be donating this to [name of cause]__________ as part of my contribution to community/non-profit activities that I believe in.”
  • “Thank you so much for your tip – I will be investing in furthering my expertise in massage therapy for you and all of my clients/patients in ____________________ class I’m registering for [soon].”

I think to refuse a tip offered more than once would be insulting to the client/patient and would also be a form of self-sabotage: to not consider that I am good enough to be paid “more than” what I am charging.  Obviously, that client/patient thinks I should be charging more than I am for my service/healthcare.

If you don’t like accepting tips, why not consider increasing your pricing?  That may be the message you are hearing but not heeding.

If you like accepting tips, the excellent service you provide daily may go unnoticed by some (and already-expected by some) and greatly-noticed and appreciated by others – “Up” your game by trying new customer service techniques that not only set you apart from other practices, but also put you in a class of your own.

Where do you stand on tipping/gratuities?  “To Tip”, or “Not To Tip”?

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

******

I still don’t know what I was waiting for

And my time was running wild

A million dead-end streets

Every time I thought I’d got it made

It seemed the taste

Was not so sweet

David Bowie

 

I’m sitting here at the Toyota dealership, waiting for two hours while they change the oil in my trusty ride. I’m four days out from Young Thumbs Posting Day, which is about ten days behind schedule, according to my manic brain calendar.

I’m not implying that YTPD is a dread-inducing event. To the contrary, the opportunity for catharsis is of immeasurable value to me (and hopefully to you, too!). I’ve just been busy on a few fronts: some good, some shitty, some personal and off-limits, and some made up of an enticing blend of personal-meets-professional-meets-business-meets-art-meets-community-meets-fun-meets-good-great-awesome! Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Friends and lovers, I am starting my own damn business. I view this as a huge step for your humble narrator, because although I’ve been e-pubbing, hanging out on the faceplace, and grading online continuing education quizzes at ConfidentMassage.com for a solid year or more, that stuff has all been virtual, and safely nestled within the protective cocoon of distance and quasi-anonymity that shields one from taunts predicated on shoddy off-time grooming habits and cheesy jammy-sportin’. Now things are gettin’ really, really, real.

 

When it’s all too late

It’s all too late

Change

You can change

Tears For Fears

 

A brick-and-mortar spa biz of my very own. A small enterprise; a nugget, if you will. A special space designed to my own specifications, with a service menu to match. A creation I’ve been dreaming of for years, kept sitting on its shelf, aging like a fine wine or cheese, until playing it safe was no longer safe, and I was ready to identify and seek out the optimal conditions to prepare for lift-off.

10…9…8…7…

 

 

Fear is a self-defeating emotion. I am not afraid of challenges, but I am aware. I am aware that entering into a living, breathing building – no, community – full of creative people and strong personalities can come with an adjustment period, and that the interpersonal unknowns and complications that come from interacting with any group of humans can be interesting, to say the least. But shit, this happens every time I start a new job, or meet a new client! I got this!

6…5…4…

 

We’re tribal companions, you and I. I hope I can rely on support from my usual, trusted sources, and I look forward to finding support in new and unexpected places. Looking back to the very first Young Thumbs post on putting your authentic self out there, naked and exposed, feedback be damned, the words ring just as true in this situation. I’m honing my schedule, and reallocating assets like time, energy, and brain space. If you’re not on board, someone else wants your seat. Kindly make room, and thanks.

3…2…

 

 

This journey began for me 30-something years ago, blanketed in the warmth of parental love and healthy touch. Today the caravan includes my supportive spouse, who has done more to fire up the engines on this small business adventure than I thought possible, exceeding my expectations in every way. And you’re here too! I will do my best to make you all proud! Please stay tuned, and for chrissakes, if you get the impression that I don’t have as much free time to spend with you as I used to, come find me in the construction zone that is now my office. We’ll drink hot beverages on overturned paint buckets and catch up.

1… . . .

 

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

******

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.

Between Science and Woo: My Hospital Adventure

I work in a little-bitty clinic, basically a storefront, filled with donated furniture, ugly carpeting, and a whole lot of love. It’s a casual kind of place. But recently I left work early wearing a suit and heels, to head to the biggest, fanciest, best-known hospital in town: The Cleveland Clinic.

Why was a very junior massage therapist from a very tiny organization visiting a hospital with its own zip code? (44195, I’m not making this up!) I was attending an informational session about their Healing Services program. While the program makes use of massage, it is not organized by massage therapists. Maybe that’s why they’ve managed to sidestep the ongoing battle in the massage world between the forces of Science and Woo.

On one hand, there are the folks who like to talk about evidence, efficacy, and therapeutic outcomes. These are often the same folks who push for massage in he world of healthcare. On the other side of the divide are the people who prefer to base their practice off of their own intuition and experience, and may or may not incorporate energy work into what they do. These folks are perfectly happy to get the results that they get, and aren’t necessarily concerned with whether or not they can chart their results objectively or pass peer review.

As massage therapists, we’re familiar with this dynamic. So what are the factors that allow one of the biggest names in healthcare to incorporate massage, Reiki, guided imagery, aromatherapy, meditation, Healing Touch, counseling, and a hodgepodge of other techniques into one coherent program?

The first is the distinction between Healing Services and other departments. When your work falls under “patient experience” and “spiritual care,” what’s the goal? That the patient feels cared for. In that context, there’s no doubt at all that each of these techniques can be equally valid, depending on the preferences of the patient.

The second is the question of billing. Massage and other offerings available through Healing Services, which are open to patients, families, and staff, are not billed for the way a rehabilitation-focused massage might be. The forms for notetaking are different, so a person offering Reiki, for example, isn’t limited to just checking a box labeled “emotional support.” This allows for greater freedom in modality while still tracking the results that matter most with in the context of the program.

The third has to do with money. The Cleveland Clinic has sufficient funding to offer these services at no charge, because it is only a small piece of what they do. When money is being exchanged for treatment, there are ethical questions about whether or not something  has been shown to have an effect. But in the model being used at the Clinic, the only important factor is the individual’s subjective experience. Given that reimbursement for services will soon be tied to positive patient experiences, this still makes financial sense.

I don’t know whether the various factions in the massage therapy community will manage to find a place of unity anytime in the future. But it is reassuring to know that there is a place where nurses, chaplains, and yes, massage therapists and energy workers of all kinds can come together and find a little patch of common ground. That it’s happening in such a prestigious place is an added bonus. Maybe if we take a step back from wanting our faction to be all things to all people, we can find the niche where we’re most effective, and learn to work together towards a healthier, happier world.

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.

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.

Evolving Roles

When I first decided to become a massage therapist, I didn’t think about what kinds of roles I wanted to play in the massage world. I was going to give kick-butt massages, and maybe write about it on the side. Wasn’t that basically what everyone in massage school planned to do?

But the more time I spend as a part of the massage community, the more aware I become of the huge variety of roles massage therapists play:

  • business owner
  • community health educator
  • teacher
  • author
  • researcher
  • volunteer
  • mentor
  • retailer
  • organizer

Superhero belongs on this list too.

These are only the very beginning, and yet we rarely talk massage therapists about the many paths of service that are open to them. Why?

Of the roles I’ve taken on since becoming a part of the massage therapy community, the one that took me most by surprise is student advocate. It occurred as a side effect of blogging while still in massage school; I felt obligated to stand up for myself and my fellow students, to remind the world that we were no less an important part of the massage world than those who had long since left their school days behind. Whether we like it or not, today’s students are the future of the profession. In my role as their staunch supporter, I feel that I owe it to us all to make sure that they enter the professional world with the very best we have to offer.

Part of this means helping students to move forward through their educations with open eyes, knowing what kinds of roles they might take on in their careers, and what shoes they might someday have to fill. This knowledge can affect not only their educational choices, but their aspirations and level of connection to the field.

The next time someone asks you about your experience as a massage therapist, take just a minute to step beyond the clients and the daily laundry, and outline the other roles that you and those around you have taken on over the years.

You might be surprised and find that you’re more than you think you are. Open up the doors and show people the wider vistas of what a massage therapist can truly accomplish in this world. It’s a beautiful view. Why not let everyone know?

 

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: gorickjones via photo pin cc