Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What I was not Taught in Massage School

"Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, stretching the truth, bending over backward, lying down on
the job, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck."

- Samuel Butler    

It is Just Part of the Job!

It still surprise me of how fast the turnover of employees in some of the workplaces I am familiar with. Although therapists have different reasons of leaving and coming back, all of them seemed to summed up to: the dislike of the things that are usually considered part of the job - which they are not expecting to do and they don't want to do. If you might have read my older post last May 24, massage therapy may sound to be the most enjoyable job in the world. Well, the truth is there are many details about massage therapy that I myself do not like so much.

Massage therapy has become one of the most popular career choice in the US. Many is drawn to the field wanting to help people and wanting to have a career where they can make a difference in comparison to having a job where they sit at the desk all day long stooping in front of their PC. What many fails to see are the kind of things that  may appear to not really matter at first! Those little things that we call "just-part-of-the-job" may be the turning point of whether to stay, or not to stay!

Therapist who enter into a new workplace, while leaving or still in the old one usually wants to know only if they can make a good living. But unlike any other career, it depends really more on therapist and his knowledge, talent and ability, than the things that is considered "just-part-of-the-job". And because Massage Therapy provide them with multiple avenues to pursue, at the first sign of difficulty, or uncertainty, they readily pursue a different modality or a different employer all together.

Nobody really tells you these little things about massage therapy that is not so desirable. Most of them are not even taught in massage school. But I can tell you the ones about it, that I myself do not like so much. Perhaps next time you encounter them, you might find them tolerable, just as I did. Time and again, I would have to reiterate, they are my opinion and you don't have to accept them:

1. Massage School is pretty easy compared to what is really out there! You will glide through 1-2 years of school and probably graduate with honors, but you will be surprised that being an awesome student does not equate to being an awesome therapist. You will learn more about yourself once in practice. Difficulties are called difficulties, for that same reason: they are not easy! Whoever said it will be?

2. It can be very exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally, sometimes. Burnout is very real, and in spite of the many lessons of self-care from school - it is not that easy to make the maintenance second nature. You will eventually feel some sort of stress. It is how you manage it that matters.

3. You did not receive a full semester of business and accounting, but you will do a lot of them. Especially if you strike it on your own! And those super detailed neurology, kinesiology and the such, you won't be using them all the time, and in those times that you need to, you will only be scratching the surface of the information since you need to refer your client to a more qualified practitioner once you encounter a complicated case.

4. Dual relationships, transference, counter-transference: they are easy to study but hard to apply. You will get clients that have infatuations toward you, want to go out with you, want to give you special gifts. You will have clients that can and will remind you of close friends and family. You CAN and MAY have the same feelings towards them.There will be emotional and ethical challenges along the way.

5. Some clients don't know how to mind their ethics. They will come in with runny noses, unknown skin conditions, body odor: special mention smelly feet and strong perfumes, dirty hair and so much more no-nos and icky things. They will expect you to touch them! You are educated in these conditions but not on how to handle the feelings associated with it!

6. Your techniques and ethics are challenged more by male clients than females. Male clients grow more hair everywhere and allover, they have heavier musculature and denser tissue, they physiologically have more sweat glands hence more body odor and of course, erections do happens. Male clients also do weirder things like ejaculate on tables, into towels, ask for happy endings, mess up your sheets and will challenge your boundaries!

7. Speaking of towels and sheets: you will need to know how to wash dry and fold them, specially the fitted ones. And if you are striking it on your own, you will do a lot of laundry! Lots of it! Sometimes in a wellness clinic or in a spa, you might be oblige to help with doing them when there is a shortage of linens or staff!

8. Tons of grooming both physical and ethical: In a professional relationship, hygiene and ethics, go both ways: i.e. you will need to trim your nails really short, you need to be clean and be odor-free, your hair tied, your room and sheets clean, your manners minded, etc.

9. Writing, keeping and storing progress notes and medical records. Did you remember a lesson about this? You usually learn "some" of them during your school internship, or probably during your first job. By law, massage therapists are required to keep, update and store them! Laws vary by state. Check your local jurisdiction of practice. Speaking of law, do you remember a lesson about it? Not much. Right?

10. A perfect way of choosing a specialization, if you have to or need to, will never be taught by anyone. You probably have a taste of at least 5 of them during your formal education, another 5 during your practice. There are about 100 of them, and your  lifetime is not enough to learn and master all of them. Even if you can, it will not be productive and a such as waste of  money since learning about them is not free. If you have to specialize, or just want to, you have to have an informed choice.

If you are faced with these challenges at work, do you avoid them and look for a better one? Do you wish someone have taught and told you about these little things before becoming a Massage Therapist? Little things called "part-of-the-job" are usually the first to be considered when leaving an old job and the last ones when looking for a new one. These little things can invoke emotions when facing a professional decision, so do remember that these "little" things are manageable, acceptable and not that difficult. Sometimes, the little difficulties that come as part of your job, is what really makes your job challenging and worthwhile. Before jumping into another one, hang in there for a while! The things you overcome is what makes you stronger!

- Leo Feraer-Oporto     

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