There are Choices - They are Choices;
It's a Choice - Your Choice
An individual’s choice to be a Massage Therapist is not the same. Reasons for entering into this profession varies but they usually all sum up to one: it's wonderful and compassionate. Having that said, all therapist follow the same path initially: application to a school, passing that school, getting through the licensure exam and getting the first job. And then we diverge: some therapist decide to strike it on their own, some decide to work for someone, some specialize on western modalities, and some go eastern. And this is where our journeys become unique along the path. I won’t go into the details, since there are hundreds of disciplines and possibilities, my only emphasis here is that we have unlimited opportunities even in the earliest start of our wonderful and compassionate careers.
So now you have finally finished two grueling years of Massage Therapy School, or a year in some. You've gotten your license, or certification and you hold the title. Or you have been doing the same modality for quite some time. Now, it’s not a choice of you moving forward, but more of your choice of which direction. What now?
Considerations Before Specializing
With the "business" and "financial" aspect aside for now, here are the 10 things to keep in mind when choosing a divergence or specialization:
1. Your performance as a student is not a reflection of how good you are as a Massage Therapist. If you had an A+ in Shiatsu, does not mean you will be in demand for that practice once you graduate! Some of the worst students make the very best Massage Therapists and some of the best students make the very worst ones! Your grades are only a number, what matters most is what your clients think and feel about your treatment.
2. How much and how many you can do can be bases of what type of modality you may specialize! Just because you could massage only two or three, does not mean that it is the only hours of clients you can treat. Stamina, strength and endurance can be developed overtime. A healthy consecutive 5 hours or even 6 a day is possible through continuous practice.
3. Some modalities are required by law to have additional hours and examinations before practice. In the same light as #2: having had experienced 100 or so hours of massage and having been learned in 10 or so modality does not mean that you are "certified" or allowed to practice a certain disciple. Look up which ones are which.
4. Some modality is less stressful, you may want to consider them. If you are good in handling stress, then by all means, learn the more challenging disciplines! You will ALWAYS be under stress! You must learn to manage it! Stress can lead to burnout if not manage properly. How are you supposed to specialize in something if you cannot last in the profession in general!
5. This may be a turning point to reconsider your specialty plan: More strenuous technique means less client per day, easier techniques means, you can do more. In relation to #4: When you start your practice and the clients pour, you will begin to understand what being stressed really is. Your first choice may not be the one for you. The good news is, there is no quota in how many you may learn and how many times to start over again! If you want to stick to your original choice, there is also good news! Your body is a wonderful thing, it can adapt and heal itself, if you learn to maintain it!
6. Remember, whether it's a piece of paper, hundreds of hours of experience, recognition and respect in your chosen specialization is not given, it is earned. Even if you already know the specialty, even if you have been doing it for years, displaying the paper on the wall of your clinic is not enough to get you known for it. Bottom line is... whichever specialty you choose, they require hard work and diligence, before you get known for it!
7. You will never know everything, you cannot learn all things! Be informed, not a know-it-all! There are more than 100 disciplines of bodywork out there, you cannot be an expert on all of them! Isn't it why we specialize? Accept it, it is a fact! Well... you can have two or three if you can, but it won't be easy! How many healthcare specialist do you know advertise two discipline? Right! Not so much!
8. Do not follow the footsteps of your former school mates or anyone for that matter who you think is faring better than you. Following in their footsteps due to a lack of courage and fear of losing your security blanket is an excuse, not a decision. Emulate a mentor who has been successful in the same field of specialization as your choice. Learn closely.
9. There will always be someone out there who is better than you in a particular field, find the ones who are willing to teach. They are usually the older ones in the profession - the senior ones by experience. They are not so caught-up in building a practice, they usually have time to teach an apprentice. Then look back to #8.
10. And remember: No matter what your old fellow student or classmate tells you; No matter what your former Massage Instructors recommend; No matter what other therapists tell you is better; and No matter what your family or friends say - the point is you already know where you belong and where you don’t belong, where you want to be and where you don’t.
Choosing a specialty is not an easy decision. Everyone has some great opinion’s on why you should or shouldn’t do this or that. It is not that I am saying that their opinions mean nothing; I am not saying that my opinions here are the best - but that is just what they are - "theirs" and "mine". You have your own! Be guided by the profession: It is wonderful and compassionate!
Do you remember that moment, once upon a time, when chose to be a massage therapist, or that magical moment when massage therapy chose you? Yes, that moment when you realized that you have "it" - and everything just fall in to place! Dwell a little bit again on that good memory! Now ask yourself: which specialization should I go for? AH-HA!! There is a great chance that you are correct! You will get out of it, what you put into it.
All the best!
- Leo Feraer-Oporto