“Thoughts from the Road”
Headed into 2018
Pete Whitridge BA, LMT
Welcome to the NEW YEAR! I hope this finds you healthy and happy as we begin 2018. I have been on the road extensively over the past two years. I had the honor to teach at the AMTA National Convention in Pasadena, CA this past September. I taught at various AMTA state conferences around the country and traveled around Florida in my little camper during a very busy 2017 “renewal rush” ending on August 31. On a more personal note, Lee and I are celebrating our 35th year together and feel grateful to love each other more and more! We feel happy to be part of the FSM community and wish you a healthy and abundant New Year.
Certain professional themes have recurred in research and conversation as I’ve traveled around the country. I’d like to examine a couple of them in this article: career longevity and the importance of touch in medical settings. I’ve watched the development of our field being undermined by the introduction of massage franchises and large corporate school chains to our professional landscape. When I graduated from massage school in 1988, there were very few states that regulated massage therapy and less than 100 schools of massage around the country. Now we have a massage therapy landscape populated by well over 850 schools of massage and thousands of massage franchises competing with single owner massage centers. The profession has grown in quantity but from what I’ve observed, not necessarily in quality.
When I’m traveling around the country teaching I wonder: how do we compete in this crowded marketplace and still maintain the HEART of our work? How long can we practice massage without getting stale or burned out from all that therapy? Is there a way to thrive with all this competition? Here are some thoughts that may help you feel more inspired and motivated as we head into 2018.
Career longevity depends upon your own ability to stay balanced and healthy in all aspects of your life. Make 2018 a time to focus more on your own health and wellbeing so that you can bring more vitality to your care of your clients. Receive more massage, participate in a movement class, dance, take a walk, watch the sunset, find a new and novel activity that brings you into greater connection to your own body and needs. Become more aware of your body mechanics during your sessions. If you hurt your hands, strain your elbows and generally create a stressful work routine how will you be able to help the people who love and need your skilled touch? I encourage you to spend time enhancing your own health and wellness in this next year ahead.
I suggest you use some of your massage time as professional development time. Receive a few massages from other local or regional therapists. Keep receipts, take notes and pictures to remind you of the environment and decor of the therapy center. Log your impressions and evaluate if you would see that person again, and why. This is basic market analysis that you can expense as market research on your taxes. This simple step will help you be a better therapist. You will get new ideas, see the inside of another therapist’s room and you will have gotten touched. This might lead you to examining your own practice and what you are doing at the table. Professional development could also include taking a break for a class or series of classes that reinvigorate your own life and practice.
Treat your clients to simple comforts like a heated mattress pad, hot packs and neck pillows. In most of my classes students see me adding a pillow under the neck and comment, “I should do that.” When I put an eye pillow over the eyes to block out light, clients seem to slip into the parasympathetic dominance quickly. These are small touches which help to make your treatments special and memorable. Clients become repeat clients because they know you care about their wellbeing, that you offer skilled, caring touch that isn’t available at the franchise shop. Take steps now to create a deeper connection with your current clients. You might add time to their treatments occasionally as a thank you for being a loyal customer, perhaps in recognition of their birthday or anniversary of becoming a client. If possible, you might add some rest time after a treatment so that the client can stay on the table without having to jump up and leave immediately. Encourage them to use their massage as a health and wellness practice. It’s time to juice up your practice for the New Year and into the future.
Touch in the medical setting is becoming more important than ever. Our population is aging and requesting more touch and less heroic care. This was one of the topics explored at the most recent conference presented by the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), the nonprofit research branch of our profession. One panel discussion focused on the identified need for highly skilled touch therapists in healthcare settings (hospitals, rehab settings, and palliative care) and the lack of well-trained individuals to meet the need. It is always amazing to be around such thoughtful and thought provoking conversations, presentations, and panel discussions. I hope to inspire each of you to stretch your practice, stretch your bodies and your minds by attending these important gatherings. Scientists, therapists and educators from around the globe present and attend these events, the food is health aware, and the tribe is growing. I’d like to encourage you to support the MTF with your donations and by reading the International Journal of Massage and Therapeutic Bodywork (IJMTB.) The MTF offers the opportunity to enter clinical practice report contests and to apply for community service and research grants. Most importantly you’ll be able to apply the knowledge you learn from these resources to keep your practice vital.
Pain relief, better sleep, reduction in anxiety, and wellbeing are affective outcomes for any massage but especially in settings where clients need less of everything – less pressure, less treatment time, less jostling and kneading. Every hospital in America surveys their patient population and massage therapy is always high on the requested list but there is a clear gap in hiring people with the required skills and knowledge. Are you skilled enough to navigate the actual hospital bed to provide an excellent treatment to a frail client? Maybe it’s time to break out of your routine and try a new area of care. There are a variety of excellent trainings in Oncology, Hospital Based, and Palliative Care massage. Is it time to add a new specialty to your practice?
Your business is a vehicle to enjoy your life and take deductible expenses that increase your skills and marketability. The IRS allows you to take deductions for continuing professional education. Perhaps it is time to return to the source, the place you found your inner therapist, the Florida School of Massage. Gainesville is a great place to use as a personal retreat and recharge device. Consider joining me in February for my Myofascial Components of Neck and Shoulder Pain workshop. We will focus on helping you slow down your work to help people with pain. I will review much of the current pain science and help you integrate this knowledge into your practice. Clients need your skilled touch for maintaining their health and wellness. Come recharge yourself so you can recharge your practice. I hope you will continue to enjoy your practice as much as I do!
I hope to see you in February. To register for this workshop, contact Lee Whitridge at: email@example.com or call 772.979.5828.
With love and gratitude