massage education, Thoughts on the profession

Job Description

The question that often follows “How long have you been doing this?” is: “How do you like this work?”  The answer is pretty easy.  I love it.

I’ve tried several other careers and even done well in a few, yet none of them held my heart and my interest like massage therapy.  This particular work is, for me, a fantastic blend of several different jobs.  I am a massage therapist, which means I am:

A Scientist

It started in school where I did a deep dive into the anatomy of the muscular system, and started on the path to learn more about Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology.  It continues now as I try to connect everything I do with some understanding of the working of the human body, and with information from the latest research I have been reading.  It is my job to be curious, to ask questions and to continue learning and discovering.

A Tradesperson

I learned a skill that I perform with my hands.  After my period of learning and apprenticeship (at the student clinic) I started practicing this skill and I work every day to further perfect and advance my skills.  I have apprentices (students) of my own now, and as I am guiding them through how to work with their hands, I am finding better ways to work with my own.

An Educator

Given the chance and the interest, I will talk to every client about what I notice and what that could mean for their particular body.  I will also take the time to talk through what massage might be able to address and what might need a different kind of support.

A Student

As I said to a client this week, I may be the “expert” in the room on muscles and soft tissue, but each client is the expert on their body.  I am here to learn from them.

An Artist
person with body painting
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Every human, every human body, is unique.  Every day and space that body moves in is unique, so every time a person walks into my office it is the time to create something that never existed before.  Massage does not, for me, happen by formula.  It happens by being completely present in the moment so I can make something new that will never happen the same way again.

I have the opportunity to be all of these things, and sometimes more besides.  This week some asked me, “Have you always been a massage therapist?”  I’ve had lots of occupations, and this is the one that lasts because it pulls in all of those jobs.  It asks the most of myself and give the greatest rewards.

Oncology Massage, S4OM

Report from S4OM

This past weekend was the Society for Oncology Massage’s Healing Summit.  It was a gathering of oncology massage therapists from around the world and a chance to learn from each other and geek out about science, research, and other things that make our practice deeper.

As I did for the last Summit, I arrived a day early so I could take part in the Educators’ Forum.  This is a day-long meeting of people who teach oncology massage, or who are interested in teaching oncology massage.  As I suspected, the day was both inspiring and frustrating.  In the morning, we sat in small groups and I gathered a lot of business inspiration from my colleagues.  They reminded me that creativity is not just the realm of the fine artist, but of every human endeavor.  And collaborative creativity is the finest idea generator of them all.

In the afternoon, we gathered as a larger group and tried to talk through some challenges facing us as educators.  Although nothing was decided, and I am not sure anything will actually get done as a result of those discussions, It was good to see again how much we all share the conviction that what we do is needed, important, and should be held to high standards.  Even if we do often disagree on our definition of “high standards.”

The rest of the weekend I got to be a student again, and learn about radiation therapy, research into massage on cancer pain, and music therapy.  It was wonderful, and I am still buzzing with the information.

Now that I am back at home, going into my office again, my challenge is to translate all of this material into something that will actually benefit clients.  Something beyond the benefit of a knowledgeable and curious therapist.  (Although I still strongly believe a curious therapist does better, more effective work.)

What keeps resonating for me right now is not specific information, but rather more of the feeling.  That unique and energizing feeling of being completely “all in” with what you are doing.  That delight in moving towards the obligations of the day.  It helps that it is Spring in my part of the world, and the colors of the flowering trees are brilliant in the radiant days we are having this week.  My task, my goal, my object now is to carry the dedication and energy all the way through to the next Summit, or the next gathering of like-minded souls.