Massage is one of the most demanding health care professions and will require commitment and dedication if you are to succeed: commitment to your clients and dedication to your own self-care.
Let’s start with self-care. The more you are able to take care of yourself the more you will be able to give to your clients. Here are some things to consider as you start building your clientele. First consider your ideal case load. The majority of massage therapists who suffer from work place injuries and are unable to continue working are injured in their first 2 years of practice and most will suffer from overuse syndromes in the elbows, forearms and wrists. You can prevent these types of injuries from occurring by limiting the number of clients you see in a day. If you are able to work part-time this will give you the opportunity to build up the musculature you will require to manage a full case load later on. If you cannot work part-time consider scheduling longer breaks between clients; and no matter how busy you are always remember to utilize contrast baths daily (or weekly) to mitigate chronic inflammation in your forearms.
Begin going for regular massage at the beginning of your career as a preventative therapy and as a means of networking with (and building relationships) with other therapists. The input and advice you receive from other therapists will be invaluable to you. Are you stuck on a treatment plan? Ask a friend. Having trouble managing a difficult client? Ask a friend. Not sure how to negotiate your contract? Ask a friend. Wondering how to incorporate a new technique into your treatments? Ask a friend. Better yet…offer to massage them and ask for their feedback. Always be on the lookout for therapists you admire who can mentor you; and once you’ve become established in your competencies pay it forward by looking for younger less experienced therapists who need your support.
The best way to serve your clients is to become great at your job. Master the art of performing a thorough intake interview. The more you know about your client’s history, the better able you will be at tailoring your treatments to meet their needs. Ask them if they require a treatment plan; if so re-book them and plan the progression of your treatments accordingly. If they need a referral to another health care provider, give it to them. Learn to communicate with your clients about the role of massage therapy in the treatment and prevention of injuries; the necessity of functional testing in orthopedic injuries; the varied treatment options for short term and long term management of their conditions. The more time you take to educate your patients, the more confident they will become in making health care choices that support their recovery and rehabilitation.
And above all else: maintain your professionalism. Don’t denigrate other health care professions or other professionals; and don’t talk about your clients. There is no room for gossip in a professional health care setting. If you see your co-workers behaving unprofessionally don’t stoop to their level. Change the subject. Leave the room. And if necessary consider changing jobs to one where the business owner does not encourage and engage in those behaviors. Be the change you want to see in the world.