While growing up and before going to massage school, I was one of those folks who did the free shoulder, neck and hand massages for friends and family. It probably started when I was a child by rubbing my grandmother’s shoulders as she worked late into the night at her desk over some writing project or another. Later, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I took an elective course in school, Relaxation Therapy, in which we learned how to do basic massage of the hands, feet, and face. The instructor, Marcia Kass, who had also been my 5th grade teacher, was a massage therapist in her off-hours and would give shoulder massages to anyone who wanted one during recess. Kass also taught us yoga and guided meditation on Friday afternoons. Without knowing it, she also planted a seed in me for a successful healing arts career.
But before I decided to become a massage therapist, my life was pretty unsettled. I was living in a ski resort in Colorado with my boyfriend, freezing my butt off and going broke. I was really depressed, extremely homesick and slowly recovering from the unexpected death of my mother. I can’t say my life was aimless, but I felt somewhat lost and without a real purpose.
At the same time, I began suffering from constant chronic abdominal pain that found no relief through medication or surgery. The surgeon actually told me that since they couldn’t find an obvious cause for my pain, it must just be in my head. I was devastated.
Thankfully, one of my good friends suggested I try acupuncture. Though I was one hundred percent skeptical about how getting stuck with needles could be anything but a sham, it actually helped my pain tremendously and I became an ardent believer in its effectiveness.
Soon after, I discovered I could manage my overall stress and pain quite well by getting massages. Little by little, I realized I had found my calling and decided to become a massage therapist so I could help other people feel better. I knew how frustrating it was to feel I had no options for getting relief from the pain and stress in my body and wanted to show my clients that they did have multiple resources besides traditional medicine in managing their stress management and pain relief.
I’ve been in practice since 1994, quite a few years longer than I originally planned for my career. What keeps in practice after all these years comes down to a few things, all of which I suggest you have if you want to enjoy a long career in any area of the healing or service arts:
- I truly love helping others. I thrive on positive feedback. One of the biggest motivators for me staying in this business for so long is the knowledge that I truly make a difference in my clients’ lives as well as the way they feel during and after the time I see them. How many people get to say that about their job?
- I only work with clients I love so that every day and session is a joy. My clients educate, energize and engage me in a way I would have never expected when I began this career. Some days I feel like I should be paying them!
- I know my limitations. I see fewer clients now than I did in the beginning of my career and am not afraid to say “no” when I need to. I take time off when I feel it is important for my health or well-being and take care of my own needs as well as that of my clients.
- I’ve diversified my work. For most people this might mean offering different modalities of massage, but for me it means doing other things to earn money like teaching, writing, speaking and consulting in the massage and spa industries. As these other areas have grown more and more prosperous and rewarding over time, it has been easy to reduce my massage work-load and stay in the business. I still see a few clients every week and can enjoy each appointment much more than when I had a full book of appointments.
- I’ve created an environment of healing around me. Whatever your reasons for becoming a massage therapist, it’s also important to find the type of work or workplace(s) you fit and that fit you. Find your niche and the way you are most happy working whether that is in your own office, in a spa or medical office, doing outcalls or just part-time out of your house.
If you truly love going to work every day like I do and know the reasons you are doing it, it will be easy to stay with this or any profession for a very long time.
Felicia Brown is the author of Free & Easy Ways to Promote Your Massage, Spa & Wellness Business: Volume 1 and The Sunflower Princess: A Healing Fairy Tale. She is passionate about inspiring others by sharing her knowledge and experiences so they may become successful in all of their endeavors. Felicia also owns A to Zen Massage (www.AtoZenMassage.com) – a wellness spa – and Spalutions (www.Spalutions.com) through which she provides business and marketing coaching to spa and wellness professionals.