How To Choose Continuing Education
Continuing education has become big business in
the massage industry. More states are requiring that massage therapists
be licensed or pass a national certification test, with continuing-education
units (CEUs) part of the re-licensing or re-certification process.
Some massage therapists look for certification in certain areas,
such as medical massage or spa techniques, to add to their professional
status in a growing field. Professional organizations for massage
therapists usually require that members complete a certain number
of continuing-education hours. And many massage therapists keep
themselves refreshed and their clients coming back by regularly
learning new massage techniques.
Since we are spending a good portion of our income
for continuing education, how can we make sure we are spending it
wisely? How can we best avoid a disappointing experience? Here are
some tips to consider before laying money down.
First, pay attention to the CEU requirements for
each license, certification and organization. To get organized,
keep an updated list of each, including the date by which you must
renew, and the hours and topics of CEUs required. You may find that
one training can satisfy the requirements for several things. For
instance, ethics or CPR may be required by both your national certification
and your state license—so one class will help to meet both.
As you complete each requirement, check it off your list and keep
a copy of your certificate of attendance. You will probably have
to provide this documentation when you renew.
Think about your learning style. Do you learn
best by listening, doing or reading? Do you like to learning from
a video or DVD, so that you can view a technique over and over again?
Are you shy about using something you’ve learned unless you’ve
had hands-on training with an instructor by your side? Do you mind
if you are in a group of 200, watching an instructor on a video
screen far away at the front of an auditorium? Do you like to read
a book with illustrations and photographs? Continuing education
for massage therapists is available in all these forms. The key
is to sign up for what works best for you, so that you will transfer
what you’ve learned into your session room as much as possible.
For me, craning my neck in a crowded convention room to see someone
on a platform at the front doesn’t teach me much. Peg your
own learning style, and select a course that matches you.
If you want to attend a class with a live instructor,
check out her experience and qualifications as well as how she sets
up her training sessions. Has the instructor taught regularly on
the topic? Does she offer handouts to participants? Is there a question-and-answer
time for those who need additional help with technique? Does the
instructor limit her class to a certain number of people? Are you
expected to take a table and linens with you? Knowing the answer
to these and similar questions will help you know what to expect
and how to prepare.
It is possible to earn CEUs by viewing videotapes
or DVDs, or by completing online training. Look for instructions
about completing the course in order to get your documentation;
you may need to take a written test, send documentation of practice
sessions, or complete an online quiz. For online courses, ask if
there is a sample module that you can work through, to see if you
like the course and style of instruction.
Make sure you can find a live person at the company
who can answer questions and take care of any potential snarls.
Consider whether your budget will allow you to
travel, and if so, whether you want to make a trip part learning,
part vacation. Several companies now offer CEUs on ships, in foreign
countries, or at resorts in the United States. Usually, a portion
of the day is spent in class, with the rest being free time. This
is a great way to combine learning with recreation, and can be a
tax benefit for those who are self-employed. But you may decide
that when you’re on vacation, you really want totally away
from thinking about your work. In that case, the combination trips
won’t work well for you, as you’ll feel torn between
work and play.
Always ask about cancellation fees, especially
when a trip is involved. Can you get a total refund if Aunt Minnie
falls and needs your help at home? Will the company charge a cancellation
fee? How close to the date can you cancel without penalty? Are travel
costs such as plane tickets refundable?
When considering the cost of a CEU course, add
in all costs, including income lost when you are away from your
practice. Most massage therapists don’t get paid when they
aren’t working, either in self-employed or spa situations.
So, the true cost of your training is the registration fee, your
travel, and the amount of income you will lose by being away from
work. This may make a shorter course, or one located closer to you,
If you need CEUs that are approved by a certifying
organization, make sure that what you sign up to take has that approval.
Otherwise, you may complete many hours only to find they were never
approved by the organization and cannot be used.
Finally, make sure that you are interested in
what you’ve sign up for. If you just want to check something
out, consider a two- or three-hour overview at a conference or convention
first, and then sign up for a longer course if you are intrigued
with what you saw. Signing up for something only because it is close
or cheap doesn’t serve you. You may check off a requirement,
but you won’t take anything home to use. Good massage involves
not just our hands, but also our spirits—so don’t go
somewhere in body and leave the rest of you behind.
At A Glance 7 Tips for Choosing
1. Pay attention to the continuing-education
unit (CEU) requirements for your license, certifications and
2. Make sure courses you take are approved
or will pass muster by your licensing board or certifying
3. Know what style of instruction works
best for you and select courses that match.
4. Check out an instructor’s training
experience, qualificationsand style.
5. Make sure you understand the completion
requirements for correspondence courses, training DVDs and
6. Establish a CEU budget for yourself and
find courses that meet your requirements and stay within your
7. Understand cancellation deadlines and
fees before you sign up.
— Sue Painter, L.M.T., is the owner
of the Touch Therapy Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sue practices
massage and coaches other practitioners in customer service and