As a male massage therapist, I empathize with my male colleagues—because with the massage field being about 85% female, male therapists sometimes suffer discrimination.

As a male massage therapist, I empathize with my male colleagues—because with the massage field being about 85% female, male therapists sometimes suffer discrimination.

Over the past decade as an educator, I have had many conversations with male therapists seeking advice on how to be better accepted and trusted by clients. Here are five pro tips to help male massage therapists discover greater success.

1. Provide Massage to Front-Desk Staff

Early in my career, I chose to provide front-desk staff a free hour-long massage to showcase my skills and thank for them for helping me as much as possible with booking clients for me. Once each employee received my massage, they spoke confidently about my skill set and reassured clients I was a professional therapist.

2. Become an Expert

Clients will respect a therapist who speaks in anatomical terms and comes across as an expert in this field. I have discovered most clients are fascinated when I educate them about their musculoskeletal anatomy; most people never attend a formal anatomy course, so they highly value knowledge about the vessel we carry around daily.

There are many specialized certifications a therapist may earn to garner more credibility in our field. These specializations usually augment medical-related massage training. Some examples include training in myofascial release, kinesiology taping, oncology massage, neuromuscular therapy and lymphatic drainage. Additionally, you can become an expert in working with specific musculoskeletal conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and whiplash. Other medical professionals will gladly refer you clients when you are seen as an expert with such clientele.

3. Utilize Tools During Treatments

Utilizing tools and instruments can benefit your practice greatly. For the past decade, many more continuing education classes have highlighted the use of tools. Tools allow the therapist to preserve their hands, digits and forearms; allow one to provide deeper massage application safely; and help a therapist stand out compared with their peers. 

Clients may feel like they are going to a medical or physical therapy office when they see a massage therapist using a myriad of tools. This perception change may help a client feel like you are an expert in your chosen field.

4. Offer Fully Clothed Modalities

Many clients do not feel comfortable removing clothing during a session. Utilizing modalities in which clients remain fully clothed has helped me with those who do not wish to disrobe. Their reason is none of my business, so I will not ask for any justification; I simply inform the client that I can provide one-hour or longer sessions while they remain clothed. This eases the mind of many clients.

I often provide Shiatsu, a Japanese bodywork including pressure and stretching, to stimulate muscles and circulation. I have also used sports massage techniques over clothing. Cranial sacral therapy can be a welcome addition in the same vein, as well as reflexology techniques. 

5. Look in the Mirror

Ultimately, you may have to look in the mirror to understand why some clients feel uncomfortable receiving a massage from you. Here are some aspects of professionalism to self-examine and potentially self-correct:

Demeanor: the manner in which you carry yourself in public. As you stand, walk, approach people and converse with others, do you come across as confident or meek; mature or immature; steadfast or inconstant; approachable or unapproachable?

Dress: People will respond to how you choose to dress. Are your clothes neat or sloppy; pressed or wrinkled; fitting well or obviously not fitting well; clean or unkept?

Hair: People will react to you differently depending upon your hair grooming standards. Is your hair neat or messy; styled or unstyled; long or short? Remember that facial hair may elicit varying reactions. Not everyone favors the appearance of a beard, goatee or colorful hair.

Body language: People will judge you based on your vocabulary. Do you speak with good articulation or do you mumble with words; speak loudly or softly; make inappropriate jokes or clean jokes; use crass language or clean language?

Professionalism: People prefer to receive care from someone with proper communication skills and bedside manner. How a therapist speaks to clients, answers questions fully, actively listens, and tends to client needs are telltale signs of one’s level of professionalism.

About the Author:

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education in Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved continuing education provider. He is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and his articles include “Treatment Planning: Why One-Size-Fits-All Never Works for a Massage Practice.