woman, with confident smile, who has a happy work life

Do you remember the joy you felt the moment you realized you wanted to become a massage therapist?

Can you recall the exhilaration of buying your first aromatherapy oils and relaxation music? How about the high of setting up your massage table for your first clients? You probably had many fun, exciting moments as you launched your practice — yet, many experienced massage therapists have told me that they no longer find any joy in their workday.

What happened to shift some of us away from having a happy work life in service? As a counselor for 40 years, I’ve learned to honor self-healing that starts at the heart of the issue. Let’s look at the heart of this concern by exploring how low self-esteem, ineffective communication and poverty thinking rob us of our joy.


Before I opened my doors to clients, I experienced Rolfing, spiritual counseling and other somatic bodywork therapies to help me find clarity about my self-worth, and about my personal and professional boundaries. Today, as an ethics and communication instructor at Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy, I help students unravel the unmet needs most of us had before we became therapists. Taking a courageous look at our own unmet needs — such as the desire to be loved and appreciated in our work life, wanting to please everyone, and needing to be our clients’ problem-solver — and how to satisfy those needs outside of our massage office is key to developing self-esteem.

Self-esteem is often defined as being confident in one’s abilities. It also reflects how you feel about yourself. Self-esteem is closely connected to teaching others to treat us with respect. Ask yourself, “Can I speak clearly and compassionately so that others will not take advantage of me?” “Is my self-esteem healthy and strong enough for me to speak from a place of dignity and integrity?”

Affirm each day, “I am enough.” “I have value just as I am.” Affirmations may help you build your self-esteem. If you feel shy about speaking up when you feel mistreated, find a trusted mentor or counselor who can help you learn how to speak with confidence.


Seeking support around difficult decisions in your day is very important for both massage therapy employees and massage therapists in private practice. Sometimes our voices can be heard better if we are supported by mentors, counselors or peer support groups.

A mentor is usually an experienced massage therapist who has been successful in his or her practice. Mentors guide your career process, help you move through difficult workplace situations, and support the development of your personal and professional skills.

A counselor provides one-on-one talk therapy that helps you delve into, explore and resolve unhealed life experiences. A support group can provide a nonjudgmental, compassionate space to share difficult situations that occur during your daily routine. In a supportive circle you can speak the problem, brainstorm about it and come up with creative solutions. A group can help eliminate feelings of isolation.

Within your group you can also share successes and positive things that have happened in your life. Support groups help you build confidence so that you speak from a place of truth and integrity.


Authentic, clear, empathetic and compassionate communication is another important skill we need. I encourage you to explore ways to effectively communicate to your clients, coworkers, employees and families about what you will and will not allow as acceptable behavior in the therapeutic setting and in your life.

A study exploring what makes a successful massage therapy practice, published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork in 2017, reports that effective communication skills were extremely important to building and maintaining a successful massage therapy practice and having a happy work life.

Surveys conducted by MASSAGE Magazine indicate that up to 70% of massage therapists are in private practice. Other therapists work as employees in spas and massage franchises.

Over the years, I have heard therapist friends share feelings of helplessness and anger because they were mistreated by their employer or manager. Fearing conflict in the workplace, they endured insufficient break times between clients, worked long hours, felt disrespected and became overstressed, resulting in emotional and physical harm to themselves. If they did speak out, they feared losing their job and risking financial loss.

For those of us working as massage employees: If you are not happy in your work life and career, take a compassionate look at where you need to grow in self-esteem and self-love. Before you take that job, in the spirit of integrity and self-love, interview your future employer. Does the location support good health for you, your clients and your coworkers? Does the owner or manager understand the needs of massage therapists? Are break times long enough to support healthy self-care for you? Does the management support your personal growth and development?

If you are not satisfied with the answers, keep looking until you find the right fit.

Embrace Abundance and Prosperity

Shift away from poverty thinking, which says there is never enough to go around. “I don’t have enough clients, money or business,” is poverty thinking that attracts clients and colleagues who do not respect your value. Embrace abundance and prosperity thinking.

Begin each day by taking a deep breath and knowing that abundance starts here and being grateful for each breath full of life-giving energy. See abundance all around you in the dewdrops, leaves and grains of sand. Be grateful for the abundance in your practice. You are surrounded by abundance.

Bring Spirit Back to Your Practice

Sometimes knowing there is a greater power in our lives — that is, creative life energy — can ground and center us and help us set our intention for each day. Begin each day with something that uplifts and illuminates your spirit. It could be a mantra, words from a holy book, a quiet walk, a stroll on the beach or breathing in mountain air.

Mindfulness meditation and meditation in movement can also bring your spirit to a place of peace and serenity. To have a happy work life, think and speak words of love, peace and joy.

An Affirmation for You

I love affirmations! They inspire you to use the power of healing, illuminating thoughts and words to transform your life. If you must speak about yourself and others, speak something positive. Think or speak this affirmation upon waking, before sleep or between clients, and notice if you feel lighter and more uplifted afterward:

  • I lovingly take care of myself as I care for others!
  • I take time to breathe, eat healthfully, laugh and enjoy myself as I care for others.
  • I serve today with joy in my heart.
  • Joy radiates through every moment of service I offer today.

If you want to feel more joy in your practice and have a happy work life, begin self-healing around your unmet needs, boost your self-esteem, speak authentically, find a healthy support system, embrace prosperity and abundance, and find ways to illuminate your spirit. Affirm that you serve today with joy in your heart.

About the Author

Vickie D. Torrey, MBA, MHA, LMBT, is a counselor and global instructor in the healing arts. She teaches in Brazil and Costa Rica. She is the author of Joy Bringers: Celebrate the Joy in Each Moment! Torrey offers Joy Bringer Holistic Adventure Retreats internationally and in the U.S.