To maintain and renew your license, you have to take massage continuing education courses—but CEs aren’t just what allow you to keep working as a massage therapist.

Continuing education can build and boost your business and widen your horizons. Take a look at how you can use continuing education to enhance your massage therapy practice:

Expand knowledge and skills

“Continuing your education as a therapist keeps you up-to-date on the newest modalities clients are looking for,” said Brooke Riley, a massage therapist who is also an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a nationwide family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.

“Each client coming in has their own reasoning for getting massage,” she adds. “By continuing your education after massage school, you widen your knowledge and allow for a more customized massage for each client.”

Maya Reeves, a licensed massage therapist, skin care therapist, and regional massage therapist trainer for Massage Heights in Austin, Texas, agrees.

“I have always found it important to expand my field of knowledge to help as wide a demographic of clients as possible,” she said. “Our understanding of the human body and how it functions is growing daily. I feel it is part of my commitment to my clients to improve my skill set in order to fully address their changing needs.”

With new knowledge about the human body updating continuously, Reeves thinks taking continuing education courses in anatomy and physiology is always a good bet. And doing coursework in current or up-and-coming trends, such as cupping and hemp/CBD, is also a good investment, she said.

If you’re not sure what’s trendy, follow hashtags for wellness and self-care on social media, she recommends.

Taking CE training courses in favorites such as deep tissue and Swedish massage is never a bad choice, either, because these are always popular modalities with clients, said Riley. However, in order to keep yourself from getting bored and to offer clients something new, look to expand your horizons, she said – and not just from a modality point of view.

“Getting more education on business development and communication is huge and what most therapists forget to learn more about,” she said. A lot of times, therapists tend to focus on learning more about their trade – new movements or modalities – but don’t really get to know how to run their business and how to communicate with their clients.

“When you know how to run a business and market a business the business has a stronger chance of surviving,” she said. “Let’s face it: There are a lot of massage businesses out there and knowing how to run a business can help you stand out from the crowd.”

Being able to effectively communicate with clients is critical to running a business, she notes. “Communication is something we take for granted and most of us think we communicate well, she said, but that’s not necessarily so.

Taking continuing education courses that teach how to communicate well boosts your chances of getting your clients to understand the importance of regular massage therapy and to schedule regular appointments.

“Being able to clearly communicate with clients is very important,” said Reeves. “Taking a class on communication skills is definitely money well spent.”  

Widen your horizons

You can always take traditional continuing education courses, but there are many ways you can continue your education, some that provide actual course credits and some that are just a great way to widen your horizons, said Reeves and Riley.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, online training is popular right now, said Riley, but it’s a convenience that’s good any time, and may give you access to subject matter that you can’t find in your local area.

In non-pandemic times, attending conferences is a great way to get continuing education, Riley noted. Most massage therapy conferences offer multiple training courses to attend during the conference.

“You can choose the areas you want to learn more about all in one place,” she said, and network, which can lead to learning opportunities you didn’t know about or hadn’t really considered before and land you a great mentor.

A continuing education option that Riley is looking forward to in the future is to enroll in destination CE courses. “One of my favorites (continue education options) and a part of my personal growth I have planned for my continuing education in the future is to travel with a CE provider to an exotic location like Thailand,” she said. “To be immersed in the culture and learn would be amazing.”

But continuing your education doesn’t have to be so grand or cost a lot of money, said Reeves. “We live in an amazing time with a world of information at our fingertips,” she said. She has used free online CE courses offered through her insurance company and she subscribes to massage and spa magazines, which offer a ton of useful educational materials.

She is also a member of several massage and bodywork professional organizations, which offer a plethora of educational resources and keep her in the know about trends to keep an eye on. “Watching trends lets me know where I should invest my educational budget,” she said.

Riley notes that massage therapists can find many educational resources on YouTube for free. You can learn a technique from watching a video then practice it on colleagues, friends or family before you use it on clients, she said.

And look to local colleges and universities for business development-type courses, she said. These types of courses can help grow a massage business.

Not to be underestimated is the knowledge and experience of your peers and colleagues if you work in a spa setting, she said. “Working in a spa with other therapists can lead to great training between coworkers.”

And don’t forget that by immersing yourself in continuously learning, you may end up finding a new specialty or style that becomes your passion, she said.

About the Author:

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.