The people who run massage educational programs were as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as anyone else, on personal and professional levels.

The people who run massage educational programs were as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as anyone else, on personal and professional levels.

Many schools’ in-person learning was closed, just as practices had to shut down for long periods of time. Yet massage education continued, with school owners, administrators, educators and students not just reacting, but turning on a dime to keep massage education alive. This dedication and hard work has paid off in many new ways of teaching and reaching students.

Leaders of 10 massage schools describe how they met the challenges of the pandemic with new technology—and new viewpoints on their role as guardians of the massage industry’s future—and share how the changes made in the last year-and-a-half will inform massage education going forward.

Technology Has Changed Our Field

Samantha Snair Yancey
Samantha Snair Yancey, Faculty, Atlanta School of Massage, Atlanta, Georgia

There is a world of difference between my experience in massage school in 2003 versus the students I teach today in 2021. A big contributing factor to the juxtaposition lies in technological advances. In a lot of ways, technology has made the massage therapy industry much easier to navigate—but at times it can also make it tricky.

Over the last few decades, the need for a massage therapist to have an internet presence has become almost mandatory. Most schools have updated curriculum with the times and have begun using digital educational platforms. Zoom use during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic reflected this.

As a student, the invention of smart devices allows for education on the go; learning can be done practically anywhere. It does not stop with curriculum. Online sources for pathologies, medications and research studies are accessible to anyone with internet access and a smart device. Being informed and knowledgeable about any subject has become much easier and it makes the several books I carried around seem archaic when now, only a phone is needed.

Education is just one area that has changed. When I think back after my graduation and the daunting tasks related to launching a marketing platform for my business, I cannot help but laugh at the almost absurdity how simple and how free creating a social media page can be. Social media can be just as effective or detrimental as word-of-mouth advertising. Just because it’s free does not mean it is not powerful.

Now, we also have cost-effective booking systems that give you a website, drag-and-click SOAP notes and HIPAA-compliant documentation storage, and also have the audacity to allow clients to book and pay online without spending that time on the phone. I remember having to call back clients when they left a message during a massage and pulling out the planner to check my availability.

I remember having the only options of either getting a card reader or being paid in cash or check. Most of my recent graduates do not even need a card swiper, as most clients have some form of payment app.

As someone caught between Gen X and the Millennials, I see how technological advances to our industry have been a benefit. However, I also see how change comes with a price. Speaking as an educator, we are charged with bolstering our students’ interpersonal skills—skills that are lacking due to digital communication—and teaching students which information sources they can trust. HIPAA compliance, ethics and plagiarism have always been slippery slopes for some. It is also important to note that just because the information is out there for anyone does not mean that everyone is curious enough to learn it.

Lastly, as we get swept up in the ease and convenience technological advances have brought, we must remember that not everyone is tech-savvy. It is crucial that we accommodate all levels of digital and tech comfortabilities.

Samantha Snair Yancey, LMT, BCTMB, graduated from the massage program at Atlanta School of Massage in 2003 and has been teaching at the school since 2006. Her passion for learning brought her to her favorite topics, musculoskeletal anatomy and aromatherapy. Yancey clocked volunteer hours with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards for item writing and is currently tutoring recent graduates in preparation for the MBLEx.

We Had to Either Adapt or Close

Michael McGillicuddy, Owner, Central Florida School of Massage, Winter Park, Florida
Michael McGillicuddy, Owner, Central Florida School of Massage, Winter Park, Florida

That day in March was scheduled to be the first day of class for our massage therapy day and night programs when we were told to close down the school. We brought the students in to reassure them that we would continue the programs. We handed out the textbooks for the classes so the students would have something tangible to connect with. It was really important to establish a bond with those that wanted to attend school.

When the Department of Education and the Department of Health said to close the school, it came with no understanding of how long the school would be closed. Imagine what having major expenses to run a massage school with no source of income available can do to your psyche. Sitting around worrying about what was to come was not helpful—so, the question was, what actions could be taken to help deal with this reality?

The plan of attack became studying as much about the virus as was possible and how to prevent its spread. Watching the news and reading about the spread of COVID-19, it became clear that the major way the virus spread was people being indoors in close proximity to each other. The virus spread easily through the air. The best way to protect people was to have them wear masks, then distance each person from each other and disinfect all the contact surfaces in the building. To help air quality, we bought UV machines, added air filters and increased outside air coming into the building.

To help allow the school to remain in business, the Department of Education gave the school permission to provide online learning for all of the non-hands-on hours in the curriculum. Thankfully, one of the instructors the school was set up on Zoom classes already, which allowed our students to start school without actually being together in the classroom.

On June first we had the students come back to the school for hands-on classes. We designed a questionnaire for staff, instructors and students to fill out about COVID-19 signs and symptoms. We required everyone to wear masks upon entering the building and took everyone’s temperature. Hand-washing was required before and after massage.

If people felt sick, we asked them to not come to school and to be tested for COVID-19. If they tested positive, we would not let them return to school until they tested negative for the virus. With all the cleaning, fresh air, mask-wearing, disinfecting and social distancing, we did not have an outbreak at the school.

We graduated both the day class and the night class on schedule. When we started the next classes, we actually had an increase in number of students attending the program.

It would have been easy to close the school due to the difficult circumstances, but the staff and teachers adapted to the situation. I’m very grateful to everyone here for cooperating in such a way that the school was able to continue operating.

Michael McGillicuddy is the owner of Central Florida School of Massage, in Winter Park, Florida.

An Evolutionary Leap in Education

Jill Berkana, LMT, BCTMB, Owner, Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy, Prospect New Town, Colorado
Jill Berkana, LMT, BCTMB, Owner, Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy, Prospect New Town, Colorado

There has never been a better time to get into the massage therapy profession. The increased number of emails from hiring employers seeking high-caliber massage therapists in my email box is clear evidence. Why is this happening?

Massage therapy as a profession has experienced a quickening in its evolution. This is due to two major shifts. First, the prioritization of the development of evidence-based research simultaneous to learning how to be a profession devoted to critical thinking. The second being the need to adapt to a global pandemic, along with global disconnect and a touch deprivation epidemic. Everyone is ready for massage!

In the first 27 years of my career there was very little change in the profession and what massage schools taught. As a new massage therapist in 1990, I immediately experienced that massage therapy was a misunderstood profession. It was seen as an anomaly in that it was seen as many things—and even practitioners had a hard time describing it. The public was confused, for good reason. Massage therapy was found in the world of cosmetology, sports, spas and resorts, and fringe practitioners combined it with forms of spiritual work. Many people considered it to be a luxury only accessible to the wealthy. Some believed massage therapy had some type of sexual service undertones. Others thought it was only for women and for the purpose of beauty enhancements.

In the last decade, massage therapy has seriously leveled up. It has recently evolved to reach the tipping point of being recognized as real, legitimate health care, in large part thanks to research. This is important because massage therapy is extremely vital “medicine” that almost all of us can greatly benefit from. The profession, guided by thoughtful and serious leadership, invested in real research through the Massage Therapy Foundation. Significant research takes a long time, and this work had been underway for several years prior to the delivery of evidence. Regardless of the setting, massage therapy is improving the quality of our clients’ and patients’ health.

As a school owner, I know this evolutionary leap triggered the renovation of our educational methodologies. My faculty and I got busy evolving the curriculum, integrating and teaching this clear new reality of massage therapy as legitimate health care with corresponding ethical responsibility to our students.

Then COVID-19 brought a new and unprecedented pressure to step up or step out, and for a time the progress of the pandemic demanded that we step out.

This mandatory stop started something big: A new way had to be developed immediately in order to step powerfully back into work while honoring the number-one ethical code, to do no harm. We had to learn about the coronavirus. We had to keep a pulse on it daily.

At Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy, I determined we had to give our campus an entire face-lift. We created new screening practices, modified the delivery system of the curriculum, learned how to teach select classes from the Zoom classroom, completely revamped our sanitation protocols using stronger cleaning agents, and completely redefined basic hygienic standards of practice. New curriculum was developed, and now all of our students learn how to serve as massage therapists in the midst of a global pandemic.

In effect, the pandemic forced the massage therapy profession, including schools of massage, to polish itself during an unprecedented time in our history. The pandemic forced us to walk our talk.

Meanwhile, the masses are lining up to receive much-needed support in the form of massage. If you have the slightest inclination toward this career path, I encourage you to lean in. You are needed in this highly fulfilling health care career.

Jill Berkana is a school founder, curriculum architect, continuing education provider, and director of the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy. She served on the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and as liaison for its Ethics and Standards Committee. She provides business consultation services, mentorship for her 400-plus graduates, and advanced training in Mindful Expressionism; she also serves as an expert witness involving massage therapy misconduct. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Bring Mindfulness to Every Session.”

I’ve Grown as a Teacher

Jimmy Gialelis, Owner, Advanced Massage Arts & Education, Tempe, Arizona
Jimmy Gialelis, Owner, Advanced Massage Arts & Education, Tempe, Arizona

With the landscape of massage education changing, I find myself as a continuing education provider noticing several trends in recent graduates of entry-level programs. As I reflect on the past 18 months, joy and pride fill my heart to see the perseverance of many peers and colleagues as they manifested success through the hard times.

At our continuing education facility, we instituted these COVID-19-related safety measures: taking temperatures upon building entry, requiring masks be worn at all times within all areas of the building, and upgraded cleaning supplies—all in addition to the expected cleaning and handwashing already normally done. Some clients asked me if new measures were a shock or stark contrast, to which I replied, “No, because we already were operating with strict sanitary measures.” (Every entry-level massage school teaches students how to maintain a hygienic practice; if students took these lessons to heart, they were already performing many COVID-19-related safety measures.)

Because many massage therapy students completed the vast majority, if not all, of their education virtually during 2020, hands-on practice time was severely lacking. Practicing at home with a teacher observing many students at once via a webcam cannot recreate the classroom experience of a teacher observing one student in person. A webcam limits what a teacher can see, especially regarding technique application and body mechanics.

Fortunately, my animated teaching style appeals to visual learners. I often utilize a whiteboard and use dramatizations to express key ideas. I have grown as a teacher by learning how to translate traditionally kinesthetic lessons into visual lessons. One example is when presenting about the Chinese medicine meridian lines, I perform the meridian circuit flow to a popular dance song. This visual helps show how meridian energy flows through the body in a sequential fashion.

As time has moved on, I have had many recent graduates attend my continuing education classes. There are some trends I notice among these graduates. For example, I have noticed many recent graduates display difficulty with fundamental hands-on skills, such as proper draping, body mechanics, deeper pressure application and varying manual tool usage. In the past year I have corrected more of these fundamental skills than I can ever recall in continuing education classes.

Understandably, there were varying views on the continuum of thought regarding safety measures. Some potential continuing education attendees chose not to attend classes at my facility because they disagreed with mask-wearing; they attended classes with other teachers or schools that allowed exceptions to mask-wearing. Many class attendees would bring their own cleaning supplies to use in lieu of what I offered. Many other attendees preferred to double-mask and wear additional PPE items during class.

In the end, I was impressed that class attendees respected the feelings and sensitivities regarding hygiene and safety measures of their classmates. I learned a lot about human nature as I observed the varying attitudes and opinions about COVID-19-related safety measures.

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB, is the owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education in Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved provider of continuing education and teaches many CE classes. His articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Protect Your Practice: The 5 Essential Activities for Massage Business Safety.”

Disruption is Not Always Negative

David Sol, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Pacific College of Health and Science, Chicago, Illinois
David Sol, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Pacific College of Health and Science, Chicago, Illinois

Like other schools around the country, Pacific College’s massage therapy programs had to quickly adapt to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and undergo a major overhaul. We were fortunate to be part of a larger organization with a well-developed online division and managed to transition on-campus classes to a virtual environment with little disruption to our students. However, the staff, massage faculty, and entire student body all had to tackle many adjustments to make this seemingly impossible task work.

For example, most state licensing boards did not approve hands-on courses to be offered online. At the time, though, the model curriculum at our Chicago campus merged topic-based lectures and labs in combined courses. We had to completely restructure the program in less than a month, recreating the separate lecture-only and lab-only classes from scratch. Overnight, the number of courses basically doubled. Lecture-based courses were moved online, and hands-on labs postponed until the pandemic would allow us to safely return to classrooms.

We found out that everyone adjusted to these changes. Many even thrived, finding more time to study and relief from commute time and childcare expenses. We certainly missed each other and the kinesthetic experience, yet we continued to learn and flourish.

Today, as we gear up to move all classes back to the campuses, we take the lessons learned during the pandemic to further improve our students’ educational experience.

First, for sanitation purposes, we contracted a linen service to provide and launder all sheets and scrubs. Moving back into the new normal, we will continue to offer this linen service.

Next, we decided to keep this new, pandemic-model curriculum as we have found it more beneficial to split the lecture and lab portions of the courses. It has also given us more flexibility with scheduling and staffing, as different instructors focus on lecture-only and others focus on hands-on-only classes. This allows for a better utilization of talent, since not all instructors are great at both lecture and hands-on delivery.

Finally, we implemented new processes to better track students’ progress in each course and inform all involved faculty members and staff. In other words, if a student forgets to turn in an assignment or fails an assessment, each of their teachers as well as the advisor, department chair and dean are all made aware simultaneously. This has enabled us to provide academic interventions and support quicker, with more efficient communication between faculty and administration. Our department chair meets with each massage faculty on a weekly basis to discuss classroom management and student performance, then brings issues to the dean on a weekly basis to be reviewed. We will keep this new process, as it proved to be a great way to case-manage each student to be more successful in the program.

As faculty and clinical supervisor at Pacific College of Health Science’s New York, New York, campus, Kiera Nagle, LMT, CPMT, said, “There is good news for recent graduates and practicing massage therapists as we are coming out of what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic. Business is booming and will continue to thrive for some time. There is more demand for massage therapy than can be met in most parts of the country.

“While we can benefit from that growth as business owners and practitioners, it will be important for us all to remember the joy of actually giving massages, learning new things about our clients, and exploring new techniques, so that we don’t get lost in the logistical aspects of running a business,” Nagle added.

“In order to be fully engaged with our clients, our own self-care will be an important tool in keeping us centered and present with them,” she said. “When we are relaxed in our own bodies, minds and spirits, we are better able to listen with our ears and our brains, and work with our hands and our hearts.”

In conclusion, the pandemic has been a massive disruptor to our established massage therapy education; however, disruption is not always negative. Let’s continue to keep the positives learned from our experience teaching during the pandemic and move forward into the next era of massage therapy education.

David Rich Sol, DAc, LAc, LMT, CFMP, is an Illinois-licensed doctor of acupuncture (DAc, LAc), massage therapist (LMT) and certified functional medicine practitioner who has been in clinical practice since 1999. David is also an associate professor and dean of undergraduate studies at Pacific College of Health and Science in Chicago. He has been an educator since 2001.

The Pandemic’s Silver Lining: Massage Education Embraces Technology

Spring Saldana, Faculty, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, Minnesota
Spring Saldana, Program Chair Massage Therapy & Instructor, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, Minnesota 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought immense challenges and changes to every facet of life. Notably, it overturned the education system, forcing schools and universities to rapidly shift to a virtual learning environment. This created a disruptive transition for students and was especially true for those engaged in hands-on educational programs such as massage therapy. Rather than shutting programs down, institutions were forced to alter the way they trained and evaluated the next generation of professionals nearly overnight. 

Educators in massage programs like those at Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) remained committed to creating a new model for such intensive and hands-on learning—an area of study that has always been reliant on in-person instruction and touch. With keeping six feet away from others and only touching with our elbows, imagine the difficulty this posed.

Undeterred, leaders were committed to providing students with the education they signed up for and deserved despite isolating to the learn-from-home environment and without delay.

There was one major roadblock. This new model relied heavily on technology, posing challenges to students and instructors alike who have chosen a face-to-face field, one connected to the movement and repair of the body, not to a monitor and power cord. However, through patience and understanding, educators and students collaborated and created a new system for learning massage therapy that did not just meet the required educational standards, but also enhanced the learning experience.

One silver lining from the pandemic is that massage education embraced technology and it now plays an essential role in the education model. Although hands-on learning will never entirely be replaced, innovative tools now provide an immersive experience for both the instructor and student. 

NWHSU began piloting GoPros for a high-flex education option. The captivating video experience allows educators to present an up-close visualization of manipulations and movements, walking students through each step. Because the videos are recorded and available online, students can rewatch and practice, enhancing their educational experience and increasing knowledge retention.

Similarly, NWHSU integrated with GoReact, a video assessment software that allows students to demonstrate skills by recording their movements. While watching the videos, instructors provide individualized feedback for each student, pausing the video at specific points to deliver comments on soft tissue manipulations. Students found this one-on-one learning style incredibly valuable, adding to their education experience.

Educators also implemented Panopto, a video integration software and a step up from the traditional slide deck presentation. This tool offers another immersive learning experience from the safety of home. Massage students and instructors alike enjoy these components as the tools provide a sense of being in the classroom and with one another.

Even as we are shifting to a hybrid education model of remote and in-person learning, these new tools have found a place in the massage education curriculum. Students are seeking out programs offering this level of flexibility, personalization and one-on-one experience with instructors.

This is just the beginning. We suspect that five years from now, technology will be integrated into every massage education class to enhance the learning experience, increase retention and offer more flexibility for students and educators. This bodes well for the profession as more students become involved in the health care field and seek rewarding careers through massage.

Spring Saldana, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and certified neuromuscular therapist for 17 years and a massage therapy educator for 14 years. At Northwestern Health Sciences University, Saldana is the massage therapy program chair and a faculty member. Saldana travels around the country teaching continuing education courses for practicing massage therapists. Massage education has played an important role in her life, and she believes in its ability to spark innate healing.

We Have Adapted to the Requirements of a New Learning Environment

Libby Eason, Board of Directors’ Chair , Dr. Ida Rolf Institute®, Boulder, Colorado
Libby Eason, Board of Directors’ Chair , Dr. Ida Rolf Institute®, Boulder, Colorado

Staff and faculty had to make many changes, quickly, in response to the pandemic. Classes were suspended from March to September 2020. Classes reconvened with all state and locally mandated safety protocols in place in October 2020. That class, and all classes since, have been COVID-free. Graduates were very happy to be able to attend and complete their basic Rolfing® certification training.

Cosper Scafidi, Board of Directors’ Treasurer, Dr. Ida Rolf Institute®,Boulder, Colorado
Cosper Scafidi, Board of Directors’ Treasurer, Dr. Ida Rolf Institute®,Boulder, Colorado

Our board of directors, staff and faculty have had to examine facilities management, course content delivery and evolving public health protocols—all while maintaining the standards that have been crucial in developing the theory and teachings as left to the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute, the school founded by Ida Rolf, PhD, 50 years ago.

Our school is a COMTA-approved training program, and as a result, about half of our students take advantage of Federal Title IV Student Loans available through the Department of Education. In addition, we received another DOE grant that enabled us to give financial assistance to students for lodging and travel, offsetting any concerns about potential changes in airfare or living expenses if class dates should change due to illness.

The days of passing stacks of paper between students, faculty and administration are, thankfully, long gone. Technology has been important as we have adapted to the requirements of a new learning environment. Use of the CANVAS online learning management system has made it possible for students to complete a lot of hours online, outside the classroom for about one-and-a-half hours daily. Students also submit their assignments on CANVAS, and faculty can review and give grades to each student’s work online. After that six-plus-month break, and with concentrated study time in the middle of the class day, students were better prepared for lectures and in-class, hands-on portions of the training.

Going forward, we have been examining how to organize our curriculum to reflect the need to minimize travel and in-person exposure. This has led to looking at aspects of our training that are more theoretical, like ethics and business practice, anatomical and embryological principles, being taught in a distance-learning environment. Palpatory skills and aspects of manipulation require in-person teaching. Creating segments that allow students to distance-learn maximizes the in-person experience while minimizing face-to-face contact.

Another trend that has been observed is the desire of many massage therapists and other professionals to change their life’s work. The Dr. Ida Rolf Institute provides the opportunity to change professions to the original form of structural integration while using some prior training as transfer credits for Phase One of the course. This offers the unique advantage of evolving one’s skills and work, but also retaining the use of previous skills as a foundation for the new paradigm.

Congratulations to all the massage and bodywork training institutions that have reopened, and best wishes for continued success. We applaud all of your efforts and successes.

Libby Eason is chair of the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute board of directors. She practiced massage therapy for 12 years and has been a Rolfer® for 29 years and faculty member for 17 years. Cosper Scafidi is the board’s treasurer and has been a Rolfer for 40 years. He has served on the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and the Rolf Research Foundation.

Massage Schools’ Purpose is Entry-Level Education

Sandy Fritz, Health Enrichment Center, Lapeer, Michigan
Sandy Fritz, Health Enrichment Center, Lapeer, Michigan

My mantra is adapt. My school will continue to use and perfect a hybrid platform based on remote synchronous teaching via Zoom, an asynchronous online anatomy and physiology course, and hands-on skills presented in the classroom. I will continue to have a small massage therapy school with small classes and affordable tuition, and focus on high-quality, entry-level education that prepares the graduate for both employment and self-employment.

Unfortunately, the divide between massage career pathways of employee or self-employed remains, and there is misinformation leading to misunderstanding. Even though I have extensive business-based information in the textbooks I write for massage therapy entry-level education, I do not feel that spending valuable classroom time learning extensive business development content is prudent, because business education is readily available if someone wants to be self-employed. Instead, I believe massage schools’ career development focus needs to be on providing the student with accurate information on multiple career pathways and how to find information to be a successful business owner if that is the direction they choose.

 I support vocational education for entry-level programs. The 625-clock-hour recommendation by the Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP; provides sufficient time to prepare for entry-level practice in the wellness setting, where most employment opportunities are found.

Specialization should be learned via continuing education. Attempting to build competence and confidence in a specialized approach or for a complex population is unrealistic in entry-level education. Instead, the student should learn assessment, critical thinking and method adaptation based on client safety.

An entry-level education should be focused on developing a quality, general massage therapy approach with basic intervention methods presented to address common stress, pain and physical function issues most people experience. The outcomes of well-being and quality of life need to be emphasized. Continuing education and professional support is important and a school should be offering affordable, shorter, more focused classes and discussion platforms, both online and in the classroom. Also, continuing education should be presented during the week rather than on weekends because weekends are often the busiest time for massage therapists.

Whether a massage student is pursuing a first career, career change or retirement career, they want a focused massage therapy education and no debt. Work-life balance and flexibility are important to those entering the massage therapy field. They want to be nimble and are not necessarily interested in academic degrees. (I support a pathway to academic degrees, which is in place now with board certification able to be used for credits at NCBTMB college partners, but not as an entry-level requirement.) New massage therapists are interested in working collaboratively in such venues as spas, fitness and wellness centers, integrative care and medical settings, but do not see the importance of being absorbed into the medical community to gain respect and acceptance, as was thought in the past.

I am listening to the expectations and wisdom displayed by those entering the field and choose to build massage therapy education based on the future—not on the past—and will continue to adapt.

Sandy Fritz is a founding member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, the owner of Health Enrichment Center, and the author of massage textbooks including “Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage”; “Mosby’s Essential Sciences for Therapeutic Massage: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Pathology”; and “Sports & Exercise Massage: Comprehensive Care for Athletics, Fitness, & Rehabilitation.” Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “The Massage Profession Needs to Face the Future—United.”

There Are Endless Possibilities in Massage Therapy

Jade Marvin, Marketing Specialist, Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, Tempe, Arizona
Jade Marvin, Marketing Specialist, Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, Tempe, Arizona

While the COVID-19 pandemic hit the massage industry hard, this amazing community has proven to be able to bounce back. According to a national survey,1 “As of April 2020, 86% of massage therapists stated they had stopped working. In November 2020, 79% stated they were back at work. Don’t let these statistics scare you: Being a massage therapist can mean you are in charge of your business. It is all about being adaptable to your surroundings, having the passion to touch lives, and the endurance to keep thriving.

The world is moving into a more holistic approach of mind, body and spirit when it comes to healing, eating and other qualities of life. Doctors are beginning to recommend more holistic modalities such as massage therapy, in addition to or in substitute of medical procedures and treatments. About 30% of consumers who got a massage in 2020 for health and wellness reasons state it was part of a treatment plan from a doctor/medical provider.1 With the absurd year that 2020 was, it is understandable that more of the population became stressed and had the self-realization that they needed to work on their health and wellness.

 “More than ever, people need to be touched,” explained Southwest Institute of Healing Arts associate dean of on-campus education, Joel Hamilton. “Physically and emotionally, the soul needs to be touched through understanding, meeting people where they are at, and holding them in a space where they can come into a place of calm homeostasis and healing.

“There has never been a better time to seek an education in massage and the healing arts than now,” he added, “because we have been isolated for so long that we now understand how connection and human interaction are such important parts of the human psyche.”

With this growing holistic perspective in education and massage therapy, multiple modalities are now commonly being used together to create something beautiful for people. Massage therapy can be used with Reiki, a healing technique based on the principle of universal energy. Hypnotherapy is also a common technique that can be used in parallel with massage therapy to help relax and reap the full benefits of the massage session. Similarly, polarity therapy can be incorporated to address the interrelatedness of the mind, body and spirit, and the energy fields and currents of the body. The intermixing of these holistic modalities invites endless possibilities in a career in massage therapy.

Never forget that our hearts direct our intention and our path in life. Dive headfirst into your massage education if you are being guided to be a healer of others. There are endless possibilities in massage therapy, and you have the power to mold it into the career you have always wanted.

Jade Marvin, marketing specialist at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, is also a blog writer who graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. Southwest Institute of Healing Arts has been training massage therapists for three decades. It offers a wide variety of programs in the healing arts and continues to provide high-quality massage therapy training. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education Training, licensed by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, and approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


1. Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet, American Massage Therapy Association,, accessed July 2021.

Today’s Students are Tomorrow’s Future Therapists, Leaders and Educators

Niccole Anthony, Faculty, Atlanta School of Massage, Atlanta, Georgia
Niccole Anthony, Faculty, Atlanta School of Massage, Atlanta, Georgia

Throughout my years as an educator, I have identified three vital tenets that are essential to providing massage therapy education. These tenets include administering support and resources in education, instilling self-confidence for massage students and massage therapists, and honoring and acknowledging individuals holistically. These classroom values help shape students into high-quality massage therapists and produce highly sought-after specialists in the massage industry.

Support serves as a foundation which students can use to build a reputable future as massage therapists. As an educator, I support massage students by providing them with resources and holding them accountable to use them. Empowering accountability instills integrity and autonomy into the culture of massage. Employers and clients are seeking these attributes when looking to work with massage therapists they can rely on and trust.

Confidence is a value that encompasses belief in oneself.Establishing an educational climate of self-trust provides a viable basis for massage therapists to revisit throughout their careers. Encouraging students to utilize self-assessment exercises allows them to actualize their skills and recognize areas that need improvement as well as create tactics to improve. This practice expands their visibility of the scope of learning.

When students trust the process of learning, and acknowledge that it comes with ups and downs, they understand that even when it feels like they are losing, they are still winning. Confidence is a valuable investment because many therapists go on to own their own businesses and have to be self-assured and self-motivated to institute and maintain the ebb and flow of these endeavors.

When students are wholly acknowledged by educators, it breaks down the learner’s desire to be seen and creates the opportunity to be present with self and others. This value begins in the classroom and evolves into a functioning massage therapist’s approach to mindfully working with clients. Guests who feel seen, supported and acknowledged are likely to return to therapists who are mentally, emotionally and physically available to provide optimal care because it makes the client feel valued. Massage therapists with such qualities are in high demand for employment and therapy services.

In the classroom as an educator, I choose to show up authentically to provide students with the opportunity to experientially identify and internalize the tenets of support and acknowledgement with each of our interactions. Conceding to this notion, learners witness leadership that exemplifies the willingness to be simultaneously vulnerable, confident and true to self. This allows the classroom to become a safe space for students and inspire them to create a similar environment for guests who visit for massage services. Creating these spaces can enhance client retention and bring increased income to massage businesses.

What we as educators choose to instill and introduce into the classroom will carry over into our industry when students become massage therapists. When approaching their education, I encourage students to be intentional about who they are becoming through the educational platform.Educators are guiding the direction of the massage therapy industry, as students are the massage field’s future therapists, leaders and educators. 

Niccole Anthony, LMT, became a licensed massage therapist in 2009. After graduating from Atlanta School of Massage, she went on to become certified as a massage and bodywork educator through the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. She is an approved continuing education provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and a Reiki Master. Anthony owns a wellness business in Atlanta, where she currently resides. Read her article, “Today’s Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI): Cell Phone Elbow, Texting Thumb & Tech Neck.”