Learning about massage therapy doesn’t end once you’ve graduated from massage therapy school and passed your licensing exam.
As in other health care fields, continuing education (CE) is crucial to your professional development and your ability to provide quality care.
“One of the most valuable ways to improve your success with clients is to enhance your skills and learning through continuing education,” said Whitney Lowe, LMT, an orthopedic massage expert and director of the Academy of Clinical Massage, a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) Approved CE Provider.
The most basic reason to pursue massage therapy continuing education is that most U.S. states require CE on a recurring basis in order to keep your license current — but you should not wait until your license is about to expire before you fulfill these requirements. Keeping education top-of-mind ahead of time will give you a chance to pick and choose, enrolling in courses that interest you, instead of just taking the bare minimum at the last minute.
Taken with intention and enthusiasm, massage continuing education also offers benefits that reach beyond satisfying your state board.
“We believe that maintaining a steady learning curve is vital to both stay abreast in the rapidly evolving wellness industry, and to maintain an invigorated and inquisitive practice,” said Daniel Tsukayama of Sarga Bodywork, an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider. “Independent study is essential, but regular infusions of structured courses, either in live-class settings or via e-learning platforms, deliver fresh perspectives [and] cutting-edge industry developments, and encourage us to reassess our habituated practices.”
Start your CE process by exploring the answers to three big questions:
· Do I really need CE?
· How will CE help me?
· How will CE help my clients?
1.Yes, You Need Massage Continuing Education
States’ licensing standards vary, but most require a certain number of CE hours to be completed before your license can be renewed. Florida, for example, requires 25 CE hours every two years — and 12 of those hours must be live, not online, classes focused on massage therapy techniques.
States may also require a certain number of hours in courses on particular subjects, such as ethics or medical errors, but much of what you learn in your CE classes is your choice. Since so many options are available, it helps to research courses on a technique or topic you want to learn more about. Find out more about the credentials and qualifications of the teacher, read reviews by past students, and make sure you’re qualified to enroll in the course, as some may have prerequisites.
Regardless of subject matter, you’ll want to choose massage continuing education courses that are approved by the NCBTMB, to make sure your hours will count toward your licensing requirements. (Some states, such as New York, may have additional criteria that must be met for your classes to count.) The NCBTMB’s website, ncbtmb.org, contains a searchable database of CE providers and courses so you can find qualified classes that interest you.
It’s also a good idea to build the cost of CE into your business budget so you’re not hit with a big expense right before your license is up for renewal.
To find out if you need CE hours and how often you must complete them, contact your state’s massage therapy board, or whatever agency handles licensing of massage therapists in your state. Many will list requirements on their website.
2. CE Keeps You on the Cutting Edge
Taking massage continuing education courses does more than just fulfill a licensing requirement. Learning new things about massage therapy will keep you on the industry’s cutting edge, and CE classes are ideal for staying connected to the latest news in the field — as well as forging connections with your colleagues.
“While our profession is relationship-oriented, the core of our work as practitioners comes from a quiet and solitary place, which can be isolating if one doesn’t make an effort to connect with other practitioners in the field,” Tsukayama said.
Even if you’re already a great massage therapist, there’s always room to improve and grow. By expanding your knowledge, CE can help you provide better care to your clients, which in turn will build your business.
For example, taking a research literacy course can help you read and interpret information from scientific studies of massage, which you can then use to both inform your work and educate your clients about how massage therapy may help them. Courses in new techniques, or new ways to use old ones, can give you valuable skills you can put into practice right away.
If you are looking to expand your practice by working with physicians, CE can also be a key to getting more referrals from doctors, especially those who want an alternative to prescriptions for their chronic pain patients.
“With physicians increasingly searching for highly-qualified and experienced manual therapists to refer their patients to for treatment, the therapist who has invested in high-quality hands-on training in respected techniques will be the one to win their trust and referrals,” said Kate Simmons, LMT, CMTPT, who has taught trigger-point therapy courses and serves as president of the National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists. “This translates into increased business and heightened professional reputation in their community.”
Apart from techniques to use with clients, you can also learn about business, in which many massage schools provide only a little training. “There are many online choices to help develop business skills to build your business practice acumen,” Simmons said.
Plus, staying informed will keep you excited about this profession that you love, and your clients will appreciate your enthusiasm as well as your new skills.
3.CE Lets You Better Serve Your Clients
As a massage therapist, you may find it is tempting to try to learn every technique so you can help the most people. In actuality, specializing — narrowing your focus to one niche clientele or type of massage — can be more effective ingrowing your client base.
“CE courses can not only teach you new techniques and approaches, [but also] help you learn about many issues of client care that are essential but you likely never learned in school,” said Lowe. “The specialized skills you acquire help you carve out a greater niche of specialization and will be a boost to your career success.”
Taking massage continuing education courses in new techniques can help you discover your passion or give you something new to add to your usual offerings. As you become the go-to person in your specific area of expertise, clients will seek you out.
Sports massage, for example, is a huge and growing field within massage therapy; it has become commonplace to see massage therapists in the locker room working with athletes alongside physical therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors and other health care professionals. While sports massage involves a variety of techniques, it focuses on an athletic clientele. Some therapists choose to specialize even more, by only helping athletes in a certain sport or a certain demographic, such as middle and high school students.
You may also choose to sharpen your focus by choosing one condition to address —offering headache massage, for example — or one technique, such as craniosacral therapy or Thai massage. Specializing makes it possible to combine your education and skills with clients you love working with, which can greatly enhance your career satisfaction and longevity.
Keep on Growing
Massage continuing education is a necessary part of most massage therapists’ professional requirements, but given time and attention it can become much more— a means for furthering your contacts in the field, a way to stimulate your mind and keep abreast of new massage industry developments, a smart business-building tactic, and above all, a way to more efficiently and effectively help your clients.
About the Author:
Allison M. Payne is the associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and Chiropractic Economics.