With recent advances in technology, such as digital video and the Internet, home study massage programs have rapidly evolved over the past few years. From the early home study courses that primarily consisted of dull, black-and-white course books and Xeroxed handouts sent through the mail, today’s programs have expanded into a burgeoning universe of elaborate, multimedia presentations and high-tech forums for teacher-student interaction.

However, because today’s technology is so easy to use and relatively inexpensive, we’ve also seen an increasing number of home study programs which—despite their techno-savvy packaging—offer little in the way of substance. Go online and you’ll find dozens of faceless, continuing education companies marketing all manner of home study products for massage professionals. Unfortunately, many of these programs offer poor-quality content and seem to be designed more for making money than imparting useful knowledge.

One way to ensure you’re getting the best possible professional education from home study courses is to examine the instructor that teaches and/or puts together the classes offered. A top benefit of home study programs is you can take classes from the most renowned experts in massage without having to travel long distances or pay huge fees to attend their classes. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense that you should select courses taught by the most experienced and established instructors?

In some cases, going with big-name experts might not always equate with getting top-quality home study courses, since even well-qualified instructors can occasionally take advantage of their fame by churning out massive numbers of poorly designed classes. But if you’re willing to do a little research into the teacher’s background and examine the nature of the programs offered, you can easily find the ones who are most sincere about giving you the best possible education for your money.

This article is the last in a series that provides you with helpful questions to ask about home study instructors and their courses before you purchase their continuing education products. The questions below are the last three in the series, but you can read the first half of the questions by going to Part One.

4. Are the instructor’s techniques supported by scientific research? Because massage is part of the health-care field, it’s vital the techniques the instructor teaches are based on sound scientific research. The leading experts in massage therapy—and the ones who will offer the most valuable home study programs—will be well-versed in the latest research on touch therapy, anatomy, as well as the musculoskeletal system, and their massage methodology will be based around this scientific knowledge. You should be able to find evidence of an instructor’s research knowledge by reading through published articles by the instructor in massage trade journals as well as information put up on his or her website. In these articles, the instructors should include references to the studies on which they base their own massage techniques. Also note that the highest quality research studies will have appeared in well-respected, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

5. Is the instructor respected by other massage experts? Even though massage therapy is a competitive field, the leading experts in the industry often acknowledge and praise the work of colleagues they consider to be particularly talented. These experts also frequently work together on different projects. To this end, if a home study instructor is referenced in positive ways by other bodywork experts or if he collaborates with other well-known massage professionals, this is typically an indication the instructor has earned the respect of his peers. Outside of respect from colleagues, professional massage organizations, such as the American Massage Therapy Association, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, often recognize top instructors by presenting them with awards and featuring them as speakers at their tradeshows and conventions.

6. Does the instructor offer a range of courses, both basic and advanced? Many home study companies and instructors offer basic courses that teach a few fundamental aspects of a particular massage method. However, the most valuable home study programs will also provide advanced courses that extensively examine the technique or modality being taught. Instructors who are true experts in their field will be able to offer a comprehensive range of courses that not only teach the basic elements of a technique, but also delve more deeply and cover the complex aspects as well. These more intensive home study programs are highly beneficial to students because they allow them to build upon and expand on what they’ve learned in past courses in an effort to gain real mastery of the subject.  

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail cmreuben@yahoo.com.