Diane Matkowski is the founder and owner of The Massage Mentor Institute, offering business classes and mentoring services to massage therapists.

Diane Matkowski is the founder and owner of The Massage Mentor Institute, offering business classes and mentoring services to massage therapists.

She describes her business as a space for practicing massage therapists to learn different approaches and varying philosophies on what works for bodywork. Matkowski created The Shoulder Jam and The Hip Jam online CE seminars, featuring top industry educators. She will host The Neck Jam in April, 2022 and a new series called “Inside Job” in January. She has been a massage therapist since 1996 and runs her massage practice, Freedom Massage, in the Philadelphia area. Matkowski is also a MASSAGE Magazine All-Star, one of a group of body therapy masters and teachers who are educating MASSAGE Magazine’s community of therapists in print, on social media channels and on massagemag.com.

Karen Menehan: Welcome, Diane. Let’s start out with you telling us what attracted you to massage therapy as a career.

Diane Matkowski: Long story somewhat short, is as a young girl, I was 10 years old, and my aunt would always say, “Will you please rub my shoulders?” And I did such a great job. I went from a 25-cent salary to about $1 in a very short amount of time. And not only was it for her, but then she started having friends at the house and I would also massage their shoulders. So, my hands were in training at a very young age.

KM: And you got positive reinforcement for that too.

DM: I did. And then to fast forward …  I met a gentleman, Rick O’Brien, and he had been doing massage and bodywork since 1985. And he was like, “You can do this for a living. I have three kids, a wife, and I’m doing great with it.”

KM: So, a light went on for you and you went to massage school and the rest is history?

DM: I didn’t just go to massage school, I ran. I think I left the conversation and started just running down the highway in a direction of the school he told me about. I just couldn’t believe massage was something that I could do and have it be my living.

KM: I’m wondering if you could share how you got to the point in terms of success or being seasoned that made you realize that you wanted to, and were able to, mentor other massage therapists.

DM: I have a staff of anywhere from eight to 13 people at a time. I learned so much from them by listening to them, my reactions to what they say, and my ability to pause before I respond. I began to see that some of the things that I was doing and the way I was interacting with staff was helping them to become better at their chosen craft of massage. I realized I had been a mentor to massage therapists on the ground for many years through interactions with my team.

KM: That’s great. It’s so important to reach that hand out to help bring other people up and share knowledge and experience.

If someone’s an entrepreneur, small-business owner or practice owner, what could they get out of working with a mentor?

DM: Four eyes are better than two. Sometimes just getting someone else’s point of view on something and getting another set of eyes on it helps. Life is a “we” adventure. I cannot be successful without listening to and sharing with other humans.

KM: Is there anyone at this point in your career that you consider your mentor that you look up to for advice or inspiration?

DM: Again, my staff. I feel like they’re all my mentors. They help me keep growing and learning.

My first well-known mentor was Ohashi. I went to New York to take his classes back in the ‘90s. He gave me hope. My industry mentor now would be Til Luchau. He has been a big brother to me. He believed in my ideas and pushed me to go for it. Also, I consider all the people in my events business mentors.

KM: Oh, that’s nice to hear. Til is a phenomenal human being.

DM: Yeah. He’s great.

KM: Let’s talk about the jams. You’ve done The Shoulder Jam and The Hip Jam, which are each a multi- presenter CE presentation focused on a specific area of the body. What led you to create these body-area-specific courses?

DM: It was an idea I had and then it came to fruition after thought, conversations, and actions. A big part of why I put together The Shoulder Jam was one of my staff members, Eugenia, wanted to learn more shoulder work. LOL. I thought, you want to learn more, let’s do this Jam thing and learn more. It was the final conversation I had before I decided to give the idea a try. Allison Denney and Til Luchau were the first people I told in the industry. They both got very excited and were very supportive, as were all the teachers when I shared the idea. It is a dream come true on many levels. I am honored to help the community.

KM: How did you choose the people that you asked to be presenters for the jams?

DM: I mean, look at them.

KM: I know …

DM: Well, there are a lot of the people that were kind enough to do interviews with me starting back in 2018 on my group, the Massage Mentor closed group on Facebook. So I had started building relationships. Again, I realized as a business owner that I could not give my staff all the education they needed, so I started looking around for educators.

If you look at the group [teaching] The Shoulder Jam, The Hip Jam, wow, what an honor. Seriously, I get a little teary-eyed even just thinking about it. I feel blessed to be with some of these icons and look forward to bringing together more people in the industry with other projects.

KM: And anyone interested can go to themassagementorinstitute.com where those presentations are still available, and people can still sign up for those.

DM: If you miss “The Shoulder Jam,” you can still get the home study course. If you couldn’t make it to “The Hip Jam,” you can also get the recording of that.

Yes. The teachers are amazing. What journeys they’ve all had. Also, I am proud and encouraged by the students that joined us because they knew how to have a great time.

KM: And do you have any other body areas that you plan to make Jams out of?

DM: Absolutely. We’re going to go through everything. Some of the teachers and I have been joking about when we go far enough, it might just be the ear jam. The body is fascinating, and every little part of the body really does make a difference.

KM: What would you identify, Diane, as the most important or most exciting thing happening in the massage industry right now?

DM: There’s so much available to massage therapists now. There are so many teachers and the possibilities for what you can become as a massage therapist are really limitless. It’s a great industry and one where you never, ever stop learning. Every session, every client, every business interaction, there’s something to be learned.

We’re one of the last industries that actually get to put their hands on people. What an honor, what a gift, and what a way to really help change the world for the better.

KM: Oh, definitely. Is there anything else that you’d like to tell our audience of massage therapists?

DM: Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. Patience, perseverance and persistence are key. And even when you don’t feel like you are, you are changing the world one body at a time.

KM: This has been the “MASSAGE Magazine” interview with Diane Matkowski, founder and owner of The Massage Mentor Institute. You can learn more at themassagementorinstitute.com. Thank you, Diane.

About the Author

Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief, print and digital. Her recent articles include “As Clients Return, Massage Therapists Vanquish Touch Deprivation” and “As Spa Industry Rebounds from COVID-19, Staffing Shortage Looms” (both, massagemag.com).