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Continuing education is a staple of the massage therapy field.

Most states require the completion of continuing education to maintain state licensure, and some associations require continuing education to maintain or renew membership. Beyond requirements, attending an advanced continuing education class can only benefit the massage professional.

There are various opinions on the value and importance of attending continuing education courses. The purpose of this article is to encourage healthy perspectives of continuing one’s education in the massage therapy and bodywork field.

The many benefits of continuing education to the massage therapist include enhancing one’s skill set, gaining confidence in application of skills, reviewing anatomy and pathology of the human body, learning means of integrating multiple approaches to bodywork, focusing one single modality upon the body, and networking with fellow professionals.

I am overwhelmed with joy when I hear of enrollees employing lessons learned in my classes. Utilizing new skill sets allows practicing therapists to expand their client base and knowledge of the human body.

This article will speak to four distinct groups of individuals in our industry: current students of entry-level programs, current practicing massage therapists, employers of massage therapists and continuing education providers. Important perspectives can be provided for all four groups as collectively we progress the industry toward greater credibility in the health care industry.


Current Massage Students

By participating in continuing education courses as a matriculating entry-level student, one can experience a typical massage environment with a group of professionals. This refined environment provides the student a glimpse into the practices of successful therapists and a rich knowledge well from which to draw. One’s education experience is greatly augmented with the ability to receive counsel to better understand one’s current studies.

The increased knowledge and elevated perspectives obtained from interacting with professionals will set the current massage enrollee apart from peers and help her discover her niche more quickly. This graduate can assist a greater range of clientele upon graduation, thus increasing the chances of creating a successful private practice.



Current Massage Therapists

You can typically charge more for advanced work. Creating a tiered menu of services with service price increasing with the level of modality sophistication is an ideal setting to ensure continuing education pays off. It is up to the therapist to establish the expectation within the marketplace to set prices based on skill set.

You can specialize in a field dominated by franchise chains. The franchise chain establishments are not disappearing, as their industry space is solidified. Often, there are restrictions placed upon the therapists regarding the nature of the work allowed to their clientele; however, some franchises offer continuing education to their staff members.

A highly skilled therapist employing a wide array of techniques will appeal to most clientele, especially those seeking therapy of a more clinical and therapeutic nature.

After completing a continuing education class, you are better able to service your target market, such as athletes, elderly people or pregnant women. A common mistake made by massage therapists is to not identify a target market. Being in a highly competitive field, it is imperative that therapists become experts in the eyes of their clientele. Education is the best means toward becoming the expert your clients demand you to be.


Massage Therapy Employers

Please allow therapists time off to attend continuing education. Employees are extremely frustrated when they wish to attend a particular course of interest, yet are told they cannot attend.

Certainly, a business cannot allow itself to be left without an ability to function; however, more educated and skilled therapists will equate to a better-serviced clientele. A massage establishment is only as good as its therapists.

I recommend to any employer to sit with his therapists to plan potential classes annually that will allow both parties to thrive. This allows for healthy discussion among therapists and management on the direction and plans of the facility; creates an atmosphere of communion; and ensures everyone is on the same page.


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Continuing Education Providers

Please provide classes from a spirit of service instead of sales. Being a fellow provider of continuing education, I long ago adopted the principle that quantity follows quality. Ensuring a safe classroom space, sound foundation of knowledge shared, powerful protocols and sharing my success, I have discovered how approaching my classroom from a space of service yields much better results than approaching it from a space of sales.

Let go of our egos regarding hands-on technique. Chances are great that many therapists are already employing techniques shown in classes. As I examine the field, the overlap among bodywork styles is apparent, yet not surprising. Every teacher can provide a unique approach to the work.

We shape the industry, perhaps more so than entry-level programs. Certainly, a school may have a specialty; however, no school can specialize in the more than 300 estimated modalities nationwide. Entry-level programs introduce the fundamentals of technique. Quite often, a continuing education teacher aids working therapists in fundamental mastery, more so than their entry-level program.

Where do our classes take the industry? Scope of practice is becoming a concern nationwide as massage therapists are employing techniques traditionally reserved to physical therapists and chiropractors. It is our responsibility as teachers to avoid steering therapists toward bodywork modes that lie outside our scope of practice, depending upon each state. Let us ensure our courses are fundamentally sound and graduates can utilize techniques legally wherever one presents.


Your Path

In conclusion, continuing education is a significant arena of the massage therapy industry. Continuing one’s education ensures skill sets improve, therapists become more knowledgeable of the body and clientele receive the proper treatments necessary to aid in achieving desired health goals.

Ultimately, asking the question “How can I best support my clientele?” is the brightest light to illuminate your continuing education path.


Jimmy GialelisAbout the Author

Jimmy Gialelis, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., is 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 “Working with Pathologies—Arthritis” and many other classes. He wrote “Fibromyalgia: Massage Therapy Considerations” for MASSAGE Magazine’s July 2015 print issue, and “Massage for Clients with Hemophilia,” among other articles, for massagemag.com.