Massage therapists are meeting the business, health and economic challenges of COVID-19.

Many practices are again providing touch to clients—with new safety protocols in place.

MASSAGE Magazine just checked in with many of the people who had written for us in 2020 (“Voices of COVID-19: Massage Therapists Share Stories of Challenge & Hope”)—for an update on their professional and personal experiences. Here is what they had to say.

“My staff continues to work in the clinic as they wanted to go back to work, so I’ve made every effort to keep them as safe as possible.” — Jeanette Falu-Bishop

Jeanette Falu-Bishop; Owner,, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Years in massage: 19.

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” This is the quote from George Addair that has run through my head during the last several months.

Due to my compromised immune system, I was no longer able to provide in-person massage therapy and I was devasted; so instead, I pivoted my business to provide virtual sessions. Although this took a while to market; it finally caught on and clients are taking advantage of this service especially those who are dealing with pain.

My staff continues to work in the clinic as they wanted to go back to work, so I’ve made every effort to keep them as safe as possible. I have also focused my energy to help other massage therapists by creating profitable and sustainable businesses through my business coaching.

“For the first time in my 20-year massage career, I had paid time off. It was wonderful!” — Kathy Stockwell

There’s been so much negativity and fear that I thought a positive, hopeful experience might be nice to hear.

I’m from New Hampshire and was shut down for eight weeks effective early March. I shut down that week as clients were all cancelling and it was more stressful not knowing what my week would look like. The State of New Hampshire opened up unemployment benefits to the self-employed, and since I shut down early and applied early, I was already in the system before two million other people were mandatorily closed. So, I had money coming in, plus, miraculously, I also was able to secure a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan .

For the first time in my 20-year massage career I had paid time off. It was wonderful! My colleagues and friends were all in the same boat, my hairdresser best friend, nail tech friend and my landlord, who is also a personal trainer.

My bestie and I would get together regularly for walks and talk about how nice it was to not be overbooked and burned out. We both realized we had been burning out.

I was ready to open and prepared when June 1 came around. I had found out about where to get free masks. Within two weeks I was back up to full capacity, just as the PPP loan was exhausted. I lost clients who still don’t feel safe, and I gained many new clients.

My colleagues and I all follow protocols and are thankful to be open, but we all admit that we’re overbooked again and pushing the burnout envelope, even though we said we wouldn’t.

All in all, the experience was a gift to me and I am thankful for it.

—Kathy Stockwell, LMT, CEAS1, AOEAS; Owner, Nashua Medical Fitness and Massage, Nashua, New Hampshire. Years in massage: 30

“Ready for my clients to start healing from pandemic exhaustion.” — Jody Krabbenhoft-Tulloch

Jody Krabbenhoft-Tulloch, LMT; Owner, Trinity Therapeutic Massage, Lone Tree, Colorado. Years in massage: 22.

January, February busy. Go on a cruise in March, get back, get shut down until May. Learn to make yogurt, bake all the bread, exercise every day, enjoy family time, grateful for being a cash/in-the-black business prior.

Go back May 1, not had one slow week since. Seventy-five new clients since May 1. Grateful and exhausted. Ready for my clients to start healing from pandemic exhaustion.

Trying to keep everyone healthy, follow protocol and keep pushing forward. I have a CBD topical product line I created to help my clients and have decided to pour more time and effort into it.

“Continue to learn, invest in yourself, be thankful for what you have as someone always has it worse than you.” — Daric D. Bass, Sr.

Since early 2020, I used the time off to hone my skills in my craft. I took courses in PPE and watched for any updates. I continued to operate when it was opened by the governor and the mayor. I changed my schedule so that there is an hour between guests so there was no overlapping of people and also so that I could clean, not be hurried and prepare for the next guest.

Daric D. Bass Sr., LMT, CPT, CES, GTP, Pn1, CPPC; Owner, personal trainer, nutrition coach, Health Performance Plus, Metairie, Louisiana. Years in massage: 8.

During the height of the pandemic, it was hard to book guests so I depended on my skills as a personal trainer to provide income. I lead group training via the internet to people who weren’t leaving their home to go to the gym but still wanted to work out along with conduct private session with guest with the same restriction as previously mentioned pertaining to the time between guest as in massage.

As restrictions lifted, I also spoke at outdoor events put on by local running clubs to promote massage and the benefits. I also took the time to go back to school to finish my degree. At this present time, I’m projected to graduate in the summer of 2021.

One thing of note that happened to now teach at a massage college. The irony of it is that it’s the same one I graduated from. I got the see first-hand how the pandemic affected others and the impact it had on our future massage therapists. Their lives as students were turned upside down and their future was unknown. Their graduation date, the uncertainty of completing the course, and the limitations of actual hands-on contact with others due to the limitations placed by the state were a real issue.

I plan to continue my practice as I enjoy the work that I do, continue to further my education, and get nationally certified as a lymphedema specialist and continue to teach the next generation of up-and-coming massage therapists.

If I had to say what I’ve learned during this time it would be to continue to learn, invest in yourself, be thankful for what you have as someone always has it worse than you. Continue to walk forward. Never stay complacent in your life and career. Always blaze a trail forward toward a goal, an achievable goal. 

“Highlighting our safety protocols helped our clients (and future clients) feel comfortable coming to see us.” — Amber Briggle

In March 2020, we had 13 therapists and two locations here at Soma Massage Therapy in Denton, Texas, with a growing waitlist every day. I knew I had to hire another therapist to keep up with the demand, and it was about time for me to start looking for a larger central office —or a third location in another city—to meet the needs of our ever-growing client base.

Then COVID-19 hit, the whole world changed, and we were ordered to shut down immediately.

I couldn’t stop crying during those first few weeks. I stopped eating, lost 5 pounds, couldn’t sleep, and spent every moment terrified that this would be the end of my business. I was equally concerned about my team: how would they be able to eat and pay their bills without their jobs?

By early April, I had begun to pivot: I asked the community to purchase gift certificates to help us stay afloat, and promised that 10% of all sales would be donated to the United Way, because I understood that we weren’t the only ones hurting. I also encouraged people to purchase gift cards that would later be donated to our local heroes: grocery clerks, delivery drivers, nurses, first responders, etc.

Amber Briggle; Owner, Soma Massage Therapy, Denton, Texas. Years in massage 17.

This additional effort allowed out-of-town friends and family to support us as well, and these two efforts combined raised over $25,000 in gift card sales, which we used to pay our immediate expenses.

I also created a “virtual massage studio” full of videos curated specifically for our clients. I realized that if I made self-care videos for our clients (and monetized them!), it would help them stay healthy and help us stay financially viable. Over time, I created roughly 70 videos that included instructions on self-massage, massage with a partner, stretching, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, tips on essential oils, and DIY reflexology. At its peak, we raised roughly $3,000/month—not quite enough to pay 100% of our bills, but definitely enough to help.

Throughout our closure, my team and I had ongoing conversations about what they needed to feel safe when they returned to work. If we were to be successful in the post-COVID-19 era, it was important that the therapists felt safe returning to work and that we established confidence among our clients to safeguard their health. Without those efforts, the whole studio not only had the potential to become a super-spreader location, but our entire business would collapse, after all.

Although everyone on our team had intentions to return to work when we reopened, the virus had other plans for almost all of them. When we opened in late May, we had only four therapists and one location left. Everyone who resigned either moved away, lost their childcare options, or (understandably) didn’t feel comfortable getting closer than six feet to someone, despite the numerous precautions we added to our studio: requiring masks for both our therapists and our clients, improving our ventilation system, and adding more time between sessions to fully sanitize, among several other things. With a skeleton crew and only one studio out of which to operate, I clearly had a lot of work to do to rebuild my business. Still, after seeing so many other small businesses close permanently, I was at least grateful for the opportunity to try.

It was grueling work, but today I am thrilled (and exhausted) to report that I now have a team of 14 therapists, two locations again, a larger commercial property on the horizon for the spring, and several interviews to hire more LMTs to our team already scheduled. I was able to achieve all of this by tapping in to four key things:

1. I believed I could. I willed this rebirth into existence through sheer stubbornness and creativity. The gift card sales, our virtual massage studio, and our (measly but meaningful) savings that we had built up over the years helped us get through the short term panic so we could focus on the long term growth. The first step toward achieving any goal is believing that it’s even possible.

2. I established trust in the community. During our closure, I worked harder than ever worked before to create our virtual massage studio and explain to others what our safety protocols included. I did this for $0, but understood that the short term pain had the potential to translate to long term gain.

The virtual massage studio demonstrated that we were truly health care professionals, focused on overall wellness and not just a “fluff and buff” spa. Additionally, highlighting our safety protocols helped our clients (and future clients) feel comfortable coming to see us. Since we reopened 8 months ago, we have seen well over 1,000 new clients, without a single coronavirus case transmitted here in our studio. #MasksWork #TrustScience

3. I gave my assistant a much-deserved raise. While she was busy answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and keeping things running smoothly day-to-day, I was able to put my energy into interviewing, hiring, and training new therapists and seeking out another location for us to expand. Did I have the money to give her a raise and bonus? That’s the wrong question. Was she worth it and did her work deserve recognition? 100%

4. I took advantage of programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and various small business grants. It’s a lot of work to apply for these and I’ve been denied for more than I’ve actually received, but you’ll never receive anything unless you ask. With a second round of PPP funding currently underway, I encourage everyone who qualifies to take the time to apply. The extra funds could rescue your business, or at the very least help you get caught up on old bills that racked up during your closure, too.

It’s been a long struggle and we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet, but 2021 is starting strong and I am very hopeful that these trends we’re seeing here at Soma Massage Therapy will continue. Now that the vaccine is being distributed and more small business support is available, my hope is that massage therapists everywhere will soon see their businesses recover as well so that we can continue to bring the health and healing to the community that it so desperately needs—now more than ever.

“My clients have been awesome in supporting my small business. ” — Courtney Worrel-Pate

South Carolina re-opened May 18, 2020. During the time we were shut down I was fortunate to have another job in dialysis, so I didn’t get hurt financially like so many did. In fact, I seem to work more than ever. I’ve been in health care for 23 years and this was a very emotional time within my career. The thought of contacting this virus and bringing it home to my children was constantly in the back of my head.

Then there was the thought of when and how I should re-open my business. I also question, would anyone even want a massage or would they be too scared? I also encountered several individuals who tried to still get me to work on them during the shut down. One was even a judge. I thought, “Hmmm … really? Is this a test?” I declined.

Due to my other job I didn’t feel safe to reopen and continued to do direct patient care. During this time I had been very proactive as far as mask wearing and extra sanitizing processes. Unfortunately. in August I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m 41 and have never had any lung issues at all. It took me 28 days to get over it. I also had to have to negative test in order to return to work.

Courtney Worrel-Pate; Owner, Soothing Phalanges Massage & Bodyworks, Manning, South Carolina. Years in massage: 10.

I did everything possible not to get this nasty virus and still contracted it from a patient who knew he had but didn’t care to tell anyone.

I also had the worse time getting PPE for my business. I ordered extra cleaning supplies and just PPE in general for my business but did not receive anything until the second week in September when I decided to re-open my business.

I’m glad to say that my clients have been awesome in supporting my small business. This year makes 10 years for me and I couldn’t be happier. I feel that once I had experienced this horrible virus that I wasn’t as fearful of it even though I know you can get again. I just can’t and won’t live my life in fear now. Even though I leave more time with my disinfection process for my office. it has been well worth it and my clients are very supportive of the process and appreciate everything we do.

“My business took the Topeka Promise which stipulates that we will wear masks, take temps and sanitize to help keep clients and staff as safe as possible.” — Deb Johnson

My business, Stillpoint Massage & Bodywork Studio reopened May 18, 2020. During the time of our pause last spring, I was able to purchase PPE equipment, which included furniture easier to sanitize, an infrared thermometer, masks, air purifiers, table covers and disinfectants. We reopened slowly, as my staff and I felt safer seeing our regular clients. We developed a COVID-19 Intake form that all clients must complete. My business took the Topeka Promise which stipulates that we will wear masks, take temps and sanitize to help keep clients and staff as safe as possible.

Prior to opening, several massage therapists in Topeka and across Kansas consulted with each other about how to safely reopen our practices. This camaraderie reminds me of the value of community, and that it takes a village to keep us safe. I deeply value the friendships that I have among massage therapists in our state. This summer and during the remainder of 2020, we have been very busy.

Deb Johnson, BCTMB; Owner, Stillpoint Massage & Bodywork Studio;
Faculty, Wellspring School of Allied Health, Topeka, Kansas. Years in massage: 26

I have noticed that the clients who feel safe with receiving bodywork during the pandemic, really need our services. I have been seeing clients who request CranioSacral Therapy, lymph drainage and visceral manipulation. The pandemic has raised the stress level of our clients overall, and our clients are willing to follow our COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile at school, I learned how to teach online! This has been a challenge, especially teaching hands on classes. However, the students have appreciated the school remaining open and keeping everyone safe during the pandemic.

The year 2021 fills me with hope. The vaccines are around the corner. I will continue to follow COVID-19 protocols until our health officials deem it safe.

“If the time of COVID-19 has taught me anything, it is that you have to work with what is, be grateful anyway, and find ways to enjoy life today.” — Felicia Brown

Since I wrote my last essay for Voices of COVID-19, and the pandemic began, my life and world have changed completely. As a therapist, I have chosen not to return to practice (yet) and have only given one massage since March 2020. Just after Christmas, I gave my husband a massage for his birthday. The session was a deeply emotional experience: both a lovely reminder of what I love about massage and why I am not ready to return to it. I cried for the first 10 to 15 minutes, grieving the changes of the last 10 months while also feeling incredible gratitude for my career, business and clients.

That session also marked the end of an era as it was the last service given in the massage room where I have worked for more than 14 years. Though my wellness spa (which evolved from that single massage room) had re-opened in September, it did so with a much smaller staff and selection of services. Although it was nice to welcome people back, it was never even close to the same experience for me, especially since I did not feel comfortable seeing my own clients.

As COVID-19 numbers began to rise in our area, we shut down again, first for a Thanksgiving/holiday break and then an indefinite intermission. We put most everything into storage with the hope we can re-open in a new location once COVID-19 is under control and it is both safe and profitable to do so.

Rather than being sad, I am choosing to see these changes as opportunities and invite you to do the same. Consider this: 

• Wherever we are and whatever we do, we can all choose to create or be “a place” of healing for every person we meet.

• We can all choose to love and care for our clients and others in our lives whether or not we do massage.

• We can choose to create an atmosphere and aura of caring, calm and peace inside ourselves and around us wherever we are.

• We can choose to help those around us succeed because we can make a difference in both our lives by doing so.

Felicia Brown, LMBT; Spa owner, consultant, A to Zen Massage,
Greensboro, North Carolina.
Years in massage: 27.

On the positive side, COVID-19 has helped me connect with joy, fun, laughter and creativity in a whole new way. Thanks to the Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA) and several other friends, I have a collection of rubber ducks who have kept me smiling and seeking out fun adventures since the spring! In addition to hosting “impromptu” races for them in my backyard and other waterways, The Dream Team and I have gone through yoga teacher training, enjoyed several coastal and mountain escapes, spoken to groups about self-care and personal empowerment, and co-written a number of stories including one published in Break Through: Wisdom of the Soul by fellow massage therapy educator, Gloria Coppola.

If the time of COVID-19 has taught me anything, it is that you have to work with “what is,” be grateful anyway, and find ways to enjoy life today. Though it can be a challenge to embrace the rapids the way the ducks do, I am doing my best to ride the waves of this crazy time.

I am not at all where I thought I would be when the pandemic started, but I am OK with where I am. As The Dream Team says, “Every race is a great race!” In turn, every day is a great day, or can be if you decide it is. Namaste and many blessings to you all.

“We did continue to offer pain relief and mobility training over video visits.” — Irene Diamond, RT

Phew—what a year! My San Francisco-based Wellness Center’s physical doors closed on March 16, 2020. In September we reopened for 10 days until the city mandated another closure. (I hosted only one three-day clinical training, and we only saw clients 26 days in-person in 2020.)

Although we couldn’t provide physical therapy, we did continue to offer pain relief and mobility training over video visits. At first, clients were skeptical. But the online support they received led to the results and experience they wanted, so they were happy to continue receiving therapy from their home.

My business-consulting grew, and I am teaching therapists how to deliver therapy online. It is a joy to mentor clinic owners to navigate the challenges.

Most massage therapists don’t see how they can provide results if they can’t touch people. By transitioning to an identity of a wellness provider, health educator, or fitness professional, instead of manual therapist, they can deliver a broader range of services within their scope of practice.

You’ve undoubtedly heard me encourage providers to sell results rather than time. Practices stopped selling the typical 60 to 90-minute sessions. Instead, they learned how to relieve their client’s pain, stress, restricted movement and other symptoms while charging a flat fee. 

Because they provide results in the shortest time possible, therapists have less exposure risk. They enjoy working fewer hours while making the same if not more income than generating before the shutdown. 

Irene Diamond, RT; Founder, Owner, Diamond Pain Relief & Wellness,
San Francisco, California. Years in health and wellness: 32.

Four factors I observed about the practices that continue to do well:

1. They have enough cash reserves to cover their overhead and living expenses. This financial security gives them the ability to avoid desperate decisions.

2. They are open-minded. Their excitement creates new business strategies and approaches to thrive in their practice, not merely survive. They look at this unique circumstance as a game and play to win!

3. They accept the Bio-Psycho-Social concept that the benefits their clients receive are due to multi-factors. They embrace the ability to deliver results online in a one to one or small group format.

4. They do not attempt to figure out what to do to stay safe while following health and city regulations on their own. They don’t waste time and resources. They seek insight; current, accurate information, and support through colleagues, coaches and groups. 

It’s important to remember; people have symptoms to relieve and goals to achieve. They are looking for legitimate solutions. Practices that learn how to integrate online multi-modal therapeutic support will be richly rewarded, both financially and professionally.

“My team has grown closer while weathering the challenges.” — Douglas Nelson

June 1, the day my clinic reopened, was a day filled with a mixture of emotions. My staff and I were thrilled to be able to see clients again, and we opened slowly by seeing clients that we had seen multiple times in the past.

It was extremely validating to hear from these clients how much they missed the benefits of massage therapy. After testing the waters for a about a month, we began to open the doors to the full range of our practice. While there has been no shortage of trials along the way, the last few months have gone remarkably well, all things considered.

Douglas Nelson, LMT, BCTMB; Owner, BodyWork Associates,
Champaign, Illinois. Years in massage: 44.

That is, until mid-November when a new surge of COVID-19 cases prompted a new round of restrictions in our state. Under these restrictions, anyone receiving massage therapy must get approval to do so by their medical provider. (Seeing a hairstylist or getting a tattoo was perceived to be fine, however.) This had a significant effect on our practice, as I am sure it did for many therapists in our state. Because the focus of our practice is on helping people with musculoskeletal problems, we did have many providers who sent notes of approval. There were also a significant number of clients who found it difficult to obtain such a note, for a variety of reasons.

As the owner of a clinic with 20 therapists and four support staff, 2020 presented not only profound challenges for the business but for me personally as well. Leading a team of people in times of such great uncertainty is not an easy task, but I think my team has grown closer while weathering the challenges. On a personal level, the financial cost to keep the doors open and the staff employed has been significant. Even in the face of these challenges, I remain fully committed, strong in the belief of the power and promise of massage therapy.

“Even before the pandemic, many individuals in our community were touch-starved.” — Linda Ellerbe

 We knew that once the shutdowns started, it was going to be a difficult year with a lot of uncertainty. And there was the initial loss of income as the massage therapy community waited for a better understanding of how to proceed safely. Our practice is dedicated to health and healing, and before restoring services for our clients, we needed to eliminate risks so we could work safely with patients. Many of our clients are older, and some struggle with conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19, so it made the most sense to ensure safe operation.

During this downtime, rather than remaining idle, we reengaged with online and other training materials to improve our knowledge base. Every healing art, including massage, is a constant evolution of self. You learn from each client interaction and other providers. As therapists, we are constantly refining our abilities to provide the most benefits to our clients.

Laura Ellerbe, LMT; Owner, Healing Kneads Massage,
Lake Mary, Florida. Years in massage: 9.

Even with all the challenges, we clearly recognized the needs of our community. Touch can be incredibly healing and nurturing, and even before the pandemic, many individuals in our community were touch-starved. We’ve all seen the power and healing that can come through massage, and we recognized the opportunity to help our clients process and transform their emotional stress.

With these goals in mind, and as things became clearer through the pandemic, we adopted strategies to work safely, opening only when we knew it was fully within our capacity to operate in a way that eliminated risks. In addition to safety protocols, we added Reiki to our menu of services. While massage and other tissue manipulation are often helpful for physical pain, in our experience, Reiki is often a critical tool for clients’ emotional well-being. With the increases in anxiety and depression, it only made sense to support clients with tools to help with their emotions.

As a result of our efforts, our practice not only revived, it thrived. Through supporting the needs of the community, it was obvious that we were filling a gap. Our clientele expanded as people realized the benefits we were able to provide through our services.

Looking back, it has been a challenging year, financially and emotionally. Yet, adapting to the challenges and recognizing the need for massage therapy now more than ever helped us in providing needed services and healing to our community.

“I am COVID-19 tested twice a week, for the protection of my clients and myself.” — Liz Yerkes

 2020 was a hard year for everyone! I closed my office, broke my lease, mostly because my landlord wouldn’t consider lowering our lease payment, even though we were closed for four months, and had my independent contractors find other places to work.

Liz Yerkes, LMT; Owner, Longboat Massage
Longboat Key, Florida. Years in massage: 32.

I decided that the best thing for Longboat Massage would be to work at several locations, including the offices of two colleagues, the assisted living facility I had been working with, and in private homes, with clients who have tables. 

This has been working well. Upside, much less overhead, so in the worst-case scenario I can stop working indefinitely if necessary; to the downside, schlepping so many needed supplies around to different locations.

I am COVID-19 tested twice a week, for the protection of my clients and myself. Every client answers a COVID-19 questionnaire before every massage, I take their temperature, my clients and I wear a mask before, during and after the massage, plus UV lamps and air purifiers are used in the two offices I use. In addition, all surfaced are wiped down before a new client enters the room. I also work with gloves on.

Because of all the travel and sanitation time, I am giving fewer massages a week, but my stress level is much lower without all the overhead of the office.

I am looking forward to the vaccine be available to all who want to receive it. Hopefully, in the next few months, life will start to resemble our previous one. I think I will continue to work in mask and gloves, regardless, I am so used to them now, it just seems safer for all.

“I wear a mask when out (for work and groceries only), avoid people and wash and sanitize constantly.” — Lucy R. Mounts

I was proud to open my small massage practice in October of 2017. By December of 2019, I had paid back my original investment and had three Therapists working with me. 2020 was going to be a good year!


I shut down completely on March 17, knowing the business could swing five months paying overhead and I could cover two months personally if necessary. (It was.)

Lucy Mounts, LMT; Owner, Summit Massage Therapy, Fort Myers, Florida. Years in massage: 10.

“What about the assistance programs?” What about them? I applied. To all of them. Multiple times. Not one red cent came my way. But Fortune 500 companies got theirs; Hooray!

Fortunately for my household, my husband’s salary keeps us sustained. I know there have been many families who lost so much. I am immeasurably grateful for how hard my Husband works and for how wonderfully his company has handled the pandemic. I definitely would have lost my business if his work had been affected.

I reopened at the end of September when the numbers were not great but the Labor Day spike had gone down. (Don’t get me started on super spreader gatherings. I live in southwest Florida, and it’s like it never stopped after Spring Break.) I really didn’t have a choice. It was risk it or lose it.

My solution to ease the anxiety of it all was to implement the most rigorous COVID-19 safety routine anyone’s ever seen. But it is still a nerve-wracking decision every day to remain open.

I continue to stay home as much as possible. My mobile scheduling app allows me to do a fair amount of business at home and I’ve stopped taking new clients, funneling them all to my therapist on staff to help her recover financially from our six-month closure.

I wear a mask when out (for work and groceries only), avoid people and wash and sanitize constantly. It is mind boggling-ly frustrating to witness the absolute wanton abandon of any concern by the anti-maskers and COVID-19 hoaxers.

But, so far, my business has survived, despite it all. And for that, I am grateful. Moving forward into 2021, we can only hope that the vaccine becomes readily available and is effective in curbing the virus so no one else has to close a small business, lose a job or bury a loved one because of COVID-19.

“I couldn’t breathe and ended up in the hospital” — Penny Anderson

I initially took off six weeks. Closed my business, which was scary. Proceeded to go back to work from May to July when I had bilateral knee replacement surgery. I had been so very careful about wearing a mask and washing my hands constantly and such.

Penny Anderson, LMT; Owner, Body & Soul Therapeutic Massage,
Orem, Utah. Years in massage: 20

During my recovery my granddaughter had a small birthday party, (six of us), but the day before my grandson had done a job at a car show and there, he picked up COVID-19 and gave it to us that next day at the party. Four of the six of us came down with it.

The first nine days were not too bad, just deep bone achiness and some bowel issues. But on the ninth day all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe and ended up in the hospital. After that I was put on oxygen full time for seven weeks.I am no longer on oxygen, but to this day I still have trouble with any kind of physical exertion. I am finally back to work, just part time for now, as I recover. The doctors are not sure how long it could last. I am hopeful it will not go on forever.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how careful you are at work, you are most likely to get it from someone close to you.

“Human touch has a huge impact on the receiver—greater than we realize.” — Kevin Deighan

Our workplace reopened mid-May primarily serving our regular local clients as our number of infections were low in our area. Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island as well as the surrounding towns on the Grand Strand rely on tourism revenue in the spring and summer months. Our Governor restricted outside visitors for a while, so our traffic was low starting out in the spring.

Kevin Deighan, LMT; Independent practitioner,
Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. Years in massage: 16.

Our spa put several protocols in place regarding sanitation and safety in the workplace, which we all acknowledged as the “new normal” including HEPA filter machines in a workspaces, Barbicide sanitizer on all surfaces, hand sanitizer and a face mask requirement. Each client had temp and health recorded and advised of our new protocols upon entry. We also limited the number of clients in at a time.

As for myself, my client list has grown and most of my regulars are just that. Some of the area massage businesses haven’t fared well, others remain closed out of fear I guess. I believe you can work safely by maintaining good hygiene, boosting your immune system, getting plenty of rest and hydrating.

Whether you believe COVID-19 is a real or not, work safely and protect yourself from colds and the flu as you would normally. Wash your hands frequently, wear your mask and perform your massage work as the stress level out there is running at hyper speed. Now, more than ever; human touch has a huge impact on the receiver—greater than we realize.

“Although in-person classes were paused, my CE business has grown immensely since April 2020.” — Melinda Hastings

Like most massage therapists, my 2020 was full of twists and turns. Some were gentle and welcomed while others were delivered with a direct punch to the face. But no matter what attempted to stand in my way, I wasn’t going to let a pandemic destroy the career I’ve built over the last 24 years. I was committed to coming out on top.

When the governor of my (former) state announced that massage therapists were permitted to resume in-person sessions, I was prepped and ready. Thanks to the strong authority position I had built and continued to nurture through the shutdown, I was able to bring my practice back up to full speed – with all the necessary COVID-19 precautions in place. Clients were desperate for bodywork after a long shutdown and I was more than ready to get back to treating their pain and dysfunction.

Melinda Hastings; Owner, Inspired Therapist Seminars
DuPont, Washington. Years in massage: 24.

In July, I faced yet another turn—my husband and I relocated to Germany on military orders. The ongoing COVID-19 climate here has stalled my ability to begin practicing again, but I’m patiently waiting for the situation to improve so our lockdowns can be lifted and I can move forward.

Although in-person classes were paused (due to both the pandemic and my international move), my CE business has grown immensely since April 2020. Not working with in-person clients has allowed me to substantially increase the number of online courses I offer through Inspired Therapist Seminars and support therapists on a much deeper level. But I’m not stopping there.

I have massive plans for 2021, so I’ll continue to use the limitations that COVID-19 presents to take those plans from dreams to reality. My new private practice will continue with the same structure that has allowed me to be successful in every market I’ve practiced in, but will get another substantial price-lift. Inspired Therapist Seminars will continue to grow in number of courses offered and in in-person teaching locations. And finally, I’ll be taking massive action on an even bigger dream.

“The best part of not having control of when or if you can work is finding out you are completely capable of so much more.” — Michelle Morris

I appreciate the opportunity to share my Covid-19 journey with others in my profession. This has been a opportunity to explore other aspects of life, that I am also passionate about. 

Michelle Morris, CMT; Owner, The Corporate Chair LLC and Happy Soul Organic, LLC ,
Stevenson Ranch, California. Years in massage: 10.

The first thing I had to work on, was self-care. I began to meditate more and read more books. This helped me to not keep my complete focus on the negativity going on around me. I began to work on things that made me happy, like working on my organic products. I started a new business called Happy Soul Organic LLC, which is my favorite part of 2020. This was a hobby that became a legal company.

The best part of not having control of when or if you can work is finding out you are completely capable of so much more. I love being a massage therapist and I can’t believe it been almost a year without working constantly.

My clients are amazing and followed the guidelines when I was given the OK to work.

This wasn’t an easy year, but I am thankful for my family, my health and my faith. By simply finding a few new things or possibly old things that interested me, I was able to navigate the unknown. I also learn a few more skills along the way. I am sending everyone positive energy and I cannot wait to see how wonderful 2021 is going to be.

“I sincerely hope that my children learned what perseverance looked like.” — Jimmy Gialelis

As 2020 winds down, I am filled with much gratitude. Our business survived this unusual year. We had enough students attend continuing education classes to maintain business efforts. We maintained and even created future business partnerships during this time. Much reflection and introspection was had for the future steps. Clarity of our mission as a business was achieved.

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB; Massage school owner, Advanced Massage Arts & Education,
Tempe, Arizona. Years in massage: 21.

Learning how to utilize Zoom to hold classes and events virtually became a significant lesson learned with our business. We also added a retail segment to our business. Physically in our location we have displays with holistic and massage related items for sale. Next year, we plan on expanding this to an online shop format. 

My children took notice of the different nature of our work. They witnessed our metamorphosis. I sincerely hope that my children learned what perseverance looked like.

A welcome surprise which occurred was an increase in the number of clients seeking massage therapy. Clients were seeking connection through touch to help manage and cope with the stresses of this year. This is a prime example of how massage therapy fosters healing on multiple levels. This is the essence of our work.

The gratitude I feel for those that supported us and for the power of massage therapy is what I hold dear to my heart this Christmas holiday season.”

“I have found a balance and a light during this dark and difficult year, which has guided me to the true value in life.” — Tess Falk

This year has been one of the most formative in my life and career. I am stronger and healthier mentally, physically and emotionally. I find gratitude daily and I am more driven than ever to show up for humanity and for myself. I have found a balance and a light during this dark and difficult year, which has guided me to the true value in life.

Tess Falk, LMT, CKTP; Owner, @Peace Massage & Bodywork; Winter Park, Florida. Years in massage: 11.

True wealth comes from the relationships you cultivate and sustain. True wealth comes from valuing yourself and daring to grow, learn, dream and love. I am grateful for my husband, my love and business partner. I am proud of how we have stepped up our protocols to meet the needs of all in our community and the needs of each other. I am grateful for our trusting, loyal clients who have shown up for us, just as much as we have shown up for them. I am grateful for the time I have gained to learn and create space, breathe and balance myself, my body and my heart.

I have taken the time to become a Shinpiden Reiki Master and I am excited to integrate this new awareness into my medical therapeutic oriented practice. When COVID-19 led to the eventual closing of our practice in March, I started to feel anxiety, worry and fear on a daily basis. I now feel an abundance of gratitude. I feel peace in myself and trust in the community my husband and I have built together. I am hopeful for the future and where life will lead all of us.

Vaccines, BLM, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a new year, a new president, a new beginning. COVID-19—in my opinion, was Mother Nature telling all humans, “Go to your room and think about what you’ve done.” This pandemic has given many of us an opportunity to self-reflect, slow down and make new choices. We all suffer in life, but we do not all suffer equally. I choose to thrive in the positive light of us all.

“One of the many mantras on repeat these days is to say thank you to all the clients still booking.” — Tracey Windmill

When the only certainty is uncertainty it can leave a small business owner pivoting like a ballerina. Here in Colorado there are town ordinances, county ordinances and also the state requirements to follow—and let’s not forget to add the expectations of prospective clients into the list. It’s enough to leave you sleepless and wondering if the correct decision was that of so many other massage businesses and that is to say, close the doors indefinitely or for good.

Yet there is this nagging sensation that touch was never meant to be a luxury, it’s a basic human need. It is an action that validates life and gives hope to both the giver and receiver. Newborns experience failure to thrive without being held and the vital sense of touch. And what about the harm in the spaces left when healing has no opportunity to occur? Add in the overstressed nervous system and it’s a power combo that left too many picking up the pieces during this pandemic.

Tracey Windmill, LMT; Owner, Alpenglow Massage and Dynamic Flow Massage; Winter Park, Colorado. Years in massage: 26.

It’s been both powerful and frightening to have so many clients express how much they have needed to receive touch during these uncertain times. They have said it with tears, with laughter and with how their bodies have responded to the massage. How do we meet this need that is so prevalent yet walk the balance of keeping our clients’ safety, as well as our own, a priority?

People’s fears talk loudly when they experience scarcity, whether by experiencing the uncertainty of job longevity or what can be perceived as a robbing of one’s health. Add in isolation and being informed to always maintain six feet of distance, and once again there is a commonality of the feeling of scarcity. It’s scary stuff. 

 A team of 10 LMTs means 10 different lives—and while all are endeavoring to be safe, there have also been moments of exposure in the community. Or as in one case, the therapist’s mom, herself a nurse, stopped in at the house to see the six-month-old grandson and the baby contracted COVID-19, leading to two weeks of quarantine. 

So yes, there has been last-minute scrambling to notify clients of changes to schedules, but thankfully zero calls to clients in regard to any exposure or spread of COVID-19. There is a mountain of sanitation products to buy, store and use at a pace that can be somewhat surprising; there is also a mountain of laundry that can keep a team of therapists going for hours after all the actual clients have left the building. 

Weariness is not for the weak or the ones left holding all the questions. There are answers, which are the same ones I believe we all held when we enrolled in massage school, that touch is an extraordinary component of healing. That massage is a career that is safe and fulfilling. 

Trust can be a slippery slope and it is not mutually exclusive, for the giver and receiver are in a small room for an extended period of time, something that is not advised at all during this pandemic. Some clients have declined to book when informed of what is required of them and others express reluctance, but thankfully the main core of the clientele have been happy to comply. 

Operating at 25% capacity for months at a time can tax any small business as less capacity means less revenue in the door to pay all the operating costs, so you scale back as much as you can and you hold onto hope like a lifeline. An SBA grant helped immensely as well as the generosity of landlords who waived for rent for three months of lockdown. 

While this massage therapist and small-business owner is glad to see the back of 2020, there is still a ways to go in this pandemic.

One of the many mantras on repeat these days is to say thank you to all the clients still booking for helping keep the doors of this small business open, for being willing to trust us with part of their journey of healing with massage and for adhering to all the safety regulations required. 

Thank you Thank you Thank you. 

“I am allowing myself to ‘go big’ and become more than I thought possible.” — Amy Bradley Radford

For me, the most interesting observation with the pause and restart of massage therapy was that there was a redefining, or perhaps a refining, for what massage therapists genuinely wanted. While I watched many therapists take this as an opportunity to change careers, I also watched many take the initiative to truly reach out for their dreams and goals, creating such positive change in their lives.

Amy Bradley Radford, Owner, PPS Seminars; Idaho Falls, Idaho. Years in massage: 27.

Personally, I have had more of my income shift to individual coaching opportunities for those looking for guidance on how to restart their businesses and build a plan for their future. Seeing how my experience and guidance can make such a difference in other therapist’s business has been such a joy! I never saw myself in this capacity. The changes of our industry during 2020 and how those changes impacted my online training business fostered this chance. I am thankful that it did.

One of my coaching clients summed up how I feel 2020 impacted me. She said, “I always wanted to make changes in my business but was afraid to for all sorts of reasons. Would I lose clients if I charged more? Where does one find the answer on how to raise your rates? It was so frustrating, and I couldn’t see my real value until I had the time to stop and ask myself some really important questions.

Things like: How long am I going to do massage therapy? What can I do to prolong my career and hands? When do I have permission to charge more for my service? Because at the end of the day, I do feel undervalued. Unfortunately, I realized I was the one undervaluing myself. It took being forced to stop that allowed me to see what I needed to see. I saw it was up to me to make those hard but powerful decisions and move forward. So, I am.”

So, I am, too. I am adapting to change and looking for opportunity as it presents itself to me. I am observing my talents and experience with more intention and value. I am finding joy in what I do instead of just working. I am taking the time to recreate myself and promising myself to enjoy the journey. I am allowing myself to “go big” and become more than I thought possible.

My business is growing every day and I am seeing more income and opportunity. For therapists, I can see that there is and will be a larger demand for human touch. We are needed. Don’t give up.