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Hello, I am designing a preliminary research study to investigate working conditions, career longevity and job satisfaction of working MT's. Of particular interest is learning why so many MT's leave the field within a few years. Of course common sense and personal experiences can provide clues and reasonable opinions, but I want to conduct large-scale, legitimate research on this topic. If we can gain more insight into the "why" questions, we'll know more about what to do about it--we'll be more successful in developing strategies for improving training and working realities for MT's; thus, the quality of massage therapy available to the public. I am looking for your comments, insights, and ideas on this question.  I look forward to hearing about your experiences with being an MT. Specifically, what has been challenging or difficult for you? What do you think would improve conditions for you as an MT? Do you have any general insights relevant to the question of why such a high percentage of MT's leave the field within a few years.  I believe that by studying this in a formal way, we will find information that could improve the experience of working in this field for all of us.Thanks, Gabriella

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Hello Brandy,

Thank you for adding to the discussion, I value your insight. I'm very moved by your experience. Sadly, I think it is all too common for LMT's to be treated in the ways you describe, and it seems very clear that these are big contributors to burnout, discouragement and eventually exiting the field. I hope to eventually help by producing formal research that will legitimize and call attention to what we already informally know.

I really feel your love of the work, and your frustration with working conditions. I hope you will find your way to work that honors you and the real value of what you do. It can be difficult, but it's possible!

Gabriella

ps You do not sound bitter to me, you sound frustrated--with good reason.  


Jimswife said:

I agree completely with you Brandy!  I am experiencing the same things.  You explained the issues alot better than I could.  



Brandy Snyder said:

Hi Gabriella,

I recently experienced my first job as a massage therapist in a chiropractors office. While I love what I do, I had some issues with how the staff and chiropractor himself treated me. Let's just say that there were a lot of overinflated egos in that establishment. They considered me a "chiropractic assistant", not a LMT. That was extremely insulting to me and I did voice my opinion to the office manager. Thankfully, I no longer work there.

Anyway, I'd like to answer some of your questions as to why I think MTs don't stay in the profession very long.

1 - Rarely are health benefits offered. While I understand that MTs don't usually work 8 hour days, I feel we do a comparable amount of work to someone who sits in a cube all day (which was my career path before I chose massage).

2 - Breaks - Often I found myself "stacked" which meant back to back clients with no breaks at all during a 5 hour shift. (I'm a human, not a machine.)

3 - CEUs are rather expensive. In PA, we need 24 every two years to keep our licenses. I've already spent $150 for 7.5 CEUs and I'm still paying my student loans. It's been hard for me to find CEUs that are affordable and that I actually have an interest in. One CEU I wanted to take is $500. The costs are ridiculous.

My apology if I come off as being bitter, and I like being an MT, but there are so many hoops to jump through that I'm not sure if it's all worth it.

  Thats so said how she was treated..Its our education system.. It allows us to be Second class in the eyes of other so called health care providers, and the public in general... It doesn't empower with reality.. Truth be known.. If every massage therapist knew what I know. ( And it can be taught.). There wouldn't be very many chiropractors around.  After nearly three decades of observation  from working with every other type of manual health care professional out there.... Once any underlying pathology is ruled out...Its a skilled massage therapist all the way. I know that is the real truth..   We should be educated in that reality. Until then... Nothing will change..Thats another reality.  But I think I'm just talking to myself..I dont see any real organization or education system that is truly backing our profession at all..  I made a few good friends in here that I will keep contact with.... Good enough...Im better off spending my evenings relaxing, stretching, and studying...Truth remains hidden.

Gabriella Sonam said:


Hello Brandy,

Thank you for adding to the discussion, I value your insight. I'm very moved by your experience. Sadly, I think it is all too common for LMT's to be treated in the ways you describe, and it seems very clear that these are big contributors to burnout, discouragement and eventually exiting the field. I hope to eventually help by producing formal research that will legitimize and call attention to what we already informally know.

I really feel your love of the work, and your frustration with working conditions. I hope you will find your way to work that honors you and the real value of what you do. It can be difficult, but it's possible!

Gabriella

ps You do not sound bitter to me, you sound frustrated--with good reason.  


Jimswife said:

I agree completely with you Brandy!  I am experiencing the same things.  You explained the issues alot better than I could.  



Brandy Snyder said:

Hi Gabriella,

I recently experienced my first job as a massage therapist in a chiropractors office. While I love what I do, I had some issues with how the staff and chiropractor himself treated me. Let's just say that there were a lot of overinflated egos in that establishment. They considered me a "chiropractic assistant", not a LMT. That was extremely insulting to me and I did voice my opinion to the office manager. Thankfully, I no longer work there.

Anyway, I'd like to answer some of your questions as to why I think MTs don't stay in the profession very long.

1 - Rarely are health benefits offered. While I understand that MTs don't usually work 8 hour days, I feel we do a comparable amount of work to someone who sits in a cube all day (which was my career path before I chose massage).

2 - Breaks - Often I found myself "stacked" which meant back to back clients with no breaks at all during a 5 hour shift. (I'm a human, not a machine.)

3 - CEUs are rather expensive. In PA, we need 24 every two years to keep our licenses. I've already spent $150 for 7.5 CEUs and I'm still paying my student loans. It's been hard for me to find CEUs that are affordable and that I actually have an interest in. One CEU I wanted to take is $500. The costs are ridiculous.

My apology if I come off as being bitter, and I like being an MT, but there are so many hoops to jump through that I'm not sure if it's all worth it.

Aloha Brandy and Jimswife,

WORKING WITHOUT BREAKS:  You've both mentioned working long hours with no break.  (yuck!)  Have you told your employer that you need more breaks?  Have you been specific by telling them what will break schedule works for you?  If you have asked, how have they responded?   I passionately desire to see you get the breaks you need to take care of yourself!  I passionately wish for you to thrive massage therapists!!  And, I am confident that you can create this specific shift that you need in your work life, though it may require you to step forward and/or take a risk.  The reward is worth it. The cost for not getting the breaks you need is great.

COST OF HEALTH CARE: Health care benefits are certainly a big expense and an issue for many people in our country!  I'm self employed, 56 years old, very healthy, and pay about $320/month for the catastrophic health insurance I purchase privately.  With catastrophic health insurance my deductibles are hight.

COST OF CE CLASSES:  Yes, hands on CE classes are usually expensive.  I teach Mana Lomi - clinically focused lomlomi.  I charge $160 for 8 CE classes which are taught in one day and $445/$495 (westcoast/eastcoast) for 27 CE classes which are taught in three days.  If I factor in the time and money I spend promoting my classes, handling registration, creating class material, following up after the class, paying rent, travel etc, AND if 6-12 people register for my classes at full price, then I make decent but not extravagant money.  When I teach classs with 2-5 students I make minimal to OK money, often less than I would make giving massage.  The message here is: hands on CE classes are expensive because they truly are expensive to create and host. 

That said,I know many therapists simply can't afford full price for these CE classes.   I offer partial scholarships in classes I self host to anyone who is seriously interested in attending my classes, and for whom money is the only obstacle preventing them from registering. I'm happy to work with you to make it possilble for you to attend.  (Sorry - no scholarships available for the classes I teach which are hosted by massage schools.)     I teach in the northeast and the northwest. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me.   I love teaching!!!

warm wishes,

Barbara Helynn

http://www.lomilomi-massage.org/massage-continuing-education.html

This is an interesting subject.  I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.  I am a fairly new LMT and have giving myself three years to make this work or to crawl back into the corporate world.  2012 makes the second of my three years and from what I've read... I'm pretty fortunate.  Once I decided to leave a high paying but extremely stressful job and try massage therapy it has been nothing but one amazing gift after another.  I had never had a massage when I started school, I think I was just looking for a way to decompress, however, I fell deeply in love with the human body and most of the modalities of massage.  While in school I found a job working for an independent promotional company that was flexible enough with my schedule to allow me to do massage jobs as I got them.  Once I graduated, a therapist approached me about contract work at a hotel that did 'couples massages'.  Unlike some places they paid 50% of each massage plus tips and it also afforded me a chance to view a variety of techniques from the other therapists.  Because this is a well known hotel it also has given me a little boost in my reputation and respectablility because people just assume you are fantastic because you work there.  I work hard to give a great massage, market myself, soak in as much education that I can and treat my clients like gold... because they are.  Currently I'm showing a 50% increase over LY and it looks like I might be able to go full time next year.  

With that said, these are the things I found challenging:

1.  Coming out of massage school with very little confidence with my knowledge of the body or techniques that help specific problems, yet your client considers you a 'professional' or 'expert' and that is scary.  I can't wait to get to the point where I can understand the body so well that I can actually feel confident in how to approach clients' issues.  2.  Even though making your client feel amazing is wonderful, it all comes down to the bottom line.  Two years out of school and I just barely broke even this year with massage... thank God I had a job on the side to pay the mortgage.     3.  Like I said, I'm fortunate in that I don't work for a place that works you like a dog with little pay... like a lot of therapists I know.  Seems like a sure way to burn-out city.                                                                                                 

4.  Understanding how to run your business.  What to be ontop of for taxes, inventory and book keeping.  Even more if you do an intake form and keep soap notes on every client.

I don't know, just a few thoughts that mirror what everyone else is saying.  I love this profession and applaude you that have been in it 10, 20, 30+ years... I just wish I could know now what you have taken years to acquire. 

Denise congratulations on such a good start. Becoming a professional is like making a fine wine. You put in the basic ingredients and then let it age. You may get vinegar or fine wine. Once out of school the confidence, adventurism, attitude, skill, knowledge, ability, experiences, and luck all go into the development which like wine should never stop developing.

Denise M. Johnson said:

This is an interesting subject.  I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.  I am a fairly new LMT and have giving myself three years to make this work or to crawl back into the corporate world.  2012 makes the second of my three years and from what I've read... I'm pretty fortunate.  Once I decided to leave a high paying but extremely stressful job and try massage therapy it has been nothing but one amazing gift after another.  I had never had a massage when I started school, I think I was just looking for a way to decompress, however, I fell deeply in love with the human body and most of the modalities of massage.  While in school I found a job working for an independent promotional company that was flexible enough with my schedule to allow me to do massage jobs as I got them.  Once I graduated, a therapist approached me about contract work at a hotel that did 'couples massages'.  Unlike some places they paid 50% of each massage plus tips and it also afforded me a chance to view a variety of techniques from the other therapists.  Because this is a well known hotel it also has given me a little boost in my reputation and respectablility because people just assume you are fantastic because you work there.  I work hard to give a great massage, market myself, soak in as much education that I can and treat my clients like gold... because they are.  Currently I'm showing a 50% increase over LY and it looks like I might be able to go full time next year.  

With that said, these are the things I found challenging:

1.  Coming out of massage school with very little confidence with my knowledge of the body or techniques that help specific problems, yet your client considers you a 'professional' or 'expert' and that is scary.  I can't wait to get to the point where I can understand the body so well that I can actually feel confident in how to approach clients' issues.  2.  Even though making your client feel amazing is wonderful, it all comes down to the bottom line.  Two years out of school and I just barely broke even this year with massage... thank God I had a job on the side to pay the mortgage.     3.  Like I said, I'm fortunate in that I don't work for a place that works you like a dog with little pay... like a lot of therapists I know.  Seems like a sure way to burn-out city.                                                                                                 

4.  Understanding how to run your business.  What to be ontop of for taxes, inventory and book keeping.  Even more if you do an intake form and keep soap notes on every client.

I don't know, just a few thoughts that mirror what everyone else is saying.  I love this profession and applaude you that have been in it 10, 20, 30+ years... I just wish I could know now what you have taken years to acquire. 

Ok, so now they are adding more national certification exams... Like its a real change...a real advancement for our profession.  NOT....Any change within the current system is no real change at all. 

Gordon J. Wallis said:

The mindset of massage therapists has to change...That means the educational system has to change....Not change within the same system...There needs to be a complete new system...Like I said...As long as  our text books say go see a medical doctor if you think you might be getting carpal tunnel. The career span will remain short. 

Congrates Denise

may your cup runneth over. :)

Daniel Cohen said:

Denise congratulations on such a good start. Becoming a professional is like making a fine wine. You put in the basic ingredients and then let it age. You may get vinegar or fine wine. Once out of school the confidence, adventurism, attitude, skill, knowledge, ability, experiences, and luck all go into the development which like wine should never stop developing.

Denise M. Johnson said:

This is an interesting subject.  I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.  I am a fairly new LMT and have giving myself three years to make this work or to crawl back into the corporate world.  2012 makes the second of my three years and from what I've read... I'm pretty fortunate.  Once I decided to leave a high paying but extremely stressful job and try massage therapy it has been nothing but one amazing gift after another.  I had never had a massage when I started school, I think I was just looking for a way to decompress, however, I fell deeply in love with the human body and most of the modalities of massage.  While in school I found a job working for an independent promotional company that was flexible enough with my schedule to allow me to do massage jobs as I got them.  Once I graduated, a therapist approached me about contract work at a hotel that did 'couples massages'.  Unlike some places they paid 50% of each massage plus tips and it also afforded me a chance to view a variety of techniques from the other therapists.  Because this is a well known hotel it also has given me a little boost in my reputation and respectablility because people just assume you are fantastic because you work there.  I work hard to give a great massage, market myself, soak in as much education that I can and treat my clients like gold... because they are.  Currently I'm showing a 50% increase over LY and it looks like I might be able to go full time next year.  

With that said, these are the things I found challenging:

1.  Coming out of massage school with very little confidence with my knowledge of the body or techniques that help specific problems, yet your client considers you a 'professional' or 'expert' and that is scary.  I can't wait to get to the point where I can understand the body so well that I can actually feel confident in how to approach clients' issues.  2.  Even though making your client feel amazing is wonderful, it all comes down to the bottom line.  Two years out of school and I just barely broke even this year with massage... thank God I had a job on the side to pay the mortgage.     3.  Like I said, I'm fortunate in that I don't work for a place that works you like a dog with little pay... like a lot of therapists I know.  Seems like a sure way to burn-out city.                                                                                                 

4.  Understanding how to run your business.  What to be ontop of for taxes, inventory and book keeping.  Even more if you do an intake form and keep soap notes on every client.

I don't know, just a few thoughts that mirror what everyone else is saying.  I love this profession and applaude you that have been in it 10, 20, 30+ years... I just wish I could know now what you have taken years to acquire. 

A few things

 

1 - Like it or not, Massage is a small business in most cases. the survival rate of small businesses is frighteningly low, and even worse in the past 3 years. Do MTs leave the field at a rate faster than small businesses fail? If not, then there is not much to study! If you believe MTs are less well equipped to run a business than your average small business owner, then they would have to leave the field at a rate MUCH HIGHER than small buisness failures in order to be significant. Otherwise you would just be studying why the below average entrepreneur fail more often than the average entreprenuer, which falls under the category of "duh, and/or hello"

2- the "lure" of massage as a profession -- or at least the one sold by most schools, be your own boss, set your own sked, make $60+ per hour, no shortage of work/clients -- tends to attract people who don't like the structure/constraints of being employees. Not just spa employees, but employees period. And many consider working for someone else a necessary evil on the path to experience and having your own practice.And heaven forbid you go to work for a below-average entreprenuer. the chances of you even surviving being an employee without being soured or burned out on mssage to start your own massage business dwindle accordingly.

3 - the schools do a terrible job of preparing people for the reality of entering the business of massage, beit as an employee or sole practitioner.

One of the most striking comments I have heard, and I have heard it across the country, is the low % of massage school graduates who ever get around to taking their exam to get their license and practice. These costs are not included in your tuitioin at most schools, so you then have to save up, doing non-massage work, which paying back your massage school loans, to take your test. 6 months pass, you take your test and fail because you forgot the stuff that is on the test, and you get discouraged and never practice.

4- there is a generational component linked to #2-- there is a huge swath of the population that are "perpetually dis-satsified" and feel entitled to a good job just because they live and breathe. They change "careers" so often because some evil boss would not let them take off the weekend with no notice, reprimanded them for being late or doing a bad job, etc. We just had to fire one of these mid-20s prima donnas -- she wanted to be praised for her effort -- even though the results were poor and costing us business -- and kept repeating how she was "helping us out" by doing her job. When you think of doing your job, for which you are compensated, as "helping you out" then you don't understand what a job is.

 

I think there is a lot for MTs to lean about Key Success Factors for this industry, but I dont' think you will find the turnover/"failure rate" is substantially worse than the economy at large. But finding and presenting those KSFs in a way that has not been done before will be a challenge.

Well stated.

Relax & Rejuvenate said:

A few things

 

1 - Like it or not, Massage is a small business in most cases. the survival rate of small businesses is frighteningly low, and even worse in the past 3 years. Do MTs leave the field at a rate faster than small businesses fail? If not, then there is not much to study! If you believe MTs are less well equipped to run a business than your average small business owner, then they would have to leave the field at a rate MUCH HIGHER than small buisness failures in order to be significant. Otherwise you would just be studying why the below average entrepreneur fail more often than the average entreprenuer, which falls under the category of "duh, and/or hello"

2- the "lure" of massage as a profession -- or at least the one sold by most schools, be your own boss, set your own sked, make $60+ per hour, no shortage of work/clients -- tends to attract people who don't like the structure/constraints of being employees. Not just spa employees, but employees period. And many consider working for someone else a necessary evil on the path to experience and having your own practice.And heaven forbid you go to work for a below-average entreprenuer. the chances of you even surviving being an employee without being soured or burned out on mssage to start your own massage business dwindle accordingly.

3 - the schools do a terrible job of preparing people for the reality of entering the business of massage, beit as an employee or sole practitioner.

One of the most striking comments I have heard, and I have heard it across the country, is the low % of massage school graduates who ever get around to taking their exam to get their license and practice. These costs are not included in your tuitioin at most schools, so you then have to save up, doing non-massage work, which paying back your massage school loans, to take your test. 6 months pass, you take your test and fail because you forgot the stuff that is on the test, and you get discouraged and never practice.

4- there is a generational component linked to #2-- there is a huge swath of the population that are "perpetually dis-satsified" and feel entitled to a good job just because they live and breathe. They change "careers" so often because some evil boss would not let them take off the weekend with no notice, reprimanded them for being late or doing a bad job, etc. We just had to fire one of these mid-20s prima donnas -- she wanted to be praised for her effort -- even though the results were poor and costing us business -- and kept repeating how she was "helping us out" by doing her job. When you think of doing your job, for which you are compensated, as "helping you out" then you don't understand what a job is.

 

I think there is a lot for MTs to lean about Key Success Factors for this industry, but I dont' think you will find the turnover/"failure rate" is substantially worse than the economy at large. But finding and presenting those KSFs in a way that has not been done before will be a challenge.

I just found this topic and am catching up on it all but in general,  my personal path has been one of constantly finding out the hard way , how to build a massage business, how to bill insurance and get paid, how to find a job, how to find a place to rent, how to do everything!  No one told me it was going to be so hard is sort of my motivation for writing and sharing info on my many websites.

I hope your study looks at the number of hours of education that are required and what makes for a successful massage therapist.  I am also interested in hearing more about your study when you are ready.  We need more studies like that.

I have been in this field for 23 years and have seen so many come and go but interestingly enough, most of my friends who have been through the school of hard knocks with me, remain in the field working full time.   Massage school presents careers in massage as this glamourous thing and even reports by the Wall ST Journal and US New and World report are telling everyone that massage is a good career.  The job stats are inaccurate that are put out by the BLS who says that Mt make more than they really do for the most part.  ABMP in their metrics section points that out.  The number of massage schools has jumped so much in the last 20 years.In 1992 there were 190 schools and in 2007 1550.  Where did they get all the massage school teachers since there aren't any schools for massage school teachers?  http://www.thebodyworker.com/numberofmassageschools.htm  With so many massage schools cropping up, they need to fill their schools so they make it sound more appealing and forget to tell about what it is really like. I think the quality of schools has gone downhill and the people going to massage school are just doing it to get out of taking Math (which is the number one question I get from readers at my website at www.massage-career-guides.com  The average age of MT is around 45 and has been for sometime.  I keep thinking that the number will go down as more younger people join the field but it hasn't.  The massage schools are geared toward teaching adults and not young people with no life or personal skills. I could go on..and that is why I did write a book on it.  A Career in Massage- Is it for you?

I think people leave the field because they just want to do massage and they don't want to do the work to get the clients that they need.  They want to be employed and the franchises are the biggest employers and pay starts at $15 an hour and who can live on that?  They don't tell you that you only can work like 25 hours a week and that you don't get paid when you don't have a client...

I have several ideas why someone would leave this profession after a short time.  I used to work at a spa that treated the employees like slaves.  We were not allowed lunch breaks and barely had time for bathroom breaks and to eat a bite of a snack in between clients.  We had to work on 4-5 clients in a row like an assembly line, with no breaks.  We also were expected to come to work if we were sick or were threatened with losing our job.  This is a health hazard in itself in that a cold could be spread to the clients.  These types of conditions lead to early burnout in the profession, physical as well as mental.  Also the payscale is low in most "local" spas and in my experience, 99% of the time, the clients do NOT leave a tip.  There are also no health insurance benefits, retirement, etc. offered at most "local" spas.  People cannot afford to work there let alone deal with the mental and physical punishment that goes along with an "assembly line" type of environment as opposed to an environment that is holistic and positive for the therapist as well as the client, leading to a better quality of life overall as a therapist in this profession.

Its interesting...I know Im capable of seeing anyone that a chiropractor can see..And help them even more.. And at the same time massage therapists are treated like slaves....Something is wrong... Our potential isnt even recognized.  I feel that it all goes back to our education system...Something is wrong you guys?

JLVegas, CMT said:

I have several ideas why someone would leave this profession after a short time.  I used to work at a spa that treated the employees like slaves.  We were not allowed lunch breaks and barely had time for bathroom breaks and to eat a bite of a snack in between clients.  We had to work on 4-5 clients in a row like an assembly line, with no breaks.  We also were expected to come to work if we were sick or were threatened with losing our job.  This is a health hazard in itself in that a cold could be spread to the clients.  These types of conditions lead to early burnout in the profession, physical as well as mental.  Also the payscale is low in most "local" spas and in my experience, 99% of the time, the clients do NOT leave a tip.  There are also no health insurance benefits, retirement, etc. offered at most "local" spas.  People cannot afford to work there let alone deal with the mental and physical punishment that goes along with an "assembly line" type of environment as opposed to an environment that is holistic and positive for the therapist as well as the client, leading to a better quality of life overall as a therapist in this profession.

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