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I'm interested in what people think are minimum qualifications for teachers in massage schools. What does it take to teach at the entry level in a career school? What in particular would be qualifications to teach massage modalities? Is that different from minimum qualifications to teach the sciences, or the so-called softer courses of business, ethics and communications?

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Actually, a good many of them have moved in here from out of state and did not attend schools here. Until last year, our Practice Act did not allow us to require criminal record reports during the application process, and unfortunately some people who should never have had a license got one because of our inability to access that.

Recently, a school owner sent the board a letter stating that he KNEW a graduate was a sexual predator, but that unfortunately he had not done anything blatant enough to warrant being dismissed from school. Some of them manage to keep themselves in check and behave quite well until they get their license in hand and get turned loose on the unsuspecting public. People who don't have a conscience are often quite good at fooling others.
I have to tend to agree with Whitney and Patricia. X number of years in the field should be enough to get you in the door at a school. But any school should offer proper training in thing like classroom management, sciences, and advanced techniques. I am the Program Manager in Denver for one of the trade schools, and we have lots of resources for our instructors to better themselves. We offer monetary compensation for continuing education, monthly professional development classes for classroom management/student relation skills, and advanced workshops weekly or biwekly for sciences. All of these are to help create better instructors which in turn create better therapists. But again, x amount of years isn't the only thing that should be looked at when trying to hire a massage instructor. There needs to be enthusiasm and dynamic that can be developed into a good teacher. Anyone can instruct, unfortunately it seems we have way too many instructors out there.
Congratulations to your school, Nate, for taking such a pro-active stance. I'll bet you are turning out some superior instructors! I wish more would follow your lead.

Nate Ewert said:
I have to tend to agree with Whitney and Patricia. X number of years in the field should be enough to get you in the door at a school. But any school should offer proper training in thing like classroom management, sciences, and advanced techniques. I am the Program Manager in Denver for one of the trade schools, and we have lots of resources for our instructors to better themselves. We offer monetary compensation for continuing education, monthly professional development classes for classroom management/student relation skills, and advanced workshops weekly or biwekly for sciences. All of these are to help create better instructors which in turn create better therapists. But again, x amount of years isn't the only thing that should be looked at when trying to hire a massage instructor. There needs to be enthusiasm and dynamic that can be developed into a good teacher. Anyone can instruct, unfortunately it seems we have way too many instructors out there.
I agree with Whitney...The years one has invested as an LMT does not necessarily make them capable of teaching and managing a class room environment. I have owned a massage school and taught across the US at many schools. I have been flabergasted that most schools hire people that have no social skills, compassion and understanding, patience, creativity, communication skills, etc.

Most come in very ego oriented and unfortunately students rebel. I had to personally let go of an entire staff at one school where I was program Director. No one could manage the classroom. They did not know how to prepare for lessons or come up with creative and engaging exercises etc. So, before one teaches they should assist for at least 1-2 years with a 'qualified' instructor. They should take some teacher training classes to learn how to integrate and cooperate with the student body. They might take a communication skills class, this is probably the biggest challenge I have noted for most inexperienced instructors. There is a huge frustration level by the instructors as well. They often feel the students should just listen and bow down to their every way. When they don't, they get angry. I have seen instructors belittle students and treat them like children. I have been called into many classroom environments to "undo" the harm unqualified instructors have bestowed upon students. A sad state of affairs at many schools. Massage school is more than anatomy and technique. We all know that it opens our feelings, emotions and hearts. No matter what subject one teaches they better be prepared to handle whatever come up.

Whitney Lowe said:
One of the things that I think is interesting whenever this topic is brought up is that people tend to focus on emphasizing teaching requirements reflecting the professional practice requirements. For example, a teacher should need to be licensed/credentialed as a practitioner for x number of years. I do think it is important to have knowledge and skills of the clinical practice. However, there is rarely ever mention of skills or training in topics such as learning theory, classroom management, instruction design, assessment methods, etc. These are the skills that are needed by teachers (and rarely taught to many massage educators). These are skills that should be getting more attention when speak about training teachers regardless of the number of hours in the entry level practitioner training.
Hi Jan, I see there are many ways to answer your question, which I think points to the dilemma. Having taught at numerous massage schools over the years, I have seen fresh graduates put back in the classroom as teachers. This is one reason for the lack of professionalism in the work out in the field. Experience is the best teacher and while teachers need to bring these experiences to the classroom how can that happen if they just graduated? There have been many other 'dynamics' I have seen that have been a detriment to the education of quality therapists and realize there needs to be a standard of qualification and not only that but respect of it. I was teaching at a school only a short time when I was let go after being confronted by the other teacher who was as already stated, a fresh graduate, expressed her discomfort of my level of knowledge and her teacher was our boss. No win there. Last year I got a massage and had an experience that should not ever happen and I was hospitalized from the injury this therapist caused. I have seen both sides of what you are saying and feel very strongly about this subject of teacher qualifications.
My experience with ethics violations indicates that many of them come from the lack of good therapist/client communication skills, not necessarily that the student is a closet predator while they are in school (although I have seen my share of them too). The important communication around informed consent, for example, is absent in many programs. Those who teach ethics and communication need to be up on the importance of those topics and be able to at least do some role playing. The "sage on the stage" approach doesn't cut it here; interactive skills on the part of the teacher are essential. Transferring information so one passes a test is not competency based education, it's merely the transference of information.

Noel Norwick said:
Your comment suggests that school administrators/teachers in your area don't check for, recognize and discharge predators looking to for victims?

My experience is that in legitimate massage schools, such people are quickly recognized by their classmates, teachers and even faster by clients when/if they make it into the internship program.

I have little faith in the efficacy of ethics classes to resolve a problem that seems to result from schools choosing not to fail anyone. Additionally, In Los Angeles, the police have busted several schools that were fronts for prostitution; so, I wonder if you can/would tell us more about what is going wrong in the schools/programs attended by the people you have "tried"?

Laura Allen said:
I teach Ethics as well, and I serve on our state board. I beg to differ about therapists being prone to violations. The nature of what we do, placing our hands on naked and otherwise vulnerable people, puts us in a position that no one else is in, except for doctors and nurses who do the same. There are multiple disciplinary hearings here at every board meeting for people who have been accused of an ethics violation, nine times out of ten something sexual. While we all want to believe that everyone who comes into this profession comes with the intent of helping people, the fact is there are predators among us who have figured out that this is a good way to meet an ongoing fresh crop of victims. The questions I get from students in my continuing education classes make it evident that either their education in that area was very lacking, or they just don't understand the implications of a violation, for themselves or the client.

As for A&P, pathology etc, I find few people without a college education who are what I could refer to as a qualified science instructor. My own anatomy teacher, when I attended massage school, couldn't pronounce half the terms. I used to get so incensed at his lack of knowledge; he'd stutter around and finally say, "you know what I mean." One day I snapped and said, "Yes, I do know what you mean, and I'm paying you to say it, so I expect some professionalism." He was replaced in short order after a number of complaints.

I have found many therapists lacking in their knowledge of the sciences, especially those who were grandfathered in at time of licensure and may have had no formal education at all, or those who come from states with no requirements. I also teach prep classes for passing the exams, and I have had students in my class who have already failed 3,4,5,6 times because they are incapable of answering the questions. They may have the touch, but they don't have the knowledge. I'm not saying they can't give a good massage, but I would prefer to receive a massage from someone who knows what my psoas is and where's it's located.

Noel Norwick said:
I believe this should depend on what topic one is proposing to teach and possibly on the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced/CE) and prior educational attainment of one's typical student.
1. Entry level - this typically is determined by State requirement for vocational educators.
2. Massage modalities - This is troublesome because of the numerous trademarked/legally protected modalities and the reality that clients (and many massage practitioners) don't generally know how to distinguish or clearly describe the techniques used by one modality from those used by the myriad others.
3. Sciences - Since clients don't typically expect/want a specialist's perspective re anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc., this does not appear to require a University degree.
4. Business, ethics & communication - My opinion in this area is highly biased. I'm an MBA with 30 plus years of corporate/entrepreneurial experience and 9 years experience teaching this topic to massage students and supervising a student intern clinic in California. Put briefly:
a. I don't find massage students/practitioners uniquely prone to ethical violations
b. There appears to be a vast and irreconcilable difference between the personality of one who is judged by clients to be a "world-class" massage practitioner and one who is a successful business person (highly paid professional).
Jan is right on the money here re ethics violations not all being predators. One thing that has been shocking to me since I have had to participate in disciplinary hearings is the number of therapists who are accused by other therapists of boundary violations.

Half the time, these are cases where two therapists who perhaps don't know each other very well, maybe they met at a class, arrange a trade with each other. Most of the time they haven't been practicing long, either. The giver is too casual about proper draping, or makes off-color comments that the receiver finds offensive. Next thing you know, they're before the massage board trying to defend their actions.

I tell new therapists it doesn't matter if it's your mother on the table, act like a professional and follow the rules!

Jan Schwartz said:
My experience with ethics violations indicates that many of them come from the lack of good therapist/client communication skills, not necessarily that the student is a closet predator while they are in school (although I have seen my share of them too). The important communication around informed consent, for example, is absent in many programs. Those who teach ethics and communication need to be up on the importance of those topics and be able to at least do some role playing. The "sage on the stage" approach doesn't cut it here; interactive skills on the part of the teacher are essential. Transferring information so one passes a test is not competency based education, it's merely the transference of information.

Noel Norwick said:
Your comment suggests that school administrators/teachers in your area don't check for, recognize and discharge predators looking to for victims?

My experience is that in legitimate massage schools, such people are quickly recognized by their classmates, teachers and even faster by clients when/if they make it into the internship program.

I have little faith in the efficacy of ethics classes to resolve a problem that seems to result from schools choosing not to fail anyone. Additionally, In Los Angeles, the police have busted several schools that were fronts for prostitution; so, I wonder if you can/would tell us more about what is going wrong in the schools/programs attended by the people you have "tried"?

Laura Allen said:
I teach Ethics as well, and I serve on our state board. I beg to differ about therapists being prone to violations. The nature of what we do, placing our hands on naked and otherwise vulnerable people, puts us in a position that no one else is in, except for doctors and nurses who do the same. There are multiple disciplinary hearings here at every board meeting for people who have been accused of an ethics violation, nine times out of ten something sexual. While we all want to believe that everyone who comes into this profession comes with the intent of helping people, the fact is there are predators among us who have figured out that this is a good way to meet an ongoing fresh crop of victims. The questions I get from students in my continuing education classes make it evident that either their education in that area was very lacking, or they just don't understand the implications of a violation, for themselves or the client.

As for A&P, pathology etc, I find few people without a college education who are what I could refer to as a qualified science instructor. My own anatomy teacher, when I attended massage school, couldn't pronounce half the terms. I used to get so incensed at his lack of knowledge; he'd stutter around and finally say, "you know what I mean." One day I snapped and said, "Yes, I do know what you mean, and I'm paying you to say it, so I expect some professionalism." He was replaced in short order after a number of complaints.

I have found many therapists lacking in their knowledge of the sciences, especially those who were grandfathered in at time of licensure and may have had no formal education at all, or those who come from states with no requirements. I also teach prep classes for passing the exams, and I have had students in my class who have already failed 3,4,5,6 times because they are incapable of answering the questions. They may have the touch, but they don't have the knowledge. I'm not saying they can't give a good massage, but I would prefer to receive a massage from someone who knows what my psoas is and where's it's located.

Noel Norwick said:
I believe this should depend on what topic one is proposing to teach and possibly on the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced/CE) and prior educational attainment of one's typical student.
1. Entry level - this typically is determined by State requirement for vocational educators.
2. Massage modalities - This is troublesome because of the numerous trademarked/legally protected modalities and the reality that clients (and many massage practitioners) don't generally know how to distinguish or clearly describe the techniques used by one modality from those used by the myriad others.
3. Sciences - Since clients don't typically expect/want a specialist's perspective re anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc., this does not appear to require a University degree.
4. Business, ethics & communication - My opinion in this area is highly biased. I'm an MBA with 30 plus years of corporate/entrepreneurial experience and 9 years experience teaching this topic to massage students and supervising a student intern clinic in California. Put briefly:
a. I don't find massage students/practitioners uniquely prone to ethical violations
b. There appears to be a vast and irreconcilable difference between the personality of one who is judged by clients to be a "world-class" massage practitioner and one who is a successful business person (highly paid professional).
I wholeheartedly agree with you Gloria. Managing a classroom environment may have nothing to do with number of years massage experience. I look at so many massage therapists who have the worst business skills ever - they either can't manage their own business or goof up things so bad, it's amazing they stay in business.

I've also attended one of the best schools for massage (in my opinion) - Oregon School of Massage - and loved it. You could tell they hired teachers based on various factors, not just years in the field. Then finishing my education when I moved to Washington state at Renton Technical College, it was a nightmare similar to what you say you experienced with one of the teachers. She was in it purely for the ego, and she was a terrible teacher - and funny thing was, she was fired as a teacher from a previous school for ethics violations - and guess what - she did the same thing as teacher at this school. Interesting they didn't find that out until AFTER they fired her. The person they hired to replace her had a dozen years experience teaching at another school in another state, but personally I believed she was in it for the ego and "Do it my way because it's the only right way. And by all means, don't have anything of your own to share, it's not important."

A teacher needs good hands on skills, but I think in some ways more important is the learning environment they create. Organizational and communication skills are absolutely essential. Sometimes they can be great massage therapists in their own practice, but terrible teachers.

There's no easy answer for this. I guess what I'm saying is, number of years in practice is important, at least from the standpoint of having dealt with various challenging situations. But beyond that, classroom skills are at least as important, and maybe moreso. Perhaps a term as teacher assistant could reveal this person's strengths and weaknesses. Some of the better colleges require this.


Gloria Coppola said:
I agree with Whitney...The years one has invested as an LMT does not necessarily make them capable of teaching and managing a class room environment. I have owned a massage school and taught across the US at many schools. I have been flabergasted that most schools hire people that have no social skills, compassion and understanding, patience, creativity, communication skills, etc.

Most come in very ego oriented and unfortunately students rebel. I had to personally let go of an entire staff at one school where I was program Director. No one could manage the classroom. They did not know how to prepare for lessons or come up with creative and engaging exercises etc. So, before one teaches they should assist for at least 1-2 years with a 'qualified' instructor. They should take some teacher training classes to learn how to integrate and cooperate with the student body. They might take a communication skills class, this is probably the biggest challenge I have noted for most inexperienced instructors. There is a huge frustration level by the instructors as well. They often feel the students should just listen and bow down to their every way. When they don't, they get angry. I have seen instructors belittle students and treat them like children. I have been called into many classroom environments to "undo" the harm unqualified instructors have bestowed upon students. A sad state of affairs at many schools. Massage school is more than anatomy and technique. We all know that it opens our feelings, emotions and hearts. No matter what subject one teaches they better be prepared to handle whatever come up.

Whitney Lowe said:
One of the things that I think is interesting whenever this topic is brought up is that people tend to focus on emphasizing teaching requirements reflecting the professional practice requirements. For example, a teacher should need to be licensed/credentialed as a practitioner for x number of years. I do think it is important to have knowledge and skills of the clinical practice. However, there is rarely ever mention of skills or training in topics such as learning theory, classroom management, instruction design, assessment methods, etc. These are the skills that are needed by teachers (and rarely taught to many massage educators). These are skills that should be getting more attention when speak about training teachers regardless of the number of hours in the entry level practitioner training.
I have been practicing massage in Wisconsin since 2002, am state licensed and nationally certified in massage, and also hold a BA in Arts Management. I taught student clinic at a private massage school, and the requirements there were 2 years experience in the field, and state license and national certification. The school had instructors teaching courses without any education beyond the required hours of massage school. They would often waive the 2 year experience rule when in a bind for staff, hiring students fresh out of school to teach clinicals. Needless to say, I left teaching because of my lack of respect for the reduced quality of education that was being provided. There is something to be said for education and experience, and being properly compensated for it.

Katheryn
Thank you Jan for starting this discussion. This subject is probably more important than what the qualifications should be for a massage therapist. I own a small massage school and have been teaching for ten years now. I feel that I am just now learning how to teach effectively to a diverse group of students. Adult education is a tough field to work in because we are working with a lot of personal history. I had thirteen years in the field before I began to teach. I wish I would have taken some courses on how to teach adults in school before I started the school. I think that a minimum of ten years in the massage field full time should be the starting point. Any vocation would recognize that as a journey-person level, twenty years in the field would seem to be a master level practitioner. The teacher might only be a master of a specific modality though and we need to recognize this. This still doesn't mean that this person would be a good teacher. As a profession we should have training programs to train teachers. How many hours of training would be the question then? If the average minimum to become a massage therapist is 500 hours them maybe we should start there for teachers.
It seems to me that we have relied to much on the state and federal government to regulate and set standards for our profession. This is a mistake on our part I believe. We have the opportunity now to work together to set standards. All of the school owners and massage therapists should be polled on this issue and recommendations should be made on how to improve the quality of education. A central resource bank of qualified instructors who have been tested in their field of expertise could be created that schools could draw applications for work from. Every state requires it's public school teachers to be certified I think. Why not push to require this for vocational schools? If we work to set the standards and form a united front then the state legislatures would be more amenable to our input.
It's interesting that you say this as a school owner Nickie--and I'm glad to hear you say it. I'm not sure about the length of time needed in the field, but I am sure that we need better qualified teachers. My previous massage school employer (corporate) did a lot of manipulating in order to push out good, seasoned teachers for two reasons: 1. they cost more, and 2. they complained more about the lack of quality (or in the employer's words, were trouble makers).

On the other hand, the employer I had before that, the sole proprietor of a massage school and a massage therapist herself, insisted on a formal teacher training program for new teachers and a mentoring program for all teachers. They were both mandatory. The teacher training program was taught by someone who was not a massage therapist, but who had a Ph.D. and had been a teacher for 25 years in higher ed and in career schools. Made all the difference in the world for the students and for the self-esteem and confidence of the teachers. There were other requirements too in terms of the subjects taught, but everyone had to be trained as a teacher.

Nickie Scott said:
Thank you Jan for starting this discussion. This subject is probably more important than what the qualifications should be for a massage therapist. I own a small massage school and have been teaching for ten years now. I feel that I am just now learning how to teach effectively to a diverse group of students. Adult education is a tough field to work in because we are working with a lot of personal history. I had thirteen years in the field before I began to teach. I wish I would have taken some courses on how to teach adults in school before I started the school. I think that a minimum of ten years in the massage field full time should be the starting point. Any vocation would recognize that as a journey-person level, twenty years in the field would seem to be a master level practitioner. The teacher might only be a master of a specific modality though and we need to recognize this. This still doesn't mean that this person would be a good teacher. As a profession we should have training programs to train teachers. How many hours of training would be the question then? If the average minimum to become a massage therapist is 500 hours them maybe we should start there for teachers.

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