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January 2012

The Future Massage Therapist

by Jennifer Whalen

The Future Massage Therapist, futureLMT.comMassage therapy students and new practitioners are entering a new industry landscape. Nowadays, the public is more informed about the benefits of massage and massage therapists are expected to stay up to date with the latest news and research within the field. They are also expected to continue their education after graduation, network with other health care practitioners, become savvy marketers and appeal to the hectic, on-the-go lifestyle of the average consumer.

Today's successful massage therapist is able to balance the mission of providing healing touch with the management of business tasks. She also expands her service offerings beyond the massage table, by providing spa treatments or other session specialties, and offering retail products to clients for self-care between sessions.

Luckily for the consumers of tomorrow, employment of massage therapists is expected to increase 19 percent from 2008 to 2018—more than any other occupation—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. This growth in demand for massage services will lead to more employment opportunities within the profession. Spas will continue to add massage therapists to their staffs, health clinics will welcome additions to their wellness teams and massage franchises will staff their clinics.

In fact, Massage Envy, the nation's largest massage-and-spa franchise company, currently employs 17,000 massage therapists. With more than 700 clinics in 44 states and plans to expand further, new massage practitioners can find comfort in knowing such employment opportunities will exist as they begin to refine their techniques and establish a consistent clientele.

If you decide to step out on your own, however, you are in good company. According to the 2010 American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Industry Survey, 65 percent of practicing massage therapists are solo practitioners, while 39 percent work part time at a home, business or corporate setting, 26 percent in a spa setting and 25 percent in a health care setting. The survey also indicated massage therapists are predominantly female (87 percent), most likely to enter into the profession as a second career, and work an average of 15 hours a week providing massage. (This does not include business tasks associated with one's practice.)

The AMTA survey also indicated today's massage therapist utilizes, on average, eight massage modalities, with 88 percent providing Swedish massage, 84 percent deep-tissue massage, 55 percent trigger-point work and 53 percent sports massage. Upon graduating from massage school, it will be up to you to determine which techniques you want to perform and if you want to build your practice to target a specific clientele, such as athletes, cancer patients or the elderly. '

Continuing education on techniques for your niche market, as well as networking with experts in these fields, will help you reach your targeted clientele and be seen as an expert in your community.

While a majority of consumers believe massage is beneficial for overall health and wellness, they also view massage as a natural and effective way to manage their pain. A recent Consumer Reports survey revealed deep-tissue massage outperformed prescription drugs for managing neck pain, with massage, in general, being well-suited for fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, headaches and migraines. This is in tune with results from AMTA's 15th annual consumer survey, released this year, which showed the amount of consumers who use massage therapy for pain relief increased from 25 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2011. By staying informed on industry trends, you can maximize the reach of your practice by knowing why consumers are seeking massage therapy.

Once you decide what techniques to practice and what clientele to attract, the next step is to market your services. Twenty years ago, placing an ad in a newspaper or sending a reminder postcard to your current client list may have sufficed. But nowadays, thanks to new technology, there are dozens of way to reach your target market—and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

An ideal way to network and reach new clients is via social networking. If you have yet to create a Facebook or Twitter profile, for example, now is the time. Make it a New Year's resolution to master your technological fear, as this medium offers a convenient, popular and free way to let the public know what you have to offer. When setting up a profile page for yourself or your business, make sure to keep it professional if you plan to use it as a business tool. Making a good first impression is key.

Networking with other health care professionals, sending e-mails to your client list, volunteering at health fairs and community events, speaking at corporate offices or club meetings, offering gift certificates and creating seasonal specials are all great ways to attract people to your practice as well. Whenever you decide to volunteer your efforts within the community or add a new service offering, send a press release about it to your local media outlets. Keep the public informed about your practice and the benefits of massage.

The massage profession requires focus, dedication, lifelong learning and the ability to stay on top of trends. But as many massage therapists will tell you, massage is one of the most personally and professionally rewarding careers available today.

Jennifer Whalen is the managing editor of MASSAGE Magazine (www.massagemag.com).

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