The Massage Therapy Career Focus Workbook

Therapeutic Outcome — Understanding Your Options:

Therapeutic outcome focuses should not be confused with styles with names which modify the word massage with the intent of communicating a benefit. For example: Swedish Relaxation is a type of massage that most people believe only relaxes muscles. However, Swedish Relaxation massage could be used to provide experiential, lifestyle, or corrective outcomes. Unfortunately, (and knowing full well that this is a topic which is inflammatory to promoters of a particular style), there is a growing trend toward developing brand name massage styles which attempt to attract clients (and therapists) by modifying the word massage with a geographic, demographic, cultural, or founder's name.

Sports Massage, Medical Massage, Neo-Natal Massage, etc., are other such double-barrelled names for types of massage. At best, these names may help certain clients to identify with your service, but they do not communicate the benefits your service can provide. At worst, using these brand names only serves to limit the potential scope of one's practice, confuse the public, and polarize the industry. In the oft quoted words of Shakespeare, What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. And so it goes for massage. All massage, regardless of what you call it is the manipulation of muscles and soft tissues. Therefore massage is massage. Period. The only distinction one can make (and which serves both the public's and the industry's mutual goal) is to tell people which therapeutic outcome you can deliver. That is, say you do massage, then describe the benefits. Don't try to combine the word massage with the benefit or target market.

When you focus your career with respect to therapeutic outcome rather than by brand name you are free to learn and use any number of massage styles, techniques, and modalities in order to achieve your clients' desired results. You also have the freedom to promote these benefits to any person or demographic group in need of such therapeutic results (e.g., athletes, business owners, assembly line workers, pregnant women, surgical patients, psychiatric patients, actors, farmers, Canadians, Americans, even Swedes). Don't laugh, we actually heard there was a client who thought he couldn't get Swedish Massage because he wasn't Swedish!

Furthermore, by describing the benefit of your massage service in terms of therapeutic outcome rather than by brand name you will be immune from any culturally- or socially-inferred baggage. It only takes one practitioner of a brand name style to do something wrong or unsavoury and you (if you promote your services under this brand name) immediately become tarred with the same brush.

Core Focus:

At this point, you should understand the range of options for both Wellness Areas and Therapeutic Outcomes. Your choice of wellness area and therapeutic outcome options represents what we call your Core Focus. Which leads us to an interesting fact. If you combine all the wellness area options with all the therapeutic outcome options, you will find the entire range of possible core focuses you can have as a massage therapist. Since there are only three options in each, the range of possible core focuses is nine. That's all. Surprised?

Most therapists we have taught are surprised. The fact is, no matter which of the dozens of styles of massage you choose to learn or practice there will only ever be nine ways to describe what you do. Mix 'em, trade 'em, collect 'em … nine and only nine. Your job now is to choose one of these combinations. From this point forward, your career will have the clarity of purpose it needs to succeed.

But before we ask you to make your selection, we thought we should give you some further examples. The following examples are based on the potential clients' needs.

  1. Experiential Psychosocial:
    For clients seeking immediate alteration of their psychosocial activity. For these clients, massage is an intellectual and/or social event. They will be actively engaged in enjoying or analysing their state of mind as the massage progresses. Therapist personality is as important as the manual techniques employed.
  2. Experiential Biochemical:
    For clients that enjoy the sensation of having their circulation and other biochemical activities stimulated within the context of a single massage. These clients may be seeking the sensation of heat produced through friction techniques, the glowing sensation resulting from increased histamine production, or the physical rush resulting from increased metabolic activity to name a few. Clients who visit the experiential biochemical therapist are usually those whose lifestyle prevents such biochemical activities.
  3. Experiential Biomechanical:
    For clients that enjoy the sensations produced when their muscles and soft tissues are stimulated. Usually, these clients lead sedentary lives, yet still like to stay in touch with their bodies. In a sense, they just want to say "hello" to their muscles and soft tissues and to remind them that they haven't been forgotten.