by Pallas Hutchison An article in a men's magazine stated that a massage license doesn't mean anything. This statement is offensive and incorrect. Most states, including Massachusetts, require licensing for massage therapists. This means that Massachusetts has a set of educational and ethical standards that massage therapists have to adhere to. These standards protect clients in a multitude of ways.
Educational requirements vary by state. According to Massage Magazine, Maryland and New York have the highest standards for massage licensure in the United States. Maryland requires 500 hours massage education, 60 credits of college education (the equivalent of an Associate's degree), and a passing grade on one of three standardized tests for competency. New York requires 1000 hours of massage education and a passing grade on their state massage exam. In these states, massage therapists get as much respect as nurses. Massachusetts requires 650 hours of massage education.
The core of the academic curriculum includes anatomy, kinesiology, and pathology which teaches the parts of the body, how the parts work together, and what can go wrong. Hands-on training is built into the curriculum and must be completed before certification. This means that graduates treat their clients using therapeutic touch techniques that they have practiced on other massage students as well as the general public in student clinics. By the time they obtain licensure, they have done hundreds of hours of massage in a variety of settings. Continuing education requirements force massage therapists to stay abreast of new techniques and discoveries in bodywork, the medical field, and health sciences.
Ethical standards ensure the massage therapist will use their knowledge to help each client as best they can within their scope of practice. Scope of practice refers to what the professional license covers as far as treatment as well as the types of training received. Each massage therapist will have a different set of specialized trainings. They will know what they can treat effectively, how to treat it using their skill set, and when to refer a client out to someone more qualified.
By adhering to these educational and ethical standards, licensed massage therapists demonstrate integrity, respect for the profession and, by extension, respect for their clients. When choosing a massage therapist, or any professional, look into whether or not they hold a license. If a license is required and they don't have one, ask them why not. A massage license is more than a piece of paper; it's a quality of care guarantee.
Some clients get embarrassed if they fall asleep and snore during a massage or if they relax completely and a fart escapes. I'd like to reassure you that, if and when those things happen, there is no need to get embarrassed. To help set you at ease, I thought I would share a few of funny moments where I have been embarrassed, as the massage therapist.
The Hairpiece Incident When in massage school, students are required to work in the clinic on the general public for practice to learn the techniques. During one of these supposedly routine Swedish massages, I had this little old Italian woman as a client. She could have been straight out of a mafia movie from the funeral scene: shroud-like black dress, black hat with the little veil attached. The massage proceeded like normal until I got to the end. I was finishing up by massaging her scalp. All of the sudden, I was holding her hair in my hands.
It had never occurred to me to ask a woman if she was wearing a hairpiece before. In truth, all of the hairpieces I had ever seen were on men and sadly obvious attempts to cover balding. (Keep in mind that I was 19-20 at the time.) I was horrified! Ever since, I have made sure there is a hairpiece question on my intake form.
The Full Frontal When I first graduated massage school, I worked at the Penny House Inn in Eastham. The owner had converted one of the guest rooms into a spa treatment room. The set up was beautiful; plenty of room for the massage therapist to get around the table plus a private bathroom. One client decided halfway through her massage that she needed to use the bathroom. Without any warning, she flung the sheets off of her, pops up from the table and goes to use the facilities. All this is done very nonchalantly despite the fact that she is completely nude.
I had only graduated a few months before. Full frontal nudity is not something I expected when I went to work that day. Blushing furiously, I kept my back turned so that she would have some privacy when she returned to the table to finish her massage. Now, I always ask clients to use the bathroom before the massage starts.
The Ninja Grandma For some reason, little old lady stories are inherently funny. In this particular incident, an elderly woman came in for a relaxation massage. We went through the intake form and I show her to the massage room. She's moving slow, using a cane to walk. I start to explain that I would like her to get undressed and onto the table, that I would knock before coming back in...
The next thing I know, clothes fly everywhere. This seemingly frail woman is naked and catapulting herself onto the table before I have a chance to finish my sentence, let alone leave the room! Never in my life would I have expected this woman to move so quickly! Privacy to undress and proper draping are as a much for the massage therapist's modesty as for the client's. If you aren't shy, please remember that I am!
I hope you enjoyed these stories. Did you have a funny massage experience, as a massage therapist or as a client? Share it below!