Love Your Work, Massage Therapists

I happened upon a Dilbert comic strip today that perfectly illustrated for me how important it is for massage and bodywork therapists to love their work. When you don’t love your work, it becomes immediately obvious to your client, your co-workers and your boss if you happen to be employed at an establishment. Visit online for more details The comic strip also pokes fun at the sometimes tenuous title “Certified Massage Therapist.”

The comic strip feature a therapist who starts the session out with having the client (Dilbert) fill out a lengthy medical form, thinking to herself, “Less time I have to actually touch him.” Then, as she begins the massage she wonders if anyone realizes she only massages with one hand. Hmmm, she thinks, maybe if I use this pen instead… So she starts “clicking” a writing pen on Dilbert’s back, telling him she found the source of his problem. He tells a friend afterward that he needs to go back several more times so the therapist can get rid of the “clicking” in his back. The strip title is “Certified Massage Therapist.” I only found it funny because I know certified therapists just like that. What wasn’t funny is that certified therapists like that, who do not love their work, are almost as damaging to the overall massage industry reputation as are prostitutes who use “massage” as a ruse.

How many of us have had a similar therapist as in the comic? How many of us have been this therapist at one point or another in our careers? Do you love your work? Do your clients love your work?

I’m retired from hands-on bodywork, but I loved being a massage therapist and I loved my work. What I didn’t love was the bureaucracy being a massage therapist entails, but that’s another article for another day, perhaps. What I will say is, state or national certification does not guarantee you’ll be a better therapist; or, will it make you a safer therapist. It’s a bureaucratic hoop designed for us to jump through.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating against getting certified if it makes operating your business easier, or it makes you feel or appear more professional; or, of course if it’s required by law in order to work or get a job. But getting certified is not necessarily going to make you a “better” therapist. If by getting certified requires more training of you, perhaps it will; but more training will generally make you a better therapist with or without a piece of paper.

No doubt, what makes a better therapist is attitude and touch. Certainly skill comes into it and contributes to touch quality, but overall it’s the attitude that wins the day. No matter what, if you do not love your work, your client will feel that in your hands. They’ll also see it in your body language, and hear it in your voice. And, they’ll remember you when it comes time to book their next massage – with someone else.

That being said, I’ve always felt the best way to ensure massage therapists are competent is to simply let the market rule. If a therapist is awful, they’re going to go out of business tout de suite, or their spa is going to let them go. I do realize that my opinion on certification is controversial, but it is my humble opinion based on my free-market principles and one who loves freedom. My opinion on certification is not meant to disparaged certified therapists in general, but simply to point out that it is not the sweeping panacea it’s purported to be. If it helps a therapist love their work more, of course, I’m all for it. If it gives the impression to the public en masse that the massage industry is legitimate, then sure, fine, I’m for it – as long as it’s optional. Again, it’s my opinion for which I know I will receive plenty of flak.

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