Getting an education is important. Gaining the skills to be effective and marketable in your chosen career is even more important. Our program chair for massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology, Denise Radcliffe, compiled her top nine essential skills that every massage therapist should have to be effective and marketable in the field.
- People skills
One of the most important things a massage therapist needs to do is listen to their clients and discuss their health history. Clients are not generally trained in body and muscle function, so therapists need to listen to them describe their aches, pain, and other reasons for seeking a massage in order to develop a proper assessment of their needs. Understanding a client’s health history provides a lifetime of insight for a therapist. Reviewing these two things can help the therapist understand the progression of symptoms and underlying causes of pain.
- Critical thinking
As with most things, it is not always a textbook case of why a client is in pain. Utilizing all of the information gathered during intake and initial conversations about a client’s goal for their session, massage therapists are able to use their critical thinking skills to develop a treatment plan that can meet the clients overall goals. Beyond that, they need this skill to further breakdown that plan into session goals to ensure they meet the client’s immediate needs.
- Medical terminology
Massage therapists today are interacting more and more with other health care providers. Because of that, therapists needs to speak that language fluently. Having a solid understanding of medical terminology allows a therapist to speak with other members of a client’s health care team effectively and efficiently. This provides a seamless line of communication that will benefit the client’s treatment.
- Understanding pathologies and body systems
No two clients are the same. Even on the same client, no two massages are the same either. Massage therapists need to have a broad understanding of pathologies and the various body systems to safely deliver a massage that achieves the desired outcome. Using critical thinking skills to determine the safest way to deliver a massage is very important. When needed, a therapist uses those same skills to determine how to change a massage to achieve an optimal result.
- Relaxation and rehabilitation techniques
A massage therapist needs to have a broad range of techniques at their disposal for all of the different situations they may encounter. Whether they are identifying various techniques for optimal relaxation or for effective rehabilitation, the therapist will quickly learn that there are factors to consider for each massage and each client. Having a variety of techniques to choose from makes for a very skilled, and sought after, therapist.
- Modalities, spa techniques, and aromatherapy
Modern massage therapy has a variety of modalities (types of massage) to choose from. Whether it is Swedish, Deep Tissue, or any of the many other modalities, an effective and marketable massage therapist needs to have a skillset that includes as many of these as possible. In addition, even though massage therapy is moving into chiropractic clinics and other non-traditional environments, therapists still should have an understanding of spa techniques and aromatherapy. Being able to incorporate these various skills into a single massage session provides a relaxing and enjoyable experience for the client.
- Muscles and movement patterns
Before a massage therapist can help treat sore muscles, they need to know why they get sore! Therapists will need to understand how muscles work and interact with the movement patterns of the body. Having that knowledge will allow them to identify the best course of action in relieving a client’s pain.
- Trigger points
Trained massage therapists understand the interconnectivity of the body. They know that the body is full of trigger points that affect other areas of a client’s body. Understanding the referral pattern and how those trigger points relay pressure and relief is another skill a therapist can rely on to help provide relief and comfort for their client.
- Business skills and building a client base
Having solid business skills, including marketing and client-base building and retention, is essential for every massage therapist. Many introverted people are attracted to massage therapy because they see it as simply working in a quiet room without a lot of interaction. The opposite is, in fact, true. The pre- and post-assessments are key to effectively addressing the needs of your client. Being able to work on retention and client referral is the only way towards long-term viability in the field. Accurately marketing yourself and your skills will ensure you attract the right customers for your skillset.
Denise Radcliffe has just under 30 years of experience in massage and bodywork and teaches the massage therapy program at our Minnesota School of Cosmetology campus in Woodbury, MN. Visit https://www.msccollege.edu/program/massage-therapy/ for more information on our massage therapy program.