12 Habits to Succeed in Massage Therapy

Massage therapy services being performed by massage therapist on individual on massage chair.

What does it take to work in massage therapy? In addition to formal training, prospective massage therapists must pass a comprehensive exam and undergo a background check by their state. In addition, they must develop a set of positive habits that spell success in the profession.

A long-term career in massage therapy means a lifelong nurturing of positive habits that contribute to financial success for the therapy worker and help deliver client satisfaction.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do?

A massage therapist uses touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. Of course, there’s a lot more to the job than that, but the core activity for a massage therapist involves applying direct touch in a way that helps bring temporary or long-term relief to clients.

Massage Habits That Spell Success

Successful massage therapists share a basic set of common skills. Most of the skills overlap and reinforce each other. Overall, a massage therapist who is a good communicator, has a good amount of self-discipline and can give a great massage will do well in the field.

Why Do Massage Therapists Need These Habits?

The habits that make a successful massage therapist include a clear style of communication, proper technique for client satisfaction, positive mental attitude, an action-oriented mindset, diligence, basic marketing skills, effective time management skills, the right equipment, an understanding of self-care principles, empathy, self-discipline, and a desire to learn.

Massage Therapy Habit #1: Clear Communication

First of all, a massage therapist needs to communicate with their clients. In fact, listening to each client’s needs is at the very heart of the profession. Everyone has different desires, aches, pains, needs and attitudes. Because of this, a massage therapist who listens to their client understands how to use their skills to help. As a result, listening and expressive communication are essential in massage therapy.

Massage Therapy Habit #2: Proper Technique

The nuts-and-bolts of massage therapy involves performing various styles of massages. Because of this, Swedish, sports, trigger-point massage, and other kinds of services are part of every successful massage therapist’s toolbox. Many of those techniques can be picked up during school training. Additionally, more advanced methods can either be self-taught or learned in continuing education courses.

Massage Therapy Habit #3: Positive Attitude

Having an upbeat mentality helps create a supportive, thriving atmosphere in any massage therapy practice. No client wants services from someone with a negative attitude. And for the most part, a person’s attitude comes through in one-on-one situations that involve touch. As a result, massage therapists who have a positive outlook tend to have more repeat business and happier clients.

Massage Therapy Habit #4: An Action-Oriented Mindset

Additionally, practitioners in the healing professions should learn how to create an action-oriented frame of mind. For example, this means setting both long- and short-term goals. Even more, this means constantly updating their goals, which includes identifying new challenges. As a result of staying organized, a massage therapist can help to stay on top of services and goals for better results with clients.

Massage Therapy Habit #5: Diligence

The first few months of work in a professional setting can be quite a challenge for any massage therapist. It really does take time to “hear” what clients are saying, learn how to make notes that are detailed enough to be helpful, and figure out which techniques work for different clients.

Massage Therapy Habit #6: Basic Marketing Skills

Most importantly for massage therapy professionals who own their practice, it’s essential to learn core marketing techniques. For example, this includes writing advertisements, handing out business cards and networking.

Other Marketing Opportunities for Massage Therapists

This also includes attending massage therapy conferences, understanding their communities, and taking opportunities to promote themselves. Even though there are digital marketing solutions for massage therapists, it is important to invest in face-to-face marketing opportunities.

Massage Therapy Habit #7: Effective Time-Management Skills

A typical massage therapist’s day contains at least seven diverse activities. Good massage therapists need to know how to schedule their time and

The best massage therapists include the following tasks in their schedule:
  • Prep time
  • Communication: This includes making phone calls, e-mails and sending appointment reminders.
  • Self-care
  • Accounting tasks
  • Marketing
  • Practice cleanup
  • Massage

Massage Therapy Habit #8: The Right Equipment

A solo practitioner who works from an office or home needs to have the right equipment to practice massage therapy. This includes having a table, a massage chair, lotion, sheets and a music system. Even more, every “office” needs a quiet room, parking, restroom facilities and a private changing area.

Special Challenges for Traveling Services

On-call or “traveling” massage therapists need less equipment but still must bring along certain items.

Essential equipment for a traveling massage therapist includes:
  • Table and/or chair
  • Linens
  • Lotion
  • Music systems
  • Paperwork
  • Clipboard
  • Alcohol gel

Massage Therapy Habit #9: Practicing Self-Care

In a career that prioritizes others, a massage therapists’s self care often comes last. Fortunately, this occupational hazard can be preventable with proper self-care.

First of all, recovery and injury are just as important to massage therapists as they are their clients. Most importantly, a massage therapist needs to use proper body mechanics when providing services. Pay close attention to your techniques as part of your daily routine. As a result, your correct form helps to prevent injury and physical burnout.

Massage Therapist General Health

Another vital aspect of self-care is general health. Smart massage therapists watch their weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, don’t consume too much alcohol, don’t use illicit drugs, attend to any behavioral health concerns that might arise, and receive massage at least once per month.

One massage therapist can offer an objective opinion to another massage therapist about health concerns and injury prevention. Successful massage therapists usually have one or more fellow massage therapists with whom they “trade” massage sessions. This is an effective way to receive and give free massages with other massage therapists for the purpose of self-care.

Massage Therapy Habit #10: Empathy

It’s a fact that many people just weren’t born with the “empathy” gene. A massage therapist needs to practice empathy with others. That means listening to client concerns and delivering services that meets their needs. It’s also important for massage therapists to follow up with every client. This includes asking how they’re doing, as well as checking on their well-being and pain issues.

Massage Therapy Habit #11: Self-Discipline

Massage therapy is, in some ways, like any other business. Practitioners who keep regular hours, constantly work to improve their skills and pay attention to marketing will ultimately have a much easier time succeeding.

One of the core skills for massage therapy success is self-discipline. It entails getting up early enough to work a full schedule, allowing enough time for sleep and recreation, and a devotion to a set number of hours for treating clients.

Massage Therapy Habit #12: A Desire to Learn More

For people who choose massage as their life-long profession, a desire to learn new techniques and acquire advanced knowledge about the profession should be a given. All massage therapists are required to attend a set number of continuing education courses every few years.

What is Unique to This Industry?

Developing positive practices, habits, techniques and attitudes is part of what every successful professional does no matter the field.

But massage therapy differs from most other kinds of business models in many ways:
  • The owner-client relationship is based on physical touch, not selling a product or online service.
  • It’s common to have lifelong, repeat customers.
  • Part of the massage therapy outcome includes improved physical health and mental wellness.
  • A thriving massage therapy practice means the owner has developed multiple positive habits and uses them regularly.
  • There are strictly enforced continuing education requirements.
  •  Broad-based marketing techniques are not effective because “all clients are local.” It’s impossible to give a massage online.
  • Business owners can work alone, set their own hours, attend the continuing education courses of their choosing, hire or not hire office help, work from home or office, choose marketing strategies that fit the desired clientele, and basically call all the shots.
  • A positive attitude is a core requirement, as it is a commitment to self-care and personal health maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Deciding to become a massage therapist is a major step in a person’s career path. Properly approached, the decision can mean a secure financial future, a personally rewarding way of earning a living and an interesting, challenging professional journey.

There are dozens of factors that go into building a massage therapy business, but a large piece of the success puzzle involves the development of positive habits and ways of thinking. When massage therapists make a commitment to create and maintain the right habits, techniques and mental attitudes, there’s no limit to the level of success they can achieve.

Want to Learn More?

Did this information about what developing positive habits in massage therapy interest you? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 13 months with full time enrollment. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.