There are a lot of skills needed to be a massage therapist, and you don’t learn all of them in school. Fortunately, you can develop a lot of the necessary soft skills on your own. They may even come naturally to you. The difference between a mediocre massage therapist and one of the best around is how deeply they develop their skills. In this article, you’ll learn what it takes to be a highly sought-after massage therapist.
Anyone can go to school to earn a massage therapy license, but you need a lot more than that to be a good massage therapist.
If you’ve received massages from several massage therapists, you surely noticed they’re all different. They all have massage therapy skills, but their interpersonal skills, treatment plan, and way of conducting business are uniquely their own.
Have you ever received a massage that was simply amazing? The whole experience went beyond your expectations. What made that experience different from an average massage? Did the therapist have better hands-on skills or the ability to make a comprehensive assessment? Was the environment more relaxing? Maybe you felt more connected and understood.
Take some time to really assess the massage therapists you want to be more like. Clearly define why you’re so impressed with them and how they are different from other massage therapists you know.
Then, get to work improving the massage therapist skills you already have and learn the ones you haven’t acquired yet.
When you go to school, you learn many massage techniques, as well as principles of anatomy and physiology. The skills you need don’t stop there. You also need interpersonal skills to be a truly wonderful therapist.
Massage therapist skills can be broken down into 2 categories:
Hard skills are technical skills related to a profession. Many require formal education. Others can be learned by taking online training, watching youtube, or reading articles. Massage modalities are a type of hard skill.
Soft skills are often related to emotional intelligence. They are the people skills that anyone can develop. These skills may come naturally to you, or they may evolve as a result of the social situations you experience. Showing respect is a soft skill.
1. Massage Techniques
When you finish school, you have a foundation of basic massage skills. Those skills will improve with experience. The more time you spend practising massage techniques, the more skilled your hands become.
Continuing education is essential to becoming a highly skilled massage therapist. Each modality you study expands your skillset and your understanding of the human body. It’s one thing to know the basics, but it’s a whole other thing to have a deep understanding of a subject.
2. Functional Anatomy
Massage therapists learn anatomy in school, but some forget it after graduation. Therapists can get by like this, but they don’t excel. All those origins and insertions you memorized are lost if you don’t apply that knowledge in your practice.
Accurate assessment requires a solid understanding of anatomy and physiology. When a client presents with pain, an average massage therapist rubs where it hurts. A master massage therapist figures out why it hurts and creates a treatment plan around that.
Diagnosing is outside the scope of practice for massage therapists. It’s still important to recognize signs and symptoms of certain injuries and conditions, especially those that are contraindications for massage therapy.
It’s your responsibility, as a massage therapist, to refer clients to a medical professional when massage isn’t appropriate. You can learn orthopedic tests to assess whether a condition is something you can safely treat.
The key to being a successful massage therapist is finding and retaining clients. Learning how to market yourself as a massage therapist is an invaluable skill. It takes time, as well as trial and error, to create a marketing system that works.
Take advantage of software that helps you stay in touch with your clients. ClinicSense allows you to send email marketing campaigns, promo codes, and birthday messages to your list.
If you’re a self-employed massage therapist, you need to learn accounting skills. Bookkeeping for massage therapists is an essential business skill. Independent contractors and business owners can’t operate with it.
The good news is there are a lot of software options that make accounting easy. ClinicSense will track all your sales automatically. Software like this can remove the learning curve and the time it takes to complete the work.
Active listening is an essential massage therapist skill. Really listening to what people are saying (and what they are not saying) is the first step to providing effective treatment.
This goes beyond just hearing someone’s words. It’s being able to perceive the deeper meaning behind them. The way a client describes something can give you a lot of insight into what they need, even if they aren’t sure.
Every therapist needs good communication skills. You need to clearly explain what to expect, what you’re doing, and what you need from the client. You can develop systems for doing a lot of this. You can use software to send out consent forms, cancellation policies, and appointment reminders.
Keep in mind not all communication is verbal. Body language is a huge part of communication. Massage therapists use body language to relax people, make them comfortable sharing information, and make them feel safe in the massage room.
Setting boundaries is how you create a safe environment for yourself and your clients. Massage therapy is a very personal interaction. That’s why setting professional boundaries is essential: both in physical space and in conversion.
Respecting client boundaries is non-negotiable. The tricky part is that not every massage client will tell you what they are. You have to be able to pick up on social cues that indicate they aren’t comfortable with something. A good therapist will recognize that, address it in conversation, and not cross the line.
Massage therapists need a good bedside manner. They treat people who are stressed out or in pain every day. Compassion makes people feel seen, cared for, and understood. That’s good therapy.
Showing kindness when people don’t show up as their best self is a skill you need. Being gentle is vital to good care.
Providing quality care requires taking your time. You can’t rush the process. Clients need time to acclimate. Soft tissue takes time to heal and change. Not every session will be a one-hour miracle.
Massage therapists who treat people in pain have to slow down. Pain travels slowly along nerve fibres. There’s a 1-2 second delay between pressing on something that hurts and feeling the pain. If you’re working too fast, by the time your client says, “that’s it,” you won’t be on it anymore.
Aside from mastering your soft skills, ensuring that clients have a smooth customer experience is also paramount!
Your customers want an easy experience when they book, prepare and show up for their massage appointment. A great way to do this is to use online booking and appointment reminder software. These tools ensure clients are able to easily book at their convenience - and will receive update about their upcoming appointment.
They will also recieve their forms ahead of time so they can spend more time enjoying their appointment - and less time filling out forms ahead of time.
Try ClinicSense massage therapy software for free to see how much your clients love it for yourself!