The Devaluation of Massage Therapy and the Massage Therapist

The Devaluation of Massage Therapy and the Massage TherapistIn the beginning, massage was massage, was massage. Over the years, massage has greatly advanced, and has become a sophisticated means to perform therapy. However, our community has not made this clear to the public.  Massage therapy schools have not made this clear to their students. Spas have not made this clear to their clients, and the associations have not made this clear to their members and the public.  Our failure to communicate the great advancements made in this field, has begun the runaway devaluation of massage, the therapist and therapy.

When I graduated from Swedish Institute in 1983, you would have been hard-pressed to get a massage for less than $65 per hour.  At that time, I realized each massage professional, in order to excel in the profession, needed to distinguish himself with an adjunctive therapy or advanced education. I studied acupuncture. However, today, those graduating massage professionals who seek employment, may accept wages as little as $15.00 per hour, working for spas and chains.  This does a disservice to all those massage therapists who began their own practices and studied beyond massage to perform therapy.  Little did they know, they would be in competition with spas.

By not informing the public, the public thinks all massage is the same. A client will see no distinction between the two types of massage – only a choice between two people.  While some very capable massage professionals work for spa-type chains, if we don’t tell the public the truth, they will never know there is a difference between the massage professional and the massage therapist.  The result is the public begins to undervalue therapists who have degrees and experience in healing, putting them in the same category with massage technicians who might accept a Groupon at the mall..

Our associations cannot allow the price of massage therapy to drop to minimum wage through competition.  That would not justify our existence.  We must step up and make clear the differences among massage professionals and therapists who have taken advanced education and trainings to be able to provide healing massage therapy.

Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK), created by a consortium of bodywork associations, should be made public, and they should advertise and celebrate the advances in the value of massage as a therapy.

The spas’ responsibility is to maximize the earning potential of their staff and not undermine the staff’s potential earnings.  Consequently, staff training ought to enhance the staff’s earning potential and advanced training should be rewarded financially.

Ron Mc Knight

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