A Massage Therapist (MT) manually manipulates patients’ soft body tissues such as muscles and connective tissues to not only reduce pain, but relax tissues and improve circulation and other bodily functions. Treatment sessions of 30-120 minutes are designed to reduce stress and relax patients mentally and emotionally. There are two fundamental categories of massage therapy – relaxation massage and clinical (or medical) massage. In recent years, clinical massage has gained increasing recognition as an effective medical therapy. Accordingly, it is practiced in hospitals of all types, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, wellness centers, rehabilitation clinics, and fitness centers. Relaxation massage is more often connected to spas, salons, resorts, and in-home practices although these settings might also offer clinical massage. Sole practitioners might work in any of these settings and account for approximately 69 percent of practicing therapists. Twenty-five percent of MTs practice in spa/salon settings, and 27 percent practice in health care settings, with that number increasing annually as massage therapy becomes more accepted in health care fields.
Many Massage Therapists enjoy flexible work hours. Forty-seven percent work part-time, many with a second job. The average full-time therapist delivers hands-on treatment for 15 hours, the remaining hours being dedicated to administrative duties, marketing, travel, scheduling or purchasing supplies. Most MTs, while being familiar with many different massage modalities, will master specific therapy techniques or modalities to differentiate their practices.
The ideal MT is a good listener and communicator, empathetic (not sympathetic), organized and passionate helping others. MTs must have physical stamina, strength and good personal hygiene.
Perhaps more than any other health care profession, massage therapists enjoy the instant gratification of their patients’ responses to treatment. Patients communicate their appreciation in innumerable ways from a sigh during therapy, to a heart-felt thank you and generous gratuity after their session. Over time, patients might visually evidence improved posture and mobility bringing great satisfaction to both patient and therapist. That job satisfaction, coupled with job flexibility, are the reasons that the US News and World Report ranks massage therapist at 62nd among the 100 Best Jobs.
If a Massage Therapist chooses not to work for him or herself they can work as hourly employees or independent contractors. This work can be paid at an hourly wage or by commission on each session that is done. Work hours rarely if ever exceed 40 hours for employees and benefit eligibility varies widely because of the prevalence of independent contractors.