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An Issue of Education

A male bodyworker sinking their elbow into the hips of a client in side-lying.

An issue in our field that consumes my mind from time to time is how little the general public actually understands what we do as manual therapists and how we can change that.

I see the lack of understanding reflected in policy, especially here is SF, where the regulations and fees to become a massage therapist are almost insurmountable. We all saw it last year during COVID when we kept slipping through the cracks and not receiving any guidance or assistance. We see it constantly on television where massage therapy is essentially portrayed as adjacent to sex work or a luxury for the rich. The vast majority of people really don’t get what it is that we can actually do for our clients.

I believe it’s important to address this issue because educating the general public about what we have to offer can benefit everyone in so many ways. People who thought their only option was surgery, medication, etc may be able to find relief through touch instead. Every person who realizes that massage therapy may benefit them also turns into a potential client for some practitioner out there. As more people learn about us, there’s also potential for Massage Therapy to become more diverse and inclusive to all people.

So, I know I don’t have THE answer as to how to solve this lack of education, but I do know the first step in this journey is opening up the discussion with my peers. In the end, we are the ones who have to do the work to make the change.

In my mind, an important step is directly educating the masses ourselves. Some examples of what I mean are:

  • Going through the effort of marketing yourself broadly. I find a lot of massage therapists often don’t talk about their work!

  • writing blog posts and articles about what you do and what you know

  • encouraging your clients to refer others, allowing them to share their experience of your work in their own words

  • sharing your successes to demonstrate that contrary to popular belief, you can make a great living as a massage therapist

  • Speaking with other health and wellness professionals (Mental Health Practitioners, Chiros, PTs, NPs, Doctors, etc) about the benefits of massage and creating referral relationships

I know this seems like a lot of personal effort to take on, but it really does come down to each and every one of us to move the needle because no one else will do it for us. A big reason many of us are in this field is to help others. I know I want as many people as possible who can benefit from my work to get on my table. For that to be possible, they must know my work is a viable option to begin with.

How do you think we can help educate the masses about what massage and manual therapy have to offer?


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