What Kind of Education Does My Massage Therapist Have?

What Kind of Education Does My Massage Therapist Have?

All but seven states now require licensing for massage therapists as well as specific educational requirements. On average, massage therapists in the United States receive over 600 hours of education with several states requiring a minimum of 1,000 hours (which is the approximate equivalent of two years, or an Associate’s Degree).

The education is a mix of bodywork techniques and academics. Bodywork classes include learning both basic and advanced work. Everyone learns traditional Swedish, or Western massage. From there they may learn sports massage, lymphatic drainage, deep tissue, trigger point and more. Many schools also teach Eastern or Asian acupressure techniques as a part of the basic curriculum, such as  Shiatsu Anma (or Amma), Thai massage and Tui Na.

Not only do they get classes in bodywork, but a majority of the classes are actually academic. Anatomy and physiology classes are given throughout the school year. Kinesiology, neurology, and pathology are just a few of the others. In order to get that initial licensing, massage therapists must also take an exam, either one from the state’s licensing authority or in some cases an exam from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Additionally, most states as well as all professional massage therapy associations require continuing education to remain licensed or for membership. The amount varies slightly, but is about 12 hours each year. This means your massage therapist is constantly learning about new techniques and reinforcing what has already been learned.

Massage therapists are considered medical professionals in most states and are required to follow many of the same rules and regulations as doctors, nurses, chiropractors and others who practice in healthcare fields. Things such as client confidentiality, maintaining session notes (known as SOAP notes), using universal precautions with regard to sanitation are used by massage therapists. Your massage therapist is also required to have you fill out an intake form, where you indicate any health problems, medications and personal contact information. Much of this information helps the massage therapist give a massage that is suited to your body and physical condition.

Many massage therapists specialize in certain techniques or populations and have certifications in these special areas. This would include prenatal or pregnancy massage, infant massage, geriatric massage, sports massage, hospice care, and massage for trauma to name just a few.

Always ask your massage therapist about his or her credentials. Where did they go to school? How many hours of basic education do they have? How many hours of continuing education? How long have they been in practice? Ask any questions that will help make you more comfortable and at ease. This is your massage, your time and your body. Communication is the first big step in getting a great massage.