Things they never tell you about being a massage therapist

Being a massage therapist is becoming a popular career choice for many.  People are drawn to the field for many reasons- wanting to help people is one of the main reasons and wanting to have a career where you can make a difference compared to having a corporate job where you often feel like a prisoner at your desk.

The massage school admissions people seem to forget the details though and most do not even know to ask about these kind of things and many of it won’t really matter to most – it is just part of ‘the job’.  People want to know if you can make a good living and things like that.  Just like any career, the answers depend really more on YOU and your abilities to put everything you learn in massage school together into something that creates a successful massage career.

So here goes:  things that they don’t tell you about when thinking about a career in massage

  1. You will be doing a lot of laundry.  Each client requires a fresh set of very clean and sanitized sheets, face covers, bolster covers, pillow cases/covers.  5 clients a day – 5 days a week.
  2. You will need to know how to fold a fitted sheet (if that is what you choose for your massage sheets- most do)
  3. There are some really hairy guys out there that will challenge your use of oil/lotion and application methods in order to give an effective massage.
  4. Yes, You will need to trim your nails really, really short or you will be scratching the client.  They will need to be filed smooth and kept that way.  Forget long nails, fake nails or fancy nail polish.
  5. Yes, the big E (erection) happens. Men do weird things – ejaculate on tables, into towels, ask for happy endings, mess up your sheets and will challenge your boundaries.
  6. You will get clients that have crushes on you, want to date you, want to give you expensive gifts. (Dating clients is illegal in many states and is against the code of ethics of most associations.)
  7. No you don’t have to take math, but you have to take basic college level anatomy and physiology – science! You need math to do your bookkeeping, taxes and such.
  8. Clients may come in sick, with runny noses, icky skin conditions, smelly feet, dirty hair and will come in right from the gym/workout sweaty from head to toe and expect you to touch them.
  9. You will glide through massage school easily and graduate with honors and get a high paying ($45 an hour or more) right away – NOT.  Massage school often brings up peoples issues around touch and will often be a big growth process.  You will learn more about yourself.
  10. You want to be a massage therapist because you want to help others.  They don’t tell you that helping others is the surest way to end up in burnout and that there are many deeper issues around helping others that are more about you than anything else.

What do you wish someone told you about becoming a MT?  What did they tell you in the admissions department or during school that you wished you had known about before deciding on a career in massage?

4 thoughts on “Things they never tell you about being a massage therapist”

  1. I love your blog.

    I have to do TONS of laundry- and I cannot find a service that is up to my standards in washing my linens. It’s hard to wash them properly because of the oil. I use “soap nuts”, baking soda, & essential oils for my linens and they have lasted me 3-4 times longer than usual. and its 100% natural and they dont stink.

    yes, the hairy guys are indeed a challenge. i tend to do a lot of range of motion (stretching, table top thai yoga etc in order to use the time wisely.

    i also start people face down for three reasons:
    [01] most peoples problem areas are back, neck, & shoulders- i want to focus on the problem areas first.
    [02] i dont want to end the massage with someone feeling congested (this is also why i keeps bottle of eucalyptus oil near my table.. clients LOVE it!)
    [03] guys will most likely get excited during the massage (and im sure it takes a lot of willpower not to) so they are already familiar with my touch when they are facedown, and usually know to keep it under control by the time they are face up. Also make sure to have a very detailed consent form so they read that massage isnt sexual, but therapeutic.

    I always have a bottle of mace in my office as well.

    Stick up for yourself. learn how to end a session if you need to.
    I never say “Im sorry but blah blah”… once a guy tried to grab me repeatedly and i said “You have 30 seconds to put on your clothes and walk out of my office.” and he did.

    …..oh, and barterting is AWESOME! 🙂

  2. Julie,
    What a great article. I was never told about becoming a laundry slave. Also, clients will pass gas, fall asleep, forget appointments, and push all your buttons. By the way, I actually got a $45.00/hour job right out of massage school. It was terrible. Now, 25 years later, I am doing well. And I am a male massage therapist. Boundaries are the best thing that I have learned, second would be business skills.

  3. I have been a massage therapist for 6 years and there are sooooo many things I didn’t know. About people, about interacting, about myself, about boundaries (or lack thereof), of how highly sensitive I am, and how much of a toll massage was going to take on my mind and emotions. Surely, I have grown IMMENSELY but I feel a whirlwind of confusion and apathy internally. I never was good at intimacy. There’s no way to describe how selfless I am and how it is really a bad thing. I wish someone in massage school would have told me what pigs men are, or that I would have learned energetic boundaries. I have to be myself, bottom line. Any advice will help. Thanks.

  4. They don’t tell you in Massage School how much this job SUCKS. Literally, it SUCKS YOU DRY to work with the general public and all their complaints about their bodies that they expect the LMT to correct while they go ahead and DO NOTHING TO ACTUALLY CORRECT THEIR OWN PROBLEMS – PEOPLE MAKE THEIR OWN PAIN AND THEN WANT YOU TO FIX THEM at the cheapest rate possible and on their timetable. FIND ANOTHER WAY FORWARD MASSAGE THERAPY IS NOT AN ANSWER. And for any truly sensitive souls who really want to help people, RUN!! YOU WILL BE EATEN ALIVE.

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