Massage talent
November 23, 2010 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Can anybody learn to be a great massage therapist?

I want to be a massage therapist. I think massage therapy is wonderful and can be very helpful for many people, but only if the massage therapist is actually good. I have no idea how much of this is talent and how much is a learnable skill. I am willing to put in a lot of work and I am very motivated, but I am also a bit worried that I'll be spending a lot of time and money (not debt-amounts of money, but it will require adjustments from not just me but also my family) only to find out that I'm not actually really good at it. I would go to a good school, so assume that the quality of the education itself is not a limiting factor. I also don't think I'll have many problems with the theoretical aspects of massage therapy (anatomy and physiology etc.) and I think I am good at the "soft skills" that are necessary. I just would like to know if giving a great massage is something that anybody can learn how to do.
posted by blub to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How will you know unless you try it? If you are concerned about cost, try a short introductory course.

My mother was a massage therapist, but had to give it up because she no longer had the strength. She now does it just for friends and family a few times a year. It can be hard work.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:32 AM on November 23, 2010

What do your family/friends think about the massages you give them (I'm guessing that you already do it for a spouse or friends)?

Anecdotally, a former co-worker of mine was attending massage therapy school on the side. She thought that it would be pretty easy since people always thought she gave great massages already, blahblahblah. But she was surprised to find out just how intensive, in-depth and helpful formal training was. She was already good but going to school made her a great masseuse.

Of course you want to do the best you can with your studies, but you dont have to be a great masseuse to become licensed or get a job.

HTH and GL making your decision!
posted by lovelygirl at 5:30 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not everyone who goes to massage school becomes a great massage therapist. Not everyone who goes to massage school even wants to become a great massage therapist (a few people I went to school with were heading into spa management, a few more were trust-fund kids flirting with the massage-yoga-faux-easternish lifestyle, one was working her way through having been sexually assaulted, etc.). But I don't think that should stop you. If you have passion, a capacity for understanding anatomy/physiology/kinesiology, and enough patience to re-learn how to use and listen to your own body, then you are in good shape.
posted by headnsouth at 5:31 AM on November 23, 2010

Speaking as a former massage therapist, I'd say that giving a good massage is totally a learned skill. There's nothing magical about it.

Here are some tips to get you started.
posted by tdismukes at 6:06 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks for your answers!
I wanted to hear what tdismukes said, but if there are any other opinions I would of course like to hear that too. You are right that I don't have to be great, but I would want to be good.
posted by blub at 10:17 AM on November 23, 2010

Somebody untrained who gives a great massage is basically someone who - because of experiences with their own body and an ability to read subtle cues from the massagee - is able to correctly guess what might feel good to someone else. The whole point of school is to take the guesswork out, which totally levels the playing field.
posted by aimedwander at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010

While I haven't gone to massage school, I can say that working on my fiance has made me more *sensitive* to what she needs, what she wants, etc. The point is that giving a massage is about your client, not you. If you're already able to do that, massage school is just a way of formalizing that.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:08 AM on November 25, 2010

No. You can become a reasonably OK therapist, but great is something else. Apart from the 10.000 hours of practice you should put in there is an instinctiveness to great massage therapists which in my view can not be taught, but is innate. Yes massage school takes the guesswork out, but that's not the point. At a certain level your hands find their way automatically to the correct place, bypassing your brain and any learnt patterns. Just a datapoint: I have had many different types of massage and yes I have gone to massage school and am a massage therapist.
posted by Eltulipan at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2010

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