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Massage Today
March, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 03

Part-Time Professionals

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Massage therapists and bodyworkers aren't that different from any other group of professionals. Our ranks include above-average, average, and below-average performers; some are obviously intelligent, while others are obviously less so; some are tactful, some are tactless; some are successful and some are struggling to get by - just like any other group of professionals!

But - and it's a very big "but" - massage therapists and bodyworkers also have many divisions.

Obvious differences in focus include structural vs. energetic; Asian vs. Western; table vs. chair; clinical vs. spa; etc. One important division rarely gets spoken of, however, and in my view supercedes most others. In large measure, massage therapists derive the majority of their income from other sources. Part-time professionals in massage therapy have chosen to "keep their day jobs." The reasons vary, but frequently involve the difficulty in generating sufficient income solely from a massage practice, from a desire to spend much of the workweek in a less physically demanding way, or from a desire to make parenting a priority over career.

The uniqueness of our full-time/part-time dichotomy makes for some interesting perspectives of thought on issues important to all of us. There are few similies to other professions. It is difficult to find other large groups of workers falling into the same situation. There are few part-time engineers, physical therapists, electricians, lawyers, social workers, locksmiths, auto mechanics or "cable guys." We tend to think of part-time workers as predominantly including those choosing retail sales, food & beverage service, and temporary office help. What follows are my observations on some of the implications of this part-time prevalence in the field of massage therapy.

Individuals who enter the field for personal growth and have an expectation of working only on family and friends, with a few referrals thrown in, have a different expectation of basic massage education and training than those looking for a full-time career. The former are likely to seek a relaxed atmosphere, and a supportive, fun environment that stresses the "how" of massage. The latter will frequently look for an in-depth program based on solid educational methodology that showcases a balanced mix of the "what, why and how" of massage.

In my observations, part-time professionals are less likely to see benefit from licensure and/or other practice regulation. They are also more likely to work without credentials in areas that require them, as they are risking an avocation rather than a livelihood. Full-time practitioners more frequently seek status as licensed professionals to maintain equity as peers with other licensed professionals who have referral potential. Part-time practitioners are more likely to look only for the acceptance of those clients who grace their table. Full-time practitioners are much more likely to own or lease the space in which they work. Their part-time counterparts are more likely to rent by the hour or day, or work from their homes. Professional investment is also an area of differentiation. Full-time therapists are much more likely to invest in quality continuing education and in tools to help them perform, such as electric lift tables.

Finally, full-time practitioners are more in tune with the importance of networking. If you regularly attend conferences and conventions, you'll notice that the ratio of full to part-time practitioners is much higher. Those joining local community networking groups like the chamber of commerce are also more likely to be full-time.

So, am I saying that full-time practitioners are "more professional" and therefore better therapists? Absolutely not! The two may have differing perspectives on the rank order of what is important, but both are equally professional. As a matter of fact, part-time practitioners rarely get burnt out or "stuck in a rut." A need for mother's hours or a love of an existing profession can be reason enough to become a part-time massage therapist. I'm personally blessed to know several part-time therapists who do a great job keeping me comfortable!

My point is, neither of these factions is going to disappear any time soon. Both perspectives are important and need to be honored. Part-time massage therapists are not "citizen soldiers" parallel to full-time therapists and active duty military! While our Reserve and Guard forces take their lead from active-duty requirements, our part-time massage therapists do not march to the requirements of full-time therapists. Certifying bodies, professional associations and regulatory boards all need to take the needs of the entire profession into account. Those who lose the respect of major segments of the profession lose their status as viable professional influencers. So the next time you get irritated by a peer's response to a situation with which you disagree, please try to see if he or she has a different professional and personal perspective based upon the percentage of income derived from massage. There are no answers to this stuff, only more tolerance for more questions and points of view.

Thanks for listening!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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