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Massage Today
January, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 01


"Touching the Massage Today readers, one letter at a time"

By Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT


For years, I taught a 60-minute routine at a state-licensed school of massage.

Now I hear the industry standard is 50 minutes. Is this indeed the standard? We teach relaxation and clinical massage combined -- I don't think you can do justice in 50 minutes, and it seems deceptive if you are advertising that you charge $X per "hour." These schools refer to the 50-minute hour that psychologists charge, but why not compare us to physical therapists, who charge by the full hour, or dental hygienists, who charge by the minute and work until the job is done? Plus, you cannot do a decent intake and follow-up in only 50 minutes. Can you clear up this confusion for me?

-- Margaret in Michigan

Dear Margaret,

I'm not sure I can clear up your confusion, but I certainly can give you my two cents on the subject. I visit spas and massage centers all over the country, and see both a 50-minute and 60-minute services on the menu. As long as the establishment is up-front with the service and time you are going to receive, I think it's a fair deal - but you're right: You might need more time than 50 minutes to cover all your needs. If you're talking about a 50-minute massage, it should say on "50 minutes" on the menu, not "one hour."

I was just at The Red Mountain Spa in Utah; they offer 50-minute treatments, and that's what is printed in their menu. (I also received an awesome 50-minute massage there!)

I sent your question to holistic health practitioner Ariel F. Hubbard, director of the California Academy for the Healing Arts. She responded with the following:

Spas do offer 50-minute massage sessions. Industry standards are determined over a period of time. However, the California State Board of Postsecondary Education, the institution that regulates schools in California, also requires that breaks of 10 minutes per 60-minute hour be given to employees (teachers), which would add up to a 50-minute hour for actual "work." I believe that this is also a standard for all employees (in any work setting) statewide. Also, therapists need time between clients to become balanced, centered, change linens, make notes, etc. This all helps the therapists give better massages. However, with respect to the integrity issue of charging for a 60-minute massage rather than a 50- minute massage, I believe institutions should call a spade a spade and tell clients that they are paying for only 50 minutes of massage.

Ariel can be reached at .


I am about to start massage therapy school. As a male, I am curious about potential problems giving massages to women in a spa. I am concerned about women complaining that I am touching them in inappropriate areas. Do problems that arise when a female client receives a massage from a male therapist?

-- MBS in the USA

Dear MBS,

My advice to you is, when you get out of school and start doing massage therapy, simply act as the professional you are, regardless of whether you are massaging a man or a woman.

I sent your question to Scott Kilbourne, director of Spa Struck in the Charter at Beaver Creek, near Vail, Colorado. He has been nationally certified since 1993, and currently manages as many as 20 massage therapists. Here is Scott's reply:

As a therapist for 10 years, I have worked on thousands of female clients without incident. Massage therapy is a profession, and becoming a massage therapist requires schooling and credentialing, just as becoming a doctor or nurse requires. We are professionals doing a job we were trained to do. You need to make sure you're getting into this profession to help people.

As a professional massage therapist, before you begin to touch anyone (whether a man or a woman), you must first decide what you hope to accomplish during the session to make their lives better (we call this "centering your intent"). During the massage, you will need to use "appropriate" draping, what this means is that your clients' private areas (including a women's breast area), should be securely covered at all times. All this should be included in your massage school's training program. Finally, you may encounter clients who do not want to be touched by a man. This is a reality in massage therapy; as a male in this field you will need to decide where you want to concentrate your training. If problems arise, I would suggest you pursue a sports massage or clinical massage settings; athletes and people in pain do not normally care about your looks or gender - they care about results.

I run a resort spa, where people come for relaxation and to pamper themselves. In our setting, about 98% of the people who make gender requests ask for a female therapist. It is extremely important for you to decide now what you want to do when you graduate, and focus your studies appropriately.

Good luck in what can be a personally rewarding field.

Scott can be reached at .

Lynda Solien-Wolfe is Vice President, Massage and Spa at Performance Health. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and has been in private practice in Merritt Island, Florida for more than 20 years. Lynda graduated from Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, FL.


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