Unlocking Your Creative Power

By Tina Dietz, Patrick Ingrassia(LMT), October 12, 2011

Unlocking Your Creative Power

By Tina Dietz, Patrick Ingrassia(LMT),
October 12, 2011

Even if you're living out your dream career as a massage therapist, chances are you've run into some issues. You might be really tired at the end of your day or getting sore while you're working. Maybe you're not making as much money as you'd like. Or maybe you're simply getting bored with the same old routine. The good news is, if you're encountering obstacles like these, you're not alone. Massage therapists face a number of similar problems in their careers that can be grouped into four major categories: boredom, fatigue, injury and income level. The great news is, you have a powerful tool you can use to overcome these four obstacles: creativity.

The first step in discovering solutions to the problems you encounter, whether in your massage practice or in other areas of your life, is to identify the specific problem you are trying to solve. Take some time with a notebook and write down exactly what is getting in your way. You may think you know what the issue is, but in the rush of day-to-day life it's easy to overlook important details that can lead to a better solution. A clear picture of the problem is essential.

After you've detailed the problem, envision an ideal result. What would it look like if this problem were solved? Be sure to capture the details here, too. You know where you are; this shows you where you're going. Once you have these two areas nailed down, it's time to brainstorm. What are some empowering actions you could take to fix this problem? Remember, during brainstorming, there are no wrong answers. Write down whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly it might seem at the time. One of those "silly" solutions just might spark the idea you need.

After you've brainstormed your empowering actions, it's time to choose one to follow through on first. It's important to choose one task to focus your energy on. It's easy to become overwhelmed by both the initial problem and all the great ideas you came up with to solve it. Don't let that become another obstacle! Choose one action, follow through, and then take the next step. If you need to adjust your strategy later, great. Creativity is all about adapting to new circumstances. By taking the time to gain some new perspective on whatever roadblock you're facing, you'll be able to find new ways around it.

Let's tackle the four major issues faced by massage therapists with some unique solutions. One issue that may come as a surprise the first time you experience it is boredom. This is your career, your passion — how could you be bored? But if you're giving the same session over and over again, eventually, it will get boring. How can you inject some creativity and keep your sessions fresh and exciting? Continuing education is one answer. Learning new techniques and modalities will keep your mind engaged and you inspired, so expand your toolbox. Maybe you'll branch off into a new and unexpected direction. Trying something new has a double benefit. You get to enjoy the new technique while also returning to what you knew before with fresh eyes.

Another answer to boredom follows easily from the first one: try mixing and matching different modalities. This will make for interesting massages and prevent you from always giving the same session. Customize sessions to fit your clients' needs. Each client has unique issues that can be solved with different massage tools. Finding the best combination of techniques and modalities to answer your clients' needs can be an interesting and even fun way to exercise your massage skills and your creativity. Your massage practice is about your clients, but it's also about you. One underappreciated area of personal expression in a massage practice is the atmosphere. What choices are you making in terms of decorations, lighting, music and scents in your massage environment? If you have an office, how often are you changing its appearance? Small changes in your surroundings can lead to big changes in your attitude, so consider shaking up your atmosphere when you start to get into a rut.

Maybe you're not bored with your massage practice, but you just don't have enough energy to get through your day. Enter the next major obstacle faced by massage therapists: fatigue. There are two major types of fatigue: physical and mental. Chances are, if you have one, it will lead to the other. When you're seeking creative solutions to physical fatigue, it's time to examine your techniques. Advance your application and knowledge of both body mechanics and ergonomics. Many people don't know the difference between the two. Body mechanics are all about how you use your body, while ergonomics involves the setup of the environment, such as your table height. Physical fatigue can be lessened by finding new techniques that are easier on your body. Get creative in your search—each body is different, so you may need to personalize. Find a friend who doesn't mind being a guinea pig while you experiment with the setup and techniques that work best for you.

Mental fatigue can be combated with creative methods for recharging. You could try taking a series of mini-breaks throughout your day. What feels refreshing for you? A five minute meditation? A quick dose of nature with a stroll outside? Maybe it's something fun, like listening to a comedy station or playing with a slinky. Again, experiment, and see what makes you feel best during your day. It can also be helpful to create a personal ritual you use to center yourself and prepare for a session. Do you feel best lighting a candle, playing a certain type of music, arranging your lotions and linens in a certain way? Do you need a few minutes of quiet, or do you want a chance to be chatty and get the excess energy out of your system? What you need might change from day-to-day, so don't be afraid to be flexible.

Fatigue can lead to injury, so many solutions for injury prevention are similar to the solutions for fatigue. Finding techniques that are easier on your body, as well as the methods that will fulfill your clients' needs better, will prevent injuries, both in the short-term and throughout your career. Also, finding new positions in which to offer massages, as well as using different equipment (tables, chairs, etc), will allow you to deliver more effective massages with less risk of injury. Are you using the same table you got when you were in massage school? Have you ever tried a different one? Have you adjusted the height of your table? Lowering your table will make better use of both gravity and your personal momentum. How about delivering a massage while seated? All of these elements can reduce your risk of injury. If you're not sure where to begin, there are a lot of great continuing education courses out there to help you get started.

Even after you've tackled these major issues, there's one roadblock that stands in the way of many massage therapists who just want to enjoy the career they love: income. At the end of the day, you still have to pay the bills. Fortunately, creativity is even easier to apply to this block than any of the others. It's what makes you stand out from not only your direct competitors (i.e., other massage therapists), but also from your indirect competitors: the other services your clients might spend their money on.

There are many creative ways to advertise and get the word out about your massage business. Have you tried creating a brief video showing off your practice to potential clients and posting it on YouTube? How about holding a contest inviting clients to show "how massage has helped you" on Facebook, and giving away a free session as a prize? You could also use a give-away, such as small tubes of hand lotion with your company information on the labels. Give it some thought and you're sure to come up with interesting ways to get attention for your practice.

There are also many creative solutions for bringing your clients back and making them feel more valued. Why not give away a handout explaining after-care that will help clients to get the most out of their massage? You could try offering clients a little refreshment after a session, such as a cookie, fruit, crackers, or something to drink. Maybe you could create an email-based appointment reminder system that helps clients to get to their scheduled sessions on time, and also reminds them to reschedule with you.

The other side of having a profitable practice is to open up other avenues of income. Why not add the massage chair as a therapeutic modality? Most therapists use the chair for events, and a few do corporate massage, but you can do outcalls, sports settings, trade shows, or even use it in your practice for daytime sessions. No oils are used, and you can provide up to an hour in the chair of therapeutic, full body treatment with the right training.

You can also try using retailing inside your practice as another line of income. For example, you can sell home self-care tools, such as pillows, lotions, aromatherapy kits and such. These methods can be combined: take a massage chair to a convention, art show, or other festival, and at the end of your chair sessions, have the lotion you just used on hand for clients to purchase. That way if they enjoyed the session you gave, they can have a way to "take it home."

There can be a lot of roadblocks to a successful massage career — boredom, fatigue, injury, and income level can be formidable obstacles. But with the application of some creative thinking, you can turn your roadblocks into opportunities. Identify your problem, figure out where you want to be, and then brainstorm the empowering actions that will get you there, one step at a time.