Illustration of people holding balloons with different emotions
Illustration of people holding balloons with different emotions

Readers Respond: Is Massage Therapy Education Ready for A Hybrid Education Model?

By Massage Today, Editorial Staff
January 12, 2022

Readers Respond: Is Massage Therapy Education Ready for A Hybrid Education Model?

By Massage Today, Editorial Staff
January 12, 2022

In the November/December issue, we asked readers to let us know what they thought of our profile of M|Power, a company committed to bringing a hybrid model to massage education. Here’s how some of you answered.

Chris Moye, LMT

I believe massage education has been ready for a hybrid model for quite some time. I do, however, believe that the time during the pandemic made many realize how important remote learning or a hybrid model is to opening up education to people who would otherwise be unable to participate.

As for me, when I went through massage therapy school in 2015, I was also working a full-time job as a firefighter/paramedic, as well as a part-time job. I was married and had a young child.

The school I attended was more than 30 minutes from my home. Attending school four to five nights per week was extremely difficult and put unnecessary strain on my life, job, and relationships. Had a hybrid mode been available at the time, the whole process would have been much less stressful.

This will help remove a huge barrier of entry to the massage therapy profession for thousands and thousands of future massage therapists.

I’m glad to see this is coming to fruition and would love to help bring it to Alabama.

Kendal Salazar

I’m a graduate of a massage school in Sacramento, California. I attended my 800-hour program from January 2020 to January 2021.

My opinion on this is that some states may be more prepared than others. Specifically, my experience with the hybrid model was not positive. The state certification board failed to communicate with our school for the number of in-person hours needed for state certification. Our school contacted us three months post-graduation to let us know that the board would not accept a majority of our on-campus hours as bodywork hours.

Keep in mind that we submitted for certification in September 2020, and this was not known to us until March 2021, despite numerous attempts to open a line of communication.

I feel that the hybrid model could be as effective as in-person. However, the licensing and/or certification organizations really need to communicate and have set requirements in a timely fashion, with no grey area. It is a discouraging experience to complete an 800-hour program with no certification in hand.

Sean Sanders, LMT

As a former massage educator and online education coordinator, I am of two minds regarding the subject of hybrid education for massage programs. First, for more "traditional students” who have had a history of some academic success, as well as course offerings that are endemic to an associates degree, I believe a hybrid model of massage education to be not only potentially feasible, but also has significant cost savings potential.

However, the strengths of this model could be its greatest weakness as far as the outcomes of non-traditional students are concerned. They, quite frankly, would be at once overwhelmed and discouraged without direct instructor training and interaction, especially with more theory-based subjects.

A nuanced approach is definitely in order regarding the subject of hybrid education for massage therapy, and a thorough inventory of a given student's academic strengths and weaknesses in the pre-assessment phase would be vital, in the least.

Jennifer I. Sprengel, LMT

Sounds like a great idea, keeping up with the trend of on-line instruction. Making the most of our time with convenience. Then I read: “Employers who have job openings and a desire to hire more massage therapists will sponsor students to attend massage school. In exchange for the sponsorship, the student agrees to work for the employer once they become licensed.”

Sounds like the massage franchises have bellied up to the idea. I wonder why? Too many inexperienced massage therapists are being used by employers. Wages are minimum wage-ish, no benefits, sanitation and safety are questionable because the massage therapist isn’t given adequate time to sanitize between clients (let alone go to the bathroom or eat.)

I’m going on 20 years in this amazing profession. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the quality of massage therapists due to lack of mastery. Too many massage schools are “teaching” every modality rather than focusing on the basics of touch.

Is this new hybrid idea one that will benefit the therapist? I doubt it. Seems to me that it’s only benefitting those who want to benefit themselves and selfishness isn’t a quality needed in the massage profession.

Skya Fisher, LMT

Thank you for taking responses regarding hybrid education in massage therapy. My perspective is from someone who learned hands-on work in a fully hands-on classroom, and I cannot imagine even half online work being as efficient.

I was already a human massage therapist when I got certified in animal massage, which was half online and half hands-on, so I was able to master skills even in the online section. However, students who had never studied massage frankly could not keep up as well. Extrapolated to human massage, the prognosis is even worse: people’s behavior is different when they are forced to pay attention in a classroom, with the glorious opportunity for spontaneous questions, and learning from other people’s questions.

I would also like to address what is sometimes a delicate subject, and that is market saturation of our profession. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have hundreds of licensed massage therapists in most counties, and plenty of schools pumping out more students, some of whom are good and some who are not. Far more people are trying to enter this profession than are leaving it.

As a therapist for almost 20 years, I have never achieved fully supporting myself through massage therapy, and the idea of hundreds of students being poured out that haven’t even had classroom education—which is important for all the learning and not just massage technique—makes me shudder. I have noticed that anyone in our profession who mentions market saturation is perceived as “negative," yet most of us in private practice admit they are in the same boat as I am, never getting enough clients to really support oneself.

This dichotomy does not make sense to me.

I would like to see a mature, civil conversation emerge from this discussion on hybridization, which focuses on both being excellent therapists and being skilled business people, better able to self-regulate the number of therapists so that those of us who have put years of our lives into advancing this profession can meet our goals without being labeled as selfish or greedy. This pandemic has been terrible for all of us, yet this is an opportunity to heighten our professionalism: please do not water us down anymore with less-skilled education.

Selena Belisle, CE Institute

We're going to offer hybrid education whether it's board approved or not. We'll provide two different continuing education classes and certificates if that is what is required to provide hybrid schooling. One class will be an online class/certificate while a second class will have the in-person class/certificate.

This will likely lead to student confusion plus an advertising and registration nightmare, but hybrid education must be part of today's educational model. And if the boards can't keep up with the times and offer legitimate approvals for reasonable training models, then we'll do whatever we have to do to offer it—which includes the example as provided above (offering both a hybrid option and in-person option).

We will explain to students that the boards require us to offer separate classes because they are not providing us an option to offer hybrid-approved training. This will likely lead to an unfavorable opinion of the boards and regulatory authorities who are not keeping up with the times of online education and offerings.

Brenda Schwarzbach, Owner, Black Brook School of Massage

Personally, I have heard horror stories from students whose school went to online classes.

I have a small school and I know it wouldn't work for everyone in every place, but I think it's a huge mistake to take any one of the massage curricula out of the classroom.

By and large, massage students are kinetic learners and do poorly online. I've struggled to keep people in the classroom and have used Zoom, but we always have to go back over the information in class.

I absolutely hate the idea of blending the curriculum and will not do it.

It's more than just the information, it's how to interact with others, build rapport and create relationships.

Doing any of the hands-on practice online is just ridiculous.

Chad Friel, LMT

As much as I hate to say it, I do think massage is ready for a hybrid education. I think it’s the future of education.

However, I do hope that all schools and regulatory bodies are sure to implement enough time for in-class hands-on practice.

Anna Thompson, LMT

For the book learning, I believe a hybrid model would allow someone to move at their own pace. There would have to be instructors available to demonstrate the hands-on techniques when students are ready.

Then, have a clinic set up at different times to perform the required number of massages to fulfill education requirements.

Amanda Zehr

I was reading the article on hybrid massage therapy education and I think this is a great idea. There would be a high demand in our area.

Many times, I hire new young therapists that have passed their training but have no skill in the hands-on portion. I can easily train them in the hands-on work in exchange for employment if they can get the bookwork and testing done online and in their own time.

Mary Seavales

Great idea and concept. I received a full scholarship for my training, which enabled me to change my career path and I am ever so thankful. Online can also be more workable within one's time constraints, and one can possibly review course content at leisure.

Suzanne Wilcox, LMT

I guess it will be trial and error. Certain things must be hands-on.

I have been a massage therapist for 29 years. Classes have been in-persone with instructors. It's a changing world. I'm not opposed to online classes, but would be very choosy.

Interested In How A Hybrid Model Would Work in Massage Education?

M|Power talks about their mission to bring hybrid education to the massage profession