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Massage Today
September, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 09

Creating Your Path to Success

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

To establish a reputation as a skillful massage therapist, with a talented array of techniques, requires consistency in a few areas over time. To become that therapist and design the practice of your dreams, you must be clear as to the knowledge, professional image and experience needed to achieve those long and short-term goals.

This article will take you through the process by providing insightful questions and examples to help you clarify the steps and ignite the motivation to follow through on the actions necessary to create your path to success. Refer to "The SMARTER Approach to Achieving Your Goals" and "Practice Building: Taking Your Practice to the Next Level".

Your ability to assess your patients symptoms, communicate your findings and design and implement effective treatment plans is easy when you understand how the body works and have the professional support tools to do your job. Mastering these skills and support tools can greatly influence if a patient reschedules, upgrades services, purchases a multi-session package, refers others and in some cases the amount of your tip.


Specialized areas of study are an excellent way to create a reputation and set you apart from the other massage therapists in your area. For example, since 1992 to the present, my continuing education involves dissection seminars at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. The knowledge from these seminars is applicable to all forms of bodywork. The decision to make the investment was easy since the percentage of healthcare providers who perform a human dissection during the course of their education and training is relatively low. I understood taking part in this unique learning experience created a special bond among its participants in the healthcare community.

I have met many physicians over the years that attended the College of Medicine in Tampa. Sharing that I studied anatomy in the same dissection lab is a great icebreaker that gives me further opportunity to develop an ongoing professional relationship — and a referral network.

Therapists who have taken a human dissection seminar have a definite advantage over those who have not. For one, physicians and other healthcare providers know that if you have taken a dissection seminar, you are committed to learning. If you were a doctor and had a choice of therapists in which to refer patients, do you think knowing a therapist attended a dissection seminar might influence your decision? What if you were the consumer? Would that level of advanced training influence your decision to see him or her?

There will be situations when your current schedule, location or finances prevent you from taking the seminar of your dreams. Your next option is to order the home study materials for the course. This gives you the freedom to watch and review everything anytime, anyplace, before and again after attending the seminar. Invest in well-organized programs that include manuals and other visual aids like charts that make the learning process easy and support your treatment sessions.

Ask yourself, what specific seminars or home study programs must I invest in now to achieve my long and short-term career goals? Then write a list of the seminars and home study programs and next to each item write the date you plan to accomplish this goal.


Presenting a professional image takes place on many levels; from how you speak and dress to the assessment and education tools you utilize. Read "Practice Building: Getting Inside Your Patients Head".

Besides the many talented skills in your hands, one of the most powerful tools a massage therapist holds is in the palm of their hand: an iPhone, Android, Smart Phone, iPad or Tablet. They allow you to run your business. You can make calls, schedule appointments, email, research online, get GPS directions, take payments and watch videos.

The built in camera lets you take still photos to document posture or video for range-of-motion and gait. The large screens let you zoom in to instantly assess and educate your patients. We all know the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words." Doctors utilize X-rays, MRIs and other imaging to educate patients, design treatment plans and document progress. You must use tools to take postural analysis photos to document and educate patients regarding how the effects of their high shoulder and forward head posture does indeed create myofascial pain and trigger points. The camera allows you to record video footage documenting dysfunctional movement patterns assessing their entire body during gait (Photo 2). Read "The Initial Treatment: Generating Thousands to Your Practice".


This Charts are a powerful visual tool that demonstrate your ability to understand the patient's pain and develop an effective treatment plan. Charts help you instill a comforting level of confidence to your patients as you explain the connection between their pain, limited range-of-motion, posture, trigger points and how your treatments help.

Charts are a phenomenal way to introduce a clinical presence to any treatment setting. Charts are engaging and provide a perfect visual aid for patient education. Hanging in each treatment room of my clinic is a postural analysis, skeletal, muscular, range of motion and full set of trigger point charts. I even have the same group of charts hanging in my reception area and use them when answering questions for the public that stop to inquire.

If you're a mobile therapist you might want to invest in flip charts to educate patients and present a professional image during outcalls, chair massage, health fairs or any time wall space is not available.

Ask yourself, what specific visual aids must I invest in to achieve my long and short-term career goals? Then write a list and next to each item write a target date.


It will require a little practice getting comfortable presenting the image of a confident healthcare provider. Part of this involves wearing certain attire and answering questions while referencing specific visual aids.

Practice taking posture photos and zooming in on each image to assess a forward head or slumped rounded shoulder pattern. Postural photos show which muscles are shortened, and which are lengthened contributing to neck pain and or back pain and how your treatments can help.

Learn how to properly use your charts to educate patients so you can show visual pain referral patterns of trigger points for common complaints like headaches, neck and back pain. A skeletal chart will aid with correlating trigger points and posture.

Practice by going out and "cold calling" a few miles from your ultimate target area. Pick multiple plazas to go introduce yourself and tell them who you are, what you do, where you are located and how you can help. After a few days, you will be amazed how much better and comfortable you will be answering the questions and referencing your educational tools. Now it is time to target your market.

Congratulations, reading and completing the steps outlined in this article was a major step toward creating your personal path to success. There is big difference between knowing what to do and doing what you know. Keep this list close, review your list frequently and take daily action. Your professional career investments must be wisely focused to be effective. Enjoy making your practice unique and setting it apart.

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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