Massage Therapy is an incredibly broad field that features over 80 different specialized massage styles. Some of the more common are deep-tissue, neuromuscular, acupressure, reflexology and Swedish massage. The common name for each of these divisions is "modalities." Some of these specialized treatments may feature the use of oils, lotions, creams and ambience to make the overall experience more complete and enjoyable for the consumer. A lot of the decisions about which type of modalities will be used depend largely on the physical needs and condition of the client, which is why Massage Therapists must first always conduct a personalized need assessment before ever setting to work.
Of course, having so many different options will require some sort of oversight and standardization. As recently as 2009 there were 42 states, along with Washington D.C. that had laws in places that somehow regulated the Massage Therapy work done within their own boundaries. Each state is able to host its own set of regulations in the field, with most requiring students to complete Licensing programs and log at least 500 hours of study or more from a post-secondary institution.
Many Massage Therapists build their name and reputation up by specializing in certain popular modalities, which generally enables them to establish a solid client-base and set somewhat of a demographic in the community. Many of these individuals are self-employed and able to set their own office hours or work only during prescheduled appointment times, giving the field a certain level of flexibility to personalize it. If you're looking for a job that you can make work for you, consider Massage Therapy.
Students studying Massage Therapy are going to run into a lot of specialty options. This makes picking the right program(s) incredibly important. The best way to do that is to start by identifying some of your career goals and learning which schools offer the programs designed to help you achieve those. Next up, start eliminating options according to reputation and accreditation history of both the school and the programs it offers. Finally, make your ultimate decision according to things like commute time, financial aid and internship opportunities that set each program apart from the others.
Each state does have their own academic and Licensing requirements for practicing Massage Therapy, but in many instances, passing the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) can suffice for some of those requirements. The main thing is to learn the state laws where you're hoping to practice. This is the best way to prepare for your education in Massage Therapy. Remember that you're going to be studying in Certification and Licensing programs according largely to your desired specialties, so choose programs accordingly.
Most Massage Therapists are able to set schedules that work for them by running an appointment-only operation. A lot of the client-base comes from word of mouth referrals and for people in the community who are looking for someone who practices a particular modality. The lengths of a massage can vary from a few minutes to a couple of hours, with the masseuse or masseur having the chance to decide according to the client's needs, requests and physical assessment, which is conducted before any contact is ever made. Clients must consent to all treatments before they are administered, so it is paramount to discuss each procedure and its affect in depth before beginning. Clients do, however, typically try to find Massage Therapists who offer certain modalities that they may desire, but some times may have the wrong idea about what it is exactly that their body needs.
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