I have answered more inquires from male therapists this year on how to find success in our industry than in years past. I have also heard more tales of frustration from male therapists, some ready to leave our profession while others continuing to push past archaic stereotypes. This article is meant as a means to share the essential messages of these recent conversations to a wider audience. Please share these sentiments with your male brethren in the field.
Lesson 1: Define Success
One major activity employed with male therapists seeking greater success is to help these individuals determine what success means in their minds.
Does greater success equate to:
- more income
- greater acceptance
- better credibility
- or the ability to be heard?
One, or all of the above?
Once success is defined, it is easier to help an individual create a game plan towards their vision of success.
Lesson 2: Speak up! Let management know how you feel, don’t hold in frustration.
To me, success in my early career was about earning enough income to make ends meet.
My initial jobs in the massage field from 2000-2002 were in the spa industry working at smaller day spas. Usually, I was the only male therapist on staff. The front desk would receive calls and I would cringe when I heard them ask a question which makes sense business-wise yet perpetuates an unhealthy attitude about men in the field: “Would you prefer a male or female therapist?”
I winced hearing this question because it implies a potential client should perceive a difference between a male and female therapist.
I mustered the courage to speak to my spa managers about this front desk requirement. Some managers understood my position and decided to change or remove this question. Others were not as understanding or did not care to hear my concern.
It is healthy to at least make the inquiry to allow management to hear your voice. Better to learn sooner than later if management really cares to hear your voice or not in the workplace.
Lesson 3: Show you are a team player, help others succeed, keep learning as karma plays out in your favor!
As I came to work each day in the spas, I became accustomed to comparing my schedule with 1-2 appointments with my female peers who had three or more daily.
I decided to focus on becoming a better version of me. A major lesson here is to not pout or get down on yourself or your workplace. I decided to show my worth to the spa manager in ways that would augment the spas, such as:
- assisting with laundry
- marketing efforts
- learning more of our featured product line
- and helping my peers with changing over their room spaces.
This made me more valuable in the eyes of spa management as I pushed forward daily to help the greater good of the spa’s success. The more I did these tasks, the more my peers grew respect for me and began speaking to management positively about me. I saw an uptick in clientele, now 2-3 sessions daily.
Lesson 4: Never stop learning! There is always more to learn to grow your skill set.
To improve as a therapist, I recognized what I learned in entry level schooling provided a solid foundation, yet my peers were all professionals of several years with much advanced training. I decided to enroll in as many continuing education courses as possible.
During my first three years in the field, my priority was set to attend classes in subjects such as:
This was in the state of Utah in which continuing education was (and is still not) a requirement.
These classes helped me elevate my proficiency and quality of touch during sessions.
Lesson 5: Show the front desk staff your amazing skills!
During one particularly slow week in Salt Lake City, during a week full of snowstorms that kept customers away, I decided to also offer each front desk staff a free session to further show my worth to the team.
After each of the four front desk staff members received a session from me, I was pleasantly surprised to hear them speak of my skill set over the phone to potential clients. Soon my client list was growing and I was receiving 3-4 session a day, then 4-5 sessions, and then my maximum of 6 sessions daily.
Lesson 6: Recognize how you can improve your physical health and remain hygienic.
My female peers and the entire staff were happy to see my client list filled. They also noted several personal changes they noticed about my physical appearance.
- They noticed I shaved twice daily (once before arriving to work, then again in early afternoon) and praised me for making that extra effort.
- They noticed I had a mini bathroom bar in the back with toiletries to ensure I remain hygienic. Keeping a clean appearance does matter, especially in the spa and beauty sector of our industry.
Physically I was also ensuring to remain as strong as possible. I could not afford a gym membership so I simply worked out in my treatment room between appointments and aid efforts. I never sat idly in the break room staring at a computer screen or phone. Rather, I kept myself active with pushups, crunches, stretching and strengthening my forearms and shoulders during downtime.
Lesson 7: Recognize you are capable of providing any form of massage you wish to learn!
My hope is that these lessons help fellow male massage therapists determine and discover success in the massage field.
The final lesson involves perspective. Do not get caught in the archaic notions that male therapists are “supposed to” provide deeper bodywork application. This attitude feeds unhealthy massage myths suggesting that females cannot deliver deeper pressure application and males are incapable of providing softer modalities.
I have witnessed greater healing when I ease touch depth and turn on intuitive touch detecting subtle shifts of skin and fascial tissue.
Every therapist is capable of learning intuitive touch to this degree.