We had quite a response from our Should the Gender of My Practitioner Matter? blog post back in August. Thank you, all those who commented and sent me messages. I would like to share the following relevant interview from the male perspective, conducted by my former colleague, Eva Carey. Eva is a long-time leader in massage education, and currently the National ZMT Director for Zeel. (And my good friend!)

Al-Shakise Anderson: On Men and Massage Therapy

al_shakiseThe massage industry is often thought to be a woman’s world. And in fact, according to the AMTA, 88% of licensed massage therapists are women.

In my years as a massage professional, I’ve often heard male massage therapists lament the perceived bias against men in massage therapy, and their difficulties in developing a price. Many have told me that “Women don’t want men, and men don’t want men.”

How true is this perception? To explore this issue, I spoke with Al-Shakise Anderson. In a bit over a year, Al-Shakise has developed a successful and wide-ranging massage practice. He was kind enough to share his perspective on his work as a male massage therapist and the secrets of his success.

EC How long have you been a therapist? 

AA About 15 months.

EC Why did you decide to become a massage therapist? 

AA I started my career in the fitness world, where I often worked with women. It was through this work that I first learned about the importance of therapeutic massage. Most of my clients experienced pain and soreness, especially if they didn’t stretch enough.

I found that day-to-day self-care was missing from most people’s lives, and that massage could help. Women in particular need to take care of themselves since they most often are the ones taking care of everyone else.

EC What do you like about being a massage therapist?

AA I love helping people. It is my passion and joy. The feedback I get each time I make someone feel better makes my day. When clients tell me that their range of motion improved, or they slept better than they had in a very long time, or they didn’t need to take their anti-inflammatory medication anymore, I’m inspired.

EC This field is mostly women. How has this affected you, career-wise?

AA I attended Cortiva Institute in Hoboken, NJ. On the first day of school, there were more male students than I had expected. I thought it was pretty awesome that there so many other men out there who shared my goal.

While the numbers speak for themselves, male therapists have the opportunity to stand out and develop our own clientele.

EC Do you think male massage therapists have any disadvantages? Do they have any advantages? 

AA It really depends on the client. Though, for example, I can do big, long stretches due to my size. I am 250 pounds, with lots of strength control.

Overall, for male therapists, I believe the fitness setting is more accessible. Two years ago, I became a personal trainer. I like to challenge myself to improve the life and fitness of my clients. Now I am doing the same thing with massage.

EC What percentage of your customers are male vs. female?

AA Right now about 70% of my customers are female. I’m seeing an increase in my male clients, though.

EC How many of your customers specifically request a male therapist? 

AA Right now, at the spa where I work, we have 40 therapists. About 30% of them are men. Some clients do prefer men. Customers who request male therapists tend to focus more on sports massage, as well as very deep work with a lot of stretching.

EC Would you recommend massage therapy to a man entering the field?

AA Absolutely. I do it all the time. I am part of several personal trainer networking groups and I tell them all the time that they can improve their careers by also being able to provide therapeutic massage. Massage has been a great additional dimension to my work.

EC What advice do you have for new male massage therapists?

AA Stay consistent and believe in yourself. You need to put yourself out there. You never know who you’re going to meet. I have worked at many parties, events at lounges, networking events, and other settings that have given me the opportunity to meet interesting people and further my career. In all cases, I strive to be professional in my appearance, my behavior, and my approach to each and every person I meet.

EC What would you say is the number one characteristic that helps you be successful?

AA People need encouragement. Massage is about a connection. I make customers feel welcome. I find out what they need and close the deal with my hand. Then I follow up on how they feel and give suggestions for self-care and stretching between appointments.

I frequently see therapists who are too busy doing their own routine to truly listen. Really listen to the client. Some famous people are said to make you feel like you are the only one in the room. I strive to make clients feel like that.

Al-Shakise Anderson is a NJ licensed massage therapist, working with Zeel, in private practice, and at a local spa.

Zeel delivers Massage On Demand® – top-quality massages from licensed, vetted massage therapists to homes, hotels, workplaces, and events in as little as an hour, or up to a month in advance. Booking, scheduling, and payment are made easy with the Zeel app for iPhone and Android. Therapists that work with Zeel get to work when they want, have best in class security with screened clients, and earn on average 75% of the total cost of every massage.

Zeel Massage On Demand® is available in Boston, Chicago, the NYC Tri-State Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, and South Florida – with more locations coming soon. To learn more about working with Zeel, visit zeel.com/zmt.