Your Place as a Massage Therapist: One Size Does Not Fit All

Minolta DSCYou know what I think about a lot? Massage. Funny, right? The thing is, for years when I have thought about massage, it’s been with the rose-colored glasses of my own satisfaction with my career.

When I became an independent massage therapist, I found my niche, and since I found my niche, I’ve made the mistake of believing that everyone should have their own business. Whenever I think about receiving a massage (which I can assure you is very, very often), it’s always from an independent therapist.

When I was pregnant with my first son, my husband gifted me with a spa day. Of course I went to the spa. I would never squander that opportunity. I looked forward to my appointment, and really enjoyed my time there, but I never, not once, considered getting a massage while I was there. I received other services, like a pedicure and a facial, and it was lovely. My feet looked fancier than they’ve ever looked before (or since). (Or so I was told—I was super-duper pregnant, so seeing my feet was, well, pretty impossible.) But I never considered getting a massage—simply because I would never dream of receiving a massage from someone who only received 40 percent of what I’m paying.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research lately, and I’m learning that I have spent the past 12 or more years in denial. Obviously I knew that there were plenty of LMTs working at spas or large, corporate clinics. I taught business, after all, and stayed current on local employers, so I could give my students as much guidance as possible.

But, to be honest with you, I never found it possible to be genuinely enthusiastic about any other option other than working for yourself. I hope I at least appeared neutral and supportive, but inside I know that, when I was preparing them for what it may be like to work for a corporate chain, I was harboring a prejudice against those chains.

This week I was reading some literature from the AMTA on working in a franchise environment, and it suddenly (I know, I know . . . I’m a little slow) occurred to me that there are people working for the places I judged so harshly who are happy and fulfilled. It isn’t a means to an end, or a “I’ll settle for this” job for them—it’s the genuine goal of their career. Their needs are different from mine, and the vision they have for their career looks different from mine, and that’s really all. In fact, in one interview that I read with a therapist for a corporate chain, the interviewee felt that there were no drawbacks, only benefits, working for a franchise.

Unless, of course, they feared they would lose their job if they listed any drawbacks. My internal cynic LIVES!

The point is, I know now that there is a happy place for all of us in this industry. Just like that first day of massage school when you are asked, “what made you decide to go to massage school?” and each answer was unique, the same is true for the way we each pursue our careers, each pursuit is unique. I can’t imagine working as an LMT in any other environment. It just would be too much imbalance for me, too much compromise.

But you or your LMT may have found their “I can’t imagine working anywhere else” place in a day spa, destination spa, or corporate clinic. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great. But I will be here, at Massamio, making it easier for those LMT’s or professional body workers who want to be independent. If that’s their goal, I’m here to help them realize it.

That’s my thing, and I’m alright with that.

Sarah Cafiero, LMT


Comments from original Massamio post:

I have worked in many different venues. What’s important, in my opinion, is that your talents are valued. Corporate settings are often not the ones who value their therapists. Some are locked in and not able to leave. It’s not always roses… and 40%! WOW…. That’s a dream come true! On a good day… we get 33%! Some treatments are less than that. Many people know how to work the sytem and it gets taken away from the workers. I have spoken to many who have left the big spas because of the abuse they have dealt with. Depending on the state you live in, there may be no recourse at all when you are mistreated or not treated as the professionals that we are. I would like to add to your story…. do your research FIRST! Being in private practice can be a Godsend to one and a hardship to another. Know what you want and have good information for making your choices! — Posted @ Wednesday, September 12, 2012 7:40 PM by Wounded Healer

Thank you so much for your comment! I agree-do your research. Talk to therapists that work in the establishment you are interviewing at, ask hard questions, and be an advocate for change if it needs to occur. I hope that is being suggested to students so they enter the field empowered! — Posted @ Friday, September 14, 2012 12:53 PM by Sarah Cafiero

I can definitely relate to this. I have worked at a very busy day spa for over nine years now. I have wanted to work for myself for many years. One of the things that held me back was looking at all the therapists that had been there longer and wondering why none of them ever “made it” on their own. I thought if they couldn’t do it there was no way I could. A few have some private clients but that’s about it. It finally dawned on me that they never really wanted to, or tried to in the first place. They were either happy or content having a nice, safe, well enough paying job that required no additional time, money, or stress. I finally realized that’s just what I want to do, and I’m now going for it. Our goals are as diverse as we are. — Posted @ Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:57 PM by S.Darling

Let me just say WOW! If I got paid 40% where I’m at I would jump for joy. I am lucky if I get 25% and a lot of the cash tips that get left at the front desk are getting stolen……by the owners daughter so of course no proof, no foul. I’m only there because I’m stuck my a non-compete clause. We work on a jump system to be able to go up levels, but it is darn near impossible to jump. I personally would NEVER suggest working for a spa. Our tables suck. The spa isn’t even close to health code. If a customer want to upgrade to a deep tissue they charge $20 more dollars and they keep most of it even though it doesn’t cost them anything more for me to kill my body doing deep tissue. Crooks….crooks….crooks. And to top it off the first thing they tell you is what a Christian based business they are. If someone says that you should run as fast as you can the other way. — Posted @ Sunday, April 13, 2014 11:28 PM by Chris