Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, November/December 2008. Copyright 2008. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
My practice is unique because sometimes the traditional relaxing music just isn't enough. I let my clients make custom CDs, and I put them in their charts and those CDs get played whenever they have a session. I also offer "relax with a touch of paradise." I also have a tropical smelling diffuser in my room to let clients feel like they are in paradise for the duration of their massage session. And to tie in the tropical getaway, I let my clients know they can become a frequent flyer and save with my massage packages to escape to that paradise more often.
Kerri Lee Johnson
Fargo, North Dakota
Being true to yourself, following your passion, and trusting your work make your practice unique. Too often we make choices coming into the field of massage based on what will sell or make us most employable. We try to follow a predictable path, and end up doing work that does not come from the heart. We should hold to the spirit of exploration when studying bodywork by trying many modalities and letting our true passion emerge. This is the joy of the journey that will often bring unexpected discoveries about bodywork and ourselves in relation to our work. When we are doing the work that we are passionate about--that makes us happy--then our true self can come forward. This place of confidence, of trust in the work that we are doing, is what makes us unique. These are the qualities that will draw clients to us who are seeking the kind of bodywork we do. These are the qualities that will make a long-lasting and successful practice both fulfilling and unique.
Several years ago, I sold my spa and went back into independent practice. I also became a spa consultant. This has allowed me a lot of flexibility with my finances and scheduling and keeps my days interesting. I'm not ready to give up my massage clients yet, but doing both allows me to keep my client load at a level that I am happy with.
In the last few months, I've added a couple of independent massage therapists at my office who have improved the business' cash flow and been able to see my clients when I am traveling or otherwise unavailable, which is fantastic.
I also get to help these therapists succeed in their careers and provide a bit of hands-on consulting to them without being their boss. This is how my last spa started, but as I am older and wiser now, I was able to set it up right from the beginning. Who knows ... maybe it will turn into another spa.
Greensboro, North Carolina
I work with children at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. I provide massage for the children going through rehabilitation. The work has been rewarding over the past six years. I also provide weekly chair massage for the parents of the children and staff. This is a unique program that offers CAM work in a well-known medical facility. I hope to bring the work to many other hospitals.
Ellicott City, Maryland
What makes my practice unique is the heartfelt connection I bring to each and every massage. To me, my practice is an art form attained through manual manipulation and many years of practical experience.
Las Vegas, Nevada
More than half my clients are mentally challenged adults and children, six of whom I inherited when purchasing the practice. Those first sessions were a learning experience.
One client's sessions consisted of me crawling around the floor desperately trying to get 30 seconds of touch. Meanwhile, she pulled off and on clothes. Now, she reaches for me upon arrival. We enter her room, where we spend 20-30 minutes sitting on her bed, rocking while I work her back. She smiles and buries her face in bed covers. The behavior change was so remarkable.
A man, frequently and loudly vocalizing, started massage last year. Our get-to-know-one-another-session lasted 15 minutes, as I believed more time would not be tolerated. Our sessions focused on head, neck, and shoulders with lots of hand-holding. He amazed everyone by quietly tolerating our treatments, which recently increased to two half hour sessions per month.
Therapeutic touch benefits this population beyond the observable increased range of motion and calming behaviors. However, I consider myself the lucky one. Nothing compares to an acceptable, heartfelt hug at session's end.
Being nationally certified has increased my massage business tenfold. I have been massaging more than 25 years and decided to go to school to become a nationally certified massage therapist. I started out 32 years ago as a cosmetologist/hairdresser. I went to work for a spa in Indiana, which kickstarted my esthetician and massage work. I have a large, diverse clientele in massage, skin care, and bodywork. What recession?
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Our practice is different from those around us, because we focus strictly on wellness. We are fortunate to be in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, with professionals who are focused on clients' health first and foremost. We suggest reading materials, hand out related articles, and refer to other professionals when possible to best help our clients. This has ensured client loyalty, and we continue to increase our business in this uncertain economic time.
After 30 years as a registered nurse, I became a massage therapist. I was 52 at the time--the oldest in my class. As an RN, I am familiar with various diseases and their usual treatments. This makes it easier for me to know any contraindications for massage and the best techniques to use, as well as how massage can complement other treatments.
After 40 years of working with patients, many of whom were in pain, I have developed excellent communication skills, especially the ability to listen therapeutically.
I have been fortunate enough to attend several fine seminars during the last 10 years that have enabled me to acquire a set of specialized skills. My practice has grown into a highly focused form that provides effective treatment for clients with repetitive-use injuries and chronic pain of many kinds.
Every experience is an opportunity to learn something new that can be utilized in my practice of massage; education is a vital part of my life and practice.
Jo-ann i. Crawley
Morehead City, North Carolina
Living in rural Maine can be challenging when it comes to making a living. Until recently, we depended on the tourist trade at our thriving spa business. In June 2004, we embarked on a new path, bringing with us our experience and expertise from the massage and bodywork industry. We connect product/content with the modern marketplace. Our years of experience as NCBTMB providers, coupled with our experience with video production qualifies us to deliver this cutting-edge technology to the massage and bodywork industry. Video presentation is the next step to showcase products or instructional content.
Jane Irving/Therese Jennings
I offer very customized services, some of which even include a take-home product in the price of the treatment. For example, my men's facial consists of the facial treatment, extractions, nose and ear waxing, and eyebrow grooming. I also have a tween facial that targets adolescent skin and includes extractions and a take-home regimen.
Lastly, I allow clients to choose their own music for their therapy session, whether it be rock, classical, or new age. Whatever makes them feel relaxed. Clients really enjoy and appreciate this benefit.
I have a unique job. I call it my play job. After 42 years of nursing and 16 years of being a massage therapist, I now combine the two. Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, has hired me to "nurse the nurses." I travel from floor to floor to give the nurses a break during their physically and mentally exhausting days. I help them cope with their workload. I take away aches and pains and headaches. I give them a few minutes totally to themselves.
In the midst of their day, the nurses are able to receive chair or hand massages. They receive full-body massages on their own time, but they are paid for by management. And since I am still a nurse, I am able to give them a helping hand when they are too busy to get a massage.
I am on staff at Jewish, therefore I get benefits, vacation, and sick time. I have clients 24/7, so I have total control of my time and freedom in my job, and I am treated like a queen. Who could ask for more?
All my clients receive a 30-minute soak, scrub, and massage on their feet prior to a full massage. This really relaxes my clients. Also, so that we may give back to the men and women who fight for our freedoms, we give free one-hour massages to any active military, reservists, and retired military.
My practice is special because of my target market. I massage parents in their homes in the evening hours after children are sleeping. I love evening massage as a way to prepare for bedtime and unwind after the day. The parents love the convenience and not having to pay for sitters.
Nashua, New Hampshire