KRISTINE HUFFMAN for Pulse : Can you tell us a little bit about what kind of training is required to become a licensed massage therapist ? KAREN RUTSCHMANN : It depends on where you practice . Some training programs have a higher requirement of practice hours than others . Obviously , anatomy and physiology is a big part of it . Functional human movement is a big part of it . Pathology is important . The massage technique , hands-on work , is the bulk of it , how to touch the body safely , effectively , how to make a difference . And then in our program , there was a nice amount of self-care information . Most programs also now have business practices as part of their program .
Pulse : What was one of the most difficult things that you had to deal with or learn in training ? R : I ’ m very science minded . And I ’ m very practical . And the hardest thing was being open minded to some of these ideas that were foreign to me and weren ’ t really backed up by mainstream science . I was rolling my eyes at the concept of healing energy and whatnot . And now 25 to 30 years later , we have studies that show that , oh yeah , it ’ s real ; it ’ s basically quantum physics .
Pulse : I think a lot of people at that time , and maybe even today , think massage may be “ woo-woo .” It ’ s interesting that you have that experience of being a scientist and not coming from kind of a more “ woo-woo ” perspective , and that this was difficult for you . Did many of your colleagues come from a different place , having a harder time with the science ? R : Absolutely . I would say most of them . I remember when I asked a question of my sports massage teacher . She just looked at me , stopped everything and just stared at me
“ We have a big population of people who want to be served , but a small population of people who want to serve them , whether it ’ s in restaurants , hotels or spas .” without a word . And then she caught herself and said ,“ I ’ m so sorry . I got distracted by your aura . It was just so bright .” I felt like some people were speaking a foreign language . I definitely felt like I was not one of the woo-woo people , and I was in the minority .
Pulse : Can you share other kinds of career paths you have seen with some of your colleagues ? R : I ’ ve seen several people launch from massage careers into life coaching . And then , a few others launch from massage into occupational therapy . And then a fair amount of people go from massage to be the massage manager and then they jump to managing in another area or managing a massage school .
Pulse : You ’ ve worked for a spa and in your own practice . What are some of the challenges you find in operating your own practice , and how does that contrast to working in a spa setting ? R : The organizational skills needed to have a private practice can sometimes be difficult for people . You need to call people back within a reasonable amount of time . You need to show up on time . When you ’ re in the spa and you don ’ t show up on time , you lose your job . A lot of times in private practice , people get very lazy . You can ’ t be a space-cadet . You ’ ve got to be on your game all the time , you can ’ t cut corners .
Marketing can be difficult . If I had to do marketing and advertising , that would be a hard thing for me . I ’ ve been blessed with a practice where word of mouth has just sustained me and I ’ ve virtually done no advertising , but I think if I had to do that , that would be hard . When you work for somebody else that ’ s all done for you . All you do is show up . There ’ s some real beauty in that .
Another thing that is different , too , is that when you ’ re working for someone else and you have a client who ’ s less than satisfied , you have a little bit of a buffer between you and the client . When you ’ re working for yourself and you have somebody who is unhappy , it ’ s you confronting them one-to-one . There ’ s a little bit of safety in being an employee of someone else .
Pulse : The industry is really struggling to attract people into massage therapy as a profession and you shared with me that even in the community college setting your classes are under-enrolled . Why do you think that is and how do you think we could attract more people into the profession ? R : The shift to putting massage in community colleges was the start of the change . It has made massage training a little more mainstream . These days , what you ’ re seeing is programs designed to give people what they need to become
JANUARY 2023 n PULSE 41