As a new Licensed Massage Therapist, I went to work at a massage chain. I spent about 18 months there before I decided that private practice was not only a better fit for me, but also a better fit for my clients. I do understand why clients go to massage chain providers. They have name recognition, they offer coupons or lower prices, and they are usually in shopping centers that are easy to find.
What massage chains are missing, however, is the personal attention that is required for every massage to be effective for every client. In my opinion, massage chains greatly diminish the value and benefits of massage and bodywork.
Why Massage Chains are Not Good for the Client
In a massage chain, the main goal is to serve the highest volume of clients possible. As I mentioned, these providers are usually located in shopping centers, which means they have a lot of overhead to cover before anyone gets paid. Clients are booked back to back all day, which kind of puts them on an assembly line for the therapists.
Because the massages are booked in quick succession, everything has to happen in the amount of time the client booked. So, if you book a 60 minute massage, you’re really booking an hour of time to be in the room. That hour includes any pre-massage discussion you have with your therapist about your problem areas. In the end, your 60 minute massage typically only involves actual bodywork for 45 to 50 minutes. Ten minutes may not sound like much, but it really is. That’s time that could have been spent on focused work where you have the most pain.
The result of being a client in an assembly line style of massage therapy is that you receive a shorter massage than you pay for from a massage therapist who is watching the clock rather than focusing on your body’s response to the therapy. You may receive some pain relief and feel more relaxed than when you went in, but are you really noticing any long-lasting results? It may be time to give some thought to whether or not you are really getting your money’s worth at your local massage chain.
Why Massage Chains are Not Good for Therapists
Massage therapists at chain companies tend to be mentally and physically overworked. The back-to-back appointment schedule does not give therapists enough time to:
- Speak openly with clients about their problem areas and goals for therapy
- Rest their own muscles and joints between clients to maintain energy
- Optimize their work on specific pain points
- Build a relationship with clients so that they can treat the whole person
Additionally, massage therapists do not get paid very well in this type of environment. To earn a good living, they need to work long days with few breaks. It is not conducive to family life at all. I believe that this assembly line model forces therapists into two bad habits that are really hard to break:
- They stop practicing communication with clients so that they can tailor each session to each client’s needs.
- They begin to rush their work, often not giving anywhere close to the skillful type of massage they have been trained to do.
The result for massage therapists is that they burn out far too early in their careers. It’s really sad to see helpers and healers lose their passion and become regular clock punchers. They end up bouncing from one chain to the next, never fully realizing that they could be doing far more meaningful work by simply changing the model. I believe that this destroys the beauty, art, and science of what massage therapy should be, which is to heal trauma and reduce pain, anxiety, and depression.
The Benefits of Private Practice Massage Therapy
Going into private practice made all the difference in the world for me. Now I enjoy the freedom to practice massage exactly the way I was trained. That means I take time with each client to do some fact-finding, learn about their history with pain (or anxiety, depression, etc.), and discover how they want to feel as a result of our work together. My clients all know that the few minutes we spend talking before their massage do not count against their actual bodywork time. They will always get their 30, 60, or 90 minutes after we make sure we’re both on the same page about that day’s treatment.
The feedback I receive from clients only further confirms that I made the right choice. They notice the difference between private practice and the massage chains. They always comment that they feel like they are getting personal attention, and they especially remark that nothing ever feels rushed. No matter how much we convince ourselves in the chain model that we’re still doing our best work, the truth is that we can’t perform the way we should unless we take the time to do it right.
I know that striking out on your own feels scary. It was scary for me, too! But it will definitely be worth it. I promise that you don’t need a lot of space or overhead to get started. You’ll need to brush up on your networking and marketing skills, but your extremely happy clients who appreciate the great work you’re doing will be your best advertising by far. If you’re a massage therapist on the verge of burnout, contact me to chat. I can’t say that I have all the answers, but I can point you in the right direction to make the change that will rejuvenate your career.
If you’ve been giving your money away to the massage chains for far too long without ever feeling true relief, contact me to schedule a massage done in the right amount of time and the right way. My practice is in Telford and is easy to reach from Harleysville, Souderton, Lansdale, Perkasie, Sellersville, Green Lane, and Quakertown.