The Rewards of Volunteering

By Abram Herman
[Tell Me ...]

Giving is Receiving    
The bodywork profession is full of caring people—it’s hard to make it very far in this career without having a certain amount of compassion. “A large part of why I changed careers to massage was so I could possess a skill that I could use to give back,” says Kimberly Nielsen of Florida.
This empathetic spirit is the first step toward getting involved in volunteering. Even if you aren’t inherently drawn to volunteer your time, however, the personal benefits alone can still be reason enough to become involved.
Self-care is often thought of as taking care of your body, but the mental aspects of self-care can be just as important. Practitioners need to meet their own emotional needs first, so that they have enough left to provide clients with a safe, relaxing, and accepting environment. Volunteering your time to help better other people’s lives is an incredibly effective way to increase your own happiness; a 2013 review of volunteering-related studies found that “volunteering had favorable effects on depression, life satisfaction, [and] well-being.”1
Of course, it’s also important to determine whether it might be too much for you to take on another commitment in your life—and that’s perfectly OK, too! Christine Baker of Ohio demonstrates such self-awareness: “I have to save my energy for my clients, or there wouldn’t be enough of me to go around. Kudos to those who do volunteer!” If you’d still like to give back, but don’t have free time to commit to a cause, Kathleen Dougherty of Arizona has another idea: “I did plenty of volunteering in my first five years. Now, after 18 years in practice, I am so busy I usually donate cash to charities.”

A Professional Boost    
Volunteering can not only enrich your personal life, it can help your professional life as well. Word-of-mouth and hands-on marketing are still essential in the massage and bodywork profession, and volunteering at local events is a powerful way to get you and your work noticed in the community. For Darcy Doggett of New York, “It is a way of giving back, supporting my community, and spreading the word about massage and healthy living. It allows me to meet people who might become clients someday. There’s never a group or event where I don’t make a new connection or run into someone I know.”
Potential clients want to meet the person they can trust to provide them with professional bodywork, and what better way for you to meet new people than to be active in your local community? This can be especially effective if you reach out to health-care professionals, whose recommendations could turn their patients into frequent bodywork clients. “About twice a month, I offer on-site massages at a nearby teaching hospital. I hope to promote the acceptance and use of massage to a new generation of family physicians by providing a 30-minute respite from their very stressful lives,” says Beth Ryan Fisher of Pennsylvania.