It's Not Science Versus Art

By Robert Chute
[Practitioner Parables]

I have to confess that when I entered the field, I kind of fell into it. I was working in publishing and a colleague went in for her first massage. High on the experience, she told me she wanted to be a massage therapist. I listened to her reasoning and it made sense for me, too. It was a healthier lifestyle than the usual 9-to-5 grind. She wanted to control her own schedule and reduce her stress.

One thing she said really stuck with me: “When I’m a therapist, people will always be happy to see me.” I had jobs where people were definitely not happy to see me. I wanted what she wanted, so I went to massage school.

Anybody who goes to massage school knows you meet some very cool people there. We come from many different backgrounds and experiences. However, there is no one perfect personality that uniquely qualifies anyone to be a massage therapist. Look at any class and you’ll find very intelligent people and folks who aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. Still, they can all succeed. Massage classrooms are filled with sporty types, spa-oriented people, science geeks, skeptics, and true believers.

The science geeks have risen to prominence as the faces of the profession. They’re the ones steering the ships of regulation. There’s a lot of interesting discussion surrounding massage research, evidence-based approaches, and discovering best practices.

We’ll benefit from more science in massage therapy as long as we hold on to the art. Art and science are not mutually exclusive properties of massage therapy. We just have to be careful to keep our hearts and hands, as well as our heads.

Evidence-based practice is a layer on top of those critical unspoken things we communicate with our hands. Our brains may process mechanical functionalities and deficiencies in those we serve and address them from a very logical and physiological perspective. However, to be effective, we will still have to come back to those general, underlying traits to help our clients the best we can: caring, humility, knowledge, and service.

If you share these traits, you can always be of help and people will always be happy to see you.

 Robert Chute, RMT, wants to know why you became a massage therapist. Email him at