Massage School Follies

By Robert Chute
[Practitioner Parables]

When you go through massage school—endure, some would say—you begin your slog up mountains of books and mysteries. Your classmates are your first travelling companions on that trip. Many will drop off along the way, but you’ll always remember the characters. And some classes have some real characters.

After talking with a number of successful therapists over (root) beers, here’s the massage school matrix:

• 80 percent will be women and 20 percent will be men and massage will be their second or third career. These stats reflect the latest survey of the profession from Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and are as scientific as this column will get.

• In each class, there will be one person who has never received a professional massage before beginning training. Lots of people wander in without doing due diligence. No, it’s not optimum and yes, it’ll probably work out well anyway.

• People will drop out. The reasons given will be variously listed: financial, academic, a jealous significant other, or “coming to my senses.”     

• Somebody has a great heart, good hands, and a nonacademic head. Many classmates will believe he or she has no place in the profession.  However, that non-academic student will graduate and get the same license as those who doubt them.

• If you’re in the profession for the wrong reasons (like working on beautiful bodies exclusively—and then dating them) you’re taking advantage of us all. Every now and then there’s someone in the classroom for the wrong reason.

• There may also be a homophobe in the mix. In student clinic, he will not want to practice on other males. Meanwhile, he’ll declare loudly to everyone—and they don’t care—that he’s not gay. I wonder how these students will deal with real world clients, but then I remember they’re going to survive in the profession about a minute.

• The class activist fights the school administration and everyone agrees the cause is just. Then, the group gets the feeling that nothing will ever be good enough and they really just need to focus on the next anatomy test. 

• Some students are doctor wannabes who argue incessantly that the work is all about the science. The hippie stoners elevate the art above all. Neither will fully appreciate the other’s position until they have a few years of experience. 

• Someone will be so academically minded that he or she will steer the rest of profession, be universally respected, and be barely understood by the average therapist. (Of course, average is what most of us are.)

And what are the most common observations from successful graduates? Business class should have been better. They could have had more supervised hands-on time. They changed their lives and worldview in massage school. And they also received more massage than they’ll ever get again.

 The difference between class clowns and professional clowns is that the latter have colorful wigs, big floppy shoes, and personality disorders. Robert Chute owns no wigs or floppy shoes, so he must have been the former. Contact him at