What Advice Would You Give Bodywork Students?

['Round the Table]

Many professions offer a mentor to help new employees transition smoothly into their new career. It helps create efficiency and great customer satisfaction and a sense of belonging. Having a mentor is a blessing, a sweet find, and could be the difference between just showing off your license and using it. I encourage new grads to be open to a mentor and the universe will put one in your path.

Erika Kokal
Laurel, Maryland


If you are passionate about being the best possible bodyworker, passionate about lifelong learning, passionate about self-care and walking your talk, expect this to be one of the most rewarding careers imaginable. Don’t expect it to be easy to support yourself overnight, even working full time. To do this, you must add exceptional business and marketing skills, technical expertise and confidence, and much more than a passing interest in other people. Without deep self-awareness and passion for educating your clients, your shelf life as a massage therapist will be short.

Ellen N. Stetson

Shreveport, Louisiana


There are going to be many people who offer you advice once you graduate. Like now, as you are reading this, you are opening yourself for millions of ideas and strategies. 1.) My grandmother (in the biz for over 60 years as a cosmetologist) gave me this piece of advice when she found out I had decided to become a massage therapist: “Always remember constructive criticism will become your strongest strategy for helping people in our fields. Never be embarrassed or take offense to what your clients tell you about what they did not like about their session, as every therapist uses different modalities. Use this to make the next session better, and keep building confidence in yourself.” 2.) Use your referral acquaintances (peers) to better help these clients. Stay positive, and the other therapist will remember you, too! 3.) Always pay it forward. Help each other succeed. Stay connected.

Morgan Christine Clayton

Fairhope, Alabama


Don’t work anywhere that makes you unhappy and doesn’t pay the bills. You can get a great job, you may just have to work harder to find it! Remember that you are worth more than you think and that your skills are valuable. Make this a career and not just a job and you’ll be happier and stay in the field longer.

Jennifer Bennekemper

St. Louis, Missouri


As a licensed massage therapist for 17 years, I can say that the most vital piece of information I can share is that you must first take care of yourself before caring for others. Take time to exercise, meditate, take some yoga classes, and also eat with health in mind. Massage requires a lot of stamina, so take the necessary time for yourself first and your clients will benefit also.

Laura Kubiak

Montgomery, Texas


Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. Many places try to offer a high volume of clientele for a low commission. You have worked hard and are worth an appropriate amount for the massage you do. Don’t ever sell yourself short, because you now have a gift to offer the world and deserve a chance to have a fulfilling, successful career!

Jessica Kreyger

Warren, Michigan


As a therapist, it is vital to your success and that of your clients that you are confident. Go with what you feel. Using your extra senses is all a part of being a massage therapist. Learning to trust yourself is the hardest thing to do, but once you overcome your own self-doubt, you will see yourself in a whole new light. And at this point, you will catch a glimpse of what you look like through the eyes of your clients.

Faith Rothfuss

Copper Center, Alaska


The advice I would give is to practice, practice, practice. Get your hands on lots of muscles. Never tell somebody to “relax.” Don’t overuse your hands. Listen to your body. It’s wonderful to help others; however, you can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself. Get a massage.

Barbara Van Erp

Big Sky, Montana


Be present—to yourself and to your clients. Take the best care of yourself, so you have the best to offer your clients. Understand that you will only know what your clients want and need by listening to what they have to say. This is how you will learn what is needed in each session you offer.

Kathy Kyar

Des Moines, Iowa


After genuinely congratulating the student and welcoming them to a wonderful field, I would advise this: always treat your clients with professionalism and confidence. Communicate with them, look them in the eyes when you talk, and make them feel warm, comfortable, and safe. Be consistent in your treatments each and every time you see your clients and do what you do best.

Joyce A. Houck

New Castle, Pennsylvania


Be ethical. Be courageous. Be persistent. Massage and the various forms of bodywork are crafts. Liken yourself to a conduit. You are simply the vessel to facilitate healing. If a single piece of advice is required, it is this: have faith in yourself, and surround yourself with others who have faith in you. You shall not fail. Welcome!

Kim Griffin

Detroit, Michigan


As a massage therapist for more than two decades, the one caution I would give newbies into the arena: you do not have to do it if you do not like to do it. Yes, you studied all those 600 odd hours. Yes, you paid money to acquire this coveted license. Yes, you have three added alphabetical letters next to your name now. Unless your heart is into this, do not go any further. I am not repeating how “exciting” or “humane” or “service-oriented” this profession is. That has been repeated a bazillion times, in your class and all the seminars that you have attended. I get a massage on a regular basis, and I can feel the times when the therapist is not “into” it—body, heart, and soul. Be aware that you need to give more than 100 percent to the client to be able to reach a level of contentment that the client, as well as you, needs.

Subbanna Varanasi

Des Moines, Iowa


Massage school, for many, is a magical time of personal growth, fond connections, and intense learning. While you’re going through it, the experience can often feel like being in a cozy, protective bubble alongside your fellow students. Later, it can be a bit of a rude awakening once you receive certification and catapult back into the “real world.” My best advice for new practitioners is to do whatever it takes to keep the momentum going!  Schedule ongoing trades with other therapists, join a professional massage association, read related books and magazines, and stay in regular touch with your colleagues. Even if you don’t have paying clients right way, get your hands on people right away and on a regular basis. Have your friends and family book sessions with you, or volunteer your services to nonprofits, hospitals, and charitable organizations in your community. Keep your skill level, confidence, and enthusiasm for massage running high by jumping right in and staying connected!

Kayse Gehret

Sausalito, California


Advice to students ready to graduate and enter the field? Shut the heck up! I can’t begin to say how many of my regular clients have commented to me that massages they’ve received in the past have been ruined by chatty therapists … especially those who spend the entire session talking about themselves! They are all grateful and appreciative that I rarely speak during a session (other than to check in on appropriate pressure or ask them to roll over when necessary) and just let them drift off into a cloud of euphoria. I firmly believe that any massage that I deliver (Swedish, deep tissue, pregnancy, or medical) is going to be enhanced by the client being allowed to relax.

Lee Santa Ana

Portland, Oregon