Online there is lots of debate as to whether professional associations are worthwhile. Many massage therapists are put off by the cost and, in an attempt to run their clinics as lean as possible, leave this off their list of business expenses. Whether you have recently trained as a massage therapist or whether you have been working in a spa but are looking to strike out on your own, if you are looking to have a successful career in the massage industry then you should seriously consider joining a professional association.
However, like choosing cheap equipment for your massage therapy business, this could actually be a bit of a false economy. Not only do many professional associations offer all sorts of discounts on CPD courses but there are many other benefits which may not be as obvious at first glance. These benefits could end up saving you time as well as money and offer you invaluable opportunities to grow your massage therapy business.
There are plenty of courses out there which might well be interesting but won't really offer you the professional development you need. Sifting through to find accredited CPD courses can be time consuming and a real pain. Belonging to a professional association takes away the need to comb through the internet trying to spot the clues as to whether a teacher is a charlatan as associations provide curated lists of credible courses which you can easily skim through to find the perfect one for you!
Insurance can be a mine field, especially when you are first starting out as a massage therapist. As Carol mentions above there is plenty of insurance out there that in the fine print doesn't really reflect our needs as massage therapists. Belonging to a professional association can help you navigate this tricky world and make sure your business is properly covered.
Got a niggling question that you need a quick answer to? Whilst Facebook groups can be a great resource, we all know the kind of squabbling that debates can descend into and after a hour of research it is easy to feel none the wiser. Many professional associations have helplines staffed by experienced therapists who can answer your questions quickly and with years of insight.
Whilst the team at many professional associations aren't lawyers they do have years of experience within the massage industry and if you are having an issue with a client or with another aspect of your business they are a great first port of call to seek advice. This could save you hours as you can make a quick phone call versus hours and hours of research online, or worse hundreds of pounds speaking to a lawyer or an accountant.
Carole Preen runs the Complementary Health Professional association so can testify that they offer another great benefit to your massage therapy business. By proof reading your marketing materials and the copy on your website not only can they help you set a professional tone for your business but they can also point out any potential pitfalls, for example any copy where you may be offering or implying services beyond the scope of practice.
Whilst no one is suggesting that droves of clients are going to come to you through your memberships to a professional association, as we have seen above from Becky, some massage therapists do find that they are contacted by people who are looking for help with a specific issue and who are searching for a professional ongoing treatment.
By belonging to certain associations (for example the CThA Complementary Therapists Association) you will feature on lists of qualified massage therapists that are used by clients who are searching for a massage that is compliant with their insurance. For insurers to pay for treatments these need to be delivered by a professional who is backed by a recognised association, yet another unexpected perk to signing up.
As both Lindylou and Fiona mentioned above, with many professional associations membership often includes a magazine, an online newsletter or both. These publications aren't just a throwaway token, they are full of important updates like changes to legislature that you could otherwise miss out on as well as providing job postings and interesting updates in research. It is extremely time consuming to keep on top of these updates yourself, so having it reduced into one magazine or one email rather than sifting through several sources is very valuable to your business.
As a massage therapist it is easy to become a hermit! Working in our clinics or out on the road with a mobile massage business means we are unlikely to meet with other therapists on a regular basis. This is turn means we don't learn things from each other as often as colleagues might in other industries. Belonging to a professional association can be a great way to meet other massage therapists and to have events at which you can network in a friendly environment. Local support groups can be an invaluable resource of information and guidance, especially in difficult times. Attending these groups not only help us to keep our standards and spirits up but you never know what opportunities could arise!
If you are a massage therapist who is based in London then belonging to a professional association could literally save you thousands! As Rosemary explains above, each council requires a licence to practice which depending on your area could carry a hefty price tag. Being a registered member of an association like Think Tree Hub helps you to be exempt from this rule which is worth the price of membership alone!
As we have seen above, some clients do find their therapists through curated lists provided to insurers or through in depth research. However, it is much more likely that most clients will come to you through word of mouth. Networking with local medical professionals is really key to getting your massage therapy business off the ground and setting yourself up to help clients with chronic pain or with a specific issue rather than being seen as a provider of luxurious treats is the way to work smarter and avoid burn out!
Being a part of a professional association demonstrates that you take your massage therapy business seriously. If clients are weighing up their options, seeing that you are part of a professional network it may just sway them towards choosing you. It may also keep away the creeps who can easily identify that you are a serious massage therapist.
Professional associations help raise the standards and profile of the massage therapy in the UK. Ultimately many therapists would like to see massage be included in the wider complementary therapy community and move away from being seen as a luxurious treat sitting within the beauty industry.
These associations are on the front line pushing for our industry to be taken more seriously. As massage therapists we would all benefit from these changes so it's only right that we get behind these organisations, show our support and demonstrate that we are serious about our profession by investing in being part of a wider network of therapists. Like all organisations, professional associations need our support to do their job, if collectively we demonstrate an apathy towards our industry then why would we expect any different from our clients?
With such a wide range of associations out there it can be tricky to know where to start. Whilst some of the more general associations are perhaps the best known, it is also worth investigating if there are more specific associations or groups within a wider association for the modalities of massage your specialise in as well. Choosing a niche for your business and belonging to both a wider and more niche associations can boost your reputation as a specialist and help you charge correctly for your massage treatments. Take a look at the list below and do your research to work out which association is best for you!
CNHC - Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council - Not an association per se, the CNHC was set up by the government to protect the public by acting as the go to independent register for therapists who voluntarily agree to uphold the highest standards of conduct and who are all fully qualified and insured. Being a part of this list comes with a host of other benefits including many mentioned above so is well worth checking out and also is another great resource for finding accredited associations.
FHT - Federation of Holistic Therapists - is widely respected and covers a broad spectrum of specialisms - from sports and remedial therapies, to a host of massage modalities as well as holistic beauty treatments.
CHP - Complementary Health Professionals - with 25 years of experience this therapist led association is also a verifying organisation for the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.
MTI - Massage Training Institute - Established in 1988 and chaired by Muscle Whisperer Earle Abrahamson, MTI focused solely on massage therapy and is a highly esteemed organisation for it's role in shaping the standards for holistic massage in the UK which were adopted by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
SMA - The Association for Soft Tissue Therapists - formerly known as the Sports Massage Association is supported by Muscle Whisperer Susan Findlay and is now promoting a wider aim of ensuring the best possible soft tissue therapy is available to sports and non sports people.
CThA - Complementary Therapists Association - Founded in 1999 the CThA covers a diverse spectrum of specialties with a range of experts sitting on their board to assists members of all modalities. They also host a range of regional and local events to support therapists and are passionate advocates for change in the industry.
APNT - Association of Physical and Natural Therapists - Set up in 1986 and currently chaired by Brittney Spence, who is renowned career consultant with 13 years of experience in massage therapy, the APNT is a multidisciplinary association which is very active in elevating the massage industry in the UK.
Think Tree Hub - Established by previous Chairman of Complementary Therapy Association (CThA) Kush Kumar, who has written qualifications for universities and sat on the board of multiple associations, Think Tree Hub
We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders about the shape of the industry today, both good and the bad, focusing on what challenges newly qualified therapists face and what benefits can be taken advantage of today.
Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!
A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.
The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because
Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.
Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.
Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.
Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.
Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.
If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:
Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.
Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.
The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.
You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.
Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.
A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:
1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.
The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.
You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!
There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.
1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):
If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.
2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):
The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.
The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.
1. Rectangle shaped with square corners
This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.
2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners
Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.
3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient
A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.
This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.
The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.