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Hello, I am designing a preliminary research study to investigate working conditions, career longevity and job satisfaction of working MT's. Of particular interest is learning why so many MT's leave the field within a few years. Of course common sense and personal experiences can provide clues and reasonable opinions, but I want to conduct large-scale, legitimate research on this topic. If we can gain more insight into the "why" questions, we'll know more about what to do about it--we'll be more successful in developing strategies for improving training and working realities for MT's; thus, the quality of massage therapy available to the public. I am looking for your comments, insights, and ideas on this question.  I look forward to hearing about your experiences with being an MT. Specifically, what has been challenging or difficult for you? What do you think would improve conditions for you as an MT? Do you have any general insights relevant to the question of why such a high percentage of MT's leave the field within a few years.  I believe that by studying this in a formal way, we will find information that could improve the experience of working in this field for all of us.Thanks, Gabriella

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Hello JLVegas,

Thank you for your response. It is certainly heartbreaking when workers are treated this way! I've heard the same kinds of stories from literally HUNDREDS of massage therapists! It's easy to understand why so many have short careers under these conditions. My research is intended to generate scholarly literature that reveals these realities, and provides us with a compass with which to navigate our way to improvements in our working lives. 

In my literature review for this research proposal, I had to look at burnout and compassion fatigue in other professions, because there is very little scientifically valid research or scholarly literature about this subject, specific to massage. You describe working conditions that fit exactly with everything we know about the causes of burnout. My study will be one of the first to look directly at these questions specific to massage. 

I'm interested in your thoughts about why employers treat massage therapist employees this way. Why do they feel they can? What is your opinion? I am also interested in how massage therapists can be empowered to change these intolerable conditions, do you have any ideas about this?

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who's been following this thread, if you have ideas about these questions.
Gordon J. Wallis said:

Its interesting...I know Im capable of seeing anyone that a chiropractor can see..And help them even more.. And at the same time massage therapists are treated like slaves....Something is wrong... Our potential isnt even recognized.  I feel that it all goes back to our education system...Something is wrong you guys?

JLVegas, CMT said:

I have several ideas why someone would leave this profession after a short time.  I used to work at a spa that treated the employees like slaves.  We were not allowed lunch breaks and barely had time for bathroom breaks and to eat a bite of a snack in between clients.  We had to work on 4-5 clients in a row like an assembly line, with no breaks.  We also were expected to come to work if we were sick or were threatened with losing our job.  This is a health hazard in itself in that a cold could be spread to the clients.  These types of conditions lead to early burnout in the profession, physical as well as mental.  Also the payscale is low in most "local" spas and in my experience, 99% of the time, the clients do NOT leave a tip.  There are also no health insurance benefits, retirement, etc. offered at most "local" spas.  People cannot afford to work there let alone deal with the mental and physical punishment that goes along with an "assembly line" type of environment as opposed to an environment that is holistic and positive for the therapist as well as the client, leading to a better quality of life overall as a therapist in this profession.

Hello Julie,

Thank you for your comments. I did look to your website as part of my literature review, and I found it very useful, thank you for the work you do! I was not aware of your book; I am glad to know about it, I will definitely read it. Your comments are in alignment with much of what I have been hearing in these informal discussions I've been initiating for this preliminary phase of the research. I believe that the research will be a long and ongoing process, looking at multiple areas of interest. It's quite possible that the research questions will change over time as well. I think I started with the topic of why such a large percentage of MTs leave the field as a way to look at what do we need to do to improve our field. Since that's a very very broad topic, several separate, smaller studies will need to be done to generate a foundation for this broader research. Legitimate research can be a slow, nit-picky, sometimes tedious process, which is fine with me. When there isn't enough existing scholarly literature available, we have to begin by asking extremely basic questions. It seems like some respondents find that annoying…but it doesn't discourage me. I have now completed my literature review, study design, and proposal. I'll be moving forward with a small qualitative study in November, which will involve interviewing 15 MTs who have exited the field within 5 years, after having worked for a minimum of one year. The questions are very neutral and open ended. This is the kind of preliminary work that will lead to larger and more exciting research to come.

I expect to run into some resistance along the way, and I hope I'll be able to find alliances and partnerships within the field to help me keep the research going. 

I am a working LMT in the field for over 20 years. I love what I do, and I hope I'm still doing it at 80!  And I have also returned to school to get a master's degree in health research methodology. Research is going to be my 'retirement career', and hopefully my contribution to the field I love!

I would love to stay in touch with you,

Gabriella

Julie Onofrio said:

I just found this topic and am catching up on it all but in general,  my personal path has been one of constantly finding out the hard way , how to build a massage business, how to bill insurance and get paid, how to find a job, how to find a place to rent, how to do everything!  No one told me it was going to be so hard is sort of my motivation for writing and sharing info on my many websites.

I hope your study looks at the number of hours of education that are required and what makes for a successful massage therapist.  I am also interested in hearing more about your study when you are ready.  We need more studies like that.

I have been in this field for 23 years and have seen so many come and go but interestingly enough, most of my friends who have been through the school of hard knocks with me, remain in the field working full time.   Massage school presents careers in massage as this glamourous thing and even reports by the Wall ST Journal and US New and World report are telling everyone that massage is a good career.  The job stats are inaccurate that are put out by the BLS who says that Mt make more than they really do for the most part.  ABMP in their metrics section points that out.  The number of massage schools has jumped so much in the last 20 years.In 1992 there were 190 schools and in 2007 1550.  Where did they get all the massage school teachers since there aren't any schools for massage school teachers?  http://www.thebodyworker.com/numberofmassageschools.htm  With so many massage schools cropping up, they need to fill their schools so they make it sound more appealing and forget to tell about what it is really like. I think the quality of schools has gone downhill and the people going to massage school are just doing it to get out of taking Math (which is the number one question I get from readers at my website at www.massage-career-guides.com  The average age of MT is around 45 and has been for sometime.  I keep thinking that the number will go down as more younger people join the field but it hasn't.  The massage schools are geared toward teaching adults and not young people with no life or personal skills. I could go on..and that is why I did write a book on it.  A Career in Massage- Is it for you?

I think people leave the field because they just want to do massage and they don't want to do the work to get the clients that they need.  They want to be employed and the franchises are the biggest employers and pay starts at $15 an hour and who can live on that?  They don't tell you that you only can work like 25 hours a week and that you don't get paid when you don't have a client...

I just saw a young women today that has had shoulder pain for six years...She just finished up physical therapy and chiropractic treatments...She wasn't any better..   She was referred to me by a client that I helped.  I palpated two really bad trigger points in her pec muscle...I released them both quickly.. Her shoulder pain is gone now...You say the word trigger point and every body worker slash chiropractor says they know..but they dont... she is fine now...and they wont come back....if they do it will only be in a small way, and one more quick session should do it... She is freakin happy...So my pet peeve is... They need to teach about trigger points in a serious way in every massage school.  That was her problem that went un noticed for six years...There was no reason she had to suffer that long...She is coming in again this Sunday, but her problem is history.......

Gordon J. Wallis said:

Its interesting...I know Im capable of seeing anyone that a chiropractor can see..And help them even more.. And at the same time massage therapists are treated like slaves....Something is wrong... Our potential isnt even recognized.  I feel that it all goes back to our education system...Something is wrong you guys?

JLVegas, CMT said:

I have several ideas why someone would leave this profession after a short time.  I used to work at a spa that treated the employees like slaves.  We were not allowed lunch breaks and barely had time for bathroom breaks and to eat a bite of a snack in between clients.  We had to work on 4-5 clients in a row like an assembly line, with no breaks.  We also were expected to come to work if we were sick or were threatened with losing our job.  This is a health hazard in itself in that a cold could be spread to the clients.  These types of conditions lead to early burnout in the profession, physical as well as mental.  Also the payscale is low in most "local" spas and in my experience, 99% of the time, the clients do NOT leave a tip.  There are also no health insurance benefits, retirement, etc. offered at most "local" spas.  People cannot afford to work there let alone deal with the mental and physical punishment that goes along with an "assembly line" type of environment as opposed to an environment that is holistic and positive for the therapist as well as the client, leading to a better quality of life overall as a therapist in this profession.

JLVegas. you describe a basic problem of working at a small company in America. Such conditions exist in every type of business. Our fear of becoming a socialist nation prevents universal benefits that most developed nations have. It is not anything particular to Massage. Hunt around and if you are lucky you may find employment at a spa providing the benefits, there are some. But this is the American Capitalistic way with few safety nets.

It would help students to understand the business scene if schools injected realism into business classes.

Gordon J. Wallis said:

I just saw a young women today that has had shoulder pain for six years...She just finished up physical therapy and chiropractic treatments...She wasn't any better..   She was referred to me by a client that I helped.  I palpated two really bad trigger points in her pec muscle...I released them both quickly.. Her shoulder pain is gone now...You say the word trigger point and every body worker slash chiropractor says they know..but they dont... she is fine now...and they wont come back....if they do it will only be in a small way, and one more quick session should do it... She is freakin happy...So my pet peeve is... They need to teach about trigger points in a serious way in every massage school.  That was her problem that went un noticed for six years...There was no reason she had to suffer that long...She is coming in again this Sunday, but her problem is history.......

Gordon J. Wallis said:

Its interesting...I know Im capable of seeing anyone that a chiropractor can see..And help them even more.. And at the same time massage therapists are treated like slaves....Something is wrong... Our potential isnt even recognized.  I feel that it all goes back to our education system...Something is wrong you guys?

JLVegas, CMT said:

I have several ideas why someone would leave this profession after a short time.  I used to work at a spa that treated the employees like slaves.  We were not allowed lunch breaks and barely had time for bathroom breaks and to eat a bite of a snack in between clients.  We had to work on 4-5 clients in a row like an assembly line, with no breaks.  We also were expected to come to work if we were sick or were threatened with losing our job.  This is a health hazard in itself in that a cold could be spread to the clients.  These types of conditions lead to early burnout in the profession, physical as well as mental.  Also the payscale is low in most "local" spas and in my experience, 99% of the time, the clients do NOT leave a tip.  There are also no health insurance benefits, retirement, etc. offered at most "local" spas.  People cannot afford to work there let alone deal with the mental and physical punishment that goes along with an "assembly line" type of environment as opposed to an environment that is holistic and positive for the therapist as well as the client, leading to a better quality of life overall as a therapist in this profession.



Relax & Rejuvenate said:



Gabriella Sonam said:

I'm interested in your thoughts about why employers treat massage therapist employees this way. Why do they feel they can? What is your opinion?

 

Its the flip side of the coin of why do employees behave badly. You can't look at one side as evil without understanding the implications of the other.

 

Last week, I had an employee oversleep and be late for an appointment. when she did show up, she, unnecessarily, barged into another treatment room -- client on the table -- TWICE -- in search of products that were already in her treatment room, but she was too lazy to look for. And to top it off, instead of just apologizing to the client for being late, told her she had mistakenly been assigned to our other location that morning. - making the evil business out to be the culprit when in reality an adult of almost 50 years of life experience and 10 years of spa experience could not wake up in time to be at work at 10AM.

 

So I had to comp both clients for the inconvenience, but by law, I cannot require an employee to assume any of the financial responsibility caused by her actions. Say Bye Bye to 20% of my revenue, and 40% of my profit on those to treatment rooms for the day.

 

Had she slept in even later, I would have had to put those comp services later in the morning on the other team members -- and pay them for doing the services -- but it's the "evil business owner" for overworking the poor therapists, when the problem was caused by one of the other all-benevolent therapists.

 

So why keep such an employee? Right  -- could write them up, put them on probation (law requires all offenses to be documented) and eventually terminate them for repeated offenses. But in socialist utopias like CA, incompetence or poor performance does not disqualify the terminated employee from collecting Unemployment  -- which, contrary to popular belief -- is paid for the the EMPLOYER, not the state, sometimes at a rate of 10% of pay and tips.

 

Then I have to hire and pay a new employee to be trained. And UI Tax is paid on the first $8,000 or so of an employees earnings, so I start over paying into UI with every new hire.

 

Turnover is very expensive, as are employee screw ups. Those are all built into the cost of doing business, which is translated into what businesses can afford to pay employees, what benefits they can afford to pay (take Health Insurance, which runs about $200 per employee per month, divide by 20 appointments per week - unless you feel that is too strenuous - and the per appointment cost of health insurance for an employee is a whopping $5 per appointment.)

 

Business owners don't sit around figuring out how to screw their employees. They don't have time for such imagined BS. They figure out how to survive, often writing paychecks for their employees but not writing one for themselves.

 

I am also interested in how massage therapists can be empowered to change these intolerable conditions, do you have any ideas about this?

Simple. Don't work there. So long as someone will, nothing will change. And this is not related to massage, as others have pointed out. When I was a freelance photographer, the day rate magazines paid was unchanged for over a decade. Then they started work-for-hire which left them with the copyright on the work. Lots of people refused to play this game, but they found themselves with fewer clients, because someone who was sufficiently talented to produce the work would agree to those terms.

Oh, yes, I know, the cruel capitalist publisher (never mind 90% of the media voted for Obama, including most media outlet owners). But they needed to cut costs in order to survive in the new media economy. Readers chose to find entertainment elsewhere. Some publishers found a way to adapt and thrive, others cut to survive. Can't say who is right and who is wrong, both can work.

 

But so long as there is a supply of talent willing to do the work at prevaling rates/conditions, that won't change. Never has, never will. And colelctivism is not the answer either, unless you like racing to the bottom of every aspect of your life.

 

Thank you for shining some realism on the employee/employer situation. It is basic business 101 which is not taught to Massage Therapists. Competition is the guide and business law sets the standards. An employee can choose a place to work. Although, they will feel trapped until other opportunities appear. The business owner often feels threatened that a wrong decision will cost their business. The business owner rarely gets a second chance and statistics are against them since most start up businesses fail. Both roles have their headaches.

Relax & Rejuvenate said:



Relax & Rejuvenate said:



Gabriella Sonam said:

I'm interested in your thoughts about why employers treat massage therapist employees this way. Why do they feel they can? What is your opinion?

 

Its the flip side of the coin of why do employees behave badly. You can't look at one side as evil without understanding the implications of the other.

 

Last week, I had an employee oversleep and be late for an appointment. when she did show up, she, unnecessarily, barged into another treatment room -- client on the table -- TWICE -- in search of products that were already in her treatment room, but she was too lazy to look for. And to top it off, instead of just apologizing to the client for being late, told her she had mistakenly been assigned to our other location that morning. - making the evil business out to be the culprit when in reality an adult of almost 50 years of life experience and 10 years of spa experience could not wake up in time to be at work at 10AM.

 

So I had to comp both clients for the inconvenience, but by law, I cannot require an employee to assume any of the financial responsibility caused by her actions. Say Bye Bye to 20% of my revenue, and 40% of my profit on those to treatment rooms for the day.

 

Had she slept in even later, I would have had to put those comp services later in the morning on the other team members -- and pay them for doing the services -- but it's the "evil business owner" for overworking the poor therapists, when the problem was caused by one of the other all-benevolent therapists.

 

So why keep such an employee? Right  -- could write them up, put them on probation (law requires all offenses to be documented) and eventually terminate them for repeated offenses. But in socialist utopias like CA, incompetence or poor performance does not disqualify the terminated employee from collecting Unemployment  -- which, contrary to popular belief -- is paid for the the EMPLOYER, not the state, sometimes at a rate of 10% of pay and tips.

 

Then I have to hire and pay a new employee to be trained. And UI Tax is paid on the first $8,000 or so of an employees earnings, so I start over paying into UI with every new hire.

 

Turnover is very expensive, as are employee screw ups. Those are all built into the cost of doing business, which is translated into what businesses can afford to pay employees, what benefits they can afford to pay (take Health Insurance, which runs about $200 per employee per month, divide by 20 appointments per week - unless you feel that is too strenuous - and the per appointment cost of health insurance for an employee is a whopping $5 per appointment.)

 

Business owners don't sit around figuring out how to screw their employees. They don't have time for such imagined BS. They figure out how to survive, often writing paychecks for their employees but not writing one for themselves.

 

I am also interested in how massage therapists can be empowered to change these intolerable conditions, do you have any ideas about this?

Simple. Don't work there. So long as someone will, nothing will change. And this is not related to massage, as others have pointed out. When I was a freelance photographer, the day rate magazines paid was unchanged for over a decade. Then they started work-for-hire which left them with the copyright on the work. Lots of people refused to play this game, but they found themselves with fewer clients, because someone who was sufficiently talented to produce the work would agree to those terms.

Oh, yes, I know, the cruel capitalist publisher (never mind 90% of the media voted for Obama, including most media outlet owners). But they needed to cut costs in order to survive in the new media economy. Readers chose to find entertainment elsewhere. Some publishers found a way to adapt and thrive, others cut to survive. Can't say who is right and who is wrong, both can work.

 

But so long as there is a supply of talent willing to do the work at prevaling rates/conditions, that won't change. Never has, never will. And colelctivism is not the answer either, unless you like racing to the bottom of every aspect of your life.

 

Well there are good employees and bad ones...There are good bosses(employers /owners) and bad ones... As a massage therapist...whoever I work for or with. .I just want to be treated with respect. Ive been lucky that way... The chiropractors Ive worked with were millionaires...All I had to do was pay a small rent for the space I used...and they let me keep all the insurance and massage money myself. They said "Gordon, we dont need you for money. We need you for our patients".. The spa I work in now...lets me set my own work hours and days off...And Im treated with respect...Im working a lot of hours, but its my choice.. I show up for work..and clean up after myself.... If I was on my own now, Id probably make more money....But Ive got a beautiful facility to work in full of wonderful people. I just have to show up for work on time, and I do. For me its a respect thing...respect for my skills and profession. Not necessarily a money or pay issue...I wanna be happy at work.


So if there are good bosses/jobs, and bad ones what is the point of researching why the bad ones do what they do?

 

The good ones do what all good employers/bosses do...which has been studied to death -- Barnes & Noble has aisles of books dedicated to the subject. Good employment practices are not industry specific. Some may need a little translation to each industry, but the underlying principle is the same.

 

Sorry, but I still don't see the point of this research project.

 


Gordon J. Wallis said:

Well there are good employees and bad ones...There are good bosses(employers /owners) and bad ones... As a massage therapist...whoever I work for or with. .I just want to be treated with respect. Ive been lucky that way... The chiropractors Ive worked with were millionaires...All I had to do was pay a small rent for the space I used...and they let me keep all the insurance and massage money myself. They said "Gordon, we dont need you for money. We need you for our patients".. The spa I work in now...lets me set my own work hours and days off...And Im treated with respect...Im working a lot of hours, but its my choice.. I show up for work..and clean up after myself.... If I was on my own now, Id probably make more money....But Ive got a beautiful facility to work in full of wonderful people. I just have to show up for work on time, and I do. For me its a respect thing...respect for my skills and profession. Not necessarily a money or pay issue...I wanna be happy at work.

There should be issues specific to massage otherwise any good business studies have the answers. Massage is not unique when it comes to doing business.

Relax & Rejuvenate said:


So if there are good bosses/jobs, and bad ones what is the point of researching why the bad ones do what they do?

 

The good ones do what all good employers/bosses do...which has been studied to death -- Barnes & Noble has aisles of books dedicated to the subject. Good employment practices are not industry specific. Some may need a little translation to each industry, but the underlying principle is the same.

 

Sorry, but I still don't see the point of this research project.

 


 

It's perfectly fine if you miss the point of the research. The research is not about "good" or "bad" employers or anything so simplistic.

If you don't have an interest in the actual questions, please feel free bow out of the discussion. The research will go forward regardless of your opinion. Others who do comprehend the point can continue to make useful contributions to the discussion. 

Relax & Rejuvenate said:


So if there are good bosses/jobs, and bad ones what is the point of researching why the bad ones do what they do?

 

The good ones do what all good employers/bosses do...which has been studied to death -- Barnes & Noble has aisles of books dedicated to the subject. Good employment practices are not industry specific. Some may need a little translation to each industry, but the underlying principle is the same.

 

Sorry, but I still don't see the point of this research project.

 


Gordon J. Wallis said:

Well there are good employees and bad ones...There are good bosses(employers /owners) and bad ones... As a massage therapist...whoever I work for or with. .I just want to be treated with respect. Ive been lucky that way... The chiropractors Ive worked with were millionaires...All I had to do was pay a small rent for the space I used...and they let me keep all the insurance and massage money myself. They said "Gordon, we dont need you for money. We need you for our patients".. The spa I work in now...lets me set my own work hours and days off...And Im treated with respect...Im working a lot of hours, but its my choice.. I show up for work..and clean up after myself.... If I was on my own now, Id probably make more money....But Ive got a beautiful facility to work in full of wonderful people. I just have to show up for work on time, and I do. For me its a respect thing...respect for my skills and profession. Not necessarily a money or pay issue...I wanna be happy at work.

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