What’s the Difference Between “Clinical” and “Spa” Massage?

Massages can be a great way to relax, relieve stress, and loosen up those muscles. These are common reasons for people to head to their neighborhood spa for a massage. At the same time, there are growing numbers of people who seek massage therapy as part of a clinical or overall wellness treatment. Such practitioners usually work in more clinical settings, such as a physical therapy office or chiropractor’s office.

So what’s the difference between clinical and spa massages? If you’re interested in a career in massage therapy, it’s important to be able to answer these questions clearly and accurately.

1. Purpose

In general, the purpose of spa massage therapy is to satisfy the client. While the same types of massage may be implemented as in a clinical setting, extra steps may be taken in a spa setting to provide a relaxing and peaceful environment, ensuring a positive and pleasurable experience. In the case of clinical massage therapy, the main focus is on functional outcomes with measurable results. Sessions are likely shorter but more frequent — with measurable treatment goals in mind.

2. Training and credentials

Performing massage in a spa versus a clinical setting will often require different levels of training. General massage education usually includes around 500 hours of training, which will allow you to work in a spa setting but not as a clinical massage therapist. In most clinical settings, additional specialized training and credentials are required. This can include anything from courses in kinesiology or physical therapy to continuing education in nursing. Before getting into a massage therapy school or course, it’s important to know exactly what you will learn and what kind of professional settings your certification will qualify you for.

3. Patients

Due to the differing purposes and techniques of relaxation massages and clinical massages, you are likely to interact with patients in different ways in each of the two settings. While in a spa it is not uncommon for a client to book a massage, come in once and not return, a clinical setting often generates patients that come to see you on a regular, consistent basis. In either case, one of the benefits of being a massage therapists is the chance to develop a relationship with patients and be able to see their progress over time.

Choosing the Best Massage Therapy School

If you’re interested in massage therapy school but don’t know where to start, there are a number of factors to consider. For starters, in the state of New Jersey be sure to be choose a school that is recognized and accredited by the New Jersey Department of Education and also the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodyworkers (“NCBTMB.”)

In looking at different options near you, collect information about requirements, time commitment, cost, and duration. Also consider your overall goals for a career in massage therapy, as some schools and programs may be more specialized than others. Finally, schedule a visit, attend an orientation, or meet with current students to get a first-hand glimpse at the program. Taking the time to conduct your research will make it much more likely that you have an exceptional learning experience — and a better beginning to your career in the growing field of massage therapy!