Striving for an academic milestone is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in life, no matter what your field of study. In the case of massage therapy, completing a reputable certification course means that you’re finally able to embark on the journey of being an active massage therapist in the real world. Getting out of the classroom and actually treating clients is an amazing prospect for students, as it represents the culmination of countless hours of training and study.
Once you’re out in the field (whether you’re working independently or as part of a team), there’s no doubt that experience is a great teacher. In fact, there’s no replacement for experience when it comes to treating clients in the real world. Every client is different, with unique physiological needs and preferences. The only way to get better at meeting these individual challenges is to accumulate real-world experience, gradually learning what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, your instincts and skills as a massage therapist grow and evolve — and clients can tell the difference it makes.
But experience itself — important though it may be — is not enough to make you the very best therapist you can be. In order to succeed and thrive over the long term, another ingredient is necessary: Continuing education.
The best way of understanding this necessity is to understand massage therapy not as a perfectly established or understood discipline, but as an ever-evolving practice with an endless number of personal styles and areas of focus. There are aspects of massage therapy we all have to learn in order to form a bedrock of knowledge and technique — but once that bedrock has been formed, the need for new knowledge continues.
One of the strongest signs of a quality massage therapy program is, of course, the intensiveness of the training. When you end up with hundreds of hours of classroom study, in addition to a having a great deal of field experience as a part of your training, you’re in a good position to enter the field upon graduation. But another great sign of a quality program is the emphasis on continuing education throughout your career.
Finding a good place to focus on continuing education — every year, if possible — is important. It allows you the chance to brush up your old skills, learn new perspectives, and develop a more integrated approach to your massage therapy work.
So where do you go for quality continuing education in the field of massage therapy? If you attended a reputable school for your certification, you might look there first. Many programs offer continuing education programs specifically for past graduates and established therapists, as a way to stay in touch with the latest knowledge and keep your practice moving forward.
It’s tempting to think that you can earn your massage therapy certification and rely on experience for the rest — after all, you’re earning a living at the same time. Continuing education, on the other hand, might require an investment from you. But the returns on that investment will almost certainly be worthwhile as you move forward on your journey as a professional therapist.