When you're seeking a relaxing, soothing massage experience, the last thing you want is a stressed-out massage therapist.
"The therapist must be a role model of stress management," says Susan Scorboria, the administrative and admission director of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in Westport, Conn. "You have to live a holistic life."
Students at the center learn many ways to take care of themselves, including meditation, proper body mechanics, hand and wrist care, and resources for emotional and spiritual care.
"My client and I both have full lives, but I must put my own things aside and create that peace for my client during the session," says Scorboria. "It's a learned technique."
"There's a sort of myth that there's a lot of burnout among massage therapists because of the hand work involved, but it's not really true because you learn the proper body mechanics," says Kathy Watt, the dean of students at the center. "You use your whole body, not just your hands."
Self-care is just part of the curriculum at the center, which trains more than 100 students a year to become massage therapists. Other areas covered in the rigorous 638-hour core program are anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, neurology, first aid, ethics and business practices. The program takes about 20 months to complete, after which graduates take a national certification exam.
The center also offers specialized training in spa massage and reflexology .
The field is booming and there's a waiting list to enroll. "There's a day spa going up on every corner, and the No. 1 most requested therapy is massage," says Scorboria. Massage therapy accounts for a quarter of all money spent on alternative health care, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sixteen percent of adults said they visited a massage therapist in a news survey for the American Massage Therapy Association. The group estimates there are 200,000 licensed massage therapists in the country.
Scorboria says that people who want to be massage therapists must be in it because they want to help people. "It's a health-care profession," she says. "You're not in it for the money."
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