Name: Kelleen Blanchard
Job Title: Massage Therapist
Where: Seattle, WA
Current Employer: Seattle Spa Noir
Years of Experience: 3
Other Relevant Work Experience: Customer Service
Education: Brian Utting School of Massage; Cornish College of the Arts, BFA Theatre
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the average massage therapist salary.
What is the Average Massage Therapist Salary?
There's no question that getting a professional massage can be a life-changing experience. Whether you're recovering from an injury or a stressful day at the office, massage therapy can be a huge help. But what is it like to work as a massage therapist? In this Salary Story, seattle massage therapist Kelleen Blanchard describes the ups and downs of her career as a massage therapist. She explains why she chose the profession, describes her daily tasks at Spa Noir, and offers advice to those just entering the field. If you're considering a career as a massage therapist, don't miss this invaluable interview. To find out more about the average massage therapist salary, see the links below.
PayScale: What is your massage therapist job description?
As a massage therapist at Spa Noir, I greet clients, review their intake forms for specific needs or medical issues and confer with them to customize the best, most beneficial therapy session. I am trained in deep tissue massage, Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy and hot stone massage. I especially enjoy working with specific injuries and doing intense, deep tissue work because I have witnessed and experience the results from this kind of work. In addition to working one-on-one with clients, I help support the overall spa by doing laundry and other small cleaning tasks. I also am available for body wraps; eye and lip treatments; and foot, hand, and scalp treatments. These can be great relaxing add-ons to a massage. At the spa, my focus is on the client. I want their visit to be relaxing, positive, and to address their needs in a personal and effective manner.
PayScale: How did you start your career as a massage therapist?
I have been giving massage since I was about six years old. I used to charge a quarter. My prices have gone up. Seriously though, I was attracted to massage therapy because it is so helpful. I wanted to help people with chronic pain and stress. I think we, as a society, simply don’t take care of ourselves. We are overworked and stressed to the point of illness. Massage is a great preventative to serious injury and burn out. I also think getting regular massage encourages a healthier body image and a more proactive approach to self care.
PayScale: What do you love about your massage therapy career?
I love helping people. I love my clients and my fellow staff. Not too long ago I worked with a transgendered client who has had emotional and physical issues during his transition. He found a safe space here at the spa and it was really satisfying to be able to be of such use for someone so awesome. I have also worked on a lot of clients with severe neck and shoulder pain. By releasing specific muscles they have found relief from chronic headaches and upper body pain. It’s really great to be able to help someone move beyond poor body habits and pain and into a healthy, empowered place.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face in your career as a massage therapist?
Being an LMP is wonderful, but it has its challenges. The physical challenge is great. I find myself constantly working to treat some minor injury and reevaluating my body mechanics to prevent serious injury. Client communication can be difficult of course. My clients are almost always great, but sometimes they have expectations that aren’t realistic – they need to control the session or they are simply unhappy people who want a target. The best way to handle this for me is to realize that these are people in pain and to try to give them what they need even if it may not be what they want. Clear communication is key. Also, a lot of people think a career as an LMP is relaxing. For the client, yes. For me, it’s a lot of concentration and sweat. Also, I think another common misconception is that we make tons of money. Massage is an up and down business and there are a lot of expenses, so the money is not that great. You have to do it because you love it and need to help people. Because you want to be of service.
PayScale: What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career as a massage therapist?
Choosing a massage school is really important as a first step in a massage career. Do your research and find the school that offers the most hours and the most demanding and varied classes. Trust me, don’t choose the “easy” school. Push yourself to be a first rate LMP. I would also recommend starting a stretching and strength-building routine while you’re in school. Massage therapy can take a toll on your body. I would also really encourage you to give and receive as much body work as possible. There is no substitute for practice and exposure. Make sure you know all of the tax laws. I was lucky enough to have a great business course included in my core classes at massage school. If this is not part of your program, make sure you educate yourself. This can be very very tricky. No one likes to get in trouble with the government.
PayScale: What are the interesting things that have happened while working as a massage therapist?
I have given massage to so many great clients. First time massage clients are rewarding. To help someone key into their own body awareness and experience body work is very satisfying. I’ve had clients fall dead asleep during hot stone, having finally given in to their exhaustion, and others feel really energized by a quick foot treatment. I once worked with a client who had a severe nueromuscular condition that caused him to be in constant spasm. We worked around his tics and uncontrolled movements and he gained some measure of relief from his ever present symptoms. Generally, it’s making a personal connection with clients that is the most fulfilling to me.
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