Mentoring For Massage Therapists

I have been a massage therapist for 17 years. I also taught massage for several of those, have written and taught massage courses and workshops both in the UK and abroad, and recently started mentoring therapists too.

I have always loved teaching, and passing on knowledge and information that can help others, and the idea for came about for 2 main reasons:

Firstly, in all my searching the web for information on practice building and marketing for therapists there seemed to be very little originating from the UK, especially by massage therapists for massage therapists.  A whole range of skills is needed to build a successful massage practice, of which the ability to give a good massage is just one.  Practice building skills aren't taught in much depth on most massage courses, and newly qualified therapists can easily become discouraged when their business fails to take off.  However, this isn't necessarily down to any failing on their part Â? they just haven't been taught the necessary skills.  Mentoring can fill this gap by teaching those skills, in a personalized programme that is tailored to each therapist's individual requirements.

Secondly, what I heard time and time again from recent massage graduates was that, having left college, they suddenly felt they were out in the world on their own, feeling rather lost and unsupported after the camaraderie and group dynamics of the classroom.

Starting out as a massage therapist can be particularly daunting Â? we spend so many hours learning so much about the body Â? and yet as a novice therapist I distinctly remember thinking that all that learning only served to make me realise how LITTLE I knew, and my first months in a clinic were nothing like being in the classroom!  So it can be invaluable to have someone on your team who believes in you until you have belief in yourself.  Someone to cheer you on, help you out with answers to questions as they arise in your practice, and also to reassure you and encourage you

However, mentoring isn't only for therapists just starting out in the massage profession. Each stage of our massage career brings its own unique challenges as we change as individuals and as massage therapists too. Success in our profession demands continual and consistent input into ALL areas of our massage practice and we all have times when we need help to maintain the energy, determination and focus that this level of commitment demands. Even the most experienced and successful people from all walks of life have coaches and mentors to help keep them on track, provide clarity of purpose and renewed focus, and spur them on to even greater achievements.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is usually defined as someone who is more experienced, usually older, who has 'been there, done that, got the T-shirt' passing on their knowledge, experience and wisdom to others in a particular field of work or activity.Depending on the needs of the mentee, a mentor will: act as a sounding board; provide information, guidance and advice (if asked); encourage the self-management of learning; encourage the development of self-awareness; ask probing and sometimes challenging questions; encourage the mentee to think ahead, plan, and set goals; provide accountability (again, if asked).

How does mentoring work?

Mentoring is a process which supports learning and development.

So, in terms of learning, I can pass on my knowledge and experience in answer to specific requests for information.  I am able to 'cherry pick' all the best business, marketing, and practice development tips, advice and strategies that I've gleaned from many different sources and from my own experiences over the years; this is an extremely time-efficient way for the mentee to get the information they need to move their massage practice forward.

However, we are all unique as individuals and therapists; what worked for me may very well not work for someone else.  This is where the second strand of mentoring Â? development - comes into its own.  You've probably heard the saying "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for life". Mentoring is about helping you learn to fish.

An important aspect of mentoring is not just giving answers in reply to requests for information, it's about helping people develop the skills and aptitudes that will make them self-supporting in their massage careers.  The mentoring process helps people develop their own resources, and gives them the skills and confidence to deal with the challenges of our profession.

Having the right mindset and attitude is just as important, if not more so, than having the right information and facts, and mentoring can help you develop these.  There are techniques and strategies to help us think differently, react differently, and act differently; these are techniques to be learned, practised and implemented, just like our hands-on massage skills, in order to give us the tools we need to build a successful massage business.

What will you gain from mentoring?

Different therapists will have different needs, and take different things from the mentoring process.

For some it will be a very factual, practical way to get questions answered, gain knowledge quickly, and learn techniques, strategies and tips for both the clinical and business areas of their practice.

Other therapists will find it useful as a supportive, encouraging and reassuring process. One therapist who I mentored said that the most valuable thing she got from the experience was confirmation that she was doing so much right Â? which she found fantastically reassuring and a real boost to her confidence.  It gave her more belief in herself much more quickly than if she'd been trying to go it alone, and her practice grew more quickly as a result.  Because she felt happier and more confident she consequently also got a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction out of her massage work (a sure-fire way to get more clients!).

Having a mentor also helps you stand back from your practice and see the blocks and blind spots that are holding you back (but which are so hard to see for yourself).  Mentoring helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses, plan objectives and set goals.  Working for yourself doesn't have to mean working by yourself, and for many therapists the mentoring process is invaluable for providing accountability for them achieving their goals.

Mentoring can also provide you with a bit of "tough love" too.  It's all too easy to find reasons and excuses for not doing things that we find uncomfortable and difficult.  In my experience the two issues that therapists struggle with the most are setting fees, and also marketing themselves.  Questions, sometimes challenging ones, help us explore our values and beliefs, and discover what is really holding us back, and often stopping us from taking effective action. 

How does mentoring work in practice?

The first step of the process is for me to have a free ½ hour chat/consultation with any prospective mentee; this helps us both decide if mentoring is the right way forward, and if so, which Mentoring Programme would be the most appropriate.

Getting mentoring is a bit like getting massage - we need different things at different times, depending on what's going on in our lives and careers.  Sometimes we may just need a one-off session for a general pick-me-up to get us back on track.  Sometimes we need a few sessions to work through more complicated issues. And sometimes only a longer-term concentrated "remedial" programme will do the trick to get things moving in the right direction.

To answer these differing needs, I offer a range of one-to one telephone mentoring Programmes, from single one-off sessions to a 3-month Programme.  Group Mentoring Programmes are also sometimes available in Central London, and also for London-based therapists I offer one-to-one practical tutorials to work on hands-on massage skills and techniques.

For telephone mentoring  I send out an email questionnaire to be completed prior to the first call, which gives me lots of background information Â? a kind of "case history" for the person's massage career to date, as it were. We then set the date and time of the first call, and we're off Â? it's that simple! 

To sum up Â?

Over the years I have seen many truly talented massage therapists leave the profession because they just couldn't get, or keep, clients, or because the demands of being a self employed massage professional were just too great.

My aim with is to distil all my experiences, and the knowledge that I have acquired from so many wise people over the years, into a source of support and guidance for other massage practitioners.  I would love for more talented therapists to find a way to succeed in what they truly love doing - and the world needs great massage like never before!

Full details can be found on the website:

Or I can be contacted on 07973 432988 if you would like to learn more about mentoring or have any questions about the above article.



Author: Helen Hunter
Copyright © 2023 Helen Hunter. All rights reserved

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