Do you ever think about where your food comes from – what all went into growing it, or preparing it, and how it got to your plate?
Let’s take organic strawberries. A person or group owns and maintains a plot of land. Tending a healthy field is no small operation. They nourish and protect its soil (from contaminants, weather damage, and pests). Someone plants the seeds and helps make sure they are watered the right amount. Until they are ready for a team of people to pick, package, and deliver to a distribution center which is then delivered to a store for the clerks to put on the shelf so the consumer can have it rung up by a cashier and finally brought home to be eaten.
When you think about it, the cost of that container of strawberries is divided up among many people. Reflecting on this adds a spirit of gratitude and a sense of humanity to what went into it. Makes them taste all the much better.
Have you ever wondered why massages cost so much? Or what all is involved in giving/receiving a massage?
There is so much more to it than is witnessed or is tangible. I do think it’s worth gaining a little perspective on. Just like with food and how it gets to our tables. It is easy to overlook all that we are covering when we invest in bodywork for ourselves and misconceive how much of the service fee actually goes towards the livelihood of the therapist – for them to cover their shelter, food, automobiles, and family living expenses.
The two sides to this coin are the individual investing in massage/bodywork with their health goals. And there is the practitioner pursuing a career in massage therapy (and the reality of what it takes to be a successful therapist rather than a struggling burnt out one). I believe this is easily overlooked because many massage therapists structure their service fees based on time. However, the fact are just paying for the time you spend with us.
Investing in massage therapy might seem like a large out of pocket health expense. Few of us in private practice mess with insurance billing. An yet, I can tell you this…Its a discipline to be able to consistently show up and give a stellar massage for each and every one my clients scheduled and to create a space for them to totally relax.
I decided I’d give you a little inside perspective on the life of a massage therapist. Though I can really only speak for myself and the way I practice, however, I hope this will expand your awareness about what goes into the bodywork treatments you receive, as well as the operations of a bodywork practice so that you can really appreciate and experience it to its fullest – and with a better understanding of why a massage costs what it does.
It has taken me many years to build my practice. There have been moments I was brought me to my knees on the verge of giving up. Many of my colleagues haven’t made it this long. Those of us who have the credentials AND continue to practice have had to persist through storms and the ebbs and flows. We must learn skills we didn’t get in massage school. The love for the work is what drives us. I know for me, building a business has been a healing journey in itself. But anyways…back to my point.
Here are 10 things that your investment in bodywork covers:
#1 – Results
The reason most people elect to get a massage is to improve the way their body feels – to reduce stress, melt away tension, and to make pain more tolerable. Your return on investment (goal achieved) is measured by the results. You should feel different after your treatments.
Notice I didn’t say immediately better. Healing work ain’t all peaches and cream. Regardless you should feel changed, even if that change is a bit uncomfortable at first. I do think that we inherently know if it is doing us good.
If you are not getting great results with your bodyworker(s) then I ask you to consider if the type of work they perform is really what you need at this time and if it is producing a noticeable difference (you are gaining benefit). I have had countless massages that felt incredibly pleasant to be so kindly touched. I left much more relaxed, however, the aches and pains I walked in with weren’t addressed. This is why I prefer therapeutic results-oriented bodywork over spa work. My aim is always therapeutic change.
In my own practice, I don’t promise my clients that my work will cure all the pains that ail them. But I DO promise that they WILL feel therapeutically different. The intention, in the first place, is results.
I’d also like to note that your treatment isn’t over when your treatment ends. For the 2-3 days afterward, your tissues will continue to release and repair, How you leave your bodyworker’s office is not how you will return the next time.
#2 – Certified and Licensed to Touch People
A therapist must be trained and qualified to touch people (certified and licensed).
In Colorado, we must have a minimum of 500 hours of training, pass a standardized test and have a background check performed, before we are legally allowed to put our hands on people. We are educated in anatomy, physiology, actions of the muscles, numerous techniques, draping, assessing, indications and contraindications of performing our techniques to bodies with complications, ethics and more. That’s just the beginning. Then there is advanced and specialized training.
#3 – A Place to Set Up Shop
Whether we rent an office (alone or with people), contract through another business, or set up shop in our homes; we all have to pay for a place to set up our tables and run our businesses. A mobile therapist who travels to her client’s house or office may not have rent, but they have gas, travel time, and wear and tear on their vehicles and bodies to account for.
#4 – Overhead Cost of Running a Business
A good chunk of the cost of running a massage practice goes to overhead and other business expenses – from taxes to websites, booking software, internet/phone, laundry service, and marketing. We aren’t able to run a business long-term all by ourselves. At some point, we need to hire accountants, tech support, and administrative business support. I don’t know what I’d do without my office manager.
The place where most massage studios cut costs is in marketing. Besides, who has time? We are too busy working one-on-one with our clients most of our days, and/or we don’t have large lump sums of money to put towards it. And what if our marketing efforts don’t even produce new clients? Oftentimes, too much is at stake to risk losing income.
#5 – Supplies and Equipment
Furniture, massage equipment, technological devices (computers, speakers, heaters, fans, table and towel warmers, etc.), furnishing-decor, sheets, blankets, towels, lotion, water, essential oils, tools, and office supplies. It adds up.
#6 – Insurance and Future Planning
For insurance, a therapist either has to pay for their own insurance, work as an employee of a company who offers it, or have a spouse that covers us. I am not going to lie, this is an area where many of us struggle as therapists. It is less worrisome when we are the second income and we have someone who shares in financial responsibilities.
We have to be stable enough to provide for our families and it usually takes quite some time to reach full-time status. However, we need to have the resources to invest in our continued education, disability insurance, life insurance, college funds for our kids, and retirement funds. This is the ultimate success for a bodyworker – to be stable enough to invest in our future like people with salaried jobs.
#7 – Energy and Self Care
Massage is very physically demanding and takes a toll on the therapist’s body. It requires an abundance of energy to be able to hold space and be present for our clients every single day.
In order to have a long career in bodywork, a therapist must always be healing themselves, mending their own wear and tear, and consistently replenishing their energy stores. We must also build our practice in a balanced and sustainable way.
We cannot perform 40 hours of massage per week. Even if we could, there is far more to running a massage gig than just the actual service hours. We need time to clean, change our sheets over, record sessions notes, maintain booking keeping, run errands, market, make phone calls and email clients, build networks, and take care of other business tasks.
What that means is that we really should only perform around 3- 4 treatments per day. A longer day can be done, but should only be on rare occasions, not routine practice, especially if a therapist performs longer sessions (75-90 minutes and more).
Spas are notorious for burning therapist out by overworking them. But then again most spa owners aren’t therapist themselves and don’t understand the demand that massage places on a therapist’s body.
It isn’t just the physical demands. We have to remain mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced. Our cups must remain full so that we can go into each day energized and able to give the most of ourselves at work, with enough leftover for our households and our loved ones.
#8 Recharge Time and Vacations
We have to walk our talk. We too must stretch, exercise, receive consistent bodywork, be vigilant about our body mechanics, hydrate, rest, and eat wholesome foods. That is if we want to continue to do this work for years to come.
Those of us who are self-employed do not get paid when we don’t work. Taking time off to go on a vacation or to recharge is a loss of income. Yet, we spend our days helping people fill up their cups. It is critically important we keep our cups full too. We either need to be able to afford to take time off occasionally, save up for it, or make up for it.
#9 Vision, Creation Time, and Planning
In order for bodyworkers to keep their vision and sustain helping others, we must have the mental capacity to feed our imaginations, be inspired, and have time to play. We need to have outlets, hobbies, and personal endeavors.
Otherwise, we start losing track of why we started doing this work in first place and we burn out.
Becoming an expert in any bodywork discipline requires:
· Extensive hands-on experience working on various conditions with consistency
· Knowledge and understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and more
· The ability to build therapeutic relationships with people
· A deep love for our craft that drives us to excel and keep learning
· Tenacity and discipline
A person can spend a lifetime learning and still not know all there is to know about bodies. Just in the massage world alone, there are many areas of specialization – medical, therapeutic, oncology, lymphatic drainage, sports, energy work modalities, craniosacral therapy, spa style, etc…There are the organs, the nervous, the lymph, the meridian, and chakra systems. The reflex points and trigger points. The role that nutrition and mind-emotions play in the healing processes, and on and on.
If you know about and believe in the 10,000 hours of mastery theory…Then you could say that the practitioners at Embodiwork, who have a decade or more of experience – have all surpassed the rank of masters of bodywork. Whatever you want to name it, we are proud to still be around after all these years. I certainly am not finished learning and developing.
Each of us has devoted our careers to this work and have put into practice the principles we share with our clients. We have a wealth of knowledge about health/healing, we understand bodies fluently, and have highly developed perception-skill. Spending time with us is of great value to your health and well-being.
If anything I hope this post will help you see all that goes into being a bodyworker and where your investment goes. In order for us to consistently show up for you and perform an effective and therapeutic experience each and every single time; we must be well – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
Having a skilled bodyworker on your health team – who have stayed the course, mastered their craft and whom you can trust and rely on is a priceless gift. Our work together can be a complete health game changer for you. Supporting you in living a vibrant life with a soul more peacefully seated inside your precious aging body.
Here’s to living an embodied life! And blessed are those who have a devoted bodyworker by their side.