Saturday, October 1, 2022

Professional Licensing, Public Records, & Disciplinary Actions


I've now been through 10 renewal cycles with my massage license. If I could go back and change one thing on my initial application, I wouldn't have taken "Full Name" so literally and I would have left my middle name out. (It's nothing too terrible, but not something I'd usually share with the general public.)

One thing that might surprise you is that, with the exception of your social security number and credit card information, the information submitted is *not* confidential.

Per the current individual license application:
"PUBLIC RECORD:  This application is a public record for purposes of the Maine Freedom of Access Law (1 MRSA §401 et seq).  Public records must be made available to any person upon request.  This application for licensure is a public record and information supplied as part of the application (other than social security number and credit card information) is public information.  Other licensing records to which this information may later be transferred will also be considered public records.  Names, license numbers and mailing addresses listed on or submitted as part of this application will be available to the public and may be posted on our website. 

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER:  The following statement is made pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 (§7(B)).  Disclosure of your Social Security Number Is mandatory.  Solicitation of your Social Security Number is solely for tax administration purposes, pursuant to 35 MRSA §175 as authorized by the Tax Reform Act of 1975 (42 USC §405(C)(2)(C)(1)).  Your Social Security Number will be disclosed to the State Tax Assessor or an authorized agent for use in determining filing obligations and tax liability pursuant to Title 36 of the Maine Revised Statutes.  No further use will be made of your Social Security Number and it shall be treated as confidential tax information pursuant to 36 MRSA §191."
Upon your application being approved, your name (whatever and however you write it on the application), your mailing address's city/state/zip code, and your phone number may become accessible to the public. Your listing will also include your state professional license number, status (usually Active or Failed to Renew), expiration date, and how you received your license (schooling, etc). 

Massage therapy as a licensed profession in Maine falls under the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation's Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation:

"The Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation (OPOR) and its licensing boards and programs are established for the sole purpose of protecting the public by licensing qualified individuals in each professional area and by imposing discipline on licensed individuals and entities to prevent harm to the public."
The direct link to the Massage Therapy Licensure office is here: https://www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/massage-therapy-licensure
"Massage Therapy Licensure was established to provide for the regulation of persons offering massage therapy services, in order to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare, and to protect the public from incompetent and unauthorized persons in the State of Maine.

The primary responsibilities of the Office is to review and approve qualified applicants for licensure as a licensed massage therapists[sic], to promulgate rules as necessary, to investigate complaints, and to take appropriate disciplinary action for noncompliance with current laws and rules."
The office's website provides a handful of useful links and resources for both practitioners and consumers. The general public is able to search for individuals, companies, disciplinary actions, courses, and course providers here: https://www.pfr.maine.gov/almsonline/almsquery/welcome.aspx 

Ideally, the database would only ever need to be used to verify licensure.

Yours truly, however, is a nosy, curious person.

I have used the "Search Disciplinary Actions" feature to explore what sorts of cases have come up over the last few years. I was unsurprised but still disappointed that there were, indeed, cases of alleged misconduct on the part of licensed massage therapists. Another interesting incidence involved therapists not disclosing they had convictions prior to applying for licensure, or they had been convicted of misdemeanors while holding a professional license -- even if the misdemeanor had nothing to do with their profession. Such misdemeanors may include: driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, theft under $1,000, assault, and operating under the influence. 

In exploring the related rules and regulations, I learned that if you are ever convicted of a misdemeanor, you must report the conviction to your professional licensing board within 10 days of the conviction

Some consequences include fines, license probation, and license suspension. Some cases are consent agreements between the State and the massage therapist regarding probationary actions. Others include highly detailed accounts of evidence and testimonies given at adjudicatory hearings. 

And, friends, some of these details and pieces of evidence come from text messages and conversations within the therapist's office. They come from therapists failing to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, including avoiding dual-relationships. Draping -- respecting a client's need for privacy, modesty, security, and emotional expression -- must be impeccable at all times. Detailed intake forms, SOAP notes, and incident reports need to be created, taken, and kept secure.

Finally, we need to hold each other accountable.

If ever you meet a practitioner who doesn't abide by these ethical ideals and it can't be resolved with a polite conversation, you have a moral obligation to report them to their licensing board. If you can't do it for your own sake, then do it to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the rest of the public.

Ignorance of the Laws & Rules is no excuse. Blaming emotional and physical isolation due to the pandemic is no excuse. Pointing fingers like a schoolkid, saying, "But they're doing it and they're not in trouble!" is no excuse.

Protect your integrity and reputation -- for both your sake and the sake of our industry. Be lawful, ethical, and professional in order to be successful. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Professional Writing Advice

Sandy beach with crashing waves; the phrase "Omit needless words." in white text, credited to William Strunk, Jr., in a brown text box below it and a watermark for QuoteFancy.

Omit needless words.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.


Strunk, William. Elements of Style. Ithaca, N.Y.: Priv. print. [Geneva, N.Y.: Press of W. F. Humphrey], 1918; Bartleby.com, 1999. https://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk5.html. May 26, 2022.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

"Help! My body hurts! What do I do?"


As students begin learning and practicing bodywork, they begin to notice aches and pains in their own bodies. Remember that we are using our muscles and joints in different and perhaps newly repetitive ways. You are working to gain strength and stamina, and to develop muscle memory. 

Here's the run-down of my usual advice:

- Check-in with your medical providers. I went to a chiropractor for the first time after I graduated from massage school. I had to relearn how to move my newly adjusted body. You may want to discuss aches and pains with your general practitioner, an osteopath, or a physical therapist. If you have an acute injury in Southern Maine, check out OrthoAccess's walk-in clinics.

- Get professional bodywork sessions. Receiving work from classmates and other students is great, in a pinch. Graduates and folks that have been practicing for years may help to target and treat your pain faster and give you better advice for self-care.

- Do other physical activities. You might consider adding strength training, yoga, or other practices to improve your physical health and flexibility.

- Use over-the-counter medications and products as directed by a medical professional. Biofreeze, IcyHot, Tigerbalm, CBD, and arnica-infused products can help with some swelling and pain, and many of them are commercially or locally available.

- Remember the Rule of RICE:
  • Rest: Sometimes the best way to alleviate your aches and pains is to limit or stop doing the activities that triggered them in the first place. That doesn't mean stopping them forever -- it means giving your body time to recover and heal in-between sessions.
  • Ice: One of the best ways to treat inflammation, reduce blood-flow to an area, and reduce nerve impulses. Can use from 10- to 20-minutes at a time; wrap in a towel to prevent frostbite. If your aches and pains are in your arms and hands, run them under cold water for up to a minute.
  • Compression: Braces and wrappings are also helpful for reducing inflammation.
  • Elevation: Keep excess fluids close to your trunk, not in your extremities.  
- Once the acute inflammation is reduced, add heat. Alternating cold-heat-cold therapies helps to create a sort of "pump" through vasoconstriction and vasodilation. This helps with controlling blood-flow to the area and aids in healing.

- Self-massage and other household tools. Grab a tennis or lacrosse ball and lean into it against a wall or the floor. Put it in a tube sock for greater control. Purchase knobbers or find yourself a few good stones to target knots and trigger points in your hands and arms. Foam rollers and other devices can be good for legs, thighs, and spines. 

- Use a combination of the above suggestions. As someone who lives with chronic pain (not related to my career), using only one or two methods usually doesn't cut it. If I fall behind in using two or more of these strategies consistently, it can take a lot of effort to get back out of a pain spiral.

Take it easy on yourself. Don't give up. You will get there!


Saturday, May 2, 2020

Massage & COVID-19: What Now?

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

I have a lot of strong feelings that are difficult for me to put into words. So much of this experience -- rooted in grief and trauma -- has been subjective, making it difficult (impossible, really) for each of us to remain objective.

I can't dictate what you should do. I can only present tools, opportunities, and resources so that you can decide what is best for you.

If nothing else, I implore you:

Make decisions not from a place of fear and anger, but with an informed, educated understanding.

Resources I've Collected:
Big Names in the Massage Industry That I Respect and Listen To:
  • Tracy Walton: "Since 1998, she has developed, taught, and continually updated Oncology Massage Therapy: Caring for Clients with Cancer. ... For over 13 years, Tracy taught physiology and pathology at the Muscular Therapy Institute (now Cortiva Institute – Boston) where she also served as Academic Dean and Chair of the Science Department."
  • Ruth Werner: author of six editions of A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, from 1998 until now; writer for Massage and Bodywork Magazine with her column "Pathology Perspectives;" past president of the Massage Therapy Foundation.
  • Til Luchau: "With a diverse background that includes manual therapy, somatic psychology, transformative education, as well as organizational and leadership development, Til's ability to connect interdisciplinary, big-picture ideas to practical, real-world applications has made his talks, trainings, and events popular worldwide."
  • Whitney Lowe: "Lowe’s been in the profession for over 30 years. He is the author of the profession’s first accessible assessment text, 'Orthopedic Assessment in Massage Therapy.' ... He is a member of the editorial advisory board of the 'Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies,' and is a regularly featured author in publications such as Massage & Bodywork, Massage Today, and Massage Magazine."
  • Diana Thompson: a licensed massage therapist for 30 years, specializing in post-operative care; author of "Hands Heal: Communication, Documentation and Insurance Billing for Manual Therapists," now in its fourth edition; a past president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, a philanthropic non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education, and community service.  



Saturday, March 28, 2020

Fruits Basket's Rice Ball (Onigiri) Analogy

White rice molded into the shape of a triangle, a red dot of pickled plum at its center, wrapped with black nori seaweed.

"Maybe the reason that you don't see it is because it's stuck to your back. What I mean is, a person's admirable qualities. They're just like, say, a pickled plum on a rice ball! In other words, the person's the rice ball and the plum is stuck to their back. So all over the world, you could have rice balls made with all sorts of wonderful ingredients, all different flavors and shapes and colors, but since it's stuck in the middle of everyone's back, someone could have a plum and not even know it. They'd look at themselves and think, 'I'm so plain, nothing but white rice.' Even though it isn't true -- because turn them around and sure enough, there it is ... there's the plum. So, if someone is jealous of somebody else, well then it's probably because it's easier to see the plum on someone else's back than your own." -- Tohru Honda, Fruits Basket

Five white triangle-shaped rice balls wrapped in black nori seaweed, each with a different ingredient on top.

When you can't identify your own admirable qualities, ask a friend or loved one what strengths and qualities they see in you.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Expenses & Taxes: Where to Start

This post includes affiliate links, but only if you purchase memberships.


One of the major projects in my school's curriculum is that each student needs to complete their own business plan, complete with a marketing plan and financial projections. When I wrote mine, I had no idea what I was doing or what would be reasonable numbers in terms of money. Now that I've been self-employed for four years, I feel comfortable offering some advice.

Keep in mind that I'm currently a single, solo practitioner earning less than $20,000 a year -- I file the usual 1040 tax form along with a Schedule C form that details my business expenses. There are different rules and guidelines for S-Corps, Partnerships, LLCs, and the rest, which I cannot speak to at this time. I'm also not a tax preparer and this information should not be construed as legal or financial guidance.

First of all, get yourself a separate business checking account. This is where your starting capital (funds) can be deposited and then you can track additional income or expenses from there. Trying to do it all within your own personal checking account can get messy, especially when it comes time to file your taxes (or, Heaven forbid, if you get audited). I have a business checking account through my credit union and they charge me a $5 a month fee, but I earn a modest amount of interest and a $.25 credit a month for paperless statements.

As of 2019, self-employment income was taxed at about 15.3%. Take your total income and multiply it by 0.153 (or whatever percentage you need or prefer) -- the number you get, you should set aside for taxes, just in case. You should always check the current year's tax information incase that number changes; you can choose to set aside more, but for peace of mind incase you have to pay-in, don't do any less. (If you break even or get a refund, you'll have a little extra cash for the next year's tax savings and/or to give yourself a bonus.)

Gift certificate sales count as income during the calendar year in which they're bought. Set the money aside in a separate savings account and take out funds as they're redeemed. If you spend the money before they're redeemed, you're essentially robbing your future self of that cash. Also, Maine requires you to keep track of unclaimed gift certificates, should you need to refund or report the money as "unclaimed property." Learn more about reporting guidelines. (Also also? You don't have to sell gift certificates if you don't want to.)

How much you should pay yourself is up to you. There's no right or wrong answer for this because it's all super subjective.

Expense categories allow you to loosely group together the totals of your receipts and invoices for easier placement on your Schedule C form. You can preemptively work with your accountant and/or tax preparer to determine the best category for specific expenses, but here are a few general suggestions:

  • Cost of Service: sometimes known as Cost of Sales or Cost of Goods Sold (if you were a retailer or plan to sell retail), this is where your linen and lubricant expenses go. Bolsters, essential oils, hot stone supplies, and other small expenses of doing massages also go here. Expect to spend anywhere from ~$100 at the start up to $400+ in a year.
  • Advertising & Marketing Materials: for on-line ads, newspaper ads, business cards, brochures or rack cards -- things that you hand out with your name on them for the sake of drumming up business. I spent about $60 in 2019, but this is a low figure.
  • Bank & ATM Fee Expense: this is where I put that $5 a month fee from my credit union -- costing me $60 a year.
  • Equipment: ** this is ONLY for purchases of $100+ that constitute large objects that may lose value (depreciate) over time, such as a hydraulic lift, a new massage table, a UV-sanitizing hot towel cabinet, etc.
  • Insurance: your ABMP membership or other liability insurance should go here. That's usually about $200+ a year, unless you go for a cheaper provider (not recommended).
  • Legal & Professional Services: if you hire somebody else to do your book-keeping and to file your taxes, plan for about $100-250+ a year.
  • Licensing: your yearly fee for re-licensing with your state. It's $40 in Maine.
  • Merchant Fees: I use Square to process credit cards, so I track the fees they take out here. In 2019, I spent $240 out of the money I took in.
  • Office Supplies: pens, paper, lightbulbs, cleaning supplies, etc. This is super variable, so you could budget as little as $100, or up to $300 or more.
  • Rent or Lease Expense: if you're renting a space, it's going to be super variable according to your location, square footage, whether or not utilities are included, etc.
  • Software & Web Hosting: where I track my $12 a year fees to Google for each of my URLS, as well as my on-line scheduling service subscription, etc. I spent about $350 last year.
  • Utilities: if they're not included in your rent, put them here.
For other random expenses that don't fit into these categories, just make note of them so that your tax preparer can find the best spot for them, even if that ends up being in the "Other" category. Because the tax rules change all the time (even within the same year), no one can guarantee what specific expenses will be deductible and which ones won't be. Milage is always a sticky one with very specific rules, but you can try to track it manually or through a subscription to the MileIQ app (not an affiliate link). Charitable donations are generally not a deductible business expense, unless your business name appears in the charity's public marketing. Clothes also do not count unless you purchase something with your business name and logo printed or embroidered on it. For more general guidelines, check out "Can I Deduct That?: 100 Things You Can (or Maybe Can't) Take as Business Deductions" by Margo Bowman and Kelly Bowers (not an affiliate link).

Buying in bulk can help you save cash in the long run, but do what you can with what you have. I do not recommend taking out loans or lines of credit if you can help it.

As far as receipts and invoices go, keep the paper copies in an envelope and/or make digital copies to store on something like a thumb drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. Check with your tax professional for recommendations of how long you need to keep them and your old tax returns in case of an audit.

Consider keeping an expense log -- either on-paper or in a digital spreadsheet -- and have one for each expense category. Here's an example you can use: http://bit.ly/bexpenselog



And here's a blank copy of the Google Sheets file I use to track all of my income and expenses over the year to get you started: http://bit.ly/bexpenses


Finally, these are the "due diligence" business questions my local preparer asked me when I filed my 2019 taxes:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What evidence do you have to support your business? Business cards, business stationary, receipts/receipt book with company header, business license.
  • Do you have a separate business account? If not, how do you track your business activity?
  • Have you filed any sales tax returns, payroll tax returns?
  • Indicate which you have of the following: Accounting records, paid invoices/receipts, log books, computer records, milage log, car/truck expenses, ledgers, business bank statements.
  • Did you file 1099's for subcontractors?

This should be more than enough to get you started, but certainly if I missed anything or you have other questions, get in touch with me.

Happy Budgeting!


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Pro-Tip for Students & Graduates

Get to know your instructors — build good relationships with them. You may want or need professional references and letters of recommendation after you graduate.




Sunday, February 9, 2020

Overcoming Professional Performance Anxiety


Over the last decade, I've met and worked with hundreds of people. I've participated in local events, made friends with industry leaders through Facebook and Twitter, and impressed my work colleagues with my tech savvy and know-how.

I'm also an Introverted perfectionist with generalized, social anxiety. People I perceive as having any kind of authority intimidate me. While I still approach them with the utmost respect, it took a long time for me to loosen up around my current bosses (and their bosses).

I didn't come into this career with a lot of strong interpersonal skills -- like any skill, they had to be learned and practiced. Becoming a parent and working with young kids helped me develop other skills around empathy and communication in ways that I couldn't have predicted.

Some days are easier than others. I'm very good at being a duck: appearing calm and collected on the surface while paddling like crazy underneath. I've learned what things I can let go of and not take as seriously. When things go wrong, I approach the situation with my usual dry humor and say, "Thank you for your patience."

— And then there was the day at clinic when two massage tables broke down moments before we were due to take clients in to their sessions. It happens. It wasn't pretty in the moment, but we got through it and I got over it. The world did not come to an end, the school didn't close down or fire me, and the clients were likely none the wiser.

So what do you do when anxiety hits in-the-moment?

● Take some deep breaths. Drink some water. Clear yourself, if you're energetically inclined.

● Have a conversation. Build a relationship. Don't worry about making a sale or trying to impress every single person you come into contact with. Accept that you will connect with some people more easily than others; you're not going to be everyone's cup of tea (or coffee, or hot cocoa, etc.).

● Remember that when you're meeting prospective students and clients, they're probably more intimidated by you than you are of them. Think back to when you were in their shoes. What would you say to your past-self in encouragement?

● Remember your why: why did you choose this career path? Why did you say "yes" to this specific program? What did you envision at the end of your training? What does that professional-version of you look like? (A la Gramma Tala from Moana: "Who are you meant to be?")

● Call upon those pieces of you; bring in those characteristics. Square your shoulders and stand a little taller.

● Know that "Imposter Syndrome" is a valid fear -- that feeling of being a fraud in spite of everything you've accomplished thus far.

● Accept that you will make mistakes.

● And then push through it, anyway. It takes courage to stand up and put yourself out there. Each time you push through the discomfort and come out the other side, it gets easier.

"Fake it 'til you make it!" and "be yourself!" are cliches, but there is truth to them, making them effective strategies. You will stumble and struggle. Some tears may be shed. You are a real person with very big feelings and that's okay -- it's what makes you relatable, and that's what others are looking for.

Even professionals get anxiety. Even professionals make mistakes. Know that the best ones will see you, empathize with you, and encourage you to keep going.

"Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"

- Ms. Frizzle, the Magic School Bus


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sanitation Pep Talk!


The views expressed in this video are my own and do not reflect those of any particular massage school or my current employer, nor should they be construed as such.
Recorded on my day off with sub-optimal equipment and a coughing child off-screen; very loosely cut together because done is better than perfect. If every video were perfect, we wouldn't have ... uhh... Tik Tok?

If you can't watch the video, here is a summary of the points I make:

Why do we make students do sanitation duties and help clean the school?

Short Answer: because your potential employers have told us that they want you to have a good work ethic outside of your hands-on skills. Our advisory board of business owners and professionals tell us what they want to see in their employees. This is something they have specifically asked us to instill.

You could have the best massage skills ever, but if your space is dirty, dusty, or cluttered, clients won’t give you a chance to show off those skills. Making the best first impression includes upkeep and maintaining your work area, whether you’re self-employed, an employee, or an independent contractor.

As an example, I bought a gift certificate from a tattoo studio with a dirty, dusty lobby area; the only reason I finished my purchase was because the actual tattoo space was clean and sanitary. As another example, while my first paying massage gig didn't specify that employees were responsible for snow removal, it quickly became an issue of client safety.

I rent space and cleaning services are included in my rent. They vacuum my floor and take out my trash, as well as cleaning the bathrooms and other common areas. (I still have to do my own laundry, dust shelves, sanitize surfaces.)

Misconception: the school doesn't want to pay for a cleaning service. 
Our cleaning service comes three nights a week to do the grosser things like cleaning toilets and emptying the bins of used hygiene products.

Misconception: the other groups of students - aesthetics and cosmetology - don’t do sanitation duties. 
The other programs have their own lists of duties that they perform at different times than the massage classes; just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t do them.

“Your mom doesn’t work here — pick up after yourself.” Cleaning and maintaining a space introduces fundamental life skills that not everyone has had the opportunity to learn and put into practice. No judgement; just a fact. (I bring up laundry as an example, but there are other things we cover.)

Every employee in school has a job to do to keep things running smoothly. Not doing your fair share breeds resentment in the next person who comes along. Helping out garners appreciation and makes things easier for the next person. When you see someone cleaning, say thank you! It's an unpleasant job, but it has to be done.

We have potential students and their families, potential employers, representatives of other schools and companies, and accreditation representatives coming and going through the school throughout the day. With so much foot traffic along with classes, things get messy -- paper products run out, trash cans fill up, and carpets get dirty.

We want to impress the people coming in, but we also want you to take pride in your school. We wouldn’t be here without you -- and you probably wouldn’t be here if previous students had left things a mess during your tour. Doing a little bit throughout the day adds up and makes life easier for everyone. Team work. Take ownership, treat your school and work environment with respect.

When things break down, go missing, or if there’s a safety issue, let someone -- an instructor or administrator -- know that there’s a problem.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Why High Schoolers Should Consider Massage Training

This post was originally published in October 2014 on a now-defunct version of this site. It has been edited for clarity, but the tone is... more like the bright-eyed, 26-year-old massage school graduate that I once was. I was younger then, and full of hope.

My mom, Laurel; me in my high school graduation cap and gown; and my dad, David.

I graduated high school in 2006, and I remember very keenly all the buzz and options that surrounded the question, “What will you be doing after high school?”

College wasn’t exactly my dream, but I figured it was expected of me: my mother had her Bachelor’s and my dad was on his way to earning his second doctorate shortly before he passed away. I had a lot to live up to! I was in the top 10% of my class!

Well. My experience with my one year of private, out-of-state college did not go so smoothly. I’m still paying for it in many ways, including financially.

One of my passions right now is talking to teenagers about going into massage therapy. Like anything else, it has it upsides and down, so let me quickly go through them:

The Best Things About Massage Schooling


— Timing. My program was 600-hours long. I could choose between going full time, 8:00-5:00, a few days a week, and finish it within six months — or I could go part-time, in the evenings, and spread it out within a year. I went with the latter because I had my kiddo during the day and family could watch him at night. Some programs require 900-hours or more, so it’ll take you a little bit longer. It’s still better than having to wait four+ years for a piece of paper that says, “Hey, I know stuff! (You should hire me!)” Which leads me to...

— Certification. As soon as you graduate your program and get your state licensing and insurance and whatever else your state might require, you’re all set to start working as a massage therapist. The sooner you start working, the sooner you can start socking away money to pay your student loans. Speaking of...

— Cost. When I went, it was just over $13,000 for those 600-hours, and it paid for my tuition, books, and my own portable massage table. My school was federally accredited, so I qualified for Federal Stafford Loans. The school also provided private funding. Compare the cost of this program to one year of private college — even some in-state, public colleges can get pricey.

The Not-So-Great Things About Massage Schooling


— Portability. This has less to do about the schooling itself and more to do with the varied standards throughout the country. Unfortunately, because I only received 600-hours of schooling, I can’t practice in, say, New Hampshire, because they require more than that. To get around this, you could look into taking the MBLEx, which costs money for taking it (and retaking it if you fail) and isn’t recognized by all 50 states at this time.

— Dealing With Clients. You will meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. They will have varying hygiene practices and standards and you are likely to see them in varying states of undress. Some will be demanding; others will fall asleep. Yes, you will probably have to deal with at least one inappropriate client. Yes, some clients will get erections at inopportune times, and yes, sometimes other clients will fart when you’re working on their backsides. If you’re uncomfortable with nudity or natural bodily functions and hair, massage therapy may not be for you.

— Travel & Living. I was lucky in that my massage school was a half-hour away from where I was living, I had reliable transportation, and I had low-cost childcare. You might have to do some research to find a school that is close to you that best meets all of your needs. The ones I know of in Maine don’t offer on-campus housing; a few students I knew during my training actually stayed in a nearby hotel because driving home every day would have been too much.

— Other Costs. You’re going to have to buy linens, your own lotions and supplies, and possibly invest in Continuing Education after you graduate. Maine doesn’t require CEUs, but other states do; it’s just a good idea, anyway, so as to keep your work fresh and to help you learn new techniques and modalities.

There are two big prerequisites for attending the massage school I chose: you have to be 18 or older, and you have to have your high school diploma or GED. The rest is just gravy — writing skills and knowledge of anatomy and physiology will be a big help. CPR and first aid training is not only helpful, it's required for graduation and certification in Maine. Get massages: keep track of your "why" for going into massage therapy and what things you would do differently.

If you ever have any other questions about getting into massage school or massage therapy as a career, definitely get in touch with me! It’s something I could babble about for hours.

(Oh, and if you’re out of high school but you’re thinking about trying massage therapy? That’s totally cool, too. High-five!)

(2020-Bethany adds: ... For reference, this photo is 2014-me with my son and my mom.)




Thursday, January 23, 2020

Music Legalities

(No affiliate links were included in the writing of this blog post. None of this should be taken as legal advice. Dang it, Jim, I’m a massage therapist —- not a lawyer.)



Many of us strive to act and to run our businesses in an ethical manner by following personal and societal mores and norms. Ethics not only relate to how you interact with clients and peers -- it also can include obligations imposed by law.

The use of music in your office or massage space is governed by your country's laws surrounding copyright: protections given to authors for their original works. If you play copyrighted music "in public" without proper licensing, you could be hit with statutory damages of $750 at minimum to a maximum of $150,000 per song (depending on whether or not you knowingly/willingly violated the law).
The reason behind this being illegal is that when licensed music is played in a commercial space, it is played with the intention of creating an experience for customers that is conducive to the interests of the business (getting customers to pay money for the goods and services on offer). The business gains from the music being played. For that reason, the law says that the creators of the music should get a piece of the profit being made.
-- Can I Play Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, or Other Music Services in My Business? from Cloud Cover Music.

"But I've bought copies of my music and/or pay for a consumer-level streaming service!"


Sorry, no. You can't get around the copyright regulations if you've only paid for individual, personal services and products:
The law distinguishes between owning a copy of music, like a CD or a song saved on an iPod, and owning the rights to those songs, including the right to publicly perform them. When you purchase a CD or DVD or download an audio file, software, game or other product containing music, even those specifically marketed for business purposes, you are only buying a copy of the music and the right to play it “privately.”
... When music is streamed over the Internet, however, there is a distinct performance right with respect to the “sound recordings” of songs publicly performed via digital audio transmission. So, theoretically, streaming online music into shared spaces could also require a performance license from the sound recording copyright owners.
-- Music Licensing Basics for Apartments, by Cindy A. Tune, .PDF accessed 1/23/2020 11:00AM EST. 
There is one specific exception to be aware of:
There are exceptions to when a license is required to play copyrighted music; stores under 2,000 square feet, and restaurants and bars under 3,750 square feet, can play music over a radio, TV, or similar device [i.e. cable or satellite broadcast], but there have to be fewer than six speakers carrying the sound.
-- In-Store Music Laws in the U.S.: Licensing, Legalities, and Fines from Cloud Cover Music.
However, this exception strictly limits you to using those specific sources (radio, TV, cable or satellite broadcast) and only the music and visuals licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

For any other device or music source, you need to have a Public Performance License through one or more Performance Rights Organizations (PRO). Rather than go through the individual PROs (the costs of which can be over $1000 annually), there are services that will provide you the public performance licenses and access to music covered under those licenses. These services will cost more than your standard consumer subscriptions, but you will be able to rest easy in knowing that your butt (and your business) has been covered.

"Okay, what are my (cheapest) options?"


Here are three under $30/month services to consider:
  • Soundtrack Your Brand: high quality, wide variety, connection to Spotify and its playlists (as it was originally sponsored as "Spotify for Business"), and a free 30-day trial. After that, it's $26.99 a month.
  • Cloud Cover Music: not quite as robust as Soundtrack Your Brand, but if you're only needing licenses in the USA and Canada, the ~$17 a month price tag is a little easier to swallow.
  • SighTunes: specifically designed for massage therapists, providing 10-hours of royalty-free music, refreshed each month (so long as you're connected to WiFi... and remember to do it at the start of each month), for $9.99 a month. Plus, if you have a professional membership like ABMP, there is a discount code to take up to an additional 40% off. I have tried it... it's not my favorite due to the design of the app itself, the "blah" choices of music, and the aforementioned need to connect to the Internet before you drive out to a client's house on the first of the month and suddenly can't access the previous month's music. (ಠ_ಠ) (This may have changed since I last attempted to use it. I'm not holding my breath.)

Another option would be to actively look for music that is within the public domain (i.e. works written before copyright law was established, or the copyrights have expired/been lost, etc.), music that is considered royalty-free, or music where the copyright-holders have explicitly given their permission for public use. Artful Touch Music is one such resource:


Artful Touch Music was created for, and inspired by, the healing arts. We invite you to use this music in your professional bodywork offices and yoga studios.

These songs are effective as music therapy for all ages and are enjoyable as a soundtrack for massage therapy and yoga practice.

This music encourages relaxation, a resting heart rate, deeper breathing, a calm and centered mind, and a general sense of well-being.


-- Artful Touch

Other References:


I went down the rabbit hole so you don't have to.

"But wait! What about Pandora and SiriusXM?"


These companies are jointly owned by Liberty Media, the heads of which collectively gave $1 million to Trump’s 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (currently under federal investigation). In 2016, Sirius moved to eliminate 80 percent of its Latin music channels. In 2017, they reintroduced Steve Bannon as a regular host on its Patriot channel until he stepped down in 2018. (Source: Pandora’s New Corporate Parents Gave Millions to Trump, GOP, Sam Lefebvre, January 2019, KQED.org)

Personal ethics are just as important as professional ethics. Therefore, I cannot and will not endorse these platforms.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tips for Massage School Success


  • If you have a syllabus, write down the dates beside each class so that you know exactly when they're taking place. 
  • Related: write down the due dates next to assignments and projects. 
  • Also related: put all of these dates into your calendar(s). 
  • Work ahead when you can because life will happen and you can fall behind. 
  • Keep track of any missed classes and clinics: my suggestion is to have a column for the date, a column for what was missed and/or how many hours it was worth, why it was missed, and a column for the "Made Up" date. You can download mine or make your own.
  • Keep a Massage Journal.
  • Ask friends and family for gift certificates for local massage businesses. 
  • If you're having difficulty moving your body -- i.e. if you're lacking flexibility -- checking with your doctor, visiting a chiropractor, or taking up gentle yoga (such as yin yoga) can help you move easier and with less pain. 
  • Anatomical terminology (anterior, posterior, lateral, medial, etc.) and movement terminology (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, etc.) are two different but very important things for you to study early on. 
  • Flashcards are your friends. 
  • Strong thighs save spines: more lunging, less reaching and leaning. 
  • Twin and Twin XL-sized sheets work great on massage tables. Keep your pillowcases to use as face cradle covers and for draping. Microfiber sheets are lighter and dry quicker, but higher thread counts last longer. 
  • When you are struggling, ask for help -- from friends and family, classmates, teachers, other staff members of your school. 
  • Make a Facebook group or an e-mail or text loop for you and your classmates.