Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How Journaling Can Make You a Better Massage Therapist

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice before starting massage school, it would be to start and keep a massage journal.

As we learn and practice our massage skills, we need to understand that our inevitable mistakes are opportunities to reflect on, "What worked? What didn't? What can be changed?"

A journal becomes a container for thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and reflections. They can be used to hone or spark new interests, to give yourself direction and focus, and to explore how you best work as you navigate the professional world.

Journaling doesn't have to be super fancy -- don't get bogged down in the bullet journal craze and all the "must haves!" and artistic perfection that the Internet implies you need. You can grab any old notebook and a writing implement. The journal doesn't have to be wholly physical, either, if you prefer to do things digitally. Finally, remember that you don't have to share it with anybody else unless you choose to -- this is a tool for you.

[ID: a bullet journal page titled "Massage Journal," with bullet points expanded on in blog text.]

With that said, here are some journaling suggestions to get you started:
  • What is your "Why?"
    Why did you get into massage therapy? Sometimes having a big, specific goal goal doesn't work for everyone; what are the little things about performing massage therapy that bring you fulfillment?
  • Receiving Sessions:
    As you meet other professionals and explore their businesses, write down your observations for later. Since they'll be written down, you won't have to try and pry them from your memory.
    • What did you like?
    • What would you do differently?
  • Names & Contacts:
    Sometimes called a Client Relations Manager (CRM), include contact information that might be helpful for you or others to reach specific people in the future.
    • Classmates, Teachers
    • Practice & Potential Clients
    • Potential Employers & Referral Partners
  • What are you curious about?
    What are the things that spark your interest? What would you like to research?
    • Other Modalities, CEUs
    • Specific Client Bases
  • Who do you enjoy working with?
    Whether it's specific client niches, working as an employee, or collaborating with other professionals, what does your ideal work environment look like?
  • Make Lists:
    This way you can have all the things in one place instead of on a thousand sticky notes and pieces of scrap paper strewn through your house and car...
    • Pros & Cons
    • Due Dates & Deadlines
    • Events & Commitments
    • Media Ideas
  • Collect Things:
    What are clients saying about your work? What quotes or visuals light you up and keep you motivated?
    • Testimonials & Feedback
    • Inspirational Photos, Quotes
  • "Give yourself permission to be messy and make mistakes!"
    "Siri, how do you spell 'curious?'" "Curious: c-u-r-i-o-u-s." "... Ugh." *adds in the second 'u'*
  • "These are written on paper -- not in stone. You can always change your mind!"
    Your vision of your career might change and adapt -- it probably will. And that's okay.

"That's all well and good, but how exactly does this make me a better massage therapist?"

Having your "Why," front and center, can help to keep you going -- even when you feel like throwing in the towel.

It gives you a place to record data: you may start to see patterns in your work or in your preferences for how you work. For example, if dirty and cluttered businesses make me not want to spend money there, I will make it a priority to keep my own space clean. Or if people really like my neck and shoulder work but my leg work is lacking, I might need to review old techniques and study new ones.

If you're not the right therapist for a potential client, you can say, "I know someone else who specializes in what you're looking for!"

You can better know yourself -- by acknowledging your limitations and setting your own boundaries -- and reward yourself accordingly.

You have an opportunity to explore your personal values and potential visions for your future. Having these bits and pieces in one place makes it easier to build resumes, request references or recommendations, write copy, compose business plans, and develop marketing materials.

[ID: a screenshot from the Disney movie "Moana," of a dark-skinned village elder with long gray hair and a necklace, holding a burning torch in one hand and pointing ahead with the other.]
"Who are you meant to be?"

Remember to have fun with it. Write down the funny things your classmates and clients say. Leave room to doodle in the margins. Treat yourself to a set of new pens and stencils. Daydream about winning the lottery. Print out and glue-in your favorite meme. Just start, and trust that your journal will evolve with you.