As an introduction to me and my vision for future massage graduates, I have to discuss what I have seen and experienced. Know that my background as an advocate for the disabled is one reason I feel so strongly and want to see reform.

While most of the nation has national certification, my state of California is still struggling with how to regulate the industry here. For a state that has often been on the cutting edge of trends, we are lost when it comes to massage. There is a large prostitute problem. In an informal survey, I found that about one quarter to one third of the therapists I spoke to worked in cities where they held no license. Laws are ignored and/or misunderstood.

Personally, I’d like some big changes. With each city deciding their own levels of training for city licensure, just within my county the training levels range from zero hours in one city to a high of five hundred hours. How does an unsuspecting public know what they are getting? How do they know we are not all the same? How do they know they’ll be safe? They don’t!

We need broader licensure, as many of us are mobile. A county or even state license would be helpful. How do other states manage those of us who travel to clients? There has to be a working model out there for Ca. to use as a template. Things have got to change.

Baby boomers are here for the next few decades. We need to be ready for them. I am one and I want therapists who understand aging in its many aspects. I have seen well meaning people act as if we should automatically be able to do what they can do with no thought to the mental and/or physical changes seniors undergo. We all need more empathy.

In my experience, seniors often frequent massage school clinics because of the low cost. There are so many conditions in aging, medications, disabilities, both visible and invisible, and there is often depression. Seniors often need far more knowledgable care. Knowing that, shouldn’t our schools teach more about conditions of our seniors and how to massage them to avoid harm? And I don’t mean just sliding over the skin and calling that massage.

I am in my 60’s. I went to massage school in my 50’s. I was the oldest student. My limbs were thrown around by younger students, and no one addressed what was then my osteoporosis. I have since come back to osteopenia and am a bit less concerned for myself, but there are many seniors with undiagnosed osteoporosis.

Since being licensed, when being worked on I have been bruised, drowned in excess oil, had my requested pressure ignored, been with glide and slide specialists, and been generally disappointed by many. The few I know are really good, are too busy for me to get into see. And my schedule is often hard to work around, too.

If that has been my experience, what about new clients who hear about how great massage is only to go through the same disappointments? How long will they stay? With low level training, we will send too many interested new clients away, and ultimately hurt the industry. Here in California, we are doing just that. Here in California, we need to get serious, and to take the profession seriously.

Now, I went to a good school, but we didn’t study medications or what they meant to our work, or how to work with them. We were only told to find out what they were and record them. We need to know about general types of medications, conditions that are commonly seen in practice, and how to work with the medications and the conditions.

I had one student tell me that when she asked her teacher about working with fibromyalgia, she was told not to worry about it. When I was first out of school, people with that condition just seemed to find me. I had to learn, and learn fast. I still have several clients with fibromyalgia or its differential diagnosis of myofascial pain syndrome.

These days we are just about the only professionals who actually see the body, feel the body, and eventually know the body of our clients. If we know enough, we can alert the client to things we see, feel, or suspect and have them discuss it with their doctors. This is a vital role in an age of 5-15 minute doctor visits.

To this end, I see a split future for therapists. There could be a limited license for therapists wanting to work with healthy adults that could be five hundred hours. Then I see a second group of those therapists who wish to work with seniors, the disabled, and any special populations. This, I think, should be approximately a two-year course at a college to be thorough.

I wish I had had this option. An in-depth course would have gotten me off to a more solid start. My entire working life has been involved with the disabled, and massage was no exception. My focus from the start was special populations. Their similarities with the aging brought my interest to seniors as well. I have never looked back.

Author's Bio: 

M.A. in Psychology. Many years working with the developmentally disabled as direct care to an administrator of two large group homes. I was a federal advocate for the state of Hawaii’s DD population before training in massage, and specializing in seniors and the disabled.