Qualified practitioners are easier to find today than they were a few years ago. However, their skills, therapeutic specialities and business practices are becoming more diverse and varied. This section will guide you through the stages of identifying and selecting a practitioner.
Finding just the right therapy and practitioner for your individual needs can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. Before setting out on your search for a practitioner, start by asking yourself a few important questions, the answers to these will help narrow your search:
- What are my goals for the massage therapy session? To: loosen tight muscles? relax? reduce stress? address a chronic muscular problem? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you focus on practitioners specialising in your needs.
- Do I understand all the alternative therapies and implications of specific treatments? If you are unsure about the various types of treatment available and what to expect, then it is advisable to start your search after reviewing the relevant information sections within this website or other information source.
- What sort of environment/setting would I like when receiving a massage? Will noise from a gym next to the treatment room interrupt your relaxation at the local health & fitness club? If the therapist works from a room in their home, will you feel comfortable and at ease? If you can’t mentally and physically relax, the session will not be as helpful.
Once you have identified your needs and desired treatment type, you can start to build up a list of potential practitioners, call them, visit their practice, interview them.). Practitioners are looking to build a loyal clientele; they should be willing to talk with you prior to scheduling an appointment. Above all, you need to be comfortable with your decision, don’t hesitate to try different practitioners until you are satisfied.
Where to Look for a Practitioner
There are various sources for finding a qualified practitioner. This section will help you identify some of the sources available. However, many of these sources only give limited information, usually just a name and telephone number.
Sources for finding a practitioner:
- Referral from a family member, friend or colleague who receives massage treatment.
- Health professional's well versed in complementary health care.
- Professional Associations - these may provide a practitioner list or referral service.
- Massage schools - these will often refer you to local graduates.
- Local complementary and alternative therapy magazines and publications.
- Telephone directories such as Yellow Pages and Thomson Directory (Note: these may not have a Massage section; practitioners are usually listed under ‘Therapists’ or a specific therapy such as Aromatherapy or Reflexology).
Establishments that may also provide Massage and complementary therapy treatments:
- Complementary and Alternative Health centres and clinics.
- Health & Fitness clubs - many have treatment rooms.
- Hair and Beauty Salons.
- Health Farms and Spas.
- Hotels with leisure centres - larger hotels offer treatment to non-resident hotel guests.
One source missing from the list above is the Internet; this website is an example of its power and versatility. It allows you to research the various therapies available, provides a directory of practitioners with background information and practice summary, links to Associations and other relevant websites allowing you to check information, which could include checking the credentials of a practitioner.
Selecting a Practitioner
In the UK standards and qualifications for massage and associated therapies vary. At present there is no overall governing body to regulate, monitor and provide national standards. People may advertise as giving massage but provide a poor massage treatment. Others provide sexual services under the guise of massage, these "personal services" can get confused with genuine professional massage practitioner advertisements - this is the reason why most practitioners avoid advertising in local papers and classified ads.
Ask questions. First, consider basic credentials; check their Association membership and training qualifications. Many practitioners display their certificates on the wall in the treatment room. These will indicate that the therapist has met certain basic standards in terms of knowledge and training or experience. Another important consideration is that the practitioner is insured to practice.
Questions to ask a practitioner:
- Name and Address?
- Types of treatment performed?
- Where and when did you receive your training?
- Are you insured to practice?
- Are you a member of an Association or other professional organisation?
- Do you have advanced training in any specific massage technique?
- Can you give a client's name in order to check for a reference?
- What are your treatment charges?
When screening the practitioner, by phone or in person, look for qualities that indicate whether he or she would be a good person with whom to consult and receive treatment from:
- Do they listen to what you are saying and respond to it?
- Do they ask questions about your needs?
- Do they impress you as professional?
- Do you feel like you are being listened to, or do you feel like you are getting a lecture in physiology?
The answers will tell you something about them and their massage practice.
If you are seeking a relaxation massage, education level and special training will probably not be a critical factor in selecting a practitioner. You want to find the practitioner you feel most trusting and comfortable with. You may need to talk or even try out more than one; don’t hesitate to do this. There is the right practitioner for each client and the right client for each practitioner, and there’s nothing wrong with experimenting until you find what's right for you.
If you are particularly interested in or drawn to approaches that are somewhat more unconventional (Eastern, meditative, New Age, energy-based, etc.), you will need to look for practitioners who specialise in those approaches: there are many approaches and many practitioners.
If you need problem-solving therapy (pain relief, soft tissue injury etc.), then look for a more experienced practitioner who has had additional training or perhaps specialises in remedial or sports massage. This type of work requires a higher degree of problem-solving ability and skills in assessment. You need someone with a thorough knowledge of anatomy, the ability to think creatively, and the skill in applying a range of therapeutic techniques.