Survive massage school with tips for student success

How to Survive Massage School – Tips for Student Success

Massage therapy is a rewarding career and skilled therapists are in demand. Tens of thousands of new students begin a massage training program every year in the US. Some of these students are beginning their first career ever, while others are transitioning from a career that they have worked for 10 years or longer. These future LMTs may plan on working as a full-time massage therapist, or may just want to learn massage therapy as a part-time gig. One question that crosses every new massage student’s mind in one form or another is:

How can I successfully complete massage school and get the most out of the experience? Massage school can be challenging due to the volume of academic and technical skills that students must learn in a relatively short period of time. Fortunately, the students that have gone before you have figured out how to survive and successfully complete their massage training program. Tips such as creating a study strategy, finding a mentor, creating personal goals, learning how to focus, seeking feedback, and self-care will increase your chance of success.

This blog post presents helpful advice from 38 massage therapy students who were asked to offer future massage students tips on how to succeed in massage school. These students also provide words of encouragement to help motivate you.

Success tips and advice for massage therapy students

Start massage school by showing up with an open mind

Start massage school by showing up with an open mind
I think the top tip I would recommend to being successful as a massage therapy student would first be to come into the program with an open mind and an open heart.
Mary M., Massage Therapy Student

In the field of massage therapy there are so many different styles of massage; Swedish massage, sports massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point massage, reflexology, and many more; each one having it’s unique and beneficial purpose and place for varying individuals. I think coming in with an open-mind eager to learn and appreciate all the various forms and techniques of massage therapy and coming in with an open heart, eager to serve others in the area of self-care and create a space and a place for them to rest, heal, and best serve their individual needs are essential to being successful as a massage therapy student.

The second tip I would recommend to being successful as a massage therapy student would be to show up. Show up in your classes, show up in your course work, your lectures, your activities and really allow yourself to fully enjoy and appreciate your time in the massage therapy program. You may also find you will experience a lot of healing and self-care for yourself during this time. Allow it, embrace it, enjoy it. Fill your cup, so to speak, so that others can benefit from your overflow; you cannot give out what you do not have. When you create a habit and discipline of showing up for yourself, it will help you to create an atmosphere for your future clients to show up for themselves in the areas of self-care.

This leads me to my third tip to being successful as a massage therapy student which is to remember your audience. Think about the clients you would like to work with: Do you want to work with athletes and incorporate more sports and deep tissue massage techniques? Do you want to work with individuals seeking more relaxation and rest and incorporate more Swedish massage, hot stone massage, aromatherapy massage techniques? Do you want to work with individuals who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or arthritis and want to assist them in living a more comfortable life through Fibromyalgia Relief Massage, Myofascial Release Massage, or Trigger Point Massage techniques? The sky’s the limit in the field of massage therapy with so many different techniques, add-on services, and approaches to utilize as you develop and grow in your profession. Allow yourself to learn, to enjoy the process, and to be creative, professional, and excellent at what you do and you will succeed not only as a massage therapy student, but also as a massage therapy practitioner.

Get physically prepared and practice good body mechanics

The more prepared you can be physically, the easier the physical aspect of learning massage therapy will be.
Elizabeth E., Massage Therapy Student

There are a few things I wish I would have known when I began my massage program. And so, I share my advice in the hopes that you will find yourself quickly thriving in this exciting and progressive field. Massage is incredibly physical work. The more prepared you can be physically, the easier the physical aspect of learning massage therapy will be. Places of weakness in your body may identify themselves to you as you begin to exert yourself more physically in repetitive motions. Agility training, chiropractic attention and other aspects of self-care become important complimentary therapies as you move through the program. Instead of being frustrated with this unfolding, embrace this as an opportunity for your body to work through long held trauma. Receiving bodywork almost every day, is a blessing most people will not have the opportunity to experience. This is a chance to consistently address the stubborn underlying issues which have become chronic in the body. As your body strengthens to meet the increasing needs of your new profession, you will gain appreciation for your own body’s intrinsic capability to heal itself and overcome injury.

Body mechanics is arguably one of the most important aspects of ensuring your longevity in the field. Do not overlook small adjustments to posture and positioning as insignificant. The more relaxed, and at ease you are in your body as you deliver the work, the more positive and comfortable the experience will be for you and your client. As professional therapists, the care we take with our own bodies and minds will flow through our work to our clients.

Take care of your body and mind to increase focus and energy

As a massage therapy student, success can be achieved by showing up every single day, participating, giving your best effort, and taking care of yourself.
Shannon K., Massage Therapy Student

You can achieve success as a massage therapy student with these tips. First, you need to take care of yourself. This means that you need to get adequate sleep each night, pay attention to the foods that you eat, and designate time each day for self-care. Examples of self-care include taking a walk, getting a massage, reading a good book, playing music, participating in yoga, meditating, and freeing yourself from all distractions for at least 30 minutes every day. Through self-care, your mind will be less cluttered, more attentive, and eager to learn everything possible from your teachers and peers. With adequate sleep and proper nutrition, you will feel alert, stay focused, and maintain energy throughout the duration of your program.

My second tip to be successful in massage school is to show up every single day, participate, and give your best effort. You will not only recognize that you are absorbing the knowledge and skill sets, but you will learn from your mistakes as well. If you don’t show up or give your best effort for one day, it is very easy to skip or cheat yourself out of quality experiences over and over again until you feel like you cannot keep up. Be proficient and show up.

Lastly, success as a massage therapy student means achieving the end goal: licensure. To become licensed, you have to pass the MBLEx examination and complete all of the hours in your training program that your state requires. Set aside 10 minutes a day to take a quick 10-question MBLEx quiz. This will give you constant exposure to the wording and style of questions on the actual MBLEx exam. Additionally, as you constantly take different quizzes, you will recognize your growth as a student and how much you have retained from your instructors and peers.

Be physically and mentally present when practicing

I had an epiphany: No techniques or flows that I was using with the client would even matter if I wasn’t truly present during the massage.
Mackenzie C., Massage Therapy Student

In the world of healing, the phrase “be present” in some form is repeated often. Sometimes this is easy advice to follow, and other times it might feel like the last thing we have space for. I wish now that I would have made more space for this advice from the start of my first massage lab class. Learning how to have the correct posture at the massage table, while giving the best pressure, with the correct techniques at just the right pace was incredibly overwhelming for my semi-perfectionist nature. It seemed impossible to follow the correct flow, but also focus on where the client’s body needed more attention. A few weeks in, I had an epiphany: No techniques or flows that I was using with the client would even matter if I wasn’t truly present during the massage. After I made this connection, my professor telling me to “be present” made a much deeper impact. I realized that while flow, pressure, and posture are critical to giving the most effective massage, staying present so that I can listen to the client’s body intuitively should always be the primary focus. Once I illuminated my massage practice with more presence, my massages not only got better, but practicing became increasingly more fun and exciting. Instead of feeling like I was following a monotonous routine, I began to try new techniques and flows that innately felt natural and healing.

Staying centered during a massage goes hand-in-hand with staying present, but adds a deeper layer. Since giving massages in class and practicing at home, I’ve realized that the way I’m feeling while giving a massage transfers almost directly to the client. I can be focused and present with my client on the table, but if I’m feeling tired, distracted, tense, or heavy, I can immediately tell that it becomes harder for the client to relax as well. Staying grounded in my intention to help the person feel better than when they get on the table reminds me to be mindful of my thoughts and emotions. Not only is this helpful to the client, but it’s an act of self-care for me too. Putting a pause on thinking about stresses from my personal life helps me to come back to them later with a more clear mind and often helps the issues that I’m facing feel much smaller and more manageable. Immediately centering myself is not always easy depending on the day that I’ve had, so I’ve found a couple of techniques that help signal to my mind and body that it’s time to pause and focus. My favorite technique is used with the client on the table and is relatively simple. Before I begin the massage, I place both of my hands on the client’s body in a light static hold. I invite the client to take a deep breath in and out with me, two or three times. On the breath out, I ask them to picture their body sinking deeper into the table with each breath.  I’ve found that this signals to the client that they are in a safe space where they can relax and it also helps me center and ground myself into the moment with them, connecting us more deeply. 

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Build a strong foundation by learning the basics first

…in retrospect [learning Swedish massage] was the best tool we could have asked for to build a solid foundation for everything to come.
Landyn E., Massage Therapy Student

Most of the students in my class were incredibly eager to jump right in when we began the hands-on coursework, which consists of the Swedish modality. However, since people who gravitate towards massage often tend to prefer deep tissue, it was incredibly tempting for many of us to go too deep too soon. It is of the utmost importance that we do not try to jump ahead of ourselves, and rather focus on gaining the greatest depth of understanding possible in each stage of the process. Not only do we run a risk of hurting ourselves or our partners since we are still learning proper form and familiarizing ourselves with the details of anatomy systems, it completely discounts the many important situations where Swedish will be critical. Our instructor had us consider what we would do if we needed to give massage to an elderly person who might be frail, or to someone in a wheelchair who may not have sensation in their legs and thus be unable to tell us if we are going too hard. Despite the initial resistance of some of my peers to being confined to working only in the Swedish style for the first module, in retrospect it was the best tool we could have asked for to build a solid foundation for everything to come.

This being said, it is of the utmost importance not to be careless about proper ergonomics when we are working light. I discovered to my dismay that even though I could manage to get away with having the angles slightly off or using a bit too much of my thumbs with Swedish, as soon as we moved into deep tissue I was due for a rude awakening. Doing deeper work amplifies each tiny detail of your posture, and learning to work smarter by using my body weight instead of just working harder was key. Even as a tiny person barely five feet tall, I learned that utilizing a variety of different tools (such as soft fists, forearms, etc.) and being very aware of how I was using my legs could do wonders for the amount of pressure I could safely give. I think focusing on these aspects before they become a problem goes a long way towards preventing injuries and ensuring that your practice will be sustainable.

Step outside of your comfort zone and appreciate feedback

For the ultimate successful school experience, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, keep an open mind, and use this time to genuinely connect with others.
Shay M, Massage Therapy Student

For the ultimate successful school experience, try to keep an open mind and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. On the first day of class, my instructor told us we would be getting straight to business with practicing draping in just a few days. I thought she was surely joking and we would have to read our textbook cover to cover first before we would be allowed to touch people we had barely met. When we started practicing draping each other later that week, I struggled with two things. The first was being so self-conscious of my body while I was playing the role of the client. The second was being so nervous to touch another person that I couldn’t practice effectively as the therapist. By week two, I was really wrestling with the idea of having to touch and be touched by other people so often. However, the first time our instructor used one of our classmates as a model client in front of the whole class, I had a perspective shift. We are all there to learn from each other, not to judge each other. We are all focused on the instructor and her techniques, not the appearance of the client on the table. It took some time for me to really adjust my way of thinking, but I finally accepted touch from my classmates without fear of judgment and got comfortable with the idea of touching others. It was just the step outside of my comfort zone that I needed to allow me to gain the full experience and benefits from being in massage therapy school.

In school, you may have to learn about different cultures, philosophies, and beliefs from other parts of the world, (especially ones different modalities are based on). Sometimes, it can really challenge your thinking and may even cause you to re-evaluate some of your core beliefs. It can feel foreign or uncomfortable, but I encourage you to push out of your comfort zone. Be open to explore more of the energetic, emotional, and spiritual side of massage therapy and take what resonates with you. Integrate it into your purpose for being a massage therapist and shed any old, outdated ways of thinking that are no longer serving you. I have learned that when I follow my own advice above, I am more calm, at peace, and I can really ground and center my energy better to provide a more positive experience for both myself and my client.

The other way to keep an open mind is when it comes to feedback. In school, it may seem like you get assessed, graded, and evaluated every hour at times. However, most feedback is intended to help you and not meant to be taken personally. I would highly recommend you keep an open mind and view every single review as an exciting opportunity to grow and hone in on your skills. Negative reviews and feedback will happen from time to time because mistakes happen and we are human! Accept it gracefully and learn from the experience, but do not dwell on it. You do not have to be perfect, and some skills take time and patience to master. Plus, not all clients are going to like your style, and that’s okay! If you cling to just the negative or “needs improvement” aspects of the feedback, that’s all you will ever be able to focus on. When you get feedback, take what is useful to help you grow and ignore anything else that doesn’t contribute to your growing process.

Set aside time to study, and plan accordingly

A few tips that may help you succeed include good planning, putting in the work , and staying committed to your goals.
Tanessa M., Massage Therapy Student

Planning accordingly can be a as simple as making your lunch a day ahead or complicated as learning the origins and insertions of muscles. Planning allows you time to organize your daily schedule. Plan the day prior to it happening. Knowing what needs to be studied, reviewed or practiced will help in school as well as when you become licensed. One small hour of planning a day prior can create a few hours on the next for a well-organized day. With this mindset as a student, imagine what you could earn in the work field. Make list of your goals for the class and be sure your level of commitment can match those goals.  If you start to see your goals not being met, go back to the drawing board and adjust your goal and revise the steps needed. 

When it comes to getting what you put into the class, always remember that if you only study and review in class, then that is the only time you’ll be learning. Set aside time to study outside of class! Take notes and summarize it to your own words to help yourself at the time of review. If you’re a student with a job, make sure you have the downtime in between to study. You don’t want the two to interfere with each other. If you’re a singe parent, like myself, make sure you have a schedule that allows you adequate time to balance the two. To succeed you are going to have to make sacrifices and give as much of yourself as possible. The less you study the less you learn. Remember you are working towards a bigger picture and that’s to become a massage therapist.

The last tip I can offer is to stay committed. In any life scenario there will be times of discouragement. In school you might fail a test or become ill and miss days in class. The key is to not stress and overthink. Speak to your instructor and address your concerns and plan for a solution. Tell others about your goals so they can help you stay committed. The same people can help hold you accountable! Remember that your goal is achievable, and you can succeed in school and the real world. In a certain time your level of commitment will show itself. Don’t give up! Becoming a massage therapist is what your working towards. Think positive and trust in yourself. Replace any negative thoughts and stay on the path to success. No goal is achieved overnight but comes right on time. It will take studying and discipline to finish successfully. These few tips will help guide and motivate you to becoming the Massage Therapist your meant to be.

Learn some time management techniques and have a strategy

I have found that the most valuable thing to surviving any educational path is to have the right strategy.
Melanie L., Massage Therapy Student

My first tip is to learn some time management techniques so that you can use your time wisely. It helps to understand what your school schedule looks like and put it on a calendar, so you know which classes are which days and how much study/ homework time you’re going to need outside of the classroom setting for each class. If you’re working while going to school, you must figure out how you balance your work life and school life. Set incremental goals along the way to stay motivated. Then celebrate every time meet a goal, such as passing a quiz or a test. Also celebrate your classmates successes.

Be sure to listen to your body so you understand what works for you and what doesn’t when practicing techniques. Being observant so you can understand the techniques and how to modify them properly to suit you as a practitioner. Having physical, mental, and emotional awareness of your body will help you know what adjustments you need to make as a therapist to have a long successful career.

If you’re thinking about going to massage school and haven’t enrolled yet, take time to shadow or intern with someone already working in the profession to learn the good, bad, and ugly of the profession before you are fully vested in a degree or certification. I used to work in admissions, and I think it is vital to a student’s success that they see or experience a profession firsthand. Just because a career seems fun or exciting, they should be exposed to all areas of a field because it can be easy to think something looks easy when really it takes a greater amount of effort and work.

Choose to excel rather than just doing the minimum

C’s may get you a diploma, but A’s will get you a diploma and the self-esteem that comes with choosing to excel.
Rebecca W., Massage Therapy Student

I’m sure you’ve heard that funny little saying “C’s get degrees”, and it’s true. You can give the bare minimum to your massage program, graduate, and be a good bodyworker. In fact, that was my very plan at the start. Working full-time and going to school is a lot to handle, so I figured I’d do just what I needed to pass and save myself the trouble of excelling. But then something happened… I got into the program and realized how much more fulfilling it is to choose to excel, especially when you don’t technically have to. Excelling can look a bit different for everyone, but here’s my advice to you: always shoot for A’s, not C’s, don’t fall behind (if you miss class, plan to make it up beforehand, or within a week afterwards), do every homework assignment (yes, even the ones you could miss without failing), put time into studying, ask questions in class and be engaged, be kind and respectful toward staff, your teachers, and your classmates. If you do these things, I promise you will find school a lot more fulfilling. Sure, C’s may get you a diploma, but A’s will get you a diploma and the self-esteem that comes with choosing to excel. Make it your goal to be remembered by others as excellent. You’ll find out pretty quickly that a massage therapy program is far from a traditional education. Massage is more than just technical bodywork; it touches every aspect of life: body, mind, and spirit.

Another tip for you is to take care of yourself. Throughout this program and your career in massage, you will utilize three important tools, (you guessed it) your body, mind, and spirit. It will be important to take great care of each one of your tools. Your body needs proper exercise, nutrition, and rest. Remember that movement, food, and rest are powerful medicines for the body, and treat your body like a dear friend whom you care for deeply. In a massage program, your mind will be stretched to new heights as you learn and cultivate an entirely new world of knowledge. Your mind needs proper care. Take time to discover how you learn best, be patient with yourself as you learn new and challenging things, be grateful to your mind for the wonderful things it can do, and give it a day off every now and then! And finally, take care of your spirit; your soul, your Self. You will find that a massage therapy program will affect you in unexpected ways. It’s not always going to be easy, and it’s not always going to be enjoyable, but it is going to be so worth it. So as you go through the program, just be sure to check in with your Self. Dive a little bit deeper into your inner world, engage in self-development work, recognize your needs and then unapologetically meet them. When challenges arise, look at them as opportunities to develop, and ‘grow with the flow’.

Start by taking things one day at a time

The top three tips I would give to succeed as a massage therapy student are to take things one day at a time, start seeing yourself through the eyes of a massage therapist, and take care of your own body while you are learning massage.
Carolyn H., Massage Therapy Student

One of my top tips that I would give to help massage therapy students succeed is to start by taking things one day at a time. You don’t have to know everything all at once. By just taking a deep breath and thinking, “What is required of me today?” you will be able to approach your coursework sensibly and with the determination to succeed. Most massage therapy programs start with the basics and build upon them throughout the year. Remember that eventually, you will get there. Do not attempt to eat the whole elephant right now; just one bite at a time. What you tell yourself is very important. Staying positive will carry you through times of doubt. Most massage therapists are still learning new things, no matter how long they have been in business.

Regarding memorization of anatomy terminology, keep in mind that there is a finite number of bones and muscles in the body. Once you learn them, you can expand on that knowledge throughout your career.

Give learning the time it deserves

There are a lot of distractions from day-to-day life, and you need time to be able to really offer your studies.
Erika N., Massage Therapy Student

Learning new things takes time. The dedication required for learning is a discipline. There are a lot of distractions from day-to-day life, and you need time to be able to really offer your studies. Checking in with yourself and your “why” will help keep you focused. Juggling time and spreading yourself thin doesn’t allow you to fully drop into what you are doing. Remember you want to be all in, your focus and attention need to be on the material if you want to be successful with learning it. Not just memorizing the words but understanding the concepts. Spending time on school doesn’t always mean spending the entire day working on schoolwork. Between homework and knowing the material you can spend a lot of time working on school. It’s using your time wisely and creating habits that will help you accomplish what you are striving for. Some people are full-time students, working full-time, and/or parents on top of being in school and they are successful in their endeavors with the little time they have. Putting time aside on a regular basis that supports your learning style is a key to success.

Take good notes and review them often

The vast amount of information that massage therapy and bodywork programs provide is challenging and will be retained by repetition.
Gabrielle L., Massage Therapy Student

The time to ask questions is while you are a student. Take the extra time with instructors and write down everything you can. I will be looking back at my notes and consulting my books long after I’ve begun my own massage practice. Whether you retain verbal or written learning there is such an importance to repeat the information you are taking in. Repetition and application of techniques are two things I am continually holding myself accountable to and will contribute greatly to my success. The vast amount of information that massage therapy and bodywork programs provide is challenging and will be retained by repetition. The specific approach that has been substantially helpful is going over, again and again, the muscles and their insertions, origins and functions. This study style helps to better understand the musculoskeletal foundation and strengthens your ability to read the body during hands on classes and recognize the aspects of the muscle you will be working, as well as the joints and bones that each muscle mobilizes.

Be patient with yourself, there’s a lot to learn in massage school

My advice to future massage students is take time to internalize anatomy lessons, and be patient with yourself…
Wesley V., Massage Therapy Student

One helpful piece of advice that I offer from my own experience to future massage students is to be patient with yourself. This is something that I wish someone would have told me before I started my massage journey. There is so much to learn during massage school. The different modalities alone are enough to keep your mind moving 100 mph, but when you add on using proper body mechanics, communicating well with the client, writing proper SOAP notes, and all the other necessities on top of it, becoming a massage therapist can start to feel very overwhelming. You will get it! SOAP notes will start making sense. Communication will flow. Giving massages will feel so second nature that at times you will forget that you’re even giving a massage (although as a side tip, I also suggest figuring out how to not go into autopilot while massaging). My point is that no matter how foreign it feels at the beginning, you will find your groove and everything will fall into place, but you must be patient with yourself! It’s ok to not know everything right at the beginning. One of the beautiful things about this occupation is that the learning never stops. There will always be new techniques to learn and old skills to perfect; we must be patient with ourselves during the learning process.

I also want to stress the importance of learning anatomy. This is by far one of the most important classes that a massage student will go through, yet it also has the potential to be the toughest. There is mounds upon mounds of information to learn, and for a lot of students the concepts come from unfamiliar territory. From learning everything about the origins and insertions of the various muscles of the body to the complex workings of a neural synapse, it can become overwhelming very quickly. If you make time outside of class to internalize the concepts and really know the material, it will help you so much throughout your whole schooling experience. Everything in massage builds off of anatomical knowledge. Not only do other classes (kinesiology, pathology, applied anatomy, medical terms, etc.) build off of the foundation of anatomy, but the difference between a good massage and a great massage comes from anatomical learning. Understanding muscle actions will fortify your PNF work. Knowing the location of the full muscle body, as well as bony landmarks, will help you work more confidently. The benefits to having a deep understanding of anatomy is endless when it comes to being a successful massage therapist. 

Practice on a variety of bodies and seek feedback

Take advantage of extra lab / clinic time to practice and get feedback from people who know what you’re doing. 
Rebecca S., Massage Therapy Student

The more bodies you work on the more feedback you receive. The healthcare revolution cannot take place in isolation. Finding a community to practice anything with can be challenging. Being in massage therapy school sets you up with a community to start and at the very least you are already surrounded by like-minded people. I can guarantee that some of these people will inspire you, support you and challenge you in the best way when you get stuck. Exchange contact information with your cohort as soon as possible. Take advantage of extra lab / clinic time to practice and get feedback from people who know what you’re doing. In my first term, I had the experience of practicing with a lot of family and friends. It was wonderful to support my community, but I noticed that their feedback wasn’t helping my growth as a student. I started trading with more of my fellow-students and got better at asking specific questions after the massage to help navigate the conversation and get as much as I could out of the trade.

Be present and take hands-on practice seriously

My best tips for succeeding in massage therapy school are to be present and take hands-on practice seriously…
Sophia V., Massage Therapy Student

My best tips for succeeding in massage therapy school are to be present and take hands-on practice seriously. So, what do I mean by “be present”? First, just show up to class. In my school’s program at least, attendance is an integral part of your grade and depending on how long the course is it can affect one’s grade by a significant amount of weight. When missing class, be sure to ask for and complete any makeup work. Taking care of easy points like attendance makes larger point assignments less stressful. One should also be present in the mental sense as well. At school we talk frequently about grounding before giving a massage, but some of my classmates and I have also found that finding ways to ground during lectures improves our focus and ability to retain information. It is important to note that there is not really one right way to do this either, for some it is meditation, or their favorite beverage or snack brought to class, for others it might be having all their school supplies how they like.

Taking care to get enough hands-on practice while in school is essential to feeling comfortable in one’s skills once they are a licensed massage therapist. There is no such thing as too much practice, unless it is at the detriment of one’s physical wellbeing. Personally, one of the things I have regretted about my massage therapy education so far is that no matter how much hands-on practice occurs in-school, it becomes abundantly clear that out of school practice is critical as well. Many massage therapists are visual and kinetic learners, and we must see and feel to understand. It is also easy to become so comfortable working with classmate’s that you may find the constructive criticism lacking and miss the opportunity to address different challenges on different bodies.

Develop good study habits to succeed academically

Don’t let the prospect of a little hard work get in between you and your dreams! 
Kayla D., Massage Therapy Student

While it may seem like standard advice, developing good study habits is undeniably the best way to succeed academically. I personally studied complimentary materials in addition to my school curriculum. This helped me solidify the information I was being taught at school while also learning additional information that has been extremely pertinent to understanding the art of massage therapy. Having a study buddy helps with accountability and promotes additional good study habits. Studying can take many forms. When performing massage, I often do a mental review of anatomical structures or the specific techniques I am using. I listen to audiobooks on my commute to and from school. Alternatively, I may refer to my favorite online anatomy resources in order to brush up a bit, especially before a test. Another great success tip I have learned is to keep at least one book with me at all times. Keeping course materials available has enabled me to partake in opportunistic studying that I otherwise may have missed. Consistent effort is a tried and true approach for accomplishing any long-term goal. Inversely, it is also necessary to make time for activities that do not revolve around school. Sometimes you just need to jam out on your car ride, do nothing on your day off, or enjoy a day with friends or family! All work and no play makes for a dull massage therapist. Diligent work leaves room for valuable play time!

Focus on learning to understand rather than just memorizing for a test

Focus on true learning rather than simply achieving success in the moment. 
Grace B., Massage Therapy Student

My most important piece of advice, as it pertains to your classes and study habits, is to focus on learning to the point of understanding rather than simply memorizing material to pass a test. Our current public education system rewards the idea of “purge and regurge”; a style of studying where information is only loaded in short-term memory form for a test or assignment in order to produce a good score. Then the knowledge is disregarded in order to make room for the next tests worth of information. In a massage therapy program this would be detrimental because we need to know this information so that we can apply it throughout our careers. It is easy to get caught up in retaining knowledge only for the purpose of passing a test or nailing an evaluation. But if you put your whole heart into the lessons you are learning in order to truly master and retain the skills and information, then you will build the opportunity to become a better massage therapist.

Practice applying your anatomy lessons and learn to listen

Three tips that I’d offer to anyone enrolled in a massage or bodywork training program is to really know your anatomy, learn good listening practices, and to find a mentor.
Emily O., Massage Therapy Student

One of the best habits I made in both my undergraduate studies and now in massage school is to apply the knowledge as I was learning it. This is especially true when learning anatomy. There is a lot to know about the human body. I found that spending extra time on this subject pays off. Some strategies I do to really solidify the knowledge is to find the part on my own body, look for external anatomy resources, and get in the gym. For example, trace out the nerves on your arm and see how they move and what interacts with it. If you accidentally hit your ulnar nerve, you’re going to feel it in your ring and pinky fingers. Your books are just going to have anatomy in 2D and it’s important to understand how the body operates in 3D. Get in the gym and feel how the muscles work. Name the ones you feel activated.

A skill I learned in clinical psychology is how to listen to a patient. Have you ever sat with someone and gave them your full attention? We did an exercise where we partnered up and discussed some strengths and weaknesses with each other. The rules where no talking at all for the ten minutes your partner was, no note taking, and you would have to state the traits back to the person at the end. I realized how often I was thinking about what I was going to say and how often I’d feel the need to interrupt someone. When it was my turn to talk, I realized how I rush my thoughts out and how often I was usually interrupted. This is a quick way of finding weaknesses in your listening skills while also putting you in the place of your clients. We need to be able to understand our client’s concerns and needs for their safety and wellbeing. Start working on this skill before you graduate.

If you haven’t already, find a mentor in the field you are entering. They will know the business side of things. They will have wisdom and tips beyond what is taught in class. They can save you time, energy, and money by helping you to avoid their mistakes. They can listen to your concerns and can give you one-on-one time. A mentor is one of the most valuable resources you can have in any industry.

Connect with and learn from your classmates

It can sometimes feel impossible to learn everything needed to start a career as a massage therapist, but don’t limit yourself.
Lindsay L., Massage Therapy Student

Massage school seems to attract a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and knowledge. At least that is how it has been for my class. We have people who are young and starting new careers and those who are older and are making a change – some more drastic than others. Some have a background in anatomy and physiology and some have none and have not even been in school for decades. We all started at different places in life, but together, we have learned how to be successful

One thing that I found to be helpful in massage school was connecting with my classmates so that we can learn from each other. Connecting with classmates is extremely useful for sharing knowledge and talking about what was covered in the classroom though a different perspective. In addition, I have found that talking about what we have learned and explaining concepts to others helps us retain information better and reveals knowledge gaps, which can show us what we need to study more. It is also useful to connect with classmates when questions come up outside of class. And lastly, it provides great moral support and creates accountability. Group texts, video chats, and in-person meetings are all wonderful ways to connect.

Learn to be flexible and understanding

My advice to any student about to begin their massage therapy training would be to learn to be flexible and understanding.
Monica S., Massage Therapy Student

My advice to any student about to begin their massage therapy training would be to learn to be flexible and understanding. As we have learned over the past two and a half years, flexibility and understanding is key to navigating our current world and its challenges. Over the past seven months of massage school, I have had classes canceled, quizzes moved, assignments changed, and wrenches thrown in my “ideal plan” for my massage therapy school experience. An injury left me in pain after giving massage in the student clinic for weeks, but with patience, understanding, and hard work outside of school, I am now able to massage (relatively) pain-free. I could have given up after my injury, but instead I talked to my instructors and we were able to compromise and come up with a schedule that would allow me to practice massage as needed, but still remain in as little pain as possible. Schedules change all the time, and sometimes clients do not show up for a scheduled massage, or you are assigned a client at the last minute due to a therapist not arriving to a scheduled shift. Instead of sulking about having a last-minute client, or about losing a client, it is important to look at the opportunity as a chance to practice, or a chance to help keep the clinic running in other ways. Flexibility and understanding are also important when working with clients, as you may encounter that they do not like a certain technique you are using on them, even though you think that specific technique would help them greatly. You must modify and adjust your massage to suit the client’s needs, not your needs. Flexibility and understand will help you keep your massage practice less stressful, which your clients will benefit from.

Optimize your study habits and be persistent

Find ways to integrate studying into your daily routine and study for shorter periods of time more often.
Laura R., Massage Therapy Student

Starting massage school is an exciting commitment to make for yourself and your future clients. The following tips stand out when thinking about my massage school experience and how to successfully progress through the program. The first tip is to be persistent. We all juggle necessary responsibilities in life such as employment, family, life events, pets, mental and physical health. Adding massage school to the mix requires dedication and persistence to make it through the program. Set yourself up for success by enrolling in a manageable number of classes each term so you can continue to handle your current life situation. The advantage of taking fewer classes per term is that you will retain more information and have less stress especially as finals approach. In the end, absorbing the most information during each term will build your retrievable knowledge which will lead to you becoming an exceptionally skilled licensed massage therapist.

The second tip for an enjoyable massage school experience is to optimize your study habits. Think of your program as a marathon, not a sprint. Find ways to integrate studying into your daily routine and study for shorter periods of time more often. Daily review of content, even just 20 minutes, will assist in your ability to retain information. Talk out material with classmates or have family and friends quiz you. Join group study sessions and you will likely experience the unintentional perk of making a new friend. Identify what method of studying works best for you to maximize your study time.

My third tip to offer you is to commit to lifelong learning while you are still in school. The breadth of knowledge on anatomy, pathology and healing modalities is endless and can be daunting, but do not shy away from the unknown. Be curious and research answers to your and your clients’ questions. Learning resources are not confined between the walls of the classroom. Reliable continuing education can be found online, through massage programs offering workshops, and even conferences. Real world experience coupled with a continuous desire to improve will set you apart from other licensed massage therapists.

Review previous lessons before class and practice often

You might surprise yourself on how much sticks when you maintain the material alive in your mind.
Seida M., Massage Therapy Student

My first tip to succeed as a massage therapy student is to review and recap previous lessons before going to class. It keeps the information fresh on your head and you come to class aligned, grounded and prepared to ask questions and answer them. You might surprise yourself on how much sticks when you maintain the material alive in your mind. This will help you be prepared for all finals too.

My second tip is to practice, practice, practice!!! Practice will be part of the homework but do it with intention to learn more about the body, stroke techniques and body mechanics. Call out loud the muscles while you are working on them, practice the techniques and learn what works for you and the different clients and on different body types. This work is not only for the client you also need to practice for your own body mechanics to become your biggest strength.

Develop good communication skills and learn from your instructors

Instead of learning things the hard way, I’ve learned to listen to the therapists that have come before me so I can avoid making simple mistakes.
Aubrey H., Massage Therapy Student

Reflecting back on my experience going through massage school, I’ve gathered many nuggets of wisdom I could offer a newcomer student as to how to accomplish success. Although I don’t believe the wisdom will ever stop accumulating while I’m a part of this profession, I feel confident sharing three tips that were fundamental to my success throughout school: (1) Receive bodywork from instructors to deepen understanding of the skills you learn in class, (2) Establish clear boundaries to protect your time, energy, therapeutic relationships, finances and overall health, and (3) Develop good communication skills.

One of the most valuable assets as a successful massage therapist is the ability to communicate with your client about their anatomy and biology in a way that facilitates a peaceful, safe, and non-judgmental conversation. Good communication looks a variety of ways whether it’s learning language that keeps you within your scope of practice, or learning how to listen to a client’s concerns in order to effectively massage them. Communicating with a client needs to be respectful and approached with humility; knowing that each body is different, and needs to be massaged differently. It’s all about finding the middle ground with your client, while also knowing how to educate them when appropriate. A massage therapist must be able to find the right words to facilitate for their clients while in session, and learning to have reciprocal relationship with their own bodies. Good communication is professional, kept confidential, and allows for the client to feel safe in their experience before/during/and after receiving massage.

Having a solid set of communication skills benefits a successful therapist for many reasons. It assists them in staying within their legal boundaries. It also helps them coordinate with other healthcare professionals, so they can have the correct permissions and information for their clients. This is important when considering possible contraindications. In knowing that every session is different, it’s crucial to be able to communicate with clients about potential concerns, or modifications that need to be made in certain scenarios. Communication skills can be particularly valuable when massaging for clients who are bilingual, elderly, disabled, deaf, and/or children because there can be communication barriers. Taking specialized classes to learn how to communicate with these populations is highly recommended, as it will better your overall skills as a massage therapist. To be able to effectively communicate with a client, all the above must be considered. However, it is important to remember that communication skills build over time, and improve with each session. Be patient with yourself as a newcomer to massage. Communication skills aren’t our society’s strong suit, so it can be challenging at first.

Keep a positive attitude and action-oriented mindset

Be open to your instructors providing constructive criticism and course feedback.
Loraine S., Massage Therapy Student

One tip for being successful in massage therapy school is to keep a positive attitude. Having an open mind with your instructors is also vital. Be open to your instructors providing constructive criticism and course feedback. Ask as many questions as you can think of because most of the instructors have massage businesses, and some have been practicing for several years. Be ready to learn a plethora of massage therapy content. Rest assured all courses you attend will aid in your pursuit of becoming a knowledgeable massage therapist. The hands-on practice with peers and outside of class will build up your confidence and mold your purpose. However, you may feel some slight discomfort or intimidation at first but once you gain more knowledge and practice intentions with your peers you’ll get the hang of things. You will be ecstatically happy to attend school more and more.

Another tip is to make sure you possess an action-oriented mindset. Diligence and basic interpersonal skills will take you a long way. How far you go and just about everything starts with you. The habits that make a massage therapy student successful include: showing up to class prepared, being respectable, responsible, and ready to learn. Know that everything you can imagine as a future licensed massage therapist is a possibility and can be manifested. All it takes is determination, dedication, and you put in the hardworking efforts. Additionally, you can successfully bring about the full picture of where you are planning to be, just by setting goals then obtaining each one by one and day by day. I would tell you to commit to the goal of graduation as soon as you are accepted into a massage program or school of choice.

Give yourself and others some grace

You must be willing to forgive yourself for what you struggle with that someone else may not; and vice versa.
Nyrie C., Massage Therapy Student

Give yourself and your classmates some grace. Also, avoid comparing your journey with anyone else’s journey. There is a lot to learn. You must be willing to forgive yourself for what you struggle with that someone else may not, and vice versa. Comparing yourself to others will only limit the amount of grace you give, and slow down your learning process. Realize that it is ok if you need to put a little more effort into retaining some subject matter over others. But always have faith that you will come to understand the information. After allowing for grace, you will start to see your own confidence grow, as you come to understand that everyone doesn’t move the same way you move.

Another tip is to know your study style, or at least learn it fast! Also know of resources that can assist you in that study modality. There is a lot…A LOT to learn, so you need to be self aware of the ways that you best retain information. Be mindful whether you learn best by reading, doing, seeing, or even a combination of them all. You may also find that your style can change depending on what is being studied. Coloring books, self sketches, or even continuous writing of the information are just some tools that many massage therapist students use. It is always a good idea to bounce ideas around with your fellow classmates, as they are going through this process with you.

Finally, know exactly what is expected of you and what your expectations of the class are, as you plan your path to graduation, and beyond. Know everything from enrollment and attendance cost, to licensing and starting your own business; make sure to ask questions and clarify. You must envision what being a massage therapist means to you, why you want to get licensed, and what you plan to do with your license. You must be able to commit the time that it takes to finish your program, be willing to learn new things, and manage it all with “everyday”. Make sure to sit with your director on day one, go over every expectation you can think of, and also ask questions all throughout your course. I found it very helpful to always keep my end goal of becoming a business owner, front and center. This kept me in the mind frame of not only seeing this class from a healing perspective, but it also led to me asking entrepreneurial questions as well.

Use a planner to keep track of your schedule and assignments

I found that having a planner and a small calendar in my room has really helped me plan out my schedule…
Sadie G., Massage Therapy Student

Three tips I have for new massage students are to (1) keep your end goal in mind at all times, (2) never be afraid to ask for help from others, and (3) get a planner to help you manage your time well. My third tip about the planner is by far the most important in my experience. While you’re in massage therapy school you’re going to need to be on track with your classes, assignments, and your personal life. I found that having a planner and a small calendar in my room has really helped me plan out my schedule properly and not have to worry about finishing my assignments late. Having something to help me keep track of my days and my busy schedule I’m able to make the most of my time everyday, which you can do too! For example, I have morning classes so I block off the hours I have classes and time I’m spending for myself after school. I also put the best times for me to work on my assignments throughout the week into my planner. I can’t say I would have been able to get this far without my planner just because of how essential it is to my daily life. You’d be surprised how much it actually helps by giving you more control over you week and the rest of your life!

Practice breathing exercises to improve health and awareness

Breath awareness is a foundational skill for all bodyworkers…This will pay dividends in your personal health and stress reduction.
Peter H., Massage Therapy Student

Breath awareness is a foundational skill for all bodyworkers. Try starting with regular breathing exercises and learn to pause and check-in with yourself throughout the day. This will pay dividends in your personal health and stress reduction. During school and when practicing massage skills, apprehension can cause you to hold your breath and increase muscle tension. This pattern of holding tension with your breath will fatigue you more quickly and can increase stress and anxiety. Additionally, your tense muscles or nervous body state can be subconsciously felt by your client or practice partner, which can result in a transference of your stress into their body. This, in turn, works against your efforts to make your clients comfortable, relax their muscle tone and stimulate a parasympathetic response. Bodywork starts with awareness of your own body first.

Find a mentor and form a study group

If there’s one thing any student of massage therapy doesn’t need to worry about, it’s finding a sense of community in our new career.
Gwendolynne L., Massage Therapy Student

My first tip for future massage therapy students is to find a mentor. Future LMTs are blessed to have a plethora of possible mentors available. From teachers to the therapists that work in your local spa or chiro’s office, there is no other trade where you will find a group of people so quick to give out their favorite style, trick, or modality approach. A mentor guides and nurtures your curiosity, keeping you invested in the long term pay-off of completing school.

The second tip I can offer is to form a study group within your classmates. The ever-shifting landscape of school in the era of coronavirus means that lectures can switch from in-person to online at the drop of a hat. Hands on time becomes limited, and it may feel like you’re not getting your full tuition payment’s worth of education. In moments like that, having classmates to rely on are key. From late night review sessions to out of class meet-ups for hands-on practice, having a support system to drive you to higher success will help you stay focused on the lessons right in front of you.

My third tip is to make smaller goals. Getting through a whole trade program and passing the MBLEx and getting your license and starting the foundations of your business is a lot of stress! Try breaking it down into easier bits. Work up to the bigger goals once you feel proud of the small things you’ve been able to accomplish. Small sprints are easier to run than a marathon, and when it starts to feel like forever, remember that nobody runs that far all alone. Also, focus on having perfect attendance to the lessons in school and set aside time every week for anatomy review. Hopefully these tips help you as much as they helped me when planning to forge a new path to a better, brighter future.

Learn how to take care of you mind and body

Learn how to take care of your mind and your body in such a way that allows you to continue to do what you love.
Brittainy M., Massage Therapy Student

One tip I have for new massage students is to learn how to take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean avoiding work and lazing on the couch binge watching your favorite tv show with a bag of chips in hand in the name of “self-care”. Although I am sure there is space for that in life and everyone’s relaxation and self-care looks different, what I am talking about is learning how to take care of your mind and your body in such a way that allows you to continue to do what you love. From being mindful of your emotional and mental needs to learning techniques that protect your body from the wear and tear of demanding and hands-on work. Taking care of yourself should be top on your priority list because you cannot give what you do not have. You can’t offer peace if you aren’t peaceful, you can’t lift if you are low and you can’t heal if you aren’t whole. So if that means changing what bodywork you perform because it’s not something you enjoy, or getting certified or specializing in a different area of massage because spa settings really just aren’t your jam, then that’s what you do. It could mean changing eating habits to have more energy, hitting the gym to strengthen your own body or taking up a daily meditation routine to clear your mind and be at ease. If it looks like starting your own practice so you can be pickier about your clientele and aren’t going home weighed down then so be it.

Practice on different body types, shapes and sizes as possible

The choice to succeed, ultimately lies within each and every student…
Hannah T., Massage Therapy Student

Beginning with what may seem to be the most obvious component of success, a student has to be willing to consistently show up and be present. Massage and bodywork are subjects of study that cannot possibly be understood by simply reading from a book. Showing up and investing time and attention to every class is something that no instructor, no matter how great, can do for a student. If a student cannot find it within themselves to wake up every day of the program and make the conscious decision to not only show up, but be present and devote their awareness to the material, there will be missed opportunities that, again, simply cannot be gained from a textbook

It is also crucial for massage students to work with as many different body types, shapes, sizes, and genders as possible. Working on clients and classmates alike can present itself as the most terrifying aspect of the learning journey that is massage school; however, receiving and giving copious amounts of bodywork is the most effective way to enlighten a potential LMT to what the profession has to offer. It cannot be stressed enough the variety of human bodies that exist on this planet, and when it comes to developing confidence and skill set, the more bodies a student can get under their hands the better. It is just as important to receive as much work as possible, so a student can know from personal experience what the services they provide can do for a client. Even if a student plans to leave massage school and enter into a highly-specified modality with what they imagine to be specific clientele, the value in coming into contact with as many diverse bodies as possible can bring nothing but wisdom to a practice.

Grow your courage and confidence

The only way to become more confident in your practice, is to practice.
Heaven I., Massage Therapy Student

The first tip that I would give to achieve success as a massage therapy student is courage. This may seem like a cheesy and very broad tip, but honestly, without courage, I wouldn’t be where I am today with massage therapy and growing, and learning in my future profession. Courage can be defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one”. I believe that massage therapy takes a special person with courage to succeed. As my massage therapy teacher would say, “your first part of success is simply showing up”. This really resonated with me because I have been in situations (especially dealing with the pandemic) where I felt like I couldn’t move on because I felt like I wasn’t worthy enough. However, because I have continued to practice having courage, I have felt successful. All because I “showed up” for myself.

The second tip I feel helps me to reach success is being passionate. Massage therapy is not an easy curriculum as many have thought of it to be. There is SO much more to it than providing relaxation to a client. Although we want our clients to relax, we also want our clients to FEEL like massage is having a therapeutic effect on them. I feel the only way to really understand this is being passionate about our study path. I have been told by my teachers over and over again that our clients will know if we are confident or passionate in ourselves. I also think that being passionate about something is WANTING to learn more and more about massage therapy and what actually happens to the human body when therapy is applied. Being passionate is researching massage outside of class and being a seed for growth by watering yourself with knowledge of massage

The last, but certainly not least, tip for success is confidence. I will admit, this is something I have to work on EVERY SINGLE DAY but I truly believe this is the key to success. Massage Therapy school is not just a written curriculum, rather a lot of hands-on aspects. You’re learning how to provide therapy with your hands, and with learning new things, comes practicing. YES. The only way to become more confident in your practice, is to practice. When I first started out, I was so skeptical of myself that I continued to feel overwhelmed about my techniques. But, as I continue to practice and practice, I am starting to feel more comfortable with them!

Practice outside of class to build endurance and confidence

The more I massaged outside of school, the more confident I became and I learned that I was in the right profession.
Kelly C., Massage Therapy Student

My advice to future massage students on how to be successful throughout school is to practice. Practicing outside of class will build endurance, confidence, and you will most likely find your own unique way of massaging. Personally, the more I massaged outside of school, the more confident I became and I learned that I was in the right profession. I enjoy healing peoples’ bodies. More than likely family and friends will not turn you down for a free practice massage. Take their constructive feedback and apply it to your massage techniques. If you are uncertain how to do a certain technique, ask a professional who knows. Keep practicing until you get it right and feel confident in doing it. Confidence and actively listening are key principles to a good massage.

Overcome obstacles in massage school through repetition

Willingness to practice steps repeatedly to mastery will make a world of difference in your educational career.
Jonah S., Massage Therapy Student

Here are three easy practices that can help conserve and better utilize mental and physical energy giving a greater degree of ease and means to overcome obstacles on the path to becoming a licensed massage therapist:

Earliness is next to godliness. Don’t cram for exams. While it may seem like one or two cram sessions could save you time, this is illusory. Studying regularly during weeks prior to exam is much better than spending time stressing and suppressing that gut feeling which says “Don’t procrastinate!” It will also save on probable time having to study and retest again. If retesting is not an option, you’ll compensate much more time and effort having to insure outstanding scores to compensate for poor test grade and bring up your grade point average.

It’s okay to ask for help! You have not because you ask not. In spite of any inhibition, self-advocacy is always justified if you’re having trouble understanding something. Or if you need more practice or observation and input for the next skill in the curriculum to “click.” Qualified educational professionals are there to insure you stay up to date in your ever-increasing proficiency. Your teacher will be happy to assist you in clearing up any grey areas or blank spots.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Whether you’re a visual, literary, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, repetition is crucial. However many times it takes to get it right for the first time is only a fraction of how many times one still needs to repeat the action over and over to make it “automatic” via muscle memory. Repeating a maneuver, memorization, or practice test to mastery may seem redundant. But the payoff is huge. Redundancy disappears once mastery is achieved through the initial redundancy. You’ll be able to demonstrate that skill for life without virtually any thought or effort.

Take your skills to the next level by investing in learning anatomy

The more you invest yourself in anatomy and the fundamental knowledge behind your actions, the more reliable and credible you will be!
Jody H., Massage Therapy Student

Let me share with you some of the top tips and tricks I have learned along the way to help you get the most out of your schoolwork and professional career to come! My advice for every new massage student is to take their massage knowledge to the next level by investing in learning the anatomy and science part of massage. This is one of the main factors that has put me beyond several others in my class. The solid foundation that I have worked to build in anatomy and other massage sciences has taken me to the next level when treating my clients. This will allow you to improve your massage techniques and become an informative massage therapist to help your clients better understand their pain and guide them through it by knowing the muscles and why things are causing them pain. It is one thing to be a good massage therapist by technique. Still, it is another thing to be a great massage therapist and understand and relate that information to your client in a positive and informative matter. People want an answer for pain. The more you invest yourself in anatomy and the fundamental knowledge behind your actions, the more reliable and credible you will be!

Remember your end goal

Keeping your end goal in sight will help you get through the difficult situations you will be faced with. 
Madison M., Massage Therapy Student

Being successful in massage school is a difficult task that takes more than meets the eye. As a massage therapy student, it can be difficult to juggle the long hours of school, a job, and personal time. It can create stress and anxiety having such a busy schedule and so many responsibilities all at once. My tip to help others succeed as a massage student is to always remember your end goal. Sometimes it gets rough, and you may feel like giving up, but perseverance is very important. Keeping your end goal in sight will help you get through the difficult situations you will be faced with. Thinking back to why you are going through massage school helps ease the tough times.

Work studying into your daily routine

Knowing the anatomy will make the rest of schooling dramatically easier!
Jessica H., Massage Therapy Student

My three tips for students beginning a massage training program are to: (1) work studying into your daily routine, (2) make sure your personal needs get met during this busy time, and (3) focus on building self-awareness and listening skills. Knowing anatomy is key to helping others understand their bodies. The first tip to succeed as a massage therapy student is to work studying into your daily routine. With all of the anatomy and physiology knowledge that is required, this will really set a student up for success in school and on the MBLEx. Knowing the anatomy will make the rest of schooling dramatically easier! As anatomists, learning about the body and how the system works together is crucial and peaks interest. It will also make students great massage therapists, as it will help the therapists know where to start, what to work on, how to work on troublesome areas and how to make a deeper, longer lasting impact!

The second tip to succeed is to make sure that as therapists, personal needs are being met. Remembering to eat timely and drink water, connecting with others outside of the practice in a meaningful way, getting exercise and proper nutrition, meditation (whatever that looks like for the individual) and making sure the therapist’s cup is full are all key to success. Hiking, getting out in nature, socializing with friends and family, fishing, community sports or other activities and taking time for spirituality are examples of what filling up one’s cup can be. Filling up personal cups helps the therapist be able to fully show up for every client and give the client the best massage possible!

Expanding on my third tip, it’s critical to work on self-awareness skills to determine a therapist’s own biases so that the therapist doesn’t project their own past or current needs and experiences onto the client. It’s important to take an objective approach and focus on the client’s needs, conditions, pathologies and overall health and well-being! Massage Therapy is continuous learning. Each client teaches the massage therapist something new, and it’s truly a gift. Keeping this mindset helps the therapist grow and be open to new challenges, ideas, methods and skills. It also helps the therapist objectively come up with an effective decision tree to best help the client. Another key is to develop skills to listen to the body of each client. Bodies are wise, and they tell the therapist what is needed! If a therapist is able to be objective, listen to the body, become self-aware and have humble confidence, it helps set the therapist up for tremendous success!

Leverage your motivating forces and learn time management

When you’re feeling unmotivated or when challenges arise, look back at your list to remind yourself why your success is important to you.
Vicky K., Massage Therapy Student

Massage school takes a lot of time both in and out of class. There will be days that you don’t want to go to class or do that assignment. That’s why it’s important, before starting your course, to make a list of all “Pain Points”. These are unpleasant things that will happen to you if you don’t finish your course (e.g. the disappointment you’ll experience, missed opportunities). Also make a list of your “Pleasure Points”, which are positive things to look forward to when you do finish your course (e.g. feeling accomplished, make your own wage and hours). These two things, pain and pleasure, are everyone’s two main motivating forces. They are your carrot and your stick. When you’re feeling unmotivated or when challenges arise, look back at your list to remind yourself why your success is important to you.

Another tip for new massage students has to do with time management. You’ve heard of the phrase “make time”, I like to use “block time”. We get 24 hours every day, no more and no less. We must make sure that we block out time to focus, outside of class, on our lessons, assignments, and planning. This is dedicated time, with no distractions. Imagine the distractions as things you need to “block and protect” the time that you want to dedicate to learning your new career path and craft. This will also train you to block out time for your future clients and be fully present for them.

Don’t get discouraged

Remember that we all learn at our own pace, every student around you is struggling with something.
Amber S., Massage Therapy Student

If I had to give some tips to a new up and coming massage student I think first and formost do not get discouraged. Push through those tough times I promise it gets easier. Unfortunately, I watched many of my classmates who I thought I would be standing next to at graduation give in to some tough times throughout our courses. Sadly, they choose to drop out of our amazing program. We all have bad days when we just can’t catch on to activities we have in front of us, or are just too tired to think. I promise it gets better. There are so many amazing people around you to reach out to. They have been exactly where you are and can lend some helpful tips and tricks of the trade. So, if you’re struggling with something, don’t fret! Everyone around you is trying to get as much practice as they can. Try teaming up with classmates to study and practice on each other. Talk and communicate what you’re struggling with. Your professors and administrators can be a valuable source of useful advice too.

Top Tips to succeed in massage therapy school

Summary of tips to succeed in massage school

The massage students above have presented a lot of good advice and tips that have helped them to succeed in massage school, and can help you too! Here is a summary list of top tips for new massage therapy students so that you can not only survive, but thrive in massage school. Remember that learning and growth occur when you step out of your comfort zone. You can find more tips on succeeding in massage school here.

  1. Show up consistently with an open mind, ready to participate
  2. Develop good study habits that include practice and repetition
  3. Invest in learning anatomy to the point of mastery
  4. Seek feedback and practice frequently (outside of class too) on many body types
  5. Develop good communication skills, especially listening
  6. Practice self-care for your body and mind
  7. Plan strategically and use your time wisely (use a planner to stay organized)
  8. Establish goals and have a clear reason WHAT and WHY success is important to you
  9. Leverage your resources, form a study group, and find a mentor
  10. Remain flexible, committed, patient and diligent

The content from student essays was kept in original format as much as possible, however some responses were paraphrased or edited for clarification, emphasis, length, grammar, spelling, or to fit the scope and purpose of this article. These student essays present tips and perspectives from individual massage students which may vary from advice given elsewhere on the website.

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Start preparing for the MBLEx the easy way with this comprehensive and organized study plan. It's a great way to get started, and it's free

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Study Plan

Download our free MBLEx Study Plan (PDF) to help organize and guide your study sessions.

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