Continuing education requirements in the Massage Therapy profession vary from state to state. Some states do not require continuing education in order to renew licensure, but most states do. Idaho requires 6 credits per year to renew, while New York requires 36 credits triennially (every three years).
Virginia maintains the standard requirement, 24 credits biennially (every two years). Washington, DC: 12 credits biennially, Maryland: 24 credits biennially. While the state of Virginia allows Massage Therapists who are renewing for the first time to renew without a continuing education requirement, it is still a good idea to begin the process early in your career rather than waiting until your second renewal period. Northern Virginia School of Therapeutic Massage President, Mike Tramonte, advises “If you are in your third year practicing massage and taking your first CEU, you’re probably a bit behind your colleagues. The most ambitious MTs have received approximately 60 CE hours within the first 5 years.” It might be helpful to consider the following questions when deciding which CEUs to pursue.
What is your current massage style?
Our clients meet us on the table for a variety of reasons, each as unique as the individual. Every body holds differently, and part of our job as Massage Therapists is to notice those holding patterns and consider their cause and effect. Just as our clientele is varied, so are we. We all approach this detective work with a certain style, based on our knowledge, experience, and personality. These are the tools we have to work with. While we aim to meet our clients’ goals and expectations during the massage session, we can only do so with the tools that we have at the time. Knowledge comes from the training we have received before, during, and after massage school. Experience comes from hands-on practice, trial and error, and access to a range of clientele. So, how does personality come into play during a massage? The next time you are in a session, notice your intuitive responses to the conditions at hand. How do you approach your client’s request for relief? Do you aim to relax the individual, or work with them in movement to target specific areas? Think about what types of intake and follow-up questions stand out most to you--questions about their work and exercise routine, current stress level, or questions about previous injury or surgery, for example. Each question is equally important in gaining a holistic idea of the client’s lifestyle and holding patterns, but which questions you return to will influence how you approach the session. Use your personality to your advantage in your practice. Like attracts like!
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
There are numerous continuing education topics, and not all of them are a type of bodywork modality. In fact, most states require something in addition to bodywork. In Virginia, one credit hour must be in professional ethics. Maryland requires a minimum of three hours in professional ethics, and another three hours in communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Other classes you will find across the United States and the World Wide Web cover topics such as: effective communication, research, and business & marketing. This range of potential continuing education requirements is great news! Consider your strengths and weaknesses. If you are struggling at growing your client base, a business marketing class may be just what you need. Notice your strengths. What do your clients come back to you for? If you’re unsure, it might be a good idea to ask return clients what they liked about their last session, as well as anything they might like to do differently this session. Refer back to your SOAP notes and notice what key components were important to you after that last session. Do you notice any patterns or aspects that line up with what the client said? Gaining insight into your own strengths can lead you to pursue a CEU that you are interested in and may be very good at. The more you know about yourself in your practice, the better you will be able to deliver what you’re best at to exactly the right people.
What are your goals?
This is at the top of most decision-making lists, and rightfully so. Goal-setting is an important practice, but it should be done with clarity. Noticing how you show up in your practice, as well as reflecting on what your strengths and weaknesses are, will help you to be honest when outlining your goals. There are many structured ways to set goals, and if you’re an individual who needs structure but isn’t necessarily the best at cultivating it, these tools can be very helpful. You may have heard of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. More on SMART goals here and how to use the SMART system. Another way to outline goals is to create a 1-3-5 goals list. ONE main objective, THREE goals to help you get there, and FIVE strategies that will help you achieve those goals. For example, let’s say your objective is to be the best Sports Massage Therapist out there. You want your own practice where you service the best of the best Washington Sports Leagues. (Dream big, right? Who knows, maybe you will be what those DC teams need to stay uninjured and start winning!) As you outline your three goals, you will find you absolutely need continuing education in order to succeed. Now, five strategies to help you achieve a goal of continuing education can be five initial CEUs you can take: Kinesiology, Sports Massage Research, Marketing, Active Release Technique, Ethics, Pathology, Myofascial Release, just to name a few. These can’t be taken all at once, but writing your goals out in this fashion can help you to visualize what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, and create a timeline in which you can realistically do so.
Note: For Sports Massage specifically, AMTA and NCBTMB have joined to offer a Sports Massage Certificate Program, worth 21.5 credit hours and geared toward helping you grow your Sports Massage practice. The Northern Virginia School of Therapeutic Massage is also offering Sports Massage with Dr. James Mally on October 13-14, 2018. You can find his and other Continuing Education classes here.
What about cost?
You’ve reflected, you’ve outlined, you’ve researched and found CEUs that will be a great fit for your practice. Everything is falling into place, and then you notice the cost of continuing education can really add up quickly. What to do? Rebecca Jones from Massage & Bodywork Magazine explores this topic in the article “How to Shop For CEUs,” originally published in the November/December 2009 edition. “Plan early, figure out what you want to do this year, and start saving the money for it now,” she says, so that you are not scrambling to fulfill state requirements at the last minute and taking a class that provides credits but may not benefit your practice overall. Online courses are another way to keep costs low, although some topics or techniques are best learned with hands-on instruction and practice. Not all online courses are without value, and there are many great ones to choose from if you know what to look for. Jones advises looking for online classes that “provide opportunities for students to interact with each other.” Finally, have some fun! Choose CEUs that inspire you to continue learning about the topic after the class is finished. Talk with your accountant about budgeting and tax deductions, and if it’s appropriate for you, you may even be able to build a vacation into pursuing a CEU hosted in a fun travel destination.
Aside from fulfilling licensing requirements, continuing education classes help you to expand your skills, allow you to learn from others, and can actually be quite fun! They can be costly, too, so make sure you have a plan for your practice. Seeking advice from an accountant can be helpful, but make sure to also turn inward for answers to questions about what it is you actually want to achieve.