How do you choose between continuing education options?

Published: March 12, 2012

There are a dizzying number of choices when it comes to continuing education courses. Will you take that online ethics course, the bookkeeping class at the local community college, the week-long technique certification program, or the Saturday morning anatomy review? While some massage therapists pick one flavor of advanced study and stick with it over the years, others jump around with no real reasoning behind their choices at all. If neither of these options suits your style, what are you to do?

Consider starting with the reasons you take continuing education to begin with. In addition to simply racking up hours in order to maintain your license, there are a number of excellent reasons to take continuing education. While ALL of these reasons will influence any massage therapist to one degree or another, deciding on your primary motivations will help you figure out which courses are right for you.

Reasons to Take Continuing Education

1. Market your practice.
This is often one of the first benefits of continuing education that massage therapists think of, probably because it's one of the most frequently touted to students by their instructors. If a competitive edge in your marketing efforts is what you're after, consider taking courses in massage for a particular population, like athletes, the elderly, or people with psychological trauma. Taking courses like this allows you to effectively focus on the special needs of a small group of people. Since people in these groups have very specific concerns, you can reach them best with very specific marketing about your (recently acquired through continuing education) very specific skills. Everybody wins!

2. Keep abreast of the latest knowledge.
Much like everything else in the universe, the massage world keeps on changing. If you're feeling a little out of the loop with what's new, you might want to take a course focused on the results of current research. Sometimes this takes the form of a panel discussion, or a lecture led by a researcher. Other times it could be an article to read, with online questions. Some courses [like this one from the Massage Therapy Foundation] focus on research literacy, so that you are empowered to understand new studies when you find them on your own. But all of these will, one way or another, help keep you in touch with the latest developments in the massage therapy world.

3. Remember what you learned in school.
Do you reallybelieve you're the only person who forgets people's names after meeting them once at a party? Of course not, it's a completely normal thing for people to do. Similarly, there's no shame in taking a refresher course and getting back to basics. Anatomy reviews, health and hygiene practices, even those techniques you learned in class but hardly ever use (how long can you use ice on bare skin, again?) are fair game. You might be surprised how well things stick in your brain when you learn them the second time around!

4. Make your practice is sustainable
It's great to get the ball rolling in your practice, whether your focus is on pampering, rehabilitation, or somewhere in between. But just as important as a strong start are the skills that will enable you to stay in the business in the long run. Financial skills are a big part of this for those who are self-employed. Employees in a fast-paced franchise would do well to protect their longevity by taking a class in body mechanics. And everyone can help to avoid emotional burnout by getting regular coursework in ethics.

5. Keep things fresh!
If you're a newer therapist or a student, you might not be able to imagine being bored while giving a massage. But if you keep using the same basic set of tools, never trying anything different, over the course of many years, boredom is bound to set in eventually. To spice up your practice, try out a new technique. Check out something you've always been curious about, but never studied, whether that's myofascial release or Thai massage. Learn to use a new tool, like massage stones or aromatherapy oils. If your background is primarily Eastern, try something based in Western medicine. If you do short, muscle-specific work on injured patients, pick up a relaxation technique or two. Or learn how to shake up your practice and get out of the office entirely!

Where To Find Continuing Education Classes
There are plenty of ways to find continuing education classes. A quick Google search or flip through an industry magazine will reveal lots of online and distance education courses, as well as plenty of events worth traveling to (like National Convention!). But if you want an updated list of quality continuing education activity in Massachusetts, your AMTA chapter has your back.Visit our upcoming events list for classes, gatherings, and other opportunities for learning. Hope to see you there!