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A Los Angeles Massage Therapist’s Blog.
Massage therapy is not pizza, it’s personal
Finding the right massage therapist is a very personal process. Of course you want someone who is available at your preferred time and takes a payment form you prefer, but those details are super easy to iron out once you have established a client/massage therapist relationship and found your scheduling groove. Finding a qualified massage therapist and making that initial connection with someone who really understands your needs is easier than ever thanks to recent state certification, and spending just a few minutes researching can help you find the person whose skills, location, experience, rates, and specializations will be the perfect match for you.
Just like finding the right CPA, physician, or attorney, your ideal massage therapist will be able to answer your questions over the phone, find out if you have any health issues or specific concerns that he or she will be able to address with confidence, and make you feel comfortable with your decision. We call this process client intake, because we need to know whether you have any injuries or health issues that could be possible contraindications for massage, or that fall outside of our particular areas of expertise. Some massage therapists will even refer clients to others if they feel your particular concerns cannot be met.
What do the letters after your name mean anyway?
In California, the letters CMT stand for Certified Massage Therapist. Only after being issued a certificate by the California Massage Therapy Council can we use those letters. All CMTs have passed fingerprinting and background checks, paid a fee, and provided proof of 500 hours of approved study from an accredited school of massage. Certificates are renewed every 2 years. A specific number of hours have to be completed in topics like human anatomy, hygiene, business and ethics, and hands-on class instruction.
The CAMTC was only established in 2009, and before that, massage therapists had to get a permit or license from each city of practice. Los Angeles was divided up into a patchwork of territories, preventing someone from taking a new job across town without jumping through months of bureaucratic hoops to obtain a different license, depending on that city’s particular requirements.
Voluntary State Certification trumps the more costly local permits, though legislators continue to squabble over the future of the CAMTC. Now a CMT has the right to practice massage therapy anywhere in California without restriction, whereas before we were location-bound to our city of licensure.
For awhile after the creation of the CAMTC, there was CMP status which meant Certified Massage Practitioner, and that was a way to allow those with 250 accredited hours to catch up to the new rules. As of January 1, 2015, only those with 500 accredited hours are issued new CAMTC Certification.
Most highly qualified massage therapists in California favor the less expensive and more uniform educational requirements of the certificate, so local permits and licenses for individuals are becoming obsolete. Those running spas and other massage locations have different permits to operate their businesses, but the massage therapists who work there are almost always Independent Contractors renting the space and all legitimate massage business locations require contractors or employees to be state certified or locally licensed or permitted as well as carry their own massage liability insurance.
If that all sounds confusing, that’s because it is! Luckily, the CAMTC can help you instantly verify whether a massage therapist is certified.
What about insurance?
All practicing massage therapists have to carry liability insurance to protect against unforeseen circumstances, although we rarely need it because massage, when performed correctly, is extremely safe. Even on the rare occasion when we work as an employee rather than an independent contractor, we must carry our own insurance. This is good news for anyone searching for a massage therapist, because the 2 major insurance providers, ABMP, and ATMA, have directories to help you locate a massage therapist near you.
But how do I find a qualified massage therapist?
You do not need to pay a third-party agent to find a qualified massage therapist. In fact, it is easier than ever to locate a qualified massage therapist in California. Here are the directories from the 2 largest insurance providers, and there are probably many more.
Many massage therapists list on Yelp, but you might have to search by ratings and keywords since that site is geared toward locations and corporate advertisers. That means it will naturally bury many of the individual practitioners in the back pages in favor of referral services that take a large cut but can afford to spend big on advertising, as well as the larger corporate franchises and spas. Mobile massage therapists who list individually will have a harder time reaching customers outside their zip code because Yelp is primed for location-based searches.
Consider spending a bit of extra time searching keywords, neighboring cities, or searching through several pages to get past the corporate advertisers. Yelp verifies all businesses so not just anyone can start a business listing.
A good old-fashioned Google search is also a great way to find a great local massage therapist. Google also verifies business listings. Other search engines and listing services will work too. Just dig around and see who is out there, especially now that you know how easy it is to verify that your practitioner is CAMTC certified in California once you do locate them.
Ask for a business card after receiving a great massage
If you got a great massage at a local spot or ordered up a last-minute massage from a referral service and you happened to love the massage you received, ask if that person does house calls. Unfortunately, many massage therapists in California are often asked to sign some form of a non-compete agreement or are pressured into a verbal non-compete agreements by landlords and agents despite non-competes being non-legal in our state.
Remember, that as the client, you are always free to choose whichever massage therapist you want and there is no legal reason why you cannot hire that person directly once a professional client/massage therapist relationship has been established. Leave your business card if this happens, because some massage therapists fear the repercussions of the landlords and booking agents who exert undue pressure in an attempt to maintain control over the client list.
Just like hairstylists, massage therapists are independent business owners renting space and sometimes paying a huge cut to the landlord or booking agent. Most massage therapists move on to independent practice once their skill level reaches a certain point.
When you find your perfect massage therapist, hang on to their contact information or give yours directly because in this fast-paced business, we are likely to “move away”.
Ask for referrals from friends and family
Word of mouth is still probably one of the best ways to find a quailed massage therapist. Most massage therapists have some kind of reward system for regular clients and referrals and will gladly welcome friends and family of existing clients into their client roster. Leaving reviews on the web when you have received a massage you enjoy is a wonderful way to share information with others about an exceptional massage therapist. Hiring a massage therapist your friends and family already love is the best way to “keep it in the family,” support your local massage therapist who is a small business owner, and go into it with the confidence and trust you need to actually relax. Isn’t that the point?