Massage classes online?

Where I live in Ohio, massage therapists are not required to acquire continuing education at all, unless you belong to a professional membership, like AMTA or ABMP. The State of Ohio Medical Board, through whom I’m licensed, does not require CE hours.

While there are currently efforts for the Medical Board to require 24 hours of massage continuing education every two years with renewals, I’ve seen some interesting reasons why we “shouldn’t” have to do continuing ed:

  • The human body doesn’t change, so why should we learn more?
  • Classes are too expensive.
  • Massage therapists don’t make enough money-the cost is unjustified.
  • 24 hours is a ridiculous amount. 12 would be – well, okay.
  • I don’t want to waste time on classes that don’t interest me.
  • It’s too hard to leave my business to take classes.
  • Therapists who have been licensed for 10 years + should be exempt.

This, friends, is frightening to me. Not only do some massage therapists not want live classes, but they don’t want classes at all.

For some time, there has been a push for online learning for massage therapists. On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Therapists can take classes at their leisure, in their own time frame, can save money by not having to take off time and work due to live class time and travel.

Online continuing education classes for massage therapists are typically significantly less expensive too. Don’t therapists may feel like they get their best bang for their buck when fulfilling their continuing education requirements online? Probably.

Is this best for the massage industry or for massage therapists, though?

What I experienced from DVD “learning”

I’ll go back to a time, many years ago when I worked in a high end, spendy day spa. LaStone and other stone modalities were newly hot on the scene, and the day spa wanted to offer the modality.

Going the least expensive route, they ordered stones, a crockpot, and DVD, handed them to me and the other massage therapists and told us to go to town. Watch the DVD, practice on each other (soon you’ll be an expert!) and “let’s offer it to the clients as soon as possible.”

Jamie, Jacquie, Annie, and I had all been there for a couple of years and were pretty proficient at massage, so we thought it would be a piece of cake.

Here’s the problem: we had never felt the warm stone massage from anyone other than each other, so we had NO IDEA if we were doing it right. We watched that DVD over and over again, asking questions that couldn’t be answered by the “instructor”.

Why were the stones clanking? Ooh, that water is hot! Does this feel right? (Dunno) Does it feel good? Um, feels ok. Try moving it here. Is there a way to prevent my hair from frizzing as I’ve been standing over steam?

And on and on. And then we did the best we could on our clients.

Massage is very palpatory. That’s the whole point, right? You feel what’s going on with the client. Kneading, effleuraging, discovering trigger points are a BIG THING.

So how do massage therapists know what on earth they’re supposed to feel if they don’t know what they’re supposed to feel?


A few months ago, I tried explaining this concept to someone who was encouraging the company for whom I used to teach to produce “e-learning.” She just didn’t get it.

I asked her to sit in on a class to see how we make sure body mechanics are right, to discover how important feedback from the “client” is, and how we coach our students with patience and compassion while they learn to use their body in a whole new way.

Whether you are working with your hands or your feet as we do, it’s vital to not only see the work but to feel it. Only by feeling it can you understand what your clients are experiencing and if that’s comfortable or even useful.

Pinterest Fails

Ever see “Pinterest fails”? On Pinterest, you see so many different amazing projects that people do, from cooking, baking, refurbishing furniture, et cetera.

Excited for a project, Sally decides she’s going to decorate this amazing cake for her son’s 5th birthday, and follows the step by step directions. But wait! The dinosaur looks like a lopsided alien, and the cake is sitting wonky on the plate.

Sally then cries because she’s a failure, is mad because she wasted all that time and money creating her ruined masterpiece and is then rushed for time as she now has to run to Costco to pick up a cake.

I realize that a doctor learning surgery from a video and then performing it on patients is not the same scenario as massage therapists learning online, but it’s the same concept. Shoot, hair stylists go to hair shows and classes every year, so why shouldn’t we?

Would you want to go to a hairstylist who hadn’t taken a class since she graduated from school in 1987? Hello, big hair and Aqua Net.

How do you get better if you aren’t willing to learn more?

What we teach, ashiatsu barefoot massage, can be dangerous to the untrained.  If you are not coached in class on how to avoid bony prominences or to keep your body stacked properly so you can avoid injury, you can easily injure yourself or your client.

Do you want to take that risk? I don’t.

Frankly, I’m not sure that massage therapists think it through. But I certainly don’t want a massage from someone who thinks that’s ok to learn a new technique from a video or online.

We have no problem with virtual learning for non-technique classes (although depending on the style of class, you may not be able to ask questions.) Ethics, business, marketing, anatomy review (although it is way better in a cadaver study, albeit stinkier) and aromatherapy are just a few of the topics that are perfectly fine to learn while not in a live class.

The techniques, however, should always be taught in person. It’s not about the money spent or the time taken off work or the travel expenses. Live classes are for making you a better massage therapist. Don’t your clients deserve that?

Let us know your thoughts!