Experts Weigh-In on Massage Therapy School Clinics

As part of massage therapy training in the United States, students are required to complete a certain number of hours actually practicing what they have learned on real clients. This typically takes place in a school clinic, where students work on clients while under the supervision of a certified massage therapy instructor. The value of this part of training is something that is difficult to summarize, but we’ve found a few experts who do a great job at pointing out the benefits of clinical practice.

According to Michael S. O’Brien, C.M.T., B.A., massage therapy program manager at Career Training Solutions, and writer at Massage Magazine, clinical portions of the massage therapy program are critical to student success.

He wrote, “the student clinic is an invaluable tool for a student’s development into a professional massage therapist. The clinics challenge you to interact with the public, taking that extra step away from the comfort of practicing on your fellow students. The instructor is always there, like a football coach on the sideline, providing insight and guidance, but it is up to you, the student, to provide the actual service in a professional, skilled manner.”

“I would advise you to take the clinic seriously and act as a therapist at all times. My students perform all aspects of the therapeutic massage service in each clinic — from greeting the client, doing the pre-massage interview, the massage itself, and the post-massage interview, right down to showing the client to the reception area where payment is accepted. This ensures that by the time a student graduates, he or she is confident in all aspects of the massage process.”

(Read his full statement to massage therapy students at Massage Magazine.)

A lot of work goes into setting up and running massage therapy clinics at schools around the nation for good reason. As Mr. O’Brien pointed out, it is an important part of the training process, so no effort is spared when it comes to designing effective student clinics.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) hosted a discussion on this very topic at their 2010 convention, allowing two leaders in massage therapy education to share their opinions on what it takes to run a good student clinic. Among the questions asked of educators Peter Szucs and Kathleen Paholsky, were key considerations, challenges, and regulatory compliance for student massage clinics.

“Designing clinic curriculum for a massage program should follow the same principles as designing curriculum for a lecture or lab-based class. Instructors should begin by crafting the “learning objectives” for the clinic–that is, what should the students know and be able to do when they have completed the clinic experience? Learning objectives should also match the mission of the school or program. For example, if your program focuses on wellness or spa modalities, then your clinic should have a similar focus and related learning objectives.”

Read more on the design and management of massage therapy school clinics at the AMTA website.