Achieving success in Thai Massage therapy and overcoming challenges
Attending classes in a Thai Massage school or taking a course may build you a good foundation. However, not all of them will take you beyond the technical aspects and show you the more subtle elements of Thai Massage training – but these will determine your success.
First of all, as someone who has spent 20 years teaching Thai Massage therapy, I am writing this for those who want to learn Thai Massage or are practicing it already. However, most of the principles apply to any kind of massage.
What could success in a Thai Massage career look like?
Here are some items that should be on a success list:
Is there such a thing as failure in Thai Massage therapy?
Failure is what all successful people have to go through in order to achieve success. Failure is a stepping stone to success. Actually, we should replace ‘failure’ with ‘challenge’.
Let’s look at three categories of challenges or hurdles that you might encounter as a Thai Massage therapist:
What are professional challenges in Thai Massage?
Challenges: For example lack of clients, lack of skills, or lack of a good working environment.
Solutions: These can be solved with better marketing, better training, and a better setup.
What could physical challenges be?
Challenges: Examples are therapists who have injuries or disabilities that make it difficult or painful to practice Thai Massage.
This could be a knee injury which makes it difficult to move around on a floor mat, or carpal tunnel syndrome which makes it difficult and painful to use one’s hands, or a painful back or shoulders.
Physical challenges are often caused by incorrect body mechanics or by working only with muscle power. Both of these can result in stress and pain.
Solutions: Often these issues can be remedied by switching from excessive use of the hands to using other body parts like forearms, elbows, knees, and feet. This is one of the big advantages of Thai Massage.
Other remedies are improving body mechanics and working with body weight instead of muscle power. These are skills that can be learned with proper training, and again Thai Massage lends itself very well to these solutions.
In some cases, injuries or disabilities might improve with proper training, but in some cases they might be an actual obstacle to a Thai Massage career.
What are mental challenges in Thai Massage?
Challenges: Examples are lack of confidence, self-doubt, lack of inspiration and enthusiasm, dissatisfaction with one’s chosen career for whatever reason, or being overly attached to the results of one’s work.
Solutions: Mostly such issues can be solved by getting a better understanding of the issues, and by adjusting one’s perspective.
Out of the three challenge categories, the professional and the physical ones can often be solved with the right training and the right methods.
However, the mental challenges are not so straightforward and need a different approach. That’s what the rest of this article is about.
Thai Healing Massage Academy’s online training programs are designed to deal with all 3 challenges effectively:
The unique mindset of Thai Massage therapists
Massage is a helping profession. This is very different from, let’s say, working in an office where you might be just a tiny part of a big machinery and you might never get to see how (or if) what you do actually helps anyone.
Most therapists who have been in this profession for some time do not just put in hours in exchange for money.
They enjoy helping people, and part of their reward is seeing the beneficial results of their work. Their heart is in it, not just their hands.
Which therapist would not feel fulfilled and happy seeing a client’s radiant face after a session and hearing a comment like: “This was one of the best sessions of my life. I feel like I have a new body.”
Thai Massage therapy and attachment to the results of your work
Let’s be honest. Did you ever wonder how much your work is really helping people?
- How much does it affect chronic conditions?
- How effective is your work really?
- How long-lasting are the effects?
- Does it really help significantly or is the client just feeling better for a short while?
- How much does it actually impact someone’s life?
- And how much should you really care about all that?
How do you measure all these things?
And how attached can or should you become to the results of your massage therapy?
How involved should you be in your client’s well-being?
Results in Thai Massage therapy can vary greatly
Sometimes you work on a client, and you are in the flow. You spontaneously know exactly what to do. Your session seems tailor-made for your client, and you find all the right spots to work on.
You intuitively connect with your client, and the energy is flowing beautifully without any obstruction. Everything is perfect, and you don’t even know how it happened. It feels like a kind of magic.
Sometimes you work on a client, and you don’t do anything different – just your usual good job. And that client is blown away with your session and ends up in massage heaven and tells you so.
And then there are times when you work on someone, and despite your best efforts the client is not moved, not impressed, has nothing good to say, and you feel that there is no energy coming back to you at all.
It can make you feel hollow, depleted, and you might even wonder if there is anything wrong with your work or your chosen profession. Maybe your ‘best’ is not good enough.
Gaining perspective when doubts are creeping in
How do you handle all this mentally or psychologically? If you really care about your Thai Massage work, it will affect you in some way – like it or not.
Despite all your best ‘energy bubble’ techniques or whatever other favorite methods you may have, you have to deal with the fact that your results will vary, and sometimes you won’t have any idea why they do.
There is an old saying: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time“.
You can translate this for your massage therapy:
“You can work magic with your hands on many clients some of the time. You can work magic with your hands and energy on some clients most of the time. But you can never work magic with your hands and energy on all of your clients all of the time“.
The latter would be an unrealistic expectation and set you up for frustration and doubt.
Balance in Thai Massage therapy and the mind
That’s just how it works in life. Nobody gets to hit home runs all the time. Very few people are always successful, or successful right out of the gate without any setbacks.
It’s a balancing act … Caring about your clients without becoming so attached to the results that you take your results personally.
…Trying your best without caring more about your client’s well-being than about your own.
…Accepting responsibility for a client’s condition only to such a degree that you don’t overlook the client’s responsibility for their choices of habits and lifestyle.
Instead of fighting the cycles, flow with them
You can also look at it this way. It is the nature of life to flow in cycles. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down.
There is high tide and low tide, there are biorhythms and menstrual cycles and seasonal cycles and life cycles from birth to death. Life is never static, and neither is Thai Massage therapy.
Sometimes we build up our good energy massage account, and sometimes we have to make withdrawals from it.
Sometimes we spontaneously connect with a client, and sometimes we look at the clock, waiting for the session to be over.
Helpful practices to raise your energy level for Thai Massage
We are not just victims of the cyclical nature of life. There are things we can do to smooth the ups and downs.
Depending on your personal preferences this could be outdoor activity in nature, gardening, exercise, meditation, Qigong, breathing exercises, listening to beautiful music, or a clean diet. Or how about getting a wonderful massage on a regular basis?
All of these suggestions have one theme in common – as therapists, we cannot just focus on helping others, but we also have to make time to take care of ourselves. The better our energy and physical and mental health is, the more we can help our clients.
Staying with the big picture in Thai Massage therapy
It is also important to look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself these questions:
- On balance, does our massage work add to our satisfaction in life, to our joy, to our desire to help our fellow human beings?
- Are there many people whom we helped over the years to feel better, improve their health, and experience some blissful hours because of our work?
- When we come to the closing point of our life cycle in this body, can we say that we truly made a contribution to our fellow human beings, to the well-being of our clients, and to the positive energy of our planet?
I am convinced that most of us in the massage therapy profession will be able to answer “yes” to these questions.
Choose the view from the highest point – it looks better
If you look at your profession from this higher vantage point, if you see the bigger picture, you can handle those times when the energy hits a low point.
The low points will happen because this is the nature of life. All we have to do is remember and pay more attention to the high points of the inevitable energy cycles.
Thai Massage therapy is not just a job, a regulated industry, or a clinical process. It is a way to build up the positive and loving energy balance of our world. I am proud and happy to be part of it, and so can you.
If you would like to learn more about the beautifully balanced and harmonious art of Thai Massage, follow the link below to check out Thai Healing Massage Academy’s online training library:
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over 20 years, and he is the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses.
23 thoughts on “A Success Manual For Thai Massage Therapists”
Thank you shama. This was a lovely article and I totally agree with your thoughts. I’ll try to remember to look at the bigger picture when I get those times when nothing seems to connect or flow. Thank you.
Thank you, Sue. I appreciate that you took the time to comment and I am glad my thoughts resonate with you.
Thanks for the timely reminder, I have felt at times that despite my best efforts I have had little beneficial effect. Remembering the times when feedback is spontaneous and heartfelt in the positive is a much better chemical bath for our cells. I appreciate the regular contact you give your students, it is an enjoyable way to learn. I feel your presence in every video, email or comment.
I love connecting with my students, readers and subscribers. It is so much more fun and satisfying for the heart than just selling a course, and that’s it. My entire approach is built on the support and communication concept. Thanks for letting me know that it works well for you.
Your words hit home for me. Especially the view point with the higher view of the picture. That is a fantastic way to look at your life as a whole. Look at the big picture not just up close…
Thanks for your feedback. It seems that we are on the same wave length!
Another great article!
I posted a comment on your You Tube channel the other day, but I think it got kind of “lost” there. So I’m re-posting it below and you can feel free to place it anywhere you want. Here it is:
Shama’s videos and the way he uses them to present so many various aspects of Thai Massage is a valuable resource for anyone, new or experienced, wanting to improve their knowledge and technique. Even though I am a long-time practitioner and Thai Massage teacher and have produced my own guidebooks and videos, I still find his material to be extremely helpful, and I can highly recommend watching them often, to anyone. His regular uploads are a valuable contribution to the evolution of this amazingly effective healing art we love so much. Thanks, Shama – keep up the good work!
You are right Deon, I get lost in my own youtube account with all the many videos and responses. Sometimes I go through it and check it all, but I had not yet discovered your post there. Thanks for reposting it here.
I know you are every bit as qualified and experienced with Thai Massage as I am (or more), so your testimonial really does mean a lot to me. I will put it to good use. Thanks so much!
Thank you, Shama, for being interested not only about the client but about us too. I´m just beginning to learn this practice, instead I´ve been a yoga teacher for several years and in many occasions I felt that my class was not suitable for all my students.Not everybody can understand what is it all about at the same time, it´s a question of time… I suppose it is not quite different in a thai massage session.
You are right Beatriz, I have had the same experience when I teach Thai Massage classes. Not everyone ‘gets’ it, some students want to learn faster, some slower, some may not be suited to be massage therapists in the first place… It is not possible to adapt the class to every individual, so we have to live with the fact that we are trying our best, although it will never be the best for each and every individual in our class. It comes down to the saying I quoted: “You can never please all of the people all of the time”. The trick is to internalize this and not feel that there is something wrong with us for not being able to reach each and every student equally.
I am agree with you. Thank you for sharing your experience. As you say, sometimes, some clients get up just when the massage finishes, and they only say “How much?, they pay and go out. Then I think “I have done something bad, because he/she hasn`t said anything”. But It can be for many reasons, I think. Because they are shy, because they are so relaxed that they don’t have words or only because it is very difficult to describe what they are feeling. About all, we should have a optimist vision, however in some cases is more difficult. In my yoga classes happen the same. People are in another state of awareness. It is my oppinion. Thank you again Shama
Thanks for your comment Ezequiel. Yes, people’s reaction can be for many reasons. Some people just don’t communicate the same way we do. I have had experiences when I did a session and I felt the entire time that I was not getting through to the client. Then after the session the client gave me a big tip and said that it was the best session ever.
Some people close themselves off emotionally, or live in a world of fear, and their heart is not open. We may feel that, but it has nothing to do with our session, it is just how the client is wired.
Some clients don’t allow themselves to let go and really experience the session for all it is worth because they don’t allow their mind to shut up for a while. Others are just not good at expressing their appreciation after a session.
There are so many reasons, and they may have nothing to do with us. So we have to learn to not take those things personally. As long as we know that our massage is good, we need to be attached to providing excellent service while being detached from all the personal reactions, otherwise we can drive our own minds crazy.
What you say is so true. I think as long as we reach out freely from the heart, it’s not up to us to judge how it is received, because of the risk of misinterpreting. In February a friend gave me a coupon for a massage as a birthday present. Being on the receiving end is a rare event for me and one I was really looking forward to. The setting was beautiful and I enjoyed the massage very much. When my friend asked me for feedback, I said great massage, but I felt a certain reserve on her side. When my friend asked the therapist for feedback, she said it well well, but she felt a certain reserve on my part! I thought about that, and reckon that as a therapist myself, a part of me was observing both out of curiosity and to see if there were special bits I could pick up for my clients. And I think she sensed this watching eye and interpreted it negatively, feeling she wasn’t getting me to let go enough (she didn’t know I was a health therapist).
Isn’t it interesting how we pick up on each other’s energy, and how important it is to guide our energy in the right channels. I do know the feeling of getting a massage and watching if there is anything the other therapist is doing which I could use for my own work. 🙂
all i can say… thank you so much,as new LMT i learned a lot reading your articles..God bLess your hands.
Thanks Nilda, I am so glad that I can contribute to your learning through my articles. I appreciate you letting me know. It means a lot to me.
Cheers Shama. Nice perspective. Been using your rocking techniques from the course. Well liked by clients. I can see you’re really into massage and it’s inspiring. Love to see an article about us older folk and how to deal with the body aches,knees, shoulders etc going into the future. What’s the oldest age you know of someone treating on the floor. I studied shiatsu which also incorporated foot shiatsu. I saw a sought of like parallel bars thing that goes over massage tables for US$750 and thought to myself is that my future using foot massage? Warm regards Andrew. PS Plan to get to chang mai next year. Am I able to book you for a treatment?
Andrew, I think I myself am a pretty good example. I have been doing regular 2 hour Thai Massage sessions when I was in my 60s already. And I am not talking about fluffy feel good sessions, but heavy duty therapy sessions on 180 pound men who have serious issues.
I am very good at using my body weight to its best advantage and at using feet, elbows, forearms and knees to increase my leverage. I never saw the need for a massage table or bars to hold on to since I have very good balance. Working on the floor gives you much better leverage than you can get on a table.
If you adjust your position properly, knee issues should not develop because of the Thai Massage, and if you eliminate working with muscle power as much as possible in favor of using body weight and good ergonomics, your shoulders should be just fine.
The best way to keep body aches at bay is to exercise regularly and do some yoga to remain flexible. It is also a mindset thing.
My power in working has increased, not decreased, because my technique is getting more refined. This is one of the unique things about Thai Massage. I feel that my age does not limit me in any way when it comes to doing Thai Massage, or at least so far it hasn’t.
Here in Chiang Mai I know several therapists in their 50s and early 60s. Granted, most therapists are younger, but as far as I am concerned, age is not so much of a problem. At least I am sure about one thing: Nobody is going to mistake my intentions compared to some of the young, attractive female therapists here in Thailand who try to drag you into their establishments:)
I know that especially people with issues who need good therapy work value my age since it translates into lots of experience and knowledge.
Personally when I want to get a massage somewhere in Thailand, I always avoid the young, pretty female therapists since quite a few of them are on the prowl for boyfriends or extra income. I look for an older woman who looks experienced (most therapists here are female). That has paid off well for me.
Looking forward to seeing you in Chiang Mai next year.
Andrew. I’m 64 and still doing regular 2 hr sessions and I think mama lek is still going strong. I think that doing Thai massage also keeps us strong and supple so everyone wins… Power to your elbow… Knees, feet and forearms too. Namaste. Sue.
Adding to that, Mama Nit, another well known and respected Thai Massage teacher here in Chiang Mai, had been working until she was well into her sixties. Chaiuth, also a famous Thai Massage teacher, had been working until he was in his late fifties or early sixties (he is deceased now).
A few days ago, my wife and myself went to the mall to get a foot massage. Both our therapists, who do foot massage and Thai Massage, were in their early sixties. I know that, because my wife asked them. Here in Thailand it is not considered rude to ask people how old they are unlike in the western world.
A friend of mine, a well respected therapist from Austin, TX, is past her mid sixties, and she does all kinds of massage (besides doing martial arts and other cool stuff).
I agree with you, Thai Massage does keep us supple. As far as I am concerned, I am a long ways from retiring. I also know that I have several students who are in their fifties or more, like you, Sue. I could go on and extend my list of Thai Massage practitioners and teachers who are in their fifties and sixties. This is not uncommon and it is clearly possible. Thai Massage is not just for young yogis!
Good content and it’s really informative. thanks for sharing these valuable post.
I’ve always been interested in learning to become a massage therapist myself. Your articles definitely make me want to pursue that at some point in time. it’s full of great information and helpful tips! Thank you so much, Shama.
Thanks for your feedback. Let me know when you actually take the step to become a massage therapist. Maybe our courses can help you get there. 🙂