Dan Som­mer

NOW Magazine - Class Action - - CLASS ACTION//MASSAGE THERAPY -

I work six days a week at sev­eral clin­ics right now as a full-time mas­sage ther­a­pist and oc­ca­sion­ally teach at Cen­ten­nial Col­lege.

When I left high school I went to the Univer­sity of Toronto for com­puter sci­ence. I worked at a small dot­com as a com­puter pro­gram­mer as my sec­ond-year sum­mer job and stayed there for quite a long time – about 13 years to­tal. After a while I got a bit dis­il­lu­sioned with the in­dus­try. I didn’t have very much job sat­is­fac­tion. While I was get­ting a mas­sage, I men­tioned I was look­ing to change ca­reers, and my mas­sage ther­a­pist con­vinced me to take a look at the pro­fes­sion.

In 2007, I en­rolled in Cen­ten­nial Col­lege for mas­sage ther­apy. It’s a pretty in­ten­sive pro­gram – three years, and a lot of the fo­cus is very clin­i­cal and sci­ence-based. There are a few fo­cuses to the pro­gram. One is to get you regis­tered as a reg­u­lated health pro­fes­sional (they prep you to pass the gov­ern­ment exam), and there is the train­ing for the work it­self. Both as­pects were quite well cov­ered. I’m very com­fort­able as far as what I do and was pre­pared for the exams as well.

What I like about the field is that you’re self- em­ployed, very au­ton­o­mous. The job sat­is­fac­tion is sec­ond to none. It’s one of the few pro­fes­sions where peo­ple come to see you and gen­er­ally leave hap­pier than when they showed up. It’s al­ways nice to be help­ing peo­ple, and you can tell by their faces what im­pact you’re hav­ing on their lives, whether you see them once for an hour or over a few years. You can’t beat that.

The teach­ing as­pect that I’m do­ing was un­ex­pected and new. I had a great time while I was in the pro­gram and didn’t want to leave after grad­u­at­ing, so I jumped at teach­ing.

We did some sur­pris­ing out­reaches while we were in school. We treated very spe­cific groups of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity. We had an out­reach at a se­niors’ home, a pal­lia­tive care ward at Toronto East Gen­eral, and we did some work with sports and ortho­pe­dic as­sess­ment at the U of T Scar­bor­ough cam­pus.

As for the chal­lenges, any time you’re work­ing for the pub­lic, you’re deal­ing with who­ever comes through the door, in­clud­ing peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­ily mesh with you. You have to be avail­able when peo­ple are avail­able, so gen­er­ally you’re not work­ing 9-to-5. There are some­times early morn­ings de­pend­ing on peo­ple’s sched­ules. My typ­i­cal hours are 11 am to 9 pm.

The best mas­sage ther­a­pists have com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy – and a lot of pa­tience. Peo­ple tend to be sur­prised by how much sci­ence is in­volved in the course, a lot of anatomy, pathol­ogy and phys­i­ol­ogy. You must know the parts of the body, how it works and breaks down with var­i­ous dis­eases. Hav­ing an­a­lyt­i­cal and prob­lem-solv­ing skills is help­ful as well so you can fig­ure out what might be caus­ing some­one’s pain or dis­com­fort. Both right- and left- brain think­ing are def­i­nitely needed.

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