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.