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Training in the UK inferior? So who's had a massage from a U.S/Canadian therapist?

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yogajoga
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I get a bit miffed when over and over again I read about how massage therapy training in the U.K is considered inferior to the USA and Canada. Yes, they do a zillion hours training in comparison to us blah, blah......... However, the proof is in the touch!

I'd like to hear from people who have experienced massage in USA/Canada or by a therapist trained in N. America - how was it?

I'm not trying to be glib here........... I'd genuinely like to know if their superior training makes them better therapists?

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sportstherapy
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I thought I would get in on in this debate, with fear of maybe upsetting some of my own graduates who may read this forum.

I have trained many many therapists over the past 15 years, and have seen them come from all backgrounds. I have been quite lucky enough to train therapists from all over the world, and quite frankly, no, they arent all that!

Yes there are some appalling courses in the UK, but regardless of the hours spent in a classroom, it hasnt guaranteed that all of the therapists are well trained.

The worst offenders seem to be those who have done courses in Australia, on paper they should be amazing therapists, but their practical skills fall very very short.

I have quite a lot of graduates who have gone to live abroad, and have had to do 'local' licensing courses to get registered in their country of choice, and the reports back from them are that the courses are useless.

We have a great association with the military and university authorities in Trinidad and Tobago, who, after sending their staff to the US to train, and then to us in the UK, found our training to be far superior.

I think many people mistakenly think that because the US and Australia exceed us in the research arena, that they are better therapists, but this just isnt true.

Richard

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Alan D
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I have received massages from a couple of UK therapists which have been just as good as anything I have received outside the UK. But I have also had some poor massages from UK therapists (mostly on CPD courses, and on my original ITEC course, where the tutor was very poor and didn’t teach the basics of posture and bodyweight).
Outside the UK, most of my personal experience is from Jamaica, Spain and Germany. I have never had a poor massage in Jamaica. I have received massages of varying standards in Spain and Germany, but I would say that the average standard is better than the average standard in the UK. (I believe that the training requirements in Germany are quite demanding: I’m not sure about Jamaica or Spain.)
My experience of the USA is limited, and of course the training requirements there are laid down by the individual states, not by the Federal government. But one area where some American states definitely score over the UK is in their practical exam, ie:

1) When I took my ITEC exam, students did their practical assessment treating someone they already knew (some students treated their husband or boyfriend). They were assessed by an examiner who watched the massage.
2) When I took my BTEC / LSSM exam, students were required to do two practical assessments, both on someone they had never met before. They were assessed by an examiner who watched the massages.
3) In some American states (eg Hawaii), students are assessed for their practical exam by the person they are treating (ie they have to massage the examiner).

In my opinion, the BTEC/LSSM protocol is better than the ITEC protocol (because in real life, we have to massage people we have never met before). But I think that the Hawaiian protocol is better than either. In real life, clients do not judge us by what our massage looks like, but by what the massage feels like. If a therapist keeps getting repeat bookings, he/she must be doing something right! And if he/she doesn’t get many or any repeat bookings, then additional training is needed.

I should also mention that the best massage training videos I have seen are both by Americans (Sean Riehl and Art Riggs). And the best CPD training I have received in the UK has been at Jing (discussed on previous threads), where both the principal tutors trained in the USA.

Alan

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yogajoga
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Thanks for the balanced and intersting views.

I'm astounded, but not surprised, to hear that one of your worst experiences was on a CPD course. I don't want to open up the already hot topic on the validity and necessity of CPD but sometimes the things I hear and read is shocking.

I TOTALLY agree that it makes sense to massage the examiner. Although in sports massage you'd probably need 2 examiners one to watch how you assess and the other to receive the massage techniques. I would imagine that this is impractical when you have a class of up to 20 students - how could you/ do they get around this issue?

I don't think it's too much of a big deal that students massage someone they know, insofar as they would have to have done quite a few case studies, presumably on strangers and family and friends up to that point. It means the school doesn't have to find/provide new bodies for the exams. Which could prove time consuming and a logistical nightmare.

I studied with one school for both my ITEC and APNT qualifications and have done 2 No Hands Courses after that and have only encountered excellent teaching along the way. So I guess I'm lucky.

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New Age London
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I had a massage from a very good US massage therapist, sports, deep tissue, etc, but to be honest, I prefer to train a therapist to do what I like - I'm very particular. He was no better or worse than any UK massage therapist I've enjoyed a massage with.

Does anyone else here feel they want to get up and do the massage themselves? I feel that way sometimes - if only 😀

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cola
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The worst offenders seem to be those who have done courses in Australia, on paper they should be amazing therapists, but their practical skills fall very very short.

I'm interested in what Australia courses look so amazing on paper.
Why do they look amazing on paper?

There are no regulations to setting up practice in Australia, the only time any formal qualifications come into it is if you want clients to get rebates from health funds, then you need a Cert IV in Remedial Massage usually about 300hr - that qualification certainly doesn't look that amazing on paper, less than 100hr anatomy etc, 130hr actual hands on classes, and the rest is business/ethics, which hardly prepare anyone, same as with the business classes in any US massage courses, everyone does as little as possible because it's the tactile therapies that are important, and then afterwards complain there wasn't enough business education. Or there are the Raynor courses (5 or 10 days 'learn everything you ever will need to know' - yeah, right) or the ka huna courses seem have good recognition in the UK, 2 weeks and you can do a full body massage (amazing technique, but most need knowledge more behind it to make a long term career out of it)

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sportstherapy
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the syllabus is fantastic, however, when the therapists have demonstrated their skills.....well, they certainly didnt match what was on the syllabus!

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sportstherapy
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I had a massage from a very good US massage therapist, sports, deep tissue, etc, but to be honest, I prefer to train a therapist to do what I like - I'm very particular. He was no better or worse than any UK massage therapist I've enjoyed a massage with.

Does anyone else here feel they want to get up and do the massage themselves? I feel that way sometimes - if only 😀

Totally agree!

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yogajoga
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I'm interested to hear about how you go about training the therapist to do what you like? Would some therapists not take umbrage at being told what to do? Personally I'd welcome the feedback but I would imagine it wouldn't go down too well with some.

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sportstherapy
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i hate massages where i can count the number of strokes they perform and what is going to come next! I can usually tell which syllabus they have covered!

Massage is an instinctive therapy, which is why some people can learn it quickly, and others can spend thousands of hours training, but still not give a good massage.

Where feedback is concerned, yes its a necessity to give feedback, but when the therapists ignores what you say, and carries on regardless, thats when it becomes frustrating.

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yogajoga
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Thanks sportstherapy - Icouldn't agree more. Excuse my ignorance but I had no idea there were therapists out there who still stick to the taught "routine". I threw mine out the window as soon as my exam was finished. I suppose immediately after graduating you might stick to what you know but further down the line surely that's just not possible? Each client is unique and presents something different - so a "one size fits all" is inconcievable.

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InTouch
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Yogajoga, let me give you an example to consider that I think goes one step beyond the routine versus no routine you raised and I think relates to some of the other posts.

I had a massage in the US in one of the top schools from a soon to graduate student, and frankly I was disappointed.

Disappointed not by the technique - which did not seem to be a routine and was absolutely brilliant: from a pure technical point of view close to faultless (and certainly better than mine!). But disappointed by the fact that the massage was completely dissociated from me as a person. Hard to describe but there was absolutely no connection between the therapist and the client. It was a very strange and novel experience for me since I have always been trained and treated by therapists who instinctively connect on many levels.

I did try and give the student some (I hope) tactful and constructive feedback, but from what I could tell this was not something the student had been taught either directly or indirectly.

Now I know this was only one therapist (and a very well trained student at that) - and I am sure for many clients this would have been an excellent massage. And I know I am discerning in what I want from a massage (read fussy!), but for me it just did not work at all.

Hopefully what I describe makes sense because I think this cuts to the heart of the issue. I think there is much more to massage than flawless technique and boundless A&P knowledge based on hundreds of hours of tuition. For me I would much rather have a massage where the techniques was less than perfect but connected to me as a person than just perfect technique. I think I would even go for a set routine with connection than perfect free form technique.

Put another way I would rather dance the dance with a responsive and empathetic therapist than one who's dance steps are immaculate but ignores me as a person. Massage for me as both a therapist and a client is always a dance where one leads and the other follows (but sometimes the order is not as you might expect).

I don't know if this distinction is in any way country (or culture?) specific - and I certainly don't want in any way be down on American therapists (I have had some excellent massages in the US). Rather I think the criteria for massage excellence is very subjective and very hard to measure - at least once you get to a certain simple level of technical competence.

If you subscribe to my point of view the question then is - can the skill in massage to connect and dance the dance be taught / learned, and if so are there places that do it better than others?

Hopefully food for thought

InTouch

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cola
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the syllabus is fantastic, however, when the therapists have demonstrated their skills.....well, they certainly didnt match what was on the syllabus!

I'm still trying to figure out what Australian syllabus looks so amazing. Do you mean a 300hr Cert IV Remedial Massage where there is only a bit over 100hrs hands-on training?????

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sportstherapy
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I see lots and lots of course syllabi, so not sure which I saw, but it included pretty much all the remedial techniques you can think of, which arent included in UK courses.

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yogajoga
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I agree - a therapist needs to connect with the client - totally concentrate on what they're feeling, connecting with their breath and as you say "doing a dance". A therapist who doesn't get involved with the client ie. really looks at them - how are they breathing, what is their facial expression [if you can see it obviously] etc. and thinks about what they're going to have for dinner and what happened earlier on in the day etc. is not going to give a "complete" or multi-faceted massage, no matter how technically perfect they may be.

To turn things on their head though - as a therapist you can be doing your damndest to tick ALL the boxes - however, if your client is not present and thinking about what they're going to have for dinner then they're not being a good client. If the client won't let go and won't breath and resists going where the massage takes them then they won't experience a good massage on all the levels possible. It's up to therapists to educate clients on how to get the best from their therapy. Therapists shouldn't assume that clients know what to do. A few simple instructions to the client before the massage can plant the seed of how to enhance the experience for all concerned.

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stephen jeffrey
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I am finding this thread quite facinating in that it really shows the many qualities required to be a good therapist and receiver alike.

My worst deep tissue massage was on holiday in Spain from a osteopath at a health center, no doubt he was very highly trained but had absolutely no interest in doing massage for 60 mins !

My regular massage is from a student I first mentored 6 years ago straight after he had finnished completing his formal training. As he learnt my techniques stroke by stroke and then applied them to me I learned alot about my own massage and how I could improve it.

Yes its always wonderful to get good feedback from visitors to this country re my massage but the reason I ever started was because I could study part time and gain a qualification reasonably quickly.How many potential students will be lost to this proffession if it became thousands of hours full time as in Canada ?

Regards steve

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happyfingers
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I did the diploma in remedial massage at the acnt college in Australia

It was one year full time which was actually less than five days a week. It was a while ago but I think it was 3 or 4 days - can't remember. The standard of the tutors varied considerably, but I guess that's generally the same with all big teaching establishments. I can't comment on whether it was better than the UK equivalent (I haven't done it) but I can say that the content was fairly detailed and comprehensive. We also learned additional techniques that are generally only available to already qualified therapists in the UK (Myofascial Release direct method for instance).

Having said that, I think the length of the course drained the enthusiasm of many of my classmates. Only about 20% of them ended up being decent therapists. The rest were either simply not cut out to be therapists or they hadn't internalised enough to give them that solid foundation upon which they could build. I guess training is what you make of it.

In terms of US therapists I haven't had a treatment in the States, but I recently swapped with a New York therapist who is now living in London. She has 15 years experience and she was really really good. But I reckon there's probably the same proportion of good therapists to average/bad therapists over here as there is over there.

Regards

Henry

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Sue CarberryF
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Hi Guys,

What a wonderful read. I've given and received lots and lots of massage over the last 10yrs as a Deep Tissue Massage Pracitioner and I must say that 2 of the best massages I've ever had were from 2 US trained practitioners, but saying that both tuned into my body and worked intuitively without the intellect. Massage is a feeling profession not an intellectual one. The Practitioner comes from within not from a book.

Cheers, Sue

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yogajoga
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Well summed up Sue! Thanks.

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bbughtiful
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Hello everyone,

I am a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Arkansas. I have been to the UK many time but unfortunately, have never taken the time to get a massage. However, I am confident that you are all very skilled and competent therapist.

One thing that I learned in my training is that "intent" is key to giving a good massage. If you have a good basic routine and a sincere intent to help your client then the energy of your intent is tranfered to the client. This helps to enhance the whole experience of the massage. I was also taught that I cant be the right therapist for every body. Each therapist has his/her own style and technique. I tend to give a firm massage and occassionally I'll come across a client who prefers very light gentle stroking. I have a bit of trouble with these type of clients. I do try to adjust my technique to suit the needs of the client, but often times I get the feeling that they were not satisfied with the massage. In cases like this, I usually will refer them to another therapist (a friend of mine) who give a very light and gentle massage. It just comes natural for her, it is her technique. And, in turn she refers back to me, clients who enjoy a firmer massage.

One thing I like to do to improve my technique is to receive massage from different therapist. If a therapist does something different and it feels good to me, then I add it to my routine. My basic routine has changed alot, just by doing this.

Well, being a therapist from America, i just wanted to add my two cents worth.

I really dont think it matters where you were trained. What matters is that you have a honest intent to do good for the client.

Good health and best wishes to you all,
Becky

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InTouch
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Becky, thanks for this - wonderfully put, and I agree totally: massage is all about intent - that honest intent to do good for a client 🙂

The more I massage I do I become convinced that massage is a combination of intent and listening (plus some technique!). When I started my training the intent part was reasonably easy to, at least conceptulise, and gradually pick up. But I found the 'listening with my hands' really took a time to figure, let alone become adept at! And these are both skills I continually strive to improve.

I dont know if your average massage school - wherever it is located - teaches these kinds of things, but perhaps that is part of the puzzle. Plus I think your average client would think you were out to lunch if you talked about massage this way!

Sorry if this drifts off topic, but as Steve says this is a facsinating thread.

InTouch

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yogajoga
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Thanks Becky - I agree with "intent" making a big difference. Good to hear from someone from across the pond. Is there a site similar to Healthypages in the U.S?

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Moonbird
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This has been so interesting to read. I am newly qualified in massage and aromatherapy, I took the VTCT courses and although I learnt a lot I have been left feeling that an awful lot of massage knowledge and technique was left out. I am now booked on further courses to learn more. I want to give a theraputic and beneficial massage not just a relaxing one and the methods that I have learnt have just not covered this. Has anyone else felt that they have not covered enough on their course? I want my clients to know that I am doing the very best for them and not just getting on with it so I can get paid. I know a lot will come with experience but you have to know and feel its right when you start out. Thanks for starting this thread, I will now learn to "dance" with my clients.

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Anxious
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what makes one good?

Agree with points made by Beckey - I have limited experience however I have enjoyed receiving treatments, learning from them and then adopting some of the other person's techniques. I also know that my clients have commented positively on such adoptions!

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Essence99
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Thanks Becky - I agree with "intent" making a big difference. Good to hear from someone from across the pond. Is there a site similar to Healthypages in the U.S?

Yes

Moonbird - yes most therapists find that their initial training is not enough. Look at it as a foundation course. More training is required to enable you to give more than a relaxation course. I find that I am constantly updating/improving my skills with extra trainin.

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Patchouli
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Crikey....I am banned from bodyworkonline.com and I have never ewven heard of it before!!!!:confused:

Patchouli

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bbughtiful
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Melanie,

As Essence99 has already posted there is bodyworkonline.com. However, I personally like Healty Pages better. Healthy Pages covers a broader spectrum of the health and wellness industry where bodyworkonline is mainly just about massage body treatments.

Have a great day!

Cheers,
Becky

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Essence99
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Crikey....I am banned from bodyworkonline.com and I have never ewven heard of it before!!!!:confused:

Patchouli

Are you using a computer at an internet cafe? I can access the site from my home computer but in some internet cafes I am banned when I try to log in.

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butterflywings
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I did my massage training with ITEC at evening classes. Can't get much basic than that! A & P was good but took up most of the course. Really didn't feel that I understood what I was doing or why with the massage by the time the course finished.

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Alan D
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Firstly, I agree with the general view on this thread that spending hours in a classroom doesn’t guarantee that a therapist will be able to give a really good massage. But while this thread has given a very interesting discussion of what makes a good massage, and of standards overseas, it hasn’t really discussed the other element of Melanie’s original question, ie the extent to which some (not all) training in the UK is ‘inferior’.
Like ‘butterflywings’, I began my massage career with an ITEC course. I was very disappointed with the quality of the tuition: we had much less practical massage than the 50 hours which ITEC recommend, and we weren’t taught the importance of basic body mechanics and of having the couch low enough to ensure that the massage is effective. And although I passed the course, I was so frustrated with the poor training that I felt the need to go on a short course at the London College of Massage as a ‘top-up’ before proceeding to a sports massage course.
Some time ago there was a long thread on the training forum entitled

[url]I hate my course ITEC- so disorganised- How can I complain? [/url]


See <a class="go2wpf-bbcode" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href=" http://www.healthypages.net/forum/tm.asp?m=280433 "> http://www.healthypages.net/forum/tm.asp?m=280433
To quote ‘Jabba the Hut’:

ITEC is big and getting bigger, and we seem to hear more and more about unskilled tutors, and flimsy arrangements viz courses. There have been comments on other boards about tutors not turning up for several sessions at a time, and then trying to cram teaching in at the last minute, leaving people ill-prepared for exams. It isn't fair on the students.


As far as basic massage is concerned, neither ITEC nor VTCT require students to be able to massage the whole of the body. For example, a post on the training forum stated

We only did the following routine. Client face up: left arm, right leg, abdomen, head & neck; roll over, back of right leg and back; finished. 45 mins. (i don't think they ask for the whole body. The questions they ask are "light"


It is clear from several previous threads on this forum that some tutors take advantage of this to cut corners and don’t bother to teach their students the specific techniques for pectoral, abdominal, gluteal or facial massage. To quote another contributor to this forum:

“avoid therapists/salons who say they do full Swedish body massage but when you have the consultation they say 'oh i'm not trained in doing abdominals,glutes,chest' “


As I commented on that thread:

“I would agree that therapists who aren’t “trained in doing abdominals, glutes, chest'” shouldn’t advertise themselves as offering ‘full body massage’. Until I began reading this forum, I didn’t realise just how many sub-standard therapists appear to be working in the UK ! “

I also agree with Becky that one of the best ways to improve one’s technique is to receive massage from different therapists.

Alan

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