But I am a massage therapist!
Many people still have this misconception that people who do massage, particularly women, are providing some level of “personal” service – which is to say, happy endings and the like. Please rest assured, those of us who are licensed massage therapists, who have spent a great deal of time going to college, getting degrees and spending tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, did not do so to provide any sort of sexual favor (nor are we called “masseuses”).
Now, I am not one to be easily offended, and this said, will good-naturedly deflect bawdy comments from friends and acquaintences about my chosen profession. Everyone likes to joke, and no one likes someone who takes themselves too seriously – many massage therapists have a sense of humor, I promise. But, it does tend to rub us wrong (pun intended!) when we consistently hear, “Oh, you’re a masseuse? When can I schedule some private time with you? Hyuck, hyuck!” or similar cracks about our line of work, especially after having gone through the schooling and nerve-wracking process of studying and taking the required exams.
(As a quick side note, engaging in such behavior, even having a conversation implying so, with clients can create some rather difficult legal & ethical reprecussions, or even create the possibility of losing one’s license. Having it suggested by someone on my table that I engage in activites that could cause a situation where I may be unable to utilize the credentials I’ve worked so hard for would definitely make me a cranky person!)
I myself have an Associate’s degree in Applied Sciences – Massage Therapy, after completing 650 hours of hands-on education at an accredited college, including two semesters working in a clinic setting, and am certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Massage therapists also have to complete continuing education classes in order to continue working as therapists, much like nurses and other health care providers, and our interactions with clients are covered by HIPAA regulations.
There are many correct titles for those of us in the massage industry, most often, you will find one has “LMT” after their name, for “Licensed Massage Therapist”, just like RN’s (Registered Nurses) or PT’s (Physical Therapist). Additionally there are CMT’s (Certified Massage Therapist) – this differs slightly from LMT. What’s the difference, you ask? Being certified means a therapist has voluntarily met the qualifications set by a professional organization and adheres to that organization’s ethics and code of conduct. Being licensed means that it is required by a government agency and is not voluntary – for example, the state I reside in, Illinois, requires all massage therapists to apply for a license with the State in order to provide services for a fee (not that kind of service, though!).
A more thorough explanation can be found here at the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) website, one of the professional organizations a massage therapist may be part of. I am a member of the ABMP (American Bodywork & Massage Professionals) myself. This is purely a personal decision on the part of each therapist, but many, if not most, reputable massage professionals will be a member of one of these organizations. If you do not have a therapist and are looking for one in your area, I recommend going to either website and searching through their databases for someone locally.
So, if you are looking for a massage therapist, or know one, I hope you understand a little better why we tend to get all bent out of shape (ha!) when someone makes a crack about being a masseuse or happy endings.