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A lack of confidence holds RMTs back from business success


October 17, 2019
By Ken Ansell

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I remember many years ago (over 20) at an annual conference, a group of us were discussing the progress of massage therapy as a profession: Where we have come from, where we were currently at and what the future would hold for us massage therapists and the profession. One thing about that conversation that has stuck with me and has surfaced more times than I can count throughout the years is the confidence of massage therapists.

One conversation, in particular, revolved around the lack of confidence and fear of communicating concerns or assessment findings with physicians or other health care providers. The worry and anxiety of conveying incorrect information. What if my assessment is wrong? What if the doctor disagrees with me? What if…. So I conducted an impromptu survey and asked a few massage therapists if they write reports or provide information back to the physician or healthcare providers, and if not, why? Now there was zero reliability to the results, but sure enough, the overwhelming consensus was the same: “What if the information I provide is incorrect?” There was even a comment made that in their training, they are never to say or write in a report anything that you could be held accountable for, or challenged on if something ever went to court. Seems like a pretty odd thing to teach. I wonder what the ratio of massage therapists being raked over the coals and challenged on their assessment findings in court to the number of massage therapy treatments performed would be.

I asked a physician friend of mine if the information that’s provided by a massage therapist is usually beneficial and helpful. He said if a massage therapist takes the time to send information in the form of a report or letter, it is generally beneficial. When a doctor sees a patient, the time is minimal. A massage therapist typically spends 30-60 minutes or more and often has more valuable information than the physician can obtain. Any information provided that a physician may not have time to uncover can be helpful to the patient receiving the proper care that they need.

Many massage therapists struggle to provide information to physicians, chiropractors or healthcare providers. The common thread is a lack of confidence.

Why is confidence important?
When placed in a concerning situation, fear kicks in. Fear is truly meant to protect us from physical harm, injury or death. However, there’s no clear or present danger when writing a report to a physician. Over time, fear also protects us from emotion – how we will feel if we make a mistake. “What if I provide incorrect information, what if my assessment is wrong, what if the doctor disagrees with me?” Fear kicks in, and we focus on all the reasons why we can’t. Our level of confidence plummets as the “I can’ts” quickly take over.

The fact is that we provide a vital part of health care. We have robust training, excellent assessment and treatment skills, and spend more one on one time with patients than nearly any other healthcare provider. The information we accumulate both in our objective and subjective findings, along with the conversations we have throughout, may significantly help another healthcare provider.

When we focus on the “I can’s,” we significantly increase our overall level of confidence. When faced with a challenging situation that you know is holding you back, try writing it down!

  1. Write down what you want to accomplish (confidence in)
  2. List the reasons why you can
  3. List the reasons why you can’t
  4. Analyze the I can’ts. When we analyze the I can’ts, surprisingly we find many of them are not valid or are insignificant when we see them in black and white.
  5. Increase your list of reasons why you can

Many areas have addressed where confidence may hold massage therapists back. Do you charge enough for your treatments? Do you put yourself on the same level as other healthcare providers? Am I knowledgeable enough to be respected by other healthcare providers? Do I provide excellent treatment? Try that same technique in other areas like these where you feel less confident than you know you should be. Use it with some areas in your personal life. When you learn to challenge and reject those reasons why you can’t, you will continually build and grow your confidence.

When your confidence as an individual therapist increases, your overall success increases. When an individual therapist’s confidence and success increases, then so does the entire profession’s.


Ken V. Ansell, RMT, D.Ac., has been a massage therapist practicing in Regina for 25 years with a strong passion for the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes. He is a member of MTAS, the Provincial Medical Acupuncture Association and the Canadian Contemporary Acupuncture Association.