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Beyond the CEU

In memoriam: Christopher Terrence O'Connor passed away suddenly on March 27, 2018. Massage Therapy Canada was fortunate enough to work with Chris over the years and share in mourning with his friends, family and the rest of the profession.

These days, it seems you can’t throw a hot stone without hitting a massage therapist! In an ever-more-saturated field, what can you do to separate yourself from the pack?

December 28, 2012  By Chris O'Connor

In memoriam: Christopher Terrence O’Connor passed away suddenly on March 27, 2018. Massage Therapy Canada was fortunate enough to work with Chris over the years and share in mourning with his friends, family and the rest of the profession.

These days, it seems you can’t throw a hot stone without hitting a massage therapist! In an ever-more-saturated field, what can you do to separate yourself from the pack? How do you stand out? How do you add value to your practice, and what is real value?

In its basic suggestion, value is the established worth, merit, or importance of something. In the helping professions, it is advisable to travel beyond the consideration of value simply as monetary worth, and to venture into the realms of value as genuine merit and importance. In a health-care setting, value can mean providing the best service you possibly can, doing more than you will ever be paid for, going the extra mile with your clients and trying to find ways to benefit your community.

Adding value to your practice can be as simple as studying for a half hour each day. Choose an area of study that may have been a weak spot in your training, perhaps anatomy. In one year of adding the half-hour session to your life, you will have accumulated four 40-hour weeks of continuing education in anatomy! The CEU format fostered by our regulatory bodies and associations is great but going back to our basics of anatomy, neurology, pathology and physiology can have tremendous benefit.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” –Anthony J. D’Angelo


While it is fun and worthwhile to learn something new, might I suggest that when choosing a CEU subject, you choose something that is challenging to you rather than something that looks “safe”. It is easy to fall into the mindset that you just “have to” complete your CEU requirements, so you might be inclined to select an easy course in something you are already familiar with. Raising your own “bar” can help boost business value, not only because you will have learned something completely new, but also because you will have gained new confidence by enriching your talents. Your regular clients will notice a difference in the treatments they receive and new clients will wonder why your treatments are different and more effective than many others.

Registered massage therapists have a wealth of courses to choose from: acupuncture, kinesio-taping, hot stone massage, Bowen therapy, shockwave therapy, cranio-sacral therapy, active release therapy and myofascial release, to name a few. Any of these skills will add value to your practice. As in any profession, however, our tools are only as good as our ability to use them in the most effective manner. Reconsider that each of these therapies requires a sound knowledge of the underlying anatomical structures. Kinesio-taping for infraspinatus inhibition will have little effect without a perfect understanding of the origin, insertion and innervation of the infraspinatus muscles.

I harp on this point from good experience. As an instructor of medical acupuncture, I am still surprised when students who are RMTs, MDs and physiotherapists suggest that a review class in anatomy and neurology be set up before the main course is taught to get them up to speed. The anatomy and neurology are nothing more than what each practitioner would have been required to know for their respective board exams!

“If you are going to go into business it should be to add value to the community you will be serving, not just to make money. It sounds kind of counter-intuitive but let me explain: in the beginning you may be able to generate income without providing much value but in the long run your business will have trouble surviving. Defining the values you want to provide will allow you to understand what kind of clients you will be serving.” –Bob Proctor

Getting involved with the community through charity work can also create value for your business. Putting together your own programs, setting up scholarships, holding a winter clothing drive or hosting an educational event affords the opportunity to get to know your community – and for the community to get to know you. To see and be seen!

I recently had the opportunity to produce and host a six-part community program, Massage Matters, with Rogers Television in the Grand River Region of Ontario. The guidelines of the show did not allow for my own self-promotion or promotion of my clinic. I did not even mention my professional background on the show! Over the course of the series, I brought in four guests, three of whom were RMTs. Two of the three have already had clients book in with them because of the exposure to their communities that they gained from the show. The purpose of Massage Matters was to educate the public about all the services offered by RMTs and allow them to make informed choices, take informed action and be proactive towards their health care.

Writing articles for your local newspaper or giving free lectures at your local community centre may also be very valuable, if, and only if, you do the writing or give the speech to provide value and not to drum up business! This may seem like a departure from the conventional business model – but it takes us, once again, to the idea of offering value rather than just seeking financial gain.

“I have found that, among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” –Maya Anjelou

Breaking old, destructive habits and replacing them with new, productive habits is a challenge. Our minds are programmed from the time we are born and often any new information we receive isn’t very helpful. For instance, have you ever had a client come in and say something like “Everyone in my family is overweight” or “Everyone in my family smokes.” The ‘etched in stone’ mindset is strong and difficult to overcome for individuals – and their therapists. We all have negativity within, which can block us from performing at our highest potential. Often the biggest obstacle is that we don’t even know why we hold strong to our beliefs, or why we have formed bad habits.

Adding courses and reading books on personal and professional development can come in handy. By taking courses and reading books on personal and professional development, you can explore these bad habits and reflect on what needs to change. The lessons you learn about yourself and the ways you change your own thinking can, in turn, help you to help your clients. Overcoming your own obstacles to success sets a good example. For instance, live the way you have been suggesting to your clients: quit smoking, start a stretching routine, spend less time on social media and more time studying. You will become the example they can emulate!

Many of us have strong business-related beliefs as well and these can hold us back. Beliefs like: “There are too many RMTs in this part of town or in this community,” “This is a bad time of year to attract new business” and “With all the troubles in the economy no one has the money to pay for massage treatments” can all create impediments to our growth. These are all just beliefs, not facts, and we need to know the difference! When you hear yourself saying or thinking these thoughts, have a system in place that brings you back to inspired action. This is where ongoing life-learning, and materials that focus on personal and professional development become invaluable.

“Habits change into character.” –Ovid

If a poll was taken of everyone who reads this magazine, asking how much time they had spent over the last five years planning vacations – researching locales, booking flights, hotels, sightseeing, scuba classes, passports, meals, etc. – it wouldn’t be surprising to find out it was many hours, probably close to 20 or 30. If I were to ask those same readers how much time they had spent planning and writing down their personal or professional goals, I wouldn’t be surprised if they said very little or even no time. It is funny how we have been more effectively conditioned to plan an escape from our community, than to plan the ways we want to live and produce value within it!

I think Albert Gray – an American insurance salesman and motivational figure who put forth some powerful ideas about being successful – put it very well in a speech he gave many years ago. He said; “the secret I was trying to discover lay not only in what people did, but also in what made them do it . . . the secret of success of every person who has ever been successful – lies in the fact that they formed the habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do!” [Albert E. N. Gray, 1940]

Nowhere in any of the literature that I have read on the topic of forming habits does it say that it is going to be easy. It is all very simple, but definitely not easy! Finding the time seems to be the biggest challenge for most people. Everyone gets 24 hours per day and you will have to rearrange some things to fit in a brand new habit.

The most famous basketball players of all time were known to be the first ones on the court for every practice and the last ones to leave! How does this translate into adding value to my health care practice? Taking the time to sit down and write out your personal and professional goals at the beginning and end of every day means that, in your own game, you are the first and last on the court.

Start with a small change like waking up an hour earlier every morning to study: make a gratitude list, read about success and plan your own success. A little discipline will go a long way toward creating the life and practice you always wanted but never knew you could have.

“Try not to become an individual of success, but rather try to become an individual of value.” –Albert Einstein

Decide what you are going to do to create more value in all aspects of your life and sooner than you can imagine you will be a “standout” in your community. Resolve today to create the habit of adding more value to everything you do: our profession, as a whole, can only be uplifted by each of our individual efforts.

Tips to Add Value to Your practice

  • Make the time to evaluate where you are and to plan new goals for both personal and professional growth and development.
  • Make reviewing the basics an important part of your continuing education activities.
  • Take continuing education courses on topics that you are not familiar with, to broaden your scope of knowledge and skills.
  • See and be seen in your community – give talks, develop educational programming, host a clothing drive – with the intention of doing something of value rather than something that will make money.
  • Read, study and reflect on personal and business growth concepts to help you examine and break down old destructive habits and beliefs that obstruct your growth and progress.
  • Choose newer, constructive habits and begin to walk your talk!


Chris O’Connor is a massage therapist, public speaker, osteopathic practitioner, provider and instructor of contemporary medical acupuncture. For more information, visit .

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