The Anatomy of a Great RMT: The Top 5 Qualities All Amazing Massage Therapists Share

5 qualities of good rmt

Looking for a Career Where You Can Help Others and Stay Active? Massage Therapy May Be the Right Fit for You!

What is a Registered Massage Therapist?

A Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is a licensed healthcare professional who is trained to safely manipulate their clients’ muscles, fascia, and other soft tissues in order to achieve specific therapeutic benefits.

While many other health care workers and esthetics professionals will incorporate a few massage techniques into their work, RMTs have a specialized education that sets them apart. A massage therapist has different skills than a physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, kinesiologist, or occupational therapist—though they often work closely with all of them.

Many people get regular massages as part of their ongoing preventative health care routines, while others will only book an appointment with their RMT when they’re in pain or feeling especially stressed. But no matter how often they go, they’ll feel the benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

Massage therapy can be an extremely effective part of the treatment plan for a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Depression and generalized anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Stress
  • Tendinitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • TMJD

Massage therapists get to work one-on-one with their clients, often working with them over the course of several weeks or months to achieve long-term results. It’s a front-line health care profession, but without a lot of the stress, anxiety, and shift work that paramedics, health care aides, or nurses have to put up with (and RMTs hardly ever sit at a desk!). That combination of job satisfaction, happy clients, hands-on work, and flexibility mean that a career in massage therapy is very appealing to active, caring, self-motivated people. You may be reading this because that sounds like you!

Even after a busy day, I leave work so happy because I know that I’m helping so many people. – Emma Johannesson, 2017 graduate

Before you invest your time, money, and energy into an education, though, let’s dig a little deeper into what it takes to really thrive in this profession. At Vicars, we provide you with the training and practical experience to assess and treat your clients, and the business know-how to navigate that side of your career. But there are some things that we can’t teach in class. The RMTs who are most successful and most happy on the job all have a few things in common.

Top 5 Qualities of an Excellent Massage Therapist

  1. Empathy
    Empathy takes the number-one spot for good reason: massage therapists are drawn to the career out of a desire to help people. Your clients will come to your table stressed, tight, or in pain. You’ll perform an assessment to learn about their needs, and develop a custom treatment plan. Then after an hour of your care they’ll be happier and healthier. What could be better for an empathetic person who has a passion for making connections, working with others, and making the world a happier place?
    Your empathy will be your motivation to work hard every day, and it will also be an asset for you as a therapist. Understanding and sharing in your clients’ feelings helps to establish a bond of trust, which will in turn allow your clients to be vulnerable in communicating their needs. It is important to note, however, that while empathy is a very valuable trait it must be balanced by careful monitoring of boundaries. A big part of your massage therapy education will be learning professional ethics, including how to recognize the limits of your professional scope of practice, and how to enforce healthy boundaries.

I love that a healing touch can do so much for someone. Seeing the way you affect someone’s life is the most rewarding feeling you will ever have. – Kirsty MacIntosh, 2012 graduate

  1. Excellent Communication and Active Listening Skills
    As an RMT you’ll be communicating directly with your clients in pre-treatment consultation, throughout the course of your massage therapy sessions and in post-treatment follow-ups. The ability to communicate in an open, clear and informative manner is essential. How well you communicate—with your words, your body language, and your actions—will help set the tone for each treatment, and for the whole therapeutic relationship with your client.
    It’s not just about what you say to your client: it’s also about how you listen to what they’re sharing with you. “Active listening” means making a focused and conscious effort to not only hear the words being spoken, but to fully understand the message being communicated. It is your job, as the massage therapist, to make them feel comfortable and safe, to try to understand and address their needs, and to provide a therapeutic, relaxing experience.
    Some of the communication tools that a massage therapist (or any health care professional) needs to master are very specific, and go beyond what is required to succeed in other professions. It will be an important part of the curriculum at any reputable massage therapy school. At Vicars, we dedicate a lot of time to it, and incorporate it into every other subject area as well. That said, the best massage therapy students and RMTs are people who are already committed to active two-way communication.
  2. Good Time Management Skills
    Whether you’re self-employed or you work at a clinic, time management is critical. You will need to ensure each client’s needs are met while still having enough time to take care of business, including cleaning and setting up the room for the next client and taking a much-needed breather between treatments.
    Good time management is also important for students. This is especially true for adult learners, who often have to balance their schoolwork with their job and family responsibilities. It can take a month or two for even the most organized Vicars students to get the hang of their new blended learning routine. But this can actually be another side benefit to choosing a blended learning program; the time management tools that our students develop during their time at Vicars are exactly the same as those required of a successful therapist and entrepreneur.
  3. Curiosity
    To be a massage therapist is to be a perpetual student—in a good way!
    Every massage is a new opportunity to learn about your client and their needs, and turn that knowledge into a customized treatment plan. Nobody’s body is exactly the same, and how we experience pain and other physical symptoms can be subjective and has both emotional and physiological components. Having a genuine curiosity about how these elements impact your client’s condition will help you to design the best treatment for them.
    Throughout your career, you’ll be a student in a more literal sense. Massage therapists are required to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with continuing education courses. What courses you take will be up to you, and what you’re curious about.
    You can refresh your anatomy and physiology knowledge, get extra training in how to treating special populations, such as competitive athletes. This kind of additional training throughout your career will keep you up to date with the industry so you can provide the best care possible.
  4. Energy, Stamina, and A Commitment to Self-Care
    Massage therapy is a physically demanding hands-on practice. RMTs don’t just use their fingers and hands: in order to perform those effective deep-tissue techniques without burning out or injuring themselves, RMTs have to engage their entire body, including the legs and core. The average workload for a full-time RMT is five 60-minute massages a day, five days a week. Being on your feet for hours every day and using every muscle in your body to assist others with their aches and pains requires strength and stamina. Your body is your career. You have to listen to it and take care of it—and we’ll teach you how.At MH Vicars, you will learn the correct body mechanics so that you’ll be able to have a long and healthy career. Through our student clinics and in-class practice, you’ll be able to gain the endurance and flexibility you need to be an effective RMT. You’ll learn self-care techniques and stretches and strengthening exercises as a student, and it’s important to incorporate them into your daily routine.
    But it is also important to take proactive measures to care for your body. Keeping yourself in good “massage shape” means regular exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of rest. And if you’re a bit sore at the end of a long week at work, may we suggest getting a massage?

What Skills Do You Learn While Training to Become a Massage Therapist?

The MH Vicars School curriculum is based on Canada’s highest national massage education standards and will prepare you for a successful massage career anywhere in the country. In addition to relaxation and therapeutic massage sequences and techniques, you’ll study anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, communication skills, massage theory, ethics, and business. You’ll learn how to perform an assessment on a client and then create a customized treatment plan to effectively treat a wide range of complicated medical concerns.

At Vicars, students complete their massage therapy training in less than two years. Our full-time blended learning program is a combination of in-class education and directed independent study. Students also complete an extensive supervised practicum at our on-campus clinic, where they get experience treating real clients from all walks of life in a supportive educational environment. Our graduates are able to gain employment immediately after graduating (depending on the province they live in). Some students even start working part-time as student therapists during their second year.

Combined with your unique personality, you’ll have all the tools you need to build a rewarding and successful career as a respected Registered Massage Therapist.

The Massage Therapy Program at Vicars could be the pathway to your ideal career. We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and a schedule that is designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or book an interactive virtual tour today!

Robin Collum
Author: Robin Collum