"I felt that if I chose to become a massage therapist, I would not regret it. And I never have! Massage has kept my interest for almost 30 years," says AMTA 2010 National Convention speaker Susan Salvo. Read the full Q & A with Susan below.
What first attracted you the massage therapy profession?
I received my first massage in 1980 while I was pregnant. As I lay there with my eyes closed, breathing deeply, I had a vision. I saw myself as a therapist and I felt happy. I felt that if I chose to become a massage therapist, I would not regret it. I never have!
At the time, I was attending nursing school. About a week after my first massage, a local physical therapist came to speak to the class. One comment he made hit me like a ton of bricks: “There is a huge gap between the client in pain and the surgeon’s knife,” he said. “Physical therapy fills that gap nicely.” I learned that in order to see a physical therapist, you must have a prescription or medical referral. This is called restricted access. With massage therapy, the public has open access. So, massage clients in pain have a place to go and find relief.
On a more practical note, at the time, I also knew lots of people who had jobs they hated. My parents and sister encouraged me to find a career path, rather than a job. A quote on my sister’s mirror by Katherine Hepburn also inspired me: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well find some way that is going to be interesting.” Massage has kept my interest for almost 30 years!
What career path has led you to your current position?
After graduating from a massage school in New Mexico, I moved back to Louisiana and helped establish an AMTA chapter to help support the profession I love. I held several leadership positions in the chapter, but it was the position of education chairman that really inspired me. I started teaching others about massage so they could break into the profession, too. It was here, in the classroom, that I realized I could be of the most benefit by providing students with tools to help others. It was the ripple effect that motivated me: I can massage five people a day, but, if I teach five people how to give a great massage, and then they massage five people a day…well, the reach is exponentially greater. The classroom was where I felt I needed to be.
Then came my involvement with curriculum development, as I believe in a strong educational foundation. This led to me pursuing higher education for myself. I’m pretty much a perpetual student. So, as an instructor, I can totally relate to the student experience. In the mid-90s, I was approached by two publishers to write books for entry-level massage education, which was my specialty. I jumped at the opportunity – it was the ripple effect again. I could extend what I had been doing in my own classroom to students in classrooms across the country.
What specific experiences or types of education have helped you to be successful?
I have been blessed with amazing role models. Most have been instructors and professors. I have to give these amazing people credit for any success I have experienced. Aside from instructors and professors, I’ve had two pivotal trainings. The first was Infant Massage Training with Maria Mathias, Maria took me beyond technique and taught me to be a facilitator while in the role of therapist or instructor. The second pivotal training was Hakomi. This deepened my understanding and experience as facilitator and helped me think about problems and situations from different perspectives. I also feel that as I evolve as a therapist, instructor and author, I continue to become a better partner and mother.
What advice would you offer to other massage therapists currently looking to establish themselves within the profession?
See everything as a gift and don’t take anything for granted. Be grateful for every person in your life and every client on your table and let them know how much you appreciate them. To coin a phrase, “develop an attitude of gratitude.” Then, put your hands on as many people as possible. I tell students and therapists all of the time, clients will come back to you if they have a positive experience with you and your work.
What can attendees of your courses at the AMTA National Convention expect to learn that they won’t read in the session descriptions?
Passion and stories! I thoroughly love what I do. That passion for massage and teaching shines through whenever I speak. Attendees will learn how to process client information and make better decisions. It is vital to find out how your client is experiencing the aging process, cancer or cancer treatments. Then, based on client information and therapist knowledge of the aging process, the disease process or treatment method, you can figure out how to best modify massage. I plan on talking about commonly used medications by the elderly and how to adjust massage to possible medication side effects.
Be sure to check out Susan's courses in Minneapolis:
Cancer and Massage Therapy
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