massage therapy, amy tyler massage

Not All Massage Therapy is Created Equally

2020 certainly threw a lot everyone’s way. Industries either survived, hung on with a shoestring, or crumbled. Massage therapy was one of those which was flung around in a washing machine not knowing which way it was going.

For years I have struggled with the industry I work in. One I am so passionate about and have spent 20 years keeping my head above water in. As many massage therapists know, it is a hard gig to make a go of. With a burnout rate of 2 years when I first qualified and that having only slightly increase now to 5 years, so I am told.  So, after years of trying to set myself apart from the “other” massage therapy places (the unqualified, the parlours, h@99y endings and the rest), I was horrified when 2020 threw covid-19 lockdowns at us and suddenly our industry was being lumped in with all these other places. 

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Amy practices what she preaches. From left: Amy in her Sydney clinic, Amy winning ‘Practitioner of the Year’ at the ATMS Natural Medicine Awards 2020, and Amy teaching Oncology Massage.

Staying up to date with the government regulations was difficult. Allied health care was allowed to remain open (however we are complementary health care, not allied health care) and massage parlours had to close. So where did we stand?  When one of my patients questioned why I was closed it became apparent that really the only ones who understand our industry are us…the qualified massage therapists. When I finally did reopen my business, I had some great conversations with patients around the fact that we are not allied health care, but we are health care (the government chose to keep up registered for health fund rebates after all), yet all health care is exempt from GST, but not massage therapy as we aren’t health care (yet you can claim a health fund rebate with us).  It perplexed me even more when a small business grant was made available for highly impacted services and we were left out.  

On questioning this with the government I found out that my ABN is in fact registered under….. you won’t believe it… allied health care.  And, seeing as they were allowed to stay open during lockdown, then my business was not able to receive the grant.  However, those other massage places were able to as they had been locked down. So conversations were had, with anyone who would listen, including my local member of parliament, government agencies, friends, colleagues and patients. Thankfully, the grant was made accessible to our industry. However, this brought me back to why I have struggled with the industry I have chosen to spend my adult life making a career out of. Here we are, in the 2020’s and yet we are still trying to prove ourselves as health care providers, whether it be complimentary, natural medicine or maybe one day allied health, to not only the general population but also the government.  

Starting my career as an 18-year-old, I had to navigate my way through those odd phone requests, which in later years became texts, emails and now social media contact for services other than those I provided.  Male therapists are not immune to these requests either.  So as an industry I feel it is time we stand up, align ourselves with health care, inform the government and the general public that we are qualified practitioners, who deserve respect and that we stand apart from those who provide these other services.  (Do you know why I have not actually used those other words?  When someone googles them, even if you say “I do not offer…….” Google doesn’t see the “I do not” part and therefore your name or business comes up as an option, which makes you more of a target to receive calls or messages requesting those services.)  So it is time now, to have these conversations with everyone you know.  There is a place in society for those other services, however, qualified practitioners need to be able to feel safe in their work environments and need to separate themselves and stand out as health care providers. We should not constantly be on edge when a new customer contacts us, wondering what their motives actually are. These requests would not be directed to other health care providers, beauticians or hairdressers, so it is time that they stop being requested of professional, qualified massage therapists. 

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