Segmented Massage Therapy VS Encompassing Massage Therapy [Infographic]

In the last few years of my leadership in the massage industry I have seen the unfortunate hierarchy of massage therapy modalities. Again and again I have heard and watched as people continue to put the emphasis of “real massage” on those who do rehabilitation over those who work in a spa setting doing relaxation massage. In my opinion, there needs to be a mental shift or many therapists are going to find themselves missing an entire segment of potential clients quite quickly.

It’s true that therapists require further education to conduct rehabilitative massage therapy over those who perform relaxation massage and spa therapies. But that doesn’t mean that one is any more useful to the public than the other. While fixing the body is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, so is caring for the mind; especially in a world where mental health days are just as common as those requested for sick leave. Too often I see Segmented Massage Therapy, where a Therapist is only caring for one aspect of the whole picture. 

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Perhaps a response from those therapists who conduct rehabilitative massage would be that they only want to do orthopedic massage and don’t need to worry about mental health issues. But they could not be more wrong. Even the World Health Organization recognizes that “there is no health without mental health”*. Closer to home, the Canadian Mental Health Association states the associations between mental and physical health**:

1.       Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions.
2.       People with serious mental health conditions are at high risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions.
3.       People with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health.

We have all experienced moments of feeling low or an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness, but some live it every day. The constant stress that depression and anxiety place on the body eventually reveal themselves physically. Holistic medicine, which includes massage therapy, aims to provide care to the whole person; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Because of this I suggest a new way of looking at the areas of massage therapy, which I propose as Encompassing Massage Therapy.

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I'm not at all proposing that Therapists work outside of their scope of practice, offering counseling and spiritual mentorship alongside the massage. What I am suggesting is that Therapists take a more holistic approach in understanding the root of pain - be that physical, mental or emotional - and that their treatment plans incorporate avenues outside of rehabilitation to addressthe road to well-being. One therapist doesn’t have to provide the entire care of both relaxation and rehabilitative, but they should be able to formulate a plan that includes a team of people to care for the individual. Each area of massage is integral to the wellness of the client. It’s time that we work together towards this mental shift.


*Promoting mental health : concepts, emerging evidence, practice : summary report / a report from the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the University of Melbourne. (2004).

Brie Timings