Finding Your Village

By Sharon Livingstone

It was a particularly stonking hot Sydney day in December 2017, made humid by the recent rain. Every year, my friend Andy and his partner host their Annual Christmas Picnic, inviting their friends and family and their writing group and others they happen to like. They end up with an eclectic bunch of lovely people. Our sole purpose for the afternoon is to eat, drink, eat some more and chat. Sometimes there’s frisbee throwing or dog patting if we have the energy or the dog (or its master) is particularly cute. I was in my picnic chair, weighed down by heat and a food baby, clutching a cup of non-alcoholic punch while chatting away to another massage therapist – Andy’s cousin.

It’s easy to forget how nice it is to share a conversation with a fellow massage therapist, and attending the recent AMT Conference really brought that home.

Massage therapy can be a lonely business. Sure, we’re with people a lot. We talk with our friends and family, our clients and maybe our receptionist but there’s nothing like discussing life with someone who really understands – another massage therapist.

Only another massage therapist can understand:

  • The relentlessness of doing laundry (I’m considering writing An Ode To A Folded Towel)
  • The highs and lows of the appointment diary
  • Managing no-shows
  • Challenging clients
  • Trying to earn a living wage
  • The annoyance of getting sick and/or injured
  • Dealing with private health insurance.

Watching the conversations over lunch, at the pub and in the workshops during the AMT Conference got me thinking about the ways massage therapists connect with each other.

The Rise and Rise of Social Media

Okay, so it’s 2018 and social media has stepped in to connect massage therapists to each other. Social media portals, such as Facebook and Twitter, open doors to work and learning opportunities, provide a community feel and give easy access to research and industry news.

But social media brings problems:

  • Keyboard warriors
  • Humour does not always translate on a flat screen
  • Being targeted by salespeople making out they’re our friends
  • Proliferation of misinformation
  • Proliferation of armchair experts
  • Too many opinions to sift through.

Despite this, many friendships form via social media – I met Andy, host of the Annual Christmas Picnic, on Twitter – and even if you never meet in real life, it can feel like you’ve known each other for years.

Social media isn’t for everyone, however, so what other options are there for massage therapists to “find their village”?

Branch Meetings

AMT supports local branch meetings, where massage therapists in a region can get together to discuss their work and listen to a presentation. These meetings provide a semi-formal way to network and learn. CEU points are available for attendance. Here are the details of the current branches. If there’s not one operating near you at the moment and you’re keen to set one up, email Head Office to help get you started.

Swap Massages

This seems kinda obvious. What better way to build up a network than swapping treatments with another massage therapist?

At the 2016 AMT Conference, Derek Zorzit and Alan Ford discussed how they had been swapping massages with each other every week for many years. They built up quite the bromance that has become slightly strained now that Alan has moved 2000km away. The good news is that Derek has found a new swap buddy.

A friendship with your swap buddy isn’t vital but making time to discuss not only our physical needs can help make a massage therapist feel less isolated and lonely.

Attend a Workshop/Training Course

The rise of the online course has removed the fun of a face-to-face learning experience. Courses allow plenty of time for chat at break times. Other benefits include having someone to refer clients to (intra/interstate, in another part of the town/city or when taking holidays/sick), establishing a swap buddy relationship, or just someone to bounce ideas off.

Attend a Conference

Although I’d heartily recommend attending the AMT conference, especially when it comes to a nearby location, there are other conferences that occur around Australia and internationally that massage therapists would benefit from and have the opportunity to mingle with other massage therapists. Some examples are:

  • San Diego Pain Summit
  • Soft Tissue Therapy Congress
  • International Fascia Research Congress.
Back to My Picnic Chair

Sometimes we meet massage therapists in social settings – weddings, partner’s work do, the school gate, or at Darlene’s 40th birthday bash. These can be simply an opportunity to say, ‘How’s business?’ or ‘Do you have any towel laundering tips?’ or it may lead to a discussion on the Top 10 Most Common Questions Massage Therapists Get Asked.

When we connect with other massage therapists, we feel part of a team, or part of a village. It doesn’t mean we’re all alike but it can help us to realise we’re not the only one who finds writing up treatment notes to be the least enjoyable part of the job (*cough* for example).

Me and Andy’s cousin and fellow AMT Conference Attendee, Gayle.

Then, when you least expect it, a massage therapist in quite extraordinary tights will wander up to you at an AMT Conference and say they’ll see you at Andy’s Annual Christmas Picnic, and you might ask Andy’s cousin what she’s going to bring, because you were thinking of taking a quail egg, asparagus and fresh pea salad. Or chocolate chip cookie cheesecake. Or alcoholic punch. And you’ll be looking forward to spending time with another massage therapist, a fellow “villager”.

About the Author

Sharon Livingstone is a massage therapist in Sydney, NSW. A love of sport drew her to the industry but discovering job satisfaction came from helping people live with less pain keeps her in it. Sharon is a writer, keen bushwalker and frustrated traveller, who has just returned from a 300km walk across France (but not on a pilgrimage).


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  1. Thanks for a great article, Sharon. I’m enjoying reading each of these blogs and am finding many of them quite pertinent to my experiences/thoughts – so, thanks!

    • Sharon Livingstone
      18/10/2018 - 3:31 pm

      Great to hear you’re enjoying the articles so much, Sally.

  2. I love it. This is important stuff.
    You have been reading my mind, I think, for some time now Sharon.
    And yes, isolation AND feeling low on the medical rankings is./ are ..bloody awful.
    How to get our word out more and better?!

    • Sharon Livingstone
      18/10/2018 - 3:34 pm

      Thanks Jan, great to hear we’re in sync. As for how to get our word out more and better … I think by continuing to do what we’ve been doing – a bloody good job. And maybe by speaking up more ourselves about the work that we do.

  3. Hi there Sharon,
    I cant say I feel lonely as most of my friends are in the same industry…however, health funds and no shows are something I have been wondering about. Do we charge a no show fee and if so, to everyone or just the habitual no shows… and can the health fund issue be improved ie so many numbers for each therapist place of work? and the time frame it takes to get them on track. i myself never want to leave an address and start at a new one again… ( no tone intended)

    • Sharon Livingstone
      26/10/2018 - 5:32 pm

      That’s a few really big questions, Kerry. Are you in the AMT Facebook group? –
      You can ask those questions there (some have already been asked, so you can search for answers), or take the opportunity to attend a branch meeting or an AGM if it rolls into a location near you. Most everything health fund related is complex.

  4. No, but i will get onto Sharon…thanks

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