Certifiably Certified

This is a lonnnnng awaited ending to my “Certification” series of blog posts…. I intended to publish this post back in August, but I wasn’t quite finished with it. Then I forgot about it. Being that Star Wars comes out this week, I figure this is a great time to release part 3 of my Certification Trilogy! If you need to catch up or review, Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Have you ever taken a really great class, but couldn’t find a way to work the new material into your sessions?


Then you go a week, a month, a year out and finally try to put it to use, but you’ve forgotten – whether you know it
or not – the details fade away. Maybe you didn’t have the right table or tools yet, maybe you don’t feel confident enough to charge someone for something you don’t really know yet, or maybe you were too shy to ask your client if you could practice on them. Or maybe you just got busy and put it off (…like I did with this post, hah!)
Whatever the reason you may have put off integrating this new technique, grounding yourself and growing roots by putting this new information into action quickly is key to retaining what your instructor was trying so hard to teach you!  An actual certification process is the hard part, but it’s the best part. Consistently and repeatedly practicing what was learned immediately following your training will add a level of intention, attention and dedication to your craft, this is what truly helps you master a technique and gain a deeper understanding of it’s material while the information is fresh on your brain.

Whatever the terminology, it’s important to respect the process. If there’s not a process, (see examples of Ashiatsu and other modalities Certfication Processes in Part 2 of this series of blog entries) I recommend you create one for yourself anyways! Treat it like an internship for yourself. The next massage class you take, whether they have their own Certification requirements in place or not, (and hopefully they do to help ensure the quality of the work) here are my recommendations for retaining the information and getting more bang for your buck:

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice! Plan to offer 20 massages immediately following the course. Try to use every trick they taught you in class, in some capacity, whether it applies to that client or not (within contraindicating reasons!)
  2. Document every session: Add to your own notes from class about what you discovered, what was unveiled as you dive in deeper to the practice.
  3. Self-Study: Reread the material, watch their supplemental video, if it’s available. The material will start to make more sense now that you’ve kinesthetically put it to work.
  4. Get client feedback: During each move, explain how it should feel (hopefully you felt each move in class from the instructor, not just the student, so you already understand what the goal is.) Let the client know what to expect within reason, and encourage them to fill you in and walk you through their sensations.
  5. Go receive the work! We are massage therapists and need to practice what we preach. Go find another LMT out there who was trained and is heavily experienced in this same material. Hopefully find someone who was trained by the same instructor if possible, and just receive the work. PAY FOR IT. Sure you could trade, but give the work some value and just be a client for once. You get what you pay for, and you won’t have to find time to reciprocate the trade: feeling their experience is worth the money. You’ll learn about yourself and the new moves, as well as another professionals interpretation of those moves.
  6. Join a study group: Meet up virtually or in the real world with your classmates and discuss your discoveries! Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy offers a free private social network website and Facebook group for our graduates, this is the perfect venue to ask questions and learn from other massage therapists across the nation who are in the same learning process as yourself!
  7. Relearn what you have learned: Even Yoda knows that you have to retrain at some point, to relearn what you have learned, get back to basics, and refine your technique. Just when you think you’ve “mastered” the material, talk to the instructor of your class and see if there are options to audit, or retake, the course a second (or third, fourth, or fifth!) time. Every time you’ll learn something new, I guarantee it! DeepFeet Ashiatsu instructors, for example, offer what we call “refresher” classes, where you can attend all or part of a course again at a discounted rate. One-on-one tutor training with the instructor or teaching assistants is also a priceless opportunity: take advantage of whatever extra’s are available!

Throughout the course of the time it takes for you to plow through these 20 massages, you will begin to know the material like the back of your hand. You’ll rely on your notes, instruction manual and video less and less as you create a tactile understanding of how the work feels. You’ll be able to easily rearrange any protocol and use the bits and pieces as needed. After immersing yourself in the new work for those 20 sessions, you can start plopping the bits an pieces over into your usual material and it will feel more organic and seamless, more intuitive.
If you come out to the public with a strong understanding and application of this new material, come out swinging like a pro and ashiatsu-training-and-certification-processcharge full price. Don’t show your weakness that it’s new. A way to do that is to offer it behind-the-scenes to a select few people while you practice. Some of my students tried discounting their 20 practice massages until their application of the new technique was worth the full price. Others traded with friends, family members, or chose a group (like local fire departments) to donate their services to in exchange for practice and experience. This is a great way to get new bodies under your hands (or feet) and to build anticipation with your regular clients while they wait for your “Certification” to be completed. You don’t want them to judge the new work based off it’s higher price or your inexperience in it, you want them to get excited and feel the intended benefits without the side effects of you thumbing through a manual to see what comes next.

Research by the National Training Laboratory (World Bank, n.d.) shows that the amount of new information learners retain depends on how the information is presented. Here are retention rates for seven common ways of teaching new information:
• Lecture 5%
• Reading 10%
• Audio-Visual 20%
• Demonstration 30%
• Discussion 50%
• Practice by doing 75%

Just look at those stats: the combination of learning a technique hands on (75% retention), live in class with discussion (50% retention), demonstration (30% retention), trades (75% again), presentation and self-study (10% + the active self study of practicing at 75% retention) all TOGETHER give you a better chance to get your moneys worth out of that day in class. Can you imagine now, the retention level you’d have from just sitting there observing the work, maybe by watching a webinar or video? Only 20% retention when learning by video? It’s a MUCH different learning curve, and claiming that you are certified in a style of massage after watching a video is the type of terminology that many massage training groups out there are trying to bring awareness to.

My recommendations? You are only as good as your training and your own personal investment into your skills. Research your training options and choose high-quality, accredited, respected, recognized and vetted continuing education providers: you get what you pay for. Honor your instructors knowledge and enjoy your time in your live workshops. Take copious, feverish notes during class and re-visist them often. Respect the information, trust the process. Treasure all the resources provided to you in each class. Intensely study the instruction manual and reading material. Watch the supplemental training videos with the same attention and excitement you’d give to watching the new Star Wars movie. Stay ethical and use the correct trained/certified terminology that applies to you, and stay within the scope of practice for that technique.

Every day of training in class has a lifetime of information to delve into, and by dedicating your time and focus to the materal, by practicing with focus and intention, you will have a much higher chance of retaining the information taught to you, and you’ll find highly effective ways to practically implement the new techniques that you invested so much into. Oh, and you’ll find that you did it all yourself, took ownership of your work, and got to know the material intimately!! Being trained, certified and experienced in a specialty massage technique goes a long way for your career: good job, you!


Ashiatsu Deepfeet Bar Therapy® is the leader in Continuing Education for Massage Therapists  nationwide. Our method of deep tissue barefoot Swedish massage using an over head support system has improved the quality of life for many massage therapists around the world. Learn more at www.deepfeet.com.