When it comes down to it, spa and clinical (medical) massage are going to be essentially the same. Therapists in either environment are able to practice the same modalities, but one key difference is in the education they receive. Typically speaking, general massage therapy education is around 500 hours, nowhere near enough for a therapist that plans to practice in a clinical setting.
So when it comes to explaining the difference between spa and clinical massage, it’s important to take a look at two aspects of the career paths:
It’s (Mostly) About the Focus
When most people think of massage, they think of the Swedish modality for relaxation. Alternatively put, they think about spa massage. Spa massage is going to heavily emphasize a relaxing environment with luxuries like aromatherapy that help the client clear their mind and de-stress. Sessions are going to be longer and most often clients will just want to be put at ease, rather than have the therapist focus the session on a targeted area of the body. (Though some clients will request a focus area for spa massage as well.)
On the other hand, clinical therapists are going to be more medically-focused. Thus, their sessions are going to be more functional and with a set purpose. Unlike spa massage, these therapists work with their clients on a targeted area of the body. This is most often accomplished through shorter, focused sessions over a set period of time.
Attaining Proper Training
Most states and municipalities are going to require 500 or 1000 hours of training from an accredited massage therapy training school, like MTTI, in order to become a licensed massage therapist.This is enough for most spa therapists to achieve success in their career; however, it is not enough for clinical therapists.
Because clinical therapists are practicing in a medical setting, they are going to need more advanced training and knowledge of the body in order to achieve results for their clients. They need to continue their therapy journey through continuing education coursesfor things such as kinesiology and range of motion. In addition to this training, clinical therapists are held to a higher standard when it comes to credentials, so they will likely be required to receive additional licensure depending on where they plan to practice.
Choosing Spa or Clinical Massage Therapy
No matter whichpath you choose to follow as a therapist, you are going to need to start with a strong foundation. Be sure to choose a high quality massage therapy school to get you off on the right start. Then, once you know which path you’d like to take in your career, you can decide whether you will need to continue your education for clinical massage.