Any professional organization you choose will provide a number of direct benefits to you as a member. One major reason therapists pay dues to an organization like the American Massage Therapy Association or Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals is for the liability insurance they offer; this insurance is required for licensed therapists to work in most states. However, many other benefits can become available to you when you join one of these associations, including deals on massage-related products (sheets, oil and lotion, etc.), career guidance and mentorship programs, special continuing education opportunities, educational materials for your office, hosting for your website, and even some healthcare benefits like discounts on prescription drugs. Putting the logo of a recognized professional organization on your business cards and marketing materials can also help give you credibility with new clients who are looking for a massage therapist they can trust.
Benefits of a Professional Organization
These direct benefits are not the only value your professional organization provides. Having a large association on your side also helps improve the profession of massage therapy as a whole, which benefits you and other massage therapists. Professional organizations work with lobbyists and legislators to make sure government policies are fair to massage therapists. They do public advocacy on the behalf of massage therapists and work to expand our professional opportunities, especially in the medical field. As one therapist puts it, “Massage therapy enjoys many positive representations in the public and media, but also many negative and unhelpful ones. A professional association has the means to organize effective campaigns to offer helpful and more accurate images and descriptions of the profession, as well as systematically downplay and eventually eliminate the negative ones.” Professional associations also fund scientific research into the effectiveness of massage, and keep their membership informed about changes in the massage therapy landscape.
Personally, I am a member of one of the largest professional organizations for massage therapists, and the most valuable thing I have gotten out of my membership is networking and community-building with others in my field. Through my association, I’ve discovered mentors, found colleagues to trade massage with, received numerous client referrals from other therapists I met at networking events and, most importantly, made friends with whom I can talk about my job. Massage therapists often work alone, or on teams with other health-care providers from non-massage disciplines, and this can be an isolating experience. Being a member of a professional association can help fill in those gaps and keep you connected to the world of massage.
How To Join a Professional Organization
Start by asking for recommendations from other massage therapists. Choose an organization with many therapists in your geographical area or one with lots of members who share your specialities, so that you can take the best advantage of professional networking opportunities. Make sure to read through the benefits listed on each association’s website. Once you’ve chosen an organization, you can typically apply for membership by mail, over the phone, or online. Most professional organizations offer tiered membership rates based on your experience; you can join as a professional therapist, a recent graduate, or sometimes even a student — and you will need to provide proof of your status, such as a massage license number. Finally, contact the local branch of your new professional organization and find out how to connect with them! Many organizations host coffee meet-ups, continuing education classes, local conferences, and volunteer opportunities where you can meet fellow massage therapists face-to-face.