How Can I Get Hands-on Practice in Massage or Bodywork?


By now, you probably know about the research that shows a person really only masters a skill after 10,000 hours of practice. That seems to be the holy grail of practice time required for mastery.

To give you an idea of what that means for bodywork therapists in practical terms, if you worked with 8 people a day, 5 days a week, and you took 2 weeks of vacation a year, you would reach mastery of your therapy in 5 years. Of course, that doesn't leave much time for study, reading, research, or of having much of a life outside of seeing clients.


But we all have to start somewhere, and it's important just to start -- don't be discouraged by how far you may have to go, just jump in and start.

But if you want to begin to practice your craft, how do you find folks to practice with?

It's like the Catch-22 we all went through when we were looking for our first jobs: businesses want to hire people with experience, but the only way to get experience is to have a job!

Here are some ways to begin getting some critical practice under your belt:

1. Practice on yourself. Odd as it may sound at first, there are many things you can do on your own to improve your skills.

When I was first learning CranioSacral Therapy, I would practice feeling the CranioSacral Rhythm on my anterior thighs every time I was sitting in a boring meeting.

Not only could I feel the rhythm better and better as time went on, but I also learned to discern aspects of the CSR such as amplitude and rate. And no one knew I was practicing but me!

2. Practice on current clients. After your next appointment, when your client is relaxed and feeling great, tell him that you are learning a new modality and that you think he would enjoy the treatment.

Then, offer a free session so that you can practice your skills.

I often did this when I was learning, and more times than not, folks wanted to do CranioSacral Therapy with me from then on out.

One way or another, you get to practice new skills while getting invaluable feedback. Pro-Tip: Stick to your boundaries -- each client should only receive ONE free session. After that, they need to pay you.

3. Incorporate some of the new modality into what you currently do. I used to offer massage therapy, and at the end of every massage, I tuned in to the client's CSR to see whether I could feel the flow.

I also used the Cranio Base Release technique with every person who came in for a massage.

Imagine my surprise when folks told me that they loved that part of the massage! I then told them I could work with them for an entire hour using only CranioSacral Therapy, and many of them switched over. They loved the work, and I loved the work I was doing -- win, win.

However you decide to practice and enhance your skills, begin today. You'll get to that 10,000 hours before you know it!