Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2018

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When it comes to having the size of practice you want, what truly makes a difference? After more than 30 years training and coaching thousands of bodyworkers, from entry-level to expert, I had formed some opinions about how to build a full and satisfying practice; and I had a ready repertory of advice to give. But though I had a long list of practitioners who had built fulfilling practices using this advice, I also knew good therapists who just couldn't seem to get enough clients, even after years of trying. Was the difference something the practitioners did? Their attitudes and beliefs? Or something else, like their gender, location, or personality? Other than collecting a lot of success stories (which some would say did little more than strengthen my confirmation bias), I'd never really tested my opinions and advice about how to build a successful practice. So, when ABMP asked me to teach an online course on the psychology of a full practice a few years ago, I didn't want to just list my own opinions and ideas, no matter how good I thought they were. I wanted to know, in concrete, data-driven terms, what beliefs or attitudes successful practitioners have, and what tangible actions they take, that set them apart from those who don't have the practices they want. Working together with fellow business coaches, other educators, and a good data analyst, we designed a large-scale survey to look for correlations between practice satisfaction (including both size and quality) and a variety of attitudes, characteristics, and actions. Though the resulting survey took some time for participants to complete (with 144 questions), it proved popular, with over 2,000 practitioners completing it 102 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a r c h / a p r i l 2 0 1 8 technique THE SOMATIC EDGE The Value of Confidence By Til Luchau (including massage therapists, bodyworkers, structural integration practitioners, and practitioners from a very long list of related hands-on specialties). We targeted both practitioners in private practice and those working for someone else. Professionals from 16 countries participated (with 95 percent from the United States, representing all 50 states). In very similar proportions to the profession as a whole, 1 survey respondents were 83 percent female/17 percent male, an average age of 49, and in practice for an average of 11 years. CONFIDENCE Analyzing the data revealed a trove of surprises, both in terms of what did and didn't relate with practice-size satisfaction. Though I'll share more of these highlights in future articles, one of the most significant factors was self-assessed confidence in one's own skills. No matter what their practice size, practitioners were much more confident in their "soft" skills, such as touch and listening, than in their "hard" skills, such as anatomy or assessment. This generally lower level of technical confidence suggests there are opportunities for schools, educators, continuing education providers, and regulatory agencies to help boost practitioners' cognitive skills and confidence. But even more interesting was that in all six skill areas assessed (which included a range of cognitive and relational skills), lower self-confidence was strongly correlated with saying that one's practice size was "much too small" (Chart 1). Not surprisingly, too much self-criticism was also a significant detriment to practice satisfaction. Two-thirds of those with too- small practices strongly agreed with the statement "I am often critical of myself and my abilities," while less than half of those with just-right practices agreed. Our survey of over 2,000 professional bodyworkers revealed stronger collective confidence in "soft" (relational) skills than "hard" (cognitive) skills. It also showed a large gap in self- assessed confidence in all areas between those who described their practice sizes as "much too small" compared with those who said they were "just right." Vertical scale shows percentage of practitioners in each group who strongly agreed with statements expressing confidence in each respective skill area. 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 0% Assessment / Strategizing Anatomy/ Technical Deliver Results People Skills Good Listener Touch Skills Chart 1: Percent of practitioners expressing confidence in each skill area, by satisfaction with practice size. Practice size: ■ Much Too Small ■ Just Right

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