People may not rush to pay strangers to touch them right away. “Understandably, no one wants a massage during a pandemic, and I’m sure most therapists wouldn’t want to risk giving one,” says New York City-based licensed massage therapist Tom Meade, who has practiced massage for 26 years and normally averages 30 hours of massage for clients a week but is now entirely without work. “It’s made me somewhat uncertain about the future.
There’s also the new stigma of the industry to contend with. “Massage therapists, like so many others, are experiencing devastation at suddenly losing their ability to work and sustain gainful employment,” says New York City-based licensed marriage and family therapist Damon L. Jacobs. “In some echelons of American society, massage work is diminished and disrespected, as many don't understand the vital role of massage in maintaining physical and emotional wellness.
Many massage therapists like Tim Grae, a New York City-based licensed massage therapist who runs a massage therapy and recovery company, are considering the added stress of figuring out how to pay for office spaces with unclear guidance around rent allowances and small business support.
New York City-based licensed massage therapist Yaddy Maldonado (who has been practicing for 11 years) is leaning on completely unrelated skills to earn income through a separate network marketing business she’s run on the side.
Doug Elman of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Spring Lake, New Jersey, normally sees 25 to 35 clients a month for various massage and related services and, after 15 years in the industry, he is now on unemployment. “The spas have all shut down, so I do not see my clients,” Elman says.
The irony that the benefits massage provides would be extra helpful now as people find themselves more anxious, depressed, and isolated than ever is not lost on most massage therapists. “Today, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, both givers and receivers of consistent consensual touch are facing a different risk,” explains Jacobs.
Unlike some other industries and services that've moved to virtual appointments, it’s trickier to replace the experience of giving or receiving a massage with a Zoom class or a phone call, and some massage therapists don’t actually want to pivot their business plan.
So far, Elman doesn’t have alternative work to supplement his income, and he’s been practicing his massage skills on his wife at home so he doesn’t get rusty. “My wife has been kind enough to be a volunteer for me,” he says.
What happens when you’re in the business of touch in a no-touch era? Here's what we know. https://t.co/QEEyyVRq0j— Allure (@Allure_magazine) June 16, 2020