I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with other Midwestern Massage Therapists to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany and visit spas and massage clinics in each country, speaking to therapists, spa managers, and citizens about their experiences receiving massage therapy. I was excited to learn the truth about a belief commonly held by American massage therapists and their clients: “In Europe, everyone gets massage and it is covered by their health insurance.” On our tours and visits I received tons of great information, but with language barriers and info overload, I think I returned with more questions than I had when I arrived in Europe. My research continues!
For example, on our last night, I visited with a great German couple over dinner and asked if they had ever personally received massage therapy covered by their insurance. The husband stated that his physician prescribed 10 medical massages by a physiotherapist (I’m not sure if this is a physical therapist or medical massage therapist based on what he described) to recover from knee surgery. He has private insurance in addition to the government insurance, so his treatments were covered, but not all massage therapy and not all massage therapists are covered by health care.
I asked our new friend if he understood different licensing and training between the therapists who provide insurance-covered massages and relaxing massages. He stated “Spa therapists are like on Baywatch” (Record scratching…”WHAT?”) His wife went on to explain “Yes, like, lifeguards. It is the same kind of training. In the spas the massage therapists are also the lifeguards.” (Pro tip: DO NOT Google “German Lifeguard Massage”) Honestly, I think that our new German friends just wanted to perpetuate a stereotype and found any reason to casually steer the conversation to David Hasselhoff.
It took awhile to Google the correct phrases, but I eventually realized that, at least in Germany, a 2+ year training program is required to become an accredited massage therapist and “medical pool attendant,” which makes sense because the medical massage therapists we met could do really great therapies in the many warm water pools and could prescribe hydrotherapy. If they continue a year to a year and a half in their training, it appears they would be working toward their physiotherapist qualifications. It seemed like that was similar to the case in other countries we visited. The medical massage therapists typically had a higher level of training than in the U.S. but physical therapists seemed to have a slightly lower amount of training than in the U.S. so the occupations didn’t have quite such a qualification gap.
In this blog series you’ll learn about my spa, massage clinic, and pool/sauna complex visits and experiences our group of midwestern licensed massage therapists enjoyed on our European spa tour!
Click here to read part 2: Avert your eyes!