Becoming a Massage Therapist - MassageSchoolsGuide.com
by Terry McDermott
Tina Allen has been working with children and families for over a decade and is founder of Liddle Kidz Foundation, an organization advocating for children's health and nurturing. She is an internationally respected educator, author and expert in the field of infant and pediatric massage therapy.
A Pediatric Massage Master Teacher, Developmental Baby Massage Teacher and a Licensed Massage Therapist with specialized training in providing massage therapy for infants and children with special healthcare needs, Ms. Allen comprehends the physical and emotional needs of hospitalized and medically complex children and their families.
Because of her dedication to the well-being of the entire family, she has become certified in pregnancy massage and is a Trainer of Peaceful Touch®, which implements a healthy touch approach for children in school based environments.
Ms. Allen managed the nation’s first comprehensive pediatric massage program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), and developed pediatric massage programs at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as developed a program focusing on introducing gentle compassionate touch to women and children who have survived domestic abuse. Her innovative approach to children’s health has allowed her the unique opportunity to educate families and professionals throughout the world in the many benefits of nurturing touch.
A widely known expert in her field, Ms. Allen has appeared on NBC and The Learning Channel’s “Bringing Home Baby”, KCET and PBS’ “A Place of Our Own”.
Why did you become a massage therapist?
Even as a young child I had an interest in helping others and always leaned towards healthcare using natural healing methods. This is why massage therapy was a perfect match as a career choice. A career choice where I could use both a research based medical model, and natural healing remedies to help others feel comfort, decreased pain, decreased anxiety and relaxation.
Did you attend massage school full-time during your training?
While I attended school to learn massage therapy, I also went to school to become an Occupational Therapist and worked full time to pay for both educational components. So, I was lucky enough to find a quality massage therapy program where I could attend school during evenings and weekends. Once I completed my core education I began to focus on women’s and children’s healthcare. This focus led me to take many healthcare trainings, seminars and workshops related to this particular field of study.
What was the most interesting part of your training?
The most interesting part of my massage training has been meeting others and learning techniques from them to add to my repertoire. Not everyone uses the same methods to remedy each situation, and so it is interesting to discuss and learn from one another to share methods to help people most effectively.
Do you work for yourself or are you employed as a massage therapist?
I started my own massage therapy related foundation, Liddle Kidz Foundation. Liddle Kidz began as a vehicle for sharing education and training to those who also wished to work with infants, children and families through the use of nurturing touch. We started out small and grew exponentially as more and more people recognized the benefits, and asked to learn about using touch therapy with children.
We are now widely recognized as the premier nurturing touch organization. Our certifications and trainings are held and recognized internationally. Throughout the world there is a great need of getting back to basic human contact. Somehow along the way, much of this communication and connection has been lost. It is inspiring to see others recognize this need as well.
Additionally, we give back to the world community by organizing International Volunteer Global Outreach events. During these events, the Liddle Kidz Foundation takes groups of trained volunteers overseas to work in pediatric hospices, orphanages and hospitals. These volunteers provide hands-on care for infants and children, and education for caregivers.
Through these outreach events we have managed to impact children in Asia and our expansion continues to other parts of the world. We now have programs beginning in Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Belarus, Moldova and India.
What were the decisive factors when you chose a career path after graduating?
I saw a great big hole in how we were interacting with and treating children in our society. Especially the treatment of children with special healthcare needs. Much of the compassion and caring had been removed from the healthcare system. The Liddle Kidz Foundation began as an answer to the great lack of nurturing touch and connection in our society, and to encourage improvements in children’s health and welfare. This mission has broadened to provide educational trainings worldwide.
So, not only do we provide training and education throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, but LKF also organizes groups of volunteers to provide hands-on care and education in countries around the world. Most recently a group of volunteers visited Thailand to provide care and comfort in orphanages which are home to children affected by, and infected with HIV/AIDS.
Volunteers were able to teach caregivers as well as provide hands on massage therapy and nurturing touch for infants and children who need it most. This Fall, I have been invited to return to Thailand to provide training and hands-on care in Thailand’s only government orphanage specifically dedicated to providing care for children with disabilities.
In addition, I had also taken notice that much of the funding in early childhood education sectors had been cut. By lowering funds available to provide proper education for our youngest citizens, we are doing a great disservice to our future.
Not only do children suffer when education funding is cut, but so do the educators who wish to provide a well-rounded education encompassing various methods of teaching, so all children learn. The integration of healthy touch into school-based programs aides in meeting the learning requirements for children who are more kinesthetic, or tactile learners. This is the true meaning to “no child left behind.”
What trends in massage do you think are most interesting?
I am particularly excited about the acceptance of mainstream healthcare in providing massage therapy within hospital and healthcare facilities. Physicians are starting to refer patients for massage therapy as part of their treatment plan, and this is exciting.
Only a few years ago when I was working to develop pediatric massage programs, it was quite a different landscape. It took years to implement the first pediatric massage program, as there had never been one before. Now, it is more widely accepted and discussed as a healthcare option.
What personal characteristics are appropriate for someone who wants to become a massage therapist?
You’ve got to be tough, stick to your guns and believe in your goals. Finding your passion and believing that what you are doing is making a difference, makes getting up and going to work each day possible.
It is important to know what your goals are and make real concrete plans to achieve them. If you’re a massage therapist who doesn’t have essential business skills, then you must find someone to work with you that does. Today, being a great massage therapist is not enough to succeed and for others to know about your work. You need to be able to market yourself and also balance your books.
When I started Liddle Kidz Foundation, I began with the thought that one person can truly make a difference and I have found this to be true. If each person did one thing each day that made a difference, the world would be a much more connected and better place to live.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a career as a massage therapist?
Carefully think about why you want to be a massage therapist? What are your goals? What do you wish to achieve? Balance your pros and cons, and when the pros outweigh the cons, take the plunge. Don’t get complacent, you must put in 100% effort and not give up.