Interview with Massage Therapist Dr. Patricia Coe

Interview with Massage TherapistDr. Coe earned her B.S. in biology at the University of Pittsburgh and completed her massage training at the Pittsburgh Center for Massage Therapy while finishing her undergraduate degree. She went to National where she earned a doctor of chiropractic degree, and also finished a residency in family practice.

In addition, she earned a certificate in neurostructural integration in 2001, and will soon be certified to teach the technique.

When asked what she most likes about her job, Dr. Coe says, “I love to teach. I was a teaching assistant in undergrad for sign language courses, since I was a sign language minor. In fact, our massage program recently offered free massage at an event for parents of deaf children. Some of the parents were also deaf, so I signed for them a little bit, and they were all shocked!”

1. Why did you become a massage therapist?

I was interested in the health care field and thought massage therapy would be a good “fit” for me. This was in 1989, before the expansion of massage that I’ve seen occur in the past 20 years. Before enrolling in school, I didn’t know anyone who was a massage therapist, & actually didn’t know anyone who had ever BEEN to a therapist, but I knew that I wanted to be involved in helping people recover from injury in a hands-on profession.

2. Did you attend school full-time during your training? How challenging was your schedule?

I attended massage school part-time while I was enrolled full time in a Bachelor of Science program at University of Pittsburgh. It was a workable schedule, since I could attend massage classes part-time in the evenings and weekends while attending classes during the day for my undergraduate degree in Biology.

3. Are there any characteristics that you think are particularly useful for a prospective massage therapist?

I think the best therapists have an open mindedness and flexibility of thought that allows them to see each client as an individual person with specific concerns, and that type of open outlook allows a great therapist to tailor an individual session to each client on their table.

4. What was the most interesting part of your training?

I loved the anatomy classes and the pathology classes. In fact, one of the reasons I became a chiropractor after massage school was my interest in health and wellness that these classes encouraged.

5. Did you ever work for yourself or were you employed as a massage therapist?

Both – I worked for myself part-time doing massages on an outcall basis while completing my undergraduate degree, and was employed as a massage therapist in a chiropractor’s office while enrolled in my chiropractic residency program.

6. What was the most satisfying part of your work?

Helping people to feel better and more connected to their bodies. Massage offers a way to experience healing caring touch in a way that no other therapy I’ve found does.

7. How did you become a massage instructor?

I was a teaching assistant for various classes in both my undergraduate and doctorate degree programs. After finishing my chiropractic degree, I stayed on to do a residency at NUHS and this residency program had a strong emphasis on teaching. When our massage program began here at NUHS, I applied for and got a job teaching in our program.

8. What do you enjoy most about your position as an instructor and/or educator?

The opportunity to support these students along their educational quest. It is a joy to see students transform over the course of a single year.

9. What makes teaching at (your school) unique?

The opportunity for interaction with practitioners in our other programs (chiropractic and naturopathic physicians, acupuncture/oriental medicine practitioners), an opportunity available to both our faculty and our students.

10. What trends in massage do you think are most interesting?

The validation of the benefits of massage that therapists are creating by their willingness to engage in research.

11. Have you supplemented your training in any way since you became a massage therapist?
I completed my degree as a chiropractic physician, and have enrolled in course work to become a naturopathic physician as well as in a Master’s of Science program at our university. It is interesting to be enrolled in classes again and see both sides of the educational process, as student and instructor.

I have continued to take massage and bodywork classes as well. I have taken classes in Neurostructural Integration Technique, Orthobionomy, Cranio-Sacral, Orthopedic Massage and Reiki in order to continue to find ways to help my patients.

12. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a career as a massage therapist?

Do some “homework” before applying to school. Investigate the massage school you’re thinking of attending for what will make that school a good “fit” for the student, whether it’s the proximity, the flexibility of classes, the pass rate for national certification exam, the availability of financial aid – whatever an individual student finds important.

In addition, a student should consider their motivations for wanting to become a massage therapist. As part of both investigations, get a massage!