Frequently Asked Questions
Practical Skill learning.
You cannot learn the practical skills of massage or Soft Tissue Therapy through a screen (video or Zoom). These need to be learned in a classroom environment with the face-to-face guidance of experienced tutors who have years of clinical experience. No two hands-on therapist are the same and good tutors can help develop good individual style and spot potential bad habits.
We have an extensive online video library covering all aspects of the course. These give additional support to the classroom experience and do not replace any classes.
Theory and knowledge
To devote as much time as we can to the practical hands-on training in the classroom, most of the underpinning theory and knowledge is taught through online written assignments. These have been carefully designed to make it as easy as possible to learn without being too academic. All questions have guidance notes with resources and references to help find the information needed and tutors are available to give extra support if necessary.
What is Soft Tissue Therapy
Soft Tissue Therapy has evolved over the last 30 years through the work of a small group of pioneering therapists who kept increasing their clinical skills so they could meet the needs of their clients better. And those needs have also changed because Physiotherapy in the UK no longer includes the hands-on techniques that Soft Tissue Therapists now specialise in.
Soft Tissue Therapy is emerging as the only one using a range of hands-on skills that have proved effective in treating people with minor and chronic pain and injury for a very long time. Everyone gets these aches and pains during their life and so the carer and income potential for Soft Tissue Therapists is very strong.
These are all put together within a Biopsychosocial framework of care. We don’t treat injuries, we treat people with injuries.
Sports Massage aims to support the specific needs of a client’s sporting activities. But unless you are dealing with an elite/professional, most people do sport as part of their lifestyle and so sports massage should only be part of the job.
Sports massage alone can be a good fun job but after a while it gets repetitive and is not the stimulating lifetime career that many of us want. Athletes are not all young fit and healthy either, they may suffer with pain and injury which has little to do with their sport. And the rest of the population who don’t do sport can also suffer with minor and chronic musculoskeletal pains. They all need good effective hands-on treatment but where can they get it. Physiotherapy training no longer includes the manual techniques we use even though they have proved to be so very effective.
Soft Tissue Therapy has evolved from Sports Massage and is now becoming the only therapy that used these hands-on techniques to treat minor and chronic injuries. It does this in a way that can help people from all walks of life, suffering with the widest range of musculoskeletal problems, caused by any of life’s stresses. And we don’t just treat “injuries”, we treat “people” with injuries because everyone is different and should be treated as an individual person, not just an injury.
It takes time and practice to properly acquire good hands-on skills. We want our students to learn new skills in the classroom and then go away to practice and consolidate these before they return to learn new ones.
Although the foundation massage techniques we teach at the start of the course can achieve great results they do have limitations. They may not be so affective with more complex problems and students discover this for themselves when they practice. So when they are taught more advanced techniques later these give them real answers to problems they have already encountered. In this way we progressively build the clinical skills in the right way.
It also takes time to complete all the written assignments because of the amount of underpinning knowledge and understanding that is needed. Few students are able to complete all the online assignment and case studies in less than a year so there is no point in running the course over a shorter period.
We do not run short intensive courses because they cannot effectively teach all the necessary skills and knowledge that way.
There is no International recognition for any professional qualification in any profession. All countries and States have their own regulations and there is no internationally recognised standard for anything.
Some training organisations include the word ˜International" in their title but this only means they are involved with training in some other countries.
When our therapists go to other countries we do whatever we can to support them by sending the details of our qualification to that authority but it is up to them whether to accept it or not.
To be a licensed massage therapist in the State of New York you have to have done a 1,000-hour training course but in California it is only 500 hours.
Canada requires a two year full time training to be a licensed therapist but their curriculum includes many advanced subjects that are only taught to Physiotherapists in the UK.
In Europe, unlike the UK system of Common Law, countries are based on a Statutory legal process which only allows a medically qualified practitioner (Doctor, Physiotherapist or Osteopath etc) to diagnose and treat any injuries. Our qualification includes the treatment of chronic pain and minor injury which is not really allowed there. Some countries enforce this strictly but we hear of other countries (or regions) that seem to have a more relaxed attitude. You could still work under the massage therapy title but without promoting your additional skills.
Our latest understanding is that in Australia and New Zealand, to be a registered therapist there you have to have a ‘transcript’ which is a document you can only get from a training school in that country. So you have to go to one of their schools and get them to award you with a transcript based on your prior learning with us.
Under the Ofqual criteria, all awarding bodies like ISRM, VTCT/ITEC and Active IQ have to follow the same criteria:
Level 3 qualification should be equivalent to a school A Level.
Level 4 should be equivalent to a 1st year degree
Level 5 should be equivalent to 2nd year degree
All awarding bodies have to use the same criteria when approving qualification Levels and so they must all be equivalent to each other. A L4 qualification at one organisation cannot be equivalent to a L5 at another.
VTCT/ITEC and Active IQ sports massage courses are progressive. You have to do their Level 3 before advancing with a top-up course to Level 4. But this means you start off learning anatomy, physiology and massage at a very basic L3 but this may not be sufficiently to meet higher level clinical skills needed later.
We only run an integrated Level 5 Soft Tissue Therapy qualification where even the basic foundation subjects are aimed at achieving the Level 5 clinical outcomes.
Sports Massage should be part of support package for athletes and is much more than just giving a good massage. It should involve carefully planned treatments as an integral part of training to help prevent injury and enhance performance. And the therapist needs to be able to identify and treat minor injuries as well as provide some rehabilitation and training advice.
Under the Ofqual criteria a Level 3 qualification is equivalent to a school A Level which cannot provide a high enough level of skill and knowledge to carry out this Sports Massage service.
A Level 4 Sports Massage qualifications should be equivalent to the 1st year of a university degree and will include some assessment skills and treatment techniques which should be enough training to provide a proper Sports Massage service. But these qualifications are being delivered as a short additional course on top of the Level 3 for those that want to go further. This means they try to build higher level clinical skills on a lower level foundation of basic skill and knowledge.
Training in Soft Tissue Therapy can only be achieved at Level 5 because of the degree of skill, knowledge and understanding it requires. Our Level 5 qualification is fully integrated so right from the start, all our training is aimed at the Level 5 outcome.
LSSM attracts students from all over the country with many travelling long distances to London or Southampton for the weekend classes. So it is not practically possible to have enough students locally available to run a regular student clinic.
Instead our students start off by practicing on their friends and family in their local area. As they progress through the course and grow in skill, knowledge and confidence they can then start to treat a wider circle of people through recommendation. We strongly encourage this and give plenty of support and guidance to help them achieve it. The aim is for our students to start building their client-base, and start to earn some money (donations), before they actually finish their training.
A student clinic only provides students with people to practice on and nothing more, what we do is far more effective in helping students start their career.
BTEC is the largest Government-approved (Ofqual) awarding body for vocational education and training in the UK, with millions of students a year at schools, colleges and Universities. ISRM is a BTEC Centre with our own customised qualification which they validate and annually audit.
VTCT/ITEC is a small private awarding body specialising the hair, beauty & spa sector but have also moved into the Sports Massage market.
Active IQ is also a small private awarding body with a range of qualifications in the active leisure sector which includes sports massage.
Both are professional associations which support and represent their members. ISRM is also a BTEC centre with the BTEC Level 5 qualification in Soft Tissue Therapy. A number of independent schools operate this qualification under the ISRM’s internal validation process.
The letters SMA stands for Sports Massage Association but they now call themselves the Association for Soft Tissue Therapists, which implies they represent something more than Sports Massage. But they only give membership to therapists who’s training meets the Level 3 Sports Massage core curriculum, and nothing more! And that’s not what is defined as Soft Tissue Therapy either. Proper Sports Massage training can’t be achieved at less than Level 4.
The letters ISRM stand for the Institute of Sport & Remedial Massage but we have been calling ourselves the Institute for Soft Tissue Therapists since 2012. This is because we only give membership to therapists with our own BTEC qualification, which has the title “Soft Tissue Therapy”. So this new title is the most appropriate one for us to use.
The course programme is carefully structured and it is not good to miss any sessions or take them out of sequence but we understand that circumstances can sometimes prevent this. Because we usually have (in London) courses starting every 6-8 weeks we can normally offer a place on the same weekend session with a later course. For Southampton students this usually means attending the session in London instead.
We also have an extensive video library covering most elements of the course so students can still see and practice what they missed whilst waiting to take the actual class at a later date.
Most Soft Tissue Therapists are self-employed but there are a limited number of jobs available at private Physiotherapy clinics. Some therapists run clinics from their home and others rent a rooms at multi-disciplined clinics or health clubs. There is also the option to do home visits (for wealthier clients). There are many possibilities and most therapists will work in more than one situations.
Although Soft Tissue Therapists can treat many injuries we also give the highest quality massage and can have regular clients who want this. So most will have a mix of regular clients as well as those with soecific injuries to resolve.
Many ISRM trained therapists have gone on to train in Osteopathy which is a very popular career development. The Osteopathy colleges look very favourably on applicants with our qualification because they make the best students and go on to become the best Osteopaths too.
We have found that a high proportion of people with learning issues like Dyslexia often have fantastic hands-on skills and make great therapists, and we want to encourage this. Over the years we have gained a lot of experience dealing with such students and are used to making the necessary allowances. Although there is a high level of knowledge needed to pass the qualification we have made the written assignments as non-academic as possible and we provide extra support when necessary.
We try not to fail anyone. If we do not think a student is ready to pass their final exam we suggest they postpone it until they are better prepared. If they do fail then they can always re-take it at a later date. If necessary we can offer extra tutorials or to re-take parts of the course again before taking their exam. We do not give up on any dedicated students who need extra help.
Sports Massage is intended to be part of a support package for athletes and not just a good massage. It needs to be carefully planned as a regular and integral part of training so it can help prevent injury and enhance performance.
Therapists also need to be able to assess the condition of the tissues to identify and treat potential injuries as well as effectively treat sports related injuries when they do occur.
It has to include more than just the traditional massage techniques because it also needs some advanced Neuromuscular techniques which have a more profound effect on treating and preventing injury as well as improving performance.