A Day’s Work: Massage therapist

Sakinah Irizarry

Sakinah Irizarry

There is a calming presence about Sakinah Irizarry that puts one at ease. In a licensed massage therapist, this quality can certainly be an asset. Irizarry, a massage therapist since 2003, lives in Saugerties with her husband and two children.


How did you get into this line of work? What type of education and training did you need?

I was working in New York City in a corporate job that just wasn’t making me entirely happy. I was there during the 9/11 tragedy and I realized that I just didn’t want to do something that wasn’t making me happy. So I enrolled in massage school. I kept working while I was in school until I got my license.


I started out with a license in New Jersey, but when I moved to New York in 2004 I needed to go back to school and start from scratch because the states don’t have reciprocity. I attended a great program at Columbia-Greene Community College and got my New York state license there. In New York you need a certain amount of clinical time, as well as classroom hours such as in anatomy and physiology. If you are going part-time, it takes about two years to complete. You also need to maintain professional development to keep your license and skills current.


Are you trained on different types of massage?

I am trained in Swedish massage and shiatsu. Those are the two schools of thought that you have to know in order to sit for the license exam in New York State. I primarily deal with Swedish massage, though I use acupressure with some clients, especially prenatal clients. I am certified in prenatal massage. I used to work in spas where pregnant women would come in, and the therapists didn’t necessarily have a background working in prenatal care. I wanted to make sure that I had all of the information needed to work with prenatal clients so I earned a certification from the Swedish institute in NYC.

I also do a lot of therapeutic massage. That is traditionally known as deep tissue, but I tend to use other techniques to help clients with their particular pain pattern. I might not use just one specific type of massage at a session.

One thing I don’t do is charge my clients a different rate depending on the massage type. It can be relaxation, prenatal or deep tissue, it’s all the same fee.


What reasons do your clients have for coming to get massages?

I have some people who see me regularly for maintenance and stress relief. I may see them once every two or three weeks. I do have people whose insurance covers the massage, and I usually see them every three weeks. I’ve seen the benefits of the frequent massage for those people. I see some people who are dealing with injury rehabilitation or persistent pain due to their occupation. I recommend that people come get a massage as often as their wallet and their schedule allow.


What sort of person makes a good massage therapist?

A good massage therapist would have to have a care-giving personality. I tend to focus on taking care of caregivers because they don’t necessarily spend a lot of time taking care of themselves. They’d also have the ability to make people feel safe and comfortable. People are removing their clothing and lying on a table, so you need to be able to put them at ease. They’d need to be very professional.

They’d have to be able to explain to their clients what is going on without crossing the line into advising them, as if they were a medical professional. They’d need to be very good at what they do know, but they’d need to know their limitations and not cross into diagnosing anything.


What’s a common misconception about your work?

People think that you have to take your clothes off. I have a number of clients that I massage who remain fully clothed. As long as your clothes are flexible and comfortable, I can work with that. I perform chair massages at the farmers’ market all the time. This misconception keeps people away.

Another misconception is that massage is a luxury. It’s often pictured as something ladies do to feel luxurious. It’s really healthcare maintenance. So many diseases and illnesses are exacerbated by stress, and massage can help alleviate that. People who receive regular massage work know how helpful it can be.


How are the hours? Does the job provide a good work-life balance?

Since I have my own practice, I make my own hours. Of course the work-life balance can be tricky. I make my hours so that I am available to see clients after their work hours and on the weekends. But one of my goals when I was setting up my business was that I’d be able to work around my kids’ schedules and be involved with their school and events. They are my primary responsibility. So the hours are good for that type of thing.


What makes for a good day?

When I meet someone new, I help them with their issue and they leave happy. Even if I can’t help them, maybe I can point them to someone who can help them. If I cannot help them resolve the issue that they came to me for, I will not hesitate to refer them to the appropriate doctor, be it a chiropractor from chiropractic tyler tx, physical therapist or even another massage therapist. It is more important to me that you are getting the help you need than it is for me to retain you as a client. The nice thing about being a massage therapist is that generally people are happy to see me.


How has the job changed since you started?

I started off working in spas and gyms and even some volunteer work. So for me the job has changed by having my own practice. It’s a lot more work because of the standards that I hold myself to and the technology that is available to me.

I have a booking program that people can use to book their appointments on-line. I can set a reminder and I can send them emails as follow up. That technology has made running my practice easier. But as for massage, your muscles are all still in the same place so the massage itself hasn’t changed much. There have been some different types of injuries that I’ve been seeing due to technology. People who are working on laptops and mobile devices and those who are texting often are coming forward with different types of injuries that weren’t so prevalent in the past.


What is something that you wish people knew before they came to a session?

I wish people would stop apologizing for not shaving their legs! If their therapist is even a little bothered by that, you are seeing the wrong person. Joking aside, though, I wish people would know that I am not judging you. I don’t judge your appearance. Your modesty will always be preserved with me.