Should Americans Study Thai Massage in Thailand?

Should Americans Study Thai Massage in Thailand?

Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” for a reason. The people are as warm as the weather. The food is affordable and delicious. There are many beautiful Buddhist temples! Even if you are not Buddhist, the architecture alone is awe-inspiring!

In my previous blog, I talked about my first visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand. While it was the best decision I’ve ever made, there are still many differences between studying massage in the United States and studying in Thailand. I’m often asked if I prefer one experience more than the other. There are pros and cons to both. Massage therapy isn’t standardized worldwide. Therefore, before making the decision to study abroad, there are many factors to consider.

There are wonderful teachers in Thailand and if you find them, learn from them! And yet, not all teachers are for everyone. My goal is not to bash anyone. My goal is to give insight into what you may encounter based on my first-hand experience:

Language Barrier

While many people in Thailand speak some conversational English, there still may be a language barrier that exists in the classroom setting. I have seen students encounter this specifically when referring to anatomical terms. Thai massage is largely energetic, so in the places I’ve learned, the sen lines and acupoints are referred to more often than the actual muscle group. When westerners with a background in anatomy and physiology have asked for clarification for the corresponding anatomical structure, there was some difficulty translating it to English.


Many of the schools in Thailand offer certificates as a part of their training. The downside is the certificates that you get after completing the course are not accepted in the United States as part of the required hours to earn your massage therapy license. Some schools are now offering NCBTMB continuing education hours. This is great if your state accepts CE hours from the NCBTMB.

Some states, like Louisiana, require a completely separate application form from its providers. If you live in New York, the CE provider has to submit an additional form, along with the initial approved provider application. This is something that many American LMTs are not aware of, and they end up having to take additional CE courses back home because the classes they took abroad do not count!


When learning Thai massage during a weekend or weeklong course, you are taught a routine. While this is a great way to learn, oftentimes there are not many adjustments offered for people with different body types, levels of flexibility, and injuries. As a person with a flexible and heavier body type, this was a bit of a challenge at times. Some moves my teacher had the other students skip on me because he didn’t know how to adjust on a body like mine.

Also, there are still misconceptions about certain conditions, like pregnancy and cancer, that have been debunked in the west, but still remain prevalent in the east. For example, I have been told by teachers in Thailand that touching a pregnant person’s ankles and/or thumb webbing will cause an abortion. Yet, we now know that you can perform this without causing harm to the fetus.


While learning Thai massage abroad is not quite like learning in the United States, don’t let that be a deterrent! I’m going back to Thailand for the third time June 22-30, 2019 and I’d love for you to join me! This time, I’ll be teaching at Samahita Retreat Center, located on the lovely island, Koh Samui. Spend 9-days learning Thai massage, partner yoga, and how to incorporate eastern knowledge in western settings.

The course I’ll be teaching is eligible for NCBTMB CE hours in most states, including New York. (Contact me for details and I can tell you if it is approved in your state). You will learn traditional Thai massage combined with innovative techniques that are evidence-based…and plenty of variations based on body types and injuries!

Not a massage therapist? Yoga and fitness professionals are welcome!

This is not only an opportunity to build your practice and earn continuing education hours, but it is also a chance to explore the other side of the world!

If you are ready to say yes to adventure and transformation, click here to learn more and register for the experience of a lifetime!

Thai Massage Hip Flexor Stretch Video

Thai Massage Hip Flexor Stretch Video

This is a brief clip from my Thai Massage Level One class in Philadelphia, PA. It shows how to perform a hip flexor stretch.

For more information on classes and sessions, visit

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Meet Vanessa Hazzard, M.Ed., LMT

Since 2005, I have been helping folks to reduce chronic and acute pain, decrease stress, improve athletic performance, restore range of motion, and simply relax while hiding from the kids and in-laws. In short, I help you be resilient to whatever life throws at you!

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Month

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year. Most likely, we all have had at least one massage therapy client that has dealt with mental illness at some point in their lives. As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded that many of us work with veterans. Those who have served in the armed forces are more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder than other populations. Those symptoms may affect how they react to otherwise benign situations in the treatment room.
Last year, I attended a Yoga for Trauma and Recovery Teacher Training through the Transformation Yoga Project. I received a wealth of knowledge and met some pretty incredible people along the way. During the meditation portion of the training, I reflected on the various ways healing modalities, such as massage and yoga, can affect people living with psychological distress.
As massage therapists, we know that positive, informed touch can be transformative. To learn more about depression and massage therapy, check out my online continuing education course Depression 101.