How can CLT training help me as a massage therapist?

From a former CLT graduate to a student inquiry.

Hello Mary,

My name is Jane and I am a Certified Massage Therapist from Richmond, Va. Here in VA we are Certified as opposed to Licensed (but were are working to improve that legislatively). You can perhaps better acquaint yourself with my practice by visiting our website at Let me attempt to answer your questions getting to the heart of what I am thinking you really want to know.

First, what lead me to pursue continuing education in what I’ll call lymphatic studies is that I was continuing to see clients come into my practice with swelling conditions and disorders of various origin and I felt ill prepared to help them. I did not know if what I was seeing was a contraindication for massage and bodywork or if there was something I could do to help them if I were but better educated in these areas. I felt woefully under prepared by my massage school education and I was determined to learn more.

I have been in practice for 8 years now and my choices for continuing education have usually been based on the types of conditions I have seen coming through my practice with significant enough frequency to compel me to learn more in these areas. During the past 6 years I noticed that I was seeing more clients with various types of cancer, including post treatment breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung and pancreatic cancer and the skin cancers. This lead me obtain additional training specific to massage therapy for oncology and palliative care.

This training raised my awareness of clients who were presenting with various swelling conditions, some having to do with cancer and cancer treatment (as with secondary lymphedema resulting from cancer treatment) and some having to do with non-cancer related surgery, trauma, primary or idiopathic lymphedema and other causes. My cancer training taught me that I needed highly specialized training (roughly 140 hours to become a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) in order to legally work with people who had a variety of serious swelling disorders including lymphedema. It seemed logical to me that becoming a CLT would better equip me to provide more complete care to my oncology clients and also equip me to meet the needs of a whole host of other clients who have other types of swelling conditions.

Additionally, I would be better prepared to discern when I encountered a client with a serious contraindication that I should not touch at at – very important indeed.

After researching various Lymphedema certification programs and course offerings I realized this training would greatly enhance my ability to effectively recognize and help many of the people already coming through my practice. In particular I was interested in receiving training from a program accredited/approved by one or both of the two most widely respected National Lymphedema organizations in the country (LANA or NLN). Additionally, I hoped to find a program that was affiliated with a clinic or hospital so that I could see and work with real patients who had some of the conditions we learned about and might expect to see in real practice (as opposed to just working on one another – healthy, lymphedema free people).

Coincident to this ongoing stream on consciousness, I received a mailer from Cross Country Learning announcing the offering of an introductory class in Effective Manual Lymphatic Drainage techniques. After reading the instructor’s (Carmen Thompson) bio and the course overview I decided to take the one day course with the hopes of moving a few steps closer toward my new goal of becoming a CLT. In a nutshell, the course was outstanding! Carmen delivered over and above my expectations which are high. She is very knowledgable and has an abundance of hands on experience on the subject matter. She has studied a variety of approaches to Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and this knowledge informs her teaching. As an instructor Carmen has a very approachable demeanor, is willing to answer your questions until you understand the concept and demonstrates all manual techniques ensuring that the student has time to absorb them.

During the one day class we learned far too much to convey in this letter but suffice it to say that we learned the major components of the lymphatic system and how they work together to form and move lymph throughout our body, why this is important to our health, and how to manually facilitate this process. There were perhaps 40 students in my class, PTs, PTAs, OTs, RNs and Mts and they all seemed fully engaged in the class and the labs. During the end of class Carmen announced that she offered a full certification course thus propelling an excellent class into an incredible one. To me this was an amazingly fortuitous series of events. After I had time to further investigate the details of Carmen’s four part certification course, I signed up for and completed it.

But I ramble. Now let me attempt to answer your questions.

  1. What was the best thing you learned from taking this class?
    In a nutshell, among the best things I learned was a variety of MLD techniques and protocols that I could use immediately to help folks suffering from a variety of swelling conditions. I also learned when to use them, equally as important. I have been using many of them since completing the class. I also learned how to do CDT another very useful set of techniques.
  2. What was/are the thing or things you would change about this class if you could?
    I have to say I was pretty satisfied with the course content. There is a lot of information to grasp. I might perhaps suggest improvements in some of the course handouts. There is such a volume of information provided, included orally during lectures that I found it hard to keep it all straight at first.
  3. Did taking this class effect your practice? please explain.
    Absolutely. First, the knowledge, hands on skills and clinical practice prepared me to return to my practice and begin to immediately work with and help people with a variety of swelling conditions. Carmen made herself available to answer questions wherever I might have felt uncertain. Second, I began to market myself as a CLT and began to see new clients specifically for this reason. I would say, perhaps 6 or so per month just though the information from my website – no other marketing.
  4. On effectiveness of Marketing?
    I think the marketing advice is sound and effective. I have a fairly full practice already so I did not need to do any more marketing. I was more interested in better serving my current and new clients (by referral and website) than marketing at large to gain new ones.
  5. What type of practice do you work in?
    Massage Therapy Practice – 7 member team. See the website.
  6. Would you take this class again?
    I just completed the Advanced Topics course being offered for the first time. I would highly recommend both the full certification Course and the Advanced Topics class. It is important to add that you definitely get out of this class what you put into it.

Sorry for being so long winded and I hope this helps. Also, please ignore typos etc. I did this quickly so as to respond in a timely fashion.



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