Shiatsu practitioner

A shiatsu practitioner


Shiatsu practitioners provide health maintenance, health education, whole health evaluation and recommendations for wellbeing, and treatment of certain illness through energetic evaluation of the body’s life energy system (Ki) and regulation of the life energy system through various energetic and manual techniques.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to shiatsu practitioner:

practitioner of shiatsu
shiatsu therapist
shiatsu acupressurist
therapist of shiatsu massage

Minimum qualifications

Like many other massage therapy education programs, shiatsu is typically taught typically in private, independent schools or in community colleges or other public postsecondary institutions. Depending on the program, earning a diploma or certificate requires several months or years to complete.

Applicants to massage therapy programs typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. The curriculum generally includes both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Required coursework includes sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology, as well as subjects such as business and ethics.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Shiatsu practitioner is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Shiatsu practitioner career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to shiatsu practitioner.

herbal therapist
massage therapist

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of shiatsu practitioner. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of shiatsu practitioner with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

traditional chinese medicine therapist
complementary therapist
specialist biomedical scientist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of shiatsu practitioner.

  • Pathologies treated by acupuncture: The types and range of conditions such as physical pain, head aches, back pain, allergies, addictions, digestive problems or cold, which are treated by acupuncture.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine: Medical practices which are not part of the standard care in healthcare.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine: Theories of traditional Chinese medical practices that put emphasis on various mind and body practices, as well as herbal medicine to treat or prevent various health problems.
  • Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
  • Massage theory: Principles of holistic therapeutic body massage, the application of massage techniques and the appropriate body posture, massage sequences and different mediums, massage benefits and contraindications.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Massage types: Techniques used and types of massage therapies such as shiatsu, deep tissue massage, Swedish, hot stone and Thai massage.
  • Relaxation techniques: The various methods and techniques used to alleviate stress and bring peace and relaxation to the body and mind. This includes activities such as yoga, qigong or tai chi.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of shiatsu practitioner.

  • Communicate with customers: Respond to and communicate with customers in the most efficient and appropriate manner to enable them to access the desired products or services, or any other help they may require.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Perform shiatsu massages: Perform massages on clients to reduce their stress and pain according to the shiatsu principles, based on the theoretical framework of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Maintain work area cleanliness: Keep the working area and equipment clean and orderly.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to product and services.
  • Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
  • Follow-up on healthcare users’ treatment: Review and evaluate the progress of the prescribed treatment, taking further decisions with the healthcare users and their carers.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Observe healthcare users: Observe healthcare users and record significant conditions and reactions to drugs, treatments, and significant incidents, notifying a supervisor or physician when required.
  • Identify energetic meridians: Identify and locate energy meridians, the paths in the body through which, according to Traditional Chinese medicine, the life-energy “Qi” flows.
  • Promote mental health: Promote factors that enhance emotional well-being such as self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life, control of one`s environment, spirituality, self-direction and positive relationships.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of shiatsu practitioner. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Balneotherapy: The use of therapeutic baths to treat a variety of conditions, through relaxation, massage or stimulation techniques. This includes the beneficial properties of mineral waters and mud-wrapping techniques.
  • Etiopathy: Alternative medicine therapy which has as its basis the idea that the practitioner uses only his hands to treat the patients’ symptoms on longer term by diagnosing the deeper cause of the illness.
  • Fasciatherapy: A manual therapy applied on the fascia (the connective tissue woven through the entire body) which is used for the treatment of physical or psychological disorders such as pain and movement disorders.
  • Types of aromatherapy treatments: Field of information which distinguishes a variety of ways to apply aromatherapy treatment, such as massages, inhalers, baths, vaporizers, compresses, diffusers, meditiation or deodorizers.
  • Neurophysiology: The medical specialty which is concerned with the study of the nervous system functionalities.
  • Reflexology: The application of pressure to plantar, palmar, facial, cranial, dorsal, atrial and reflex points of the body with a specific finger or hand gestures and techniques, such as acupressure and the massage of reflex points located on the body.
  • Acupressure: The principles applied in acupuncture using only physical pressure on acupuncture points on the body, unblocking meridians through which the energy called “Qi” is flowing.
  • Phytotherapy: The characteristics, the effects and the use of herbal medicines.
  • General medicine: General medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Kinetics: The study of movement and its causes.
  • Sterilization techniques: The methods and techniques used to destroy or remove microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that can contaminate medical instruments or any type of material in a health care setting.
  • Iridology: Alternative medicine therapy which has as its basis the idea that the patterns and other characteristics of the iris represent the entire body, thus the physical, mental or emotional health conditions can be seen by studying the iris.
  • Auriculotherapy: Alternative medicine therapy which has as its basis the idea that the ear is a microsystem which represents the entire body. Thus the physical, mental or emotional health conditions can be treated from the ear surface by means of reflexology and acupuncture.
  • Homeopathy remedies: The characteristics, components and effects of homeopathic medication.
  • Homeopathy: The alternative medicine whereby pills or liquid mixtures containing only a little of an active ingredient (usually a plant or mineral) can treat a disease.
  • Skin types: The different skin types, such as dry, normal, oily, and sensitive.
  • Kinesiology: The study of human movement, performance and function, the sciences of biomechanics, anatomy, physiology and neuroscience.
  • Be in touch with your body: The key aspects of applied anatomy, psychology, nutrition, physiology, and psychosocial studies and how they relate to the self-awareness of one’s body.
  • Acupuncture methods: Techniques and methods used to normalise the flow of Qi energy in the body for relieving pain and related symptoms by applying various specific types of needles into different acupuncture points.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of shiatsu practitioner. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Select acupuncture points: Based on the examination of the patient and his/hers symptoms, decide on which acupuncture points to be stimulated and with what technique.
  • Give massages: Provide clients with head, hand, neck, facial or full body massages.
  • Apply a holistic approach in care: Use bio-psycho-social models for care and take into account cultural and existential dimensions of the healthcare user, transforming a holistic understanding into practical measures.
  • Demonstrate professional attitude to clients: Demonstrate responsibility and professional duty of care to clients which will include communication skills and a focus of customer care orientation.
  • Apply deep tissue massage: Apply precise techniques and pressures to bring changes to specific tissue layers in the body.
  • Apply acupuncture: Use procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques, such as penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation in order to relieve pain or achieve other therapeutic benefits.
  • Advise on healthy lifestyles: Promote healthy lifestyles, preventive measures and self-care by strengthening empowerment, promoting health and enhancing behaviours and therapeutic compliance, providing patients with the adequate information in order to support compliance with and adherence to prescribed treatments, medication and nursing care.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Advise on mental health: Advise persons of all ages and groups in terms of the health-promoting aspects of individual behaviour and institutions with regard to the personal, social and structural factors on physical and mental health.
  • Promote healthy lifestyle: Provide information to clients about the role of physical activity, modes of exercise and related services and the importance of healthy activities for daily living.
  • Apply aromatherapy: Use the therapeutic benefits of essential oils to produce massage blends, cream or lotions and help improve the physical and emotional health and well-being.
  • Apply massage therapy: Apply massage therapy to relieve patient’s pain by using various specialised techniques.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

ISCO group and title

3255 – Physiotherapy technicians and assistants

  1. Shiatsu practitioner – ESCO
  2. Massage Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Featured image: By Arnaldo V. Carvalho – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Last updated on January 7, 2023

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