Sunday, July 31, 2011


Health Enrichment Center had a graduation yesterday. Graduations are important.  They mark a time when a level of learning is completed and a new one begins.  I told the graduates yesterday that the education they received ultimately taught them to be their own teacher and every client they worked with would be an important point of learning.  People often ask me how I know so much.  Sometimes I even ask myself that but I do know the answer.  I have been a massage therapist a long time with hundreds of clients, most long term, I write textbooks and I teach.  These activities keep me current, fresh and challenged.  Every time there is a graduation I find myself reflecting on massage as a profession. I will admit that I am a bit frustrated with us. I think the massage profession needs to graduate and get on with it.  I told the graduates yesterday that the world of massage therapy they are entering is different than the one I began some 30 years ago. Yet later last night I wondered if that was an accurate statement.  Here is what is different:

Massage therapy is now a licensed occupation
The massage community is actively engaged and being supported by high quality research.
The massage community has an acceptable formal body of knowledge- the MTBOK
Support for employment primarily from the growing franchise sector

What hasn't changed:

Educational standards -we are still stuck around with number of hours instead of competencies to practice

Educational excellence- buyer beware when it comes to massage schools and continuing education

Bickering, infighting and lack of cooperation among professional organizations- I am really getting tired of this

An agreed upon entry level competency base and educational platform- This is becoming ridiculous

A scope of practice that is realistic and attainable with formal education and  professional experience

Very little research on ergonomics and biomechanics--this has got to change.  The profession has to support independent evaluation and assessment of how we do massage. We cannot do this ourselves and be objective. The injury rate is unacceptable and massage therapists are not able to perform enough massage to generate a sustainable income.

There is more but I am beginning to get frustrated.  How can I send my graduates into this professional world confident that they will receive the support they need as they grow into real massage therapists.  I am on a bunch of committees with a variety of different organizations.  I know that there are many who are trying to resolve these issues however------

I am angry with myself as well. Last week when discussing a model curriculum in a competency based platform -both of which I have already done  in conjunction with my textbooks specifically but also much broader with the entire Elsevier massage educational line- I recommended that an independent group outside of massage be found to actually develop the document.  This is an excellent recommendation by the way and is not why I am angry and disappointed with myself.  What I did that bothers me is saying that at this point I personally was unwilling to  lead this process because I did not want to put myself up for all the infighting, criticism and opinion based comments that I think would occur.  Shame on me.  Jan Schwartz made a comment and recommendation on one of the other discussion boards that leading educators need to be brought together and get this thing done.  I agree! I also recognize that the massage profession has a huge learning curve to deal with concerning educational design and we need to admit it and commit to paying consultants and collaborators to do this for us with guidance from the profession.   Once we have this document-based on the MTBOK-the next challenge will be to bring instructing staff up to speed. 

The ABMP is going around the country presenting instructor training workshops for FREE.  Myself and my instructors attended the one that was just presented in Detroit.  Yes, there is promotional aspect for ABMP and I believe this is one of the greatest marketing campaigns I have seen. Regardless  the presenters did a fantastic job as did the course developers. On the way back in the car my instructors said--"We already do most of that stuff". Proudly patting myself on my back I agreed.  What struck me however during the workshop and the interaction is that the broad spectrum of instructors from many schools in attendance really want to do a great job and the skills provided were very new and unfamiliar to many. There was nothing unique about what was presented in the workshop. The observation that the information was unfamiliar with many was sad.  Massage therapy instructors want to do a good job but the massage profession is not working together well enough to give them the tools they need. It is time to graduate and get on with it. None of the information and skills the profession needs is different than other groups.  It is all out there and successfully being done and implemented by other professions.  I can't imagine having the recreate the wheel again and to do so is a waste of time and a disgrace to those entering the massage profession.  So now I think I want to cry but will go walk around my garden and commit to being part of this process even if I am personally and professionally vulnerable. I owe it to my graduates.


  1. Sandy,
    I'm an 'unofficial' provider of massage education. (I'm not NCBTMB approved due to many reasons) don't teach for any particular school, and have never written an official book. BUT, I do think the Active Myofascial Therapy that I teach is of value to my students and to their clients.

    I agree with you on many points, "Bickering, infighting and lack of cooperation among professional organizations" is the main reason I have chosen to simply do my own thing and not get caught up in it all. (I've been involved with the AMTA for over 20 years as the PR chair for California, VP for the state chapter and local unit)

    Seen so much nonsense it is embarrassing!

    Not sure what will help our industry turn the corner, but agreed -- now is the time for it to happen.

  2. Well said, Sandy. I agree with all your points. There is a point I'd like to capitalize on:
    "How can I send my graduates into this professional world confident that they will receive the support they need as they grow into real massage therapists"

    I've only been in the field for 11 years or so and have seen much of what you are talking about in your article. It is your words and words like yours from other industry leaders that inspire & perpetuate critical thinking toward resolve. If the industry were perfect or settled, we would most-likely have saturated the Public with the “common sense” education they need about what we profess and the agreed-upon rules, requirements, and practices would be in place, including graduating "real massage therapists". But the MT field has grown so much in the past two decades that to keep all we've developed and have to offer to our clients, we all might need to reconsider our own likeness of being a "real massage therapist"; if we are (eternally!) rediscovering our professional selves, from time to time, we might also need to get a new pair of pants.
    There are a lot of pant manufacturers out there, and when I shop for pants, not only do they need to look cool, they need to fit - be functional. Is there a manufacturer out there to make one, perfect pair of pants that everyone will buy (the last pair of pants they'll ever need)? I have more than one pair in my closet, which I wear depending on how I feel, what event I am attending, and what color of or type of fabric I want to feel that day. I think when there is one-size-fits-all or only one pant manufacturer that everyone buys from, you won't have to worry about your Graduates. I think Levi's was the closest I've ever seen to "that pant company" - the variety of pant they produce are plenty - AND they used to be popular worldwide. Now others have entered the stage and there are so many pant makers out there. Is this a function of Capitalism? Is this a function of human nature?

    I see “creation of diversity” as an innate function of critical thinkers. With diversity comes conflict and with conflict comes either resolve or unresolve. I, too, hope that there are enough (graduated-from-school-into) Professionals out there, and loyal clients to massage, that will make way (through self-edification & support) for the critical thinkers and decision-makers to the forward-movement of resolve of conflict.
    I think when [most] every professional agrees to wear the same pants, then our conflicts will be mostly resolved and we can profess in harmony.
    I’m afraid because of the "buyer beware" issue (and I think you have suggested: Education as a cornerstone for competency in our field), there will be many manufacturers of pants.
    I have seen the styles of teaching vary so incredibly: FROM inexperience as a practitioner (teaching) TO no formal training (to be teaching) TO curriculum's overseen by unrelated (to massage) organizations TO teachers who do not follow the curriculum the school is publishing as learning's not a wonder that new professionals are graduating with UNIQUE pairs of pants (from their patronized pant manufacturers), or skill sets if you prefer.

    A final thought/observation on your (quoted) statement above: "receive[ing] the support". Your blog article clearly illustrates there is an obvious responsibility other than showing up to work on time or wondering if a practitioner employee should refuse to work on an inebriated client. To avoid preparing/perpetuating passé graduates, we, as current professionals, have to be aware of and compassionate toward those "new" professionals seeking support and tend to them - in whatever way, by whatever referral or professional network - those graduates (at any stage in their career or position in their profession) seeking understanding will become the critical thinkers that will move our profession further toward "perfection."