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Massage Today
December, 2001, Vol. 01, Issue 12

Perception and Bias

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I'm never sure if anyone actually reads the columns I write for Massage Today, but I did hear from two individuals who read my October editorial. In my Massage in Times of Crisis article, I stated:

"One of our nation's three major massage therapy professional associations has named October 21 - 27, 2001 as National Massage Therapy Awareness Week.

I'm really pleased that this is one of their ongoing annual programs, as it helps each one of us, whether we are association affiliated or not. This is one project that I'd really like to see all of the associations collaborate on."

I received a letter from the President of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) that pointed out several valid concerns. However, it also suggested that my article proved a pro-AMTA reporting bias on my part, because I neglected to mention that ABMP's International Massage Week (initiated in 1995) pioneered this kind of awareness effort. His letter didn't cause me much introspection, though, as it followed right on the heels of a very different perception shared with me one week earlier, while I was attending AMTA's convention in Quebec City, Canada. At the convention, I was approached by one of the AMTA directors. He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he was upset with my editorial because I wrote, "One of our nation's three major massage therapy professional associations," instead of crediting AMTA with the program. He accused me of an anti-AMTA bias in my article.

Am I biased? Most likely I am. Everyone has biases. I do try to minimize my biases in Massage Today, because I truly believe that all aspects of our profession need to be heard. On the above issue, I can appreciate both points of view. Both individuals are justifiably proud of their associations and programs. Both have a personal bias and a sincere desire to have their own organization seen in the best possible light, and to get the best PR. But both missed my point entirely! My editorial wasn't about AMTA. It wasn't about ABMP. It wasn't about any association or organization - it was about working together! I think they both proved my point. [Note: To his credit, Bob Benson, ABMP president, has initiated an offer to AMTA to explore issues in which the two organizations might collaborate for the benefit of the profession. I hope his overture receives serious attention.]

I was pleased to be an attendee at this year's AMTA convention (accusations of pro and anti-AMTA bias notwithstanding). It was smaller than the past several, estimated at a little more than 1% of AMTA's total membership. This is perhaps due to the out-of-country location that was more difficult to get to than the past several conventions, and/or perhaps to the general disinclination of people to travel subsequent to the September 11 tragedies. Those who did make the trip were treated to a time packed with high-quality professional experiences. A friendly dinner I enjoyed with Rolfers and Feldenkrais practitioners from Canada and the U.S., conversing in both English and French, was just one example of the unique nature of this particular event.

For those who haven't been to Quebec City, the location itself made for a unique and delightful destination. The ambiance was much more that of Europe than North America. The walled city and the lower Old Port section were visual delights steeped in charm and stunning architecture. It appears that there is no such thing as a bad restaurant in Quebec City, either. (Caribou in blueberry sauce - oh my!)

During the course of the convention, it was an honor to hear keynotes from some of the true giants of the massage and bodywork world. Attendees were able to hear Leon Chaitow, DO, ND (prolific author of many texts on neuromuscular technique, positional release, muscle energy testing, etc.) discussing "Understanding Bodywork's Unifying Principles." Job's Body author and Trager™ practitioner Deane Juhan also presented a keynote that examined "Touch as a Force for Social Change." ("Perception is proprioception," was a memorable quote from his keynote!)

Canada's Melanie Hayden, president of the Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners (AMTWP), made a special award presentation to AMTA for the development and deployment of its Massage Emergency Response Team (MERT). AMTWP members also donated funds in support of MERT, and Melanie presented a check for those donations as well. The award was received by outgoing AMTA President Steve Olson and MERT program Committee Chair Erika Lind. Educational opportunities for attendees were diverse and useful. The workshops attendees were able to choose from varied from the thought provoking and theoretical to the practical, "use next Monday morning," type. Examples of educational topics included: Optimizing Your Baby's Environment Through Infant Touch; The Power of Touch in Alzheimer's Care; Psycho-Physical Attunement and Fully Embodied Consciousness; Tai Chi Massage; Body Rolling: A Self-Help Therapy; The Heart of Ethics; Learning to Mentor; Lomi Lomi; and Understanding Tissue Memory and Its Implications. Two presentations that I found particularly outstanding were a two-part lecture and practicum workshop on Breast Massage, presented by the authors of the book by the same name, Debra Curties and Pam Fitch; and Osteopathic Soft Tissue Manipulation for Massage Therapists, presented by Leon Chaitow.

As you can see, the choices to be made in what and what not to attend proved quite difficult. Educational opportunities were not limited to the classroom. The exhibit hall housed an international array of companies educating attendees on the value of their products and services. The dedication to the massage therapy profession by these companies is to be praised ,as they dealt with international customs and shipping issues to serve the convention attendees.

So, those are my perceptions of a great convention held in a great city. They reflect all my biases and personal opinions. I'm certain that others may have come to different conclusions, given similar input. I still think it important that massage therapists and bodyworkers look more to areas of common ground than to areas of contention. Let's not assume that we're all working against one another. Yes, this means you!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to the address listed below:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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