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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

Pieces of the Puzzle

By Peter W. Crownfield

This article is not about lawsuits. If you'd like to read about lawsuits, turn to the Publisher's Report in this issue.

In fact, this article is not about competition, legislation, regulation, or any of the other so-called "necessary complexities" of the profession. This article is about people doing what they love every day with a common purpose: to promote the greater good in the massage therapy profession.

For nearly two years, I've talked to members of the profession; researched legislative and regulatory issues; attended conventions; learned about massage techniques; and listened to countless stories about the wonder and power of touch. As managing editor, it's my passion and my privilege to present the most timely news and information on the profession in a well-constructed, appealing format - to share what makes the profession great, and what can be done (or is being done, or needs to be done) to make it even greater.

I'm sure you feel the same way about what you do. This great faith in yourself and others has little to do with whether you are licensed; regulated; reimbursed for fees; insured against malpractice; or affiliated in any way with any massage organization, local, state or national.

What is the greater good in the massage profession? From all accounts, it's the care you provide to each and every client: the power of touch. This greater good brings individuals and organizations together; transcends issues of regulation, licensing, insurance and education; and keeps massage therapists and the massage profession grounded and unified in an increasingly (and perhaps necessarily) complex health care environment.

It's probably a bit naïve to believe that the massage profession (or any profession) can provide the best care to the most people without a certain level of organization. The public you serve demands qualified therapists, and regulatory and educational standards provide the mechanism for public validation. However, progress cannot and should not be defined by increased regulation and organization alone. Bigger and more complex is not necessarily better, and in the wrong hands, it can be much worse.

How do you maximize public and professional acceptance of massage therapy while staying true to the essence of the art? How do you continue to move forward without turning a profession based on the power of compassionate, skilled touch into a managed care maze of paperwork, licensing and review boards, referral delays, crowded waiting rooms, cookie-cutter, five-minute care, and all-powerful, monopolistic organizations? You succeed by staying true to the greater good; by never forgetting, no matter how much power, money, organization or control is involved, why you became a massage therapist.

Think of the massage profession as a puzzle, with the completed picture being your professional purpose: the greater good; to serve others and do your best to ease pain, promote relaxation, and enhance well-being, from easing the stiffness of a tight muscle to improving the outcome of the worst injury or disease condition imaginable. Each massage therapist is a piece of the puzzle, as is each massage organization -- local, state and national. This includes insurance companies, advertisers, publications, profit and nonprofit entities - everyone and everything affiliated with massage therapy.

Some pieces are larger than others; some pieces are more oddly shaped; some curve one direction, some curve another; some have jagged edges, some straight; certain pieces fit together perfectly with other pieces, while some almost do; some are farther away from others on the puzzle board.

Despite these differences and variations, the pieces can (and must) fit together. Without each piece in its proper place, the puzzle remains incomplete. If any piece is missing, the puzzle remains incomplete.

The completed puzzle of massage therapy forms a picture of a successful profession, one that provides compassionate, effective care to the most people possible. On a client-practitioner level, a practitioner-practitioner level, or an organization-organization level, the puzzle pieces must fit together.

With regard to effective touch, a practitioner's skills are only as important as the relationship fostered with each client. In much the same way, relationships between practitioners, between groups, and between organizations are vital to provide better care, better access, better accountability and better results. To expect or require anything less would be a disservice to you and your clients.

Far beyond the competition, the legislation, the power struggles, (and yes, the lawsuits) is the essence of what you do. Your profession is what matters. Your skills are what matter. The people you care for are what matters, and anything that enhances your ability to provide that care is a very good thing indeed.

If you find any of my opinions shortsighted (or just plain incorrect), let's talk about it. Your comments will make me a better editor and Massage Today a better publication, better able to inform the profession and the public. After all, we think we're a small piece of the puzzle, too.


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