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Massage Today
December, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 12


By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I attended an event recently at which a large number of health care workers came together, and in the course of several days maintained current competency by availing themselves of continuing education on pathologies and assessment skills.

They also took the time to network, socialize and obtain professional development on issues affecting business in the health care realm today.

These health care workers were not physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners or radiologists, but massage therapists. Perhaps because they were massage therapists, they also expanded their activities together to include picking out a stone from a basket that "seemed to be calling to them," then contemplating the mystery and meaning of keeping the stone with them. They also spent lots of time touching each other, forming circles, listening to drums, crying with each other and supporting each other. There were many shared hugs.

So, is this a dichotomy? Is it appropriate behavior for massage therapists? What does it say about massage therapy and its place alongside other caregivers? Are massage therapists "woo-woo" practitioners also trying to be "little doctors?"

When I first entered this field, I probably would have been extremely disenchanted by such a dichotomy of action. I likely would have thought the event's activities trivial, inappropriate and harkening back to summer camp adolescence.

But I don't think that way anymore. I think those who share my earlier views need to lighten up. I now think that massage therapists and bodyworkers can provide comfort to so many because of their abilities to expand the expected behavior models and build upon some incredibly unique strengths. By their very nature, touch therapies provide not just skilled care, but nurturing care. I don't think it's a coincidence that a preponderance of our profession has the ability to mother and nurture others. The approximately 80% of the field that is female enables the rest of the profession to develop and use their nurturing and caring abilities more than they likely would otherwise.

There are many qualities that make us unique in comparison to other caregivers, and I think this is what makes us so acceptable to so much of the population. I'm not suggesting that the stereotypical massage therapist in the tie-dyed muumuu and Birkenstocks should be expected in the critical-care ward of the local hospital, but that we have myriad strengths that allow us to function effectively in the society of caregivers. The fact that so many of us can integrate energy-based therapies alongside neuromuscular and myofascial work allows us to affect positive change that no other discipline of therapy can. Informed, thoughtful treatment need not be excluded from a heart-centered approach.

So, I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the juxtaposition of "Assessment and Treatment of Scapular Pathology," and contemplate the meaning and beauty of a stone that "spoke to me" from a basket. I'm primarily a clinical massage therapist, but I think I am much more effective with "rounded edges." It is my hope that many of us are able to listen to the story of a stone while advancing our clinical skills. No, it's probably not OK to overemphasize the group hugs when interacting with allopathic clinicians, but it's just fine (and most appropriate) when we're together and celebrating our awakening and growth as somatic problem solvers. Besides, I loved summer camp!

As we make our New Year's resolutions for 2003, let's resolve to blend skilled and compassionate touch for our clients. Let's also resolve to treat each other with the same nurturing intent. We'll make the world a better place!

Thanks for listening, and happy holidays!

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:

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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