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Massage Today
May, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 05

We Get Letters & E-Mail

By Editorial Staff

Field Notes

Dear Editor:

I appreciated Ralph Stephens' overview of our profession ("No Better Time Than Now," December 2002 MT), and his reminder that our early intention was "to be an alternative to the sickness care delivery system." I share his concerns that certain professional organizations and schools are directing us toward co-option by allopathic institutions.

The notion of developing college degrees in massage reminds me of several personal experiences.

1. During my nursing career, there were at least four levels of nursing education that required one to four years of study. University education was designed to teach us the "science" and sociology supporting nursing interventions. In practice, many believed that "BS in nursing" aptly described our program - too much theory and not enough experience - and we discovered that only nurses distinguish between the training categories. To patients and doctors, nurses are nurses.

2. As a massage student, I overextended myself trying to ace every exam - until our school director asked, "What would happen if you got a 'C'?" and the school therapist asked, "How will you know when you're good enough?"

I believe it's appropriate to ask the professional massage organizations and massage-school administrators these same questions today. I have met and taught many massage therapists and students who believe they're good enough when they know all the mechanical connections to "fix" the problems. What about results? Determined to fix it, they burn out while ignoring important signals from their bodies and their clients' bodies.

The Connecticut chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA-CT) has introduced a bill to require 48 hours of CEUs every four years to maintain our licenses. At least 24 hours must be taught by a NCBTMB-approved provider. Ouch! They're stepping on my toes! I consider that excessive legislation. Where is the evidence demonstrating that MTs aren't getting enough continuing education to practice safely and effectively?

A therapist friend told me, "The massage therapists I know are always taking classes; they take or assist in more classes than anyone I know." My experiences have been quite similar. In addition to basic training, I've trained in three other major bodywork styles. Why? I was curious and I enjoy learning ... what a concept. Why ruin a good thing with laws that take away some of our choices?

Every year, I teach a 50-hour class and a variety of workshops. I spend at least twice that amount of time updating information and refining presentation. I've spent several hours rewriting and re-thinking this article. I enjoy reading the wealth of massage articles published in trade journals. CEUs won't be granted for all of that continuing education. In 20 years of massage and 18 years of nursing, one of my most important lessons is: The work teaches me.

3. Mr. Stephens observes that massage therapists are spending "more time studying pathology than ... studying health." The same is true for doctors and nurses. Originally, I practiced massage with nurse-like authority! It wore me out, so I explored empowering approaches. Learning Trauma Touch TherapyTM helped me develop my ability to establish working partnerships with my clients while integrating a variety of bodywork styles. This interactive partnership engages my attention, reduces my physical effort and supports client empowerment, inviting information about health to come from clients.

For me, an important feature that distinguishes massage from the illness model is helping clients develop awareness and skills to use their bodies as a resource, rather than focusing on it as a source of dysfunction, pain and betrayal. I believe massage students would be better served by including some body-centered, supervised experiences with no agenda: just observe themselves as they work, observe the responses of clients, and help clients observe the effects of the work. I also believe students should receive more entrepreneurial and practical business training. Many students seem to depend on their schools to provide job opportunities. I have supervised several massage interns whose school expected me to provide and schedule their clients. These students had to fit their internship hours into full-time massage-school schedules. What a joy it was when I had the chance to supervise an intern from a school at which internship was not in competition with other school obligations. That intern learned to attract, schedule and confirm her own clients.

In Connecticut, many of us have noticed a decrease in business; clients have less money for massage. It takes more time, energy and creativity for us to support ourselves, and it's aggravating when these professional hassles divert us from our work. I would like professional and academic organizations to acknowledge that body-centered work is a blend of knowledge-based, kinesthetic and intuitive skills - not brain surgery or physical therapy. As their constituent, I want them to:

  1. identify and stop turf wars;
  2. communicate their ideas for legislation in an accessible and timely manner that allows for exchange and recognition of diverse opinions;
  3. continue their valuable public education and outreach;
  4. support our practices as alternative to the competitive illness-care model; and
  5. reaffirm that there is potentially enough work for all of us.

Carol Springer, RN, BSN, Trauma Touch TherapistTM
Willington, Connecticut

Thanks for Recognizing Massage Vendors and Suppliers

Dear Editor:

As President of the AMTA Foundation, I want to thank you for recognizing the vendors and suppliers to the massage therapy and bodywork professions. ["Recognition, Part II," March MT:]

Like you, I have heard or felt that "soft disdain" by some massage therapists for the more commercial aspects of our profession. However, without the companies and manufacturers that provide equipment and supplies, we simply would not be able to practice the art and science of purposeful touch. We do need to thank them for helping us.

In addition to their support of the profession at conventions and trade shows, many vendors and suppliers also exercise significant philanthropy and donate back to the profession in other ways. Most significantly to me, they volunteer to serve as trustees and committee members for the AMTA Foundation, and they financially support our efforts. Without their contributions, we would not be able to realize our mission: to advance the knowledge and practice of massage therapy by supporting scientific research, education and community service. We genuinely appreciate their support. [A complete listing of AMTA Foundation donors can be found on the foundation's Web site:]

So, to all the manufacturers and vendors, The AMTA Foundation thanks you for your support.

John Balletto President, AMTA Foundation
Evenston, Illinois

"Massage Is Good"

Dear Editor:

I've been watching and reading about the flap about how we all need to be more educated. I disagree. I attended massage school primarily as a therapy for myself. I was out of touch with the human race. I learned to "touch" in a healthy way. I was told I was good at it. I liked touching and I liked being touched.

I've been practicing massage therapy now for 10 years. I do "relaxation" massage; I'm not a clinical therapist, nor do I want to be one. People enjoy my massages; they come back. I keep reading about how I should be getting into insurance billing. Why? Give a good massage, period. Getting specialized is great, but it's not for me. I just want to help people relax. If you can do that, all the rest falls into place.

Daniel Fay, RMT
Lockhart, Texas

A Few Comments on Vaccination

(Editor's note: The following two letters address comments in Ralph Stephens' March and April columns.)

Dear Editor:

Mr. Stephens' commentary on smallpox contains a few errors. The smallpox vaccine consists of vaccinia virus, also called cowpox; it does not contain the smallpox virus. Vaccination consists of infecting a person with vacinnia, which conveys immunity to smallpox; hence, vaccination will not reintroduce smallpox to the human race and "wake up a dead disease."

Smallpox is quite contagious and has been effectively used as a bioterrorism weapon in the past. During the French and Indian war, the English and colonists would infect blankets with the virus, then distribute them to Indian tribes allied with the French.

I agree there is considerable risk to our population from vaccinia infection. The complication rate in 1950 was approximately two deaths and 18 serious complications per million. This was before HIV, hepatitis C, and the widespread use of immunosuppressive drugs and chemotherapy. Today's complication rate could be considerably higher.

Bruce Klein, ND
Bellevue, Washington

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you to express my great dismay and concern over two of Ralph Stephens' columns. Last month's article was a rant about smallpox vaccination and the harm it could do. This month, he mentioned the subject again, saying that smallpox can only be spread by vaccination. Apparently, Mr. Stephens does not realize that the reason this scourge has disappeared is because of vaccination. The disease is spread by people who have smallpox; they are covered with sores and spread the disease that way! I agree that the policy of vaccinating the entire population, or even a small group of health-care workers, against smallpox is controversial right now; the question of what to do about a possible terrorist spread of smallpox has no easy answer. Regardless, Mr. Stephens' discussion of this problem is paranoid and irresponsible. He also refers readers who are concerned about their health and want to know more about vaccines to a Web site: www. I looked at that site - one of the first citations claims that germs don't cause measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc., but toxins in the body do! The other site he recommends is by an osteopath who recommends incredibly extreme dietary regimes as a way to achieve health!

I feel strongly that this type of writing is irresponsible. First of all, a massage therapist is not an expert on communicable diseases, immunization or vaccination. It reflects poorly on the entire profession when someone takes advantage of his or her position as a therapist (or in this case, columnist) to sound off and give advice on subjects about which they have no training or qualifications. It is even worse than making unfounded claims about various therapies, or making claims that sound "scientific," but lack supporting research, experimentation or documentation. It reminds me of when I was in massage school: When I would question instructors about the claimed scientific basis behind their claims, they would happily admit there was none, but assert the claims were valid because "This is what I believe!"

Margaret R. Wacks, MD, NCTMB
Melrose, Massachusetts


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