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Massage Today
August, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 08

An Open Letter to the Profession From the Medical Massage Office & Associates

By Damien Berg

As a relative newcomer to the "medical massage" industry, I have seen first hand the deep rifts, confusion and animosities that are forming. I recently sold my massage practice in California to move to Wilmington, NC, to help run The Medical Massage Office & Associates (TMMO).

Within a week of my arrival, I was forced upon the national scene and the ongoing debate of medical massage. It was easy for me as the Director of Education and Training to state the tried and true mantra, that the medical massage profession is the best and where you need to be. I can't even begin to tell you the amount of flack that I received my first month. I stood fast and hung in. I tried to obey some rules set forth by a mentor of mine: 1) Don't go into a new job/position and make changes right off the bat; 2) Keep your mouth shut and observe your surroundings; 3) Finally, don't attach your self-worth so close to your position, so that when your position falls, your self-worth goes with it. This is what I stand for personally and professionally.

Now, 90 days into this job, I have made the decision that it is time for TMMO to separate from Mr. David Luther and the other organizations that represent and support the political side of the medical massage Industry. As the future owner and CEO of TMMO, there will be a clear and distinct separation from Mr. Luther and any political organization. As of July 5, 2005, the business is in legal transfer and the corporation is in full audit. Pending any unforeseen circumstances, I will fully take over by Sept. 1, 2005. With this new position, there have come a lot of questions from people in the industry. They have asked me about my "stance" or "take" on the medical massage debate. Simply put, I am for any type of education or standards that enhance massage therapists and the industry.

I have worked on the "other side" of the medical world, as a medic, trainer and surgical technician. If we want to be recognized as professionals and have our therapy taken seriously in the patient's care plan, we need to stop shouting among ourselves, and stop telling the "medical system" how good we are and what we can do for their patients. We need to first speak their language, walk their walk and look the look of a professional at all times. It does not matter whose continuing education classes you take, be it those offered by Aaron Mattes, Erik Dalton, James Waslaski, David Kent, Whitney Lowe or any of the other excellent educators of today. Professional and quality education will always lead the way. I have had the chance to personally meet some of these educators, and I am impressed with their dedication to the industry and to the development of the massage therapist's skills.

TMMO's stance on education is to bring the proven facts about massage and bodywork into the medical world's context. We believe in helping to "translate" the beautiful language of the massage world into the scary, confusing, and sometimes cold medical and insurance world. People know TMMO as insurance billing and reimbursement specialists, but this is only one facet of TMMO. It does not matter which insurance book you buy or what anatomy manual you study, as long as they are factual, based on truth, and are not distorted by egos.

As the future owner of TMMO, I strongly support any organization that sets a high standard of education, verification and validation of the massage therapist. The NCBTMB has set the standard through the years by providing excellent testing and continuing education standards. We are proud CEU providers for the NCBTMB and will continue to be as long as I sit at this chair. The Medical Massage National Certification Board (MMNCB) has offered another classification of training not much unlike what the medical world does for advanced training for MDs, nurses and trainers. As a lifelong student of the human body, medicine and massage therapy, I know that it is a good goal to strive for education and never be complacent. Tests or organizations that uphold the highest standards and challenge therapists to be better and continually learn should be supported. When I'm asked, "Do we need another test?" my response is always to be sure that certain standards are held into account. The physicians need to know that the therapist that they are entrusting their patient with is trained and skilled. The insurance companies, who will be paying for the therapy, have a standard to ensure that proper treatment, documentation and legalities have occurred. And most importantly, the patients deserve to know that the therapist is qualified, trained and competent to address the condition that they have been referred for.

When the dust settles from all of this, I hope that we as massage therapists have learned a lesson. That knowledge, success, and humility in life do not come easy and that it is not an entitlement. It must be earned and must be continually and vigilantly worked for.


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