resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Reflections: The Art of Teaching Asian Medicine
Over the past three decades, my global workshops have been translated into German, Swiss German, French, Romansch, Spanish, Lithuanian and Xhosa. Time to offer you new teachers a few tips!
Help Your Parents Stay Engaged
As much as parents may wish it were so, children do not come with an instruction manual. There's no "how to" that can be followed and no two children are alike, so what works with one generally won't work with the next.
Let's Speak With One Voice in 2015
For the longest time, the chiropractic profession has attempted to achieve some form of unity. On a political level, this was characterized by an ultimately unsuccessful two-year merger effort between ACA and ICA leadership from 1986-1988.
The CDC came out with a report in March 2013 that suggests 1 in 50 children will be diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum – significantly higher than the 1 in 86 figure that came out in 2007. What does this mean moving forward, particularly for children?
Cell Health (Part 2)
Dr. Barsten, your book is about restoring "cell vitality." Can you briefly define the term? Cell vitality is more than the mere absence of symptoms or pathology, but optimum structural, physiological and energetic health.
It's Time to Create a Strong Acupuncture Footprint
Footprints in the sand. Footprints in the snow. Where do these footprints go? Some are big, some are small, but footprints are made by all.
News in Brief
An Encouraging Sign at Palmer; NBCE Announces Retirement of Longtime Director of Testing.
Mind-Body in Motion
A central goal of low back pain treatment involves the correction of dysfunctional movement patterns believed to be responsible for spinal overload.
Leaving Footprints on Capitol Hill: Tribute to Dr. Kenneth Luedtke (1930-2014)
It was with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Dr. Ken Luedtke.
Are You Really a Healthy Eater?
I always giggle a little bit (to myself) when someone comes into my office and informs me that they are a healthy eater. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean they eat sugar in moderation? And what's that, exactly?
Put the Social Back Into Social Media
Social media is more than a passing fad, it is definitely here to stay. Social media apps and channels of distribution may evolve, but the concept of social media is now big business and a part of all our lives.
Acupuncture and Homeopathy: Bioenergetic Brothers
Acupuncture and homeopathy share an important healing principle: bioenergetics. "Bio" means "life," so bioenergetics is literally "life energy."
Finding Balance in the Clinic
This past December, I celebrated 11 years in practice. I seriously don't know where the time went. I feel beyond blessed and grateful to be practicing our profound and beautiful medicine and to be helping guide my patients restore a state of optimal health.
Unlevel Pelvis in the High-School Athlete: Exploring Causes and Effects
The unlevel pelvis is all too common in the high-school athlete and if not detected, will likely cause a lifetime of musculoskeletal issues. Any provider who doesn't look for this common finding is missing critical information.
Connecting the Dots
In 2002, I published a book on patient examination procedures that included information on the procedural coding of the recommended examinations. The book should have been published in 2000, but I had trouble finding a publisher. Why?
It might have been a miserable start to the day in the heart of downtown San Diego. A heavy rain had soaked the large homeless population congregating near the intersection of Third Avenue and Ash Street as they waited for a free breakfast to be served at the First Lutheran Church on the corner.
The Conscious Evolution of Healing, Part 2
The idea of transmission is very important in the Chinese medical classics. According to author Claude Larre, the ancient Chinese were highly interested in the connection between things. Nothing was looked at as an isolated entity.
Old TCM Sayings: Treat the Front to Treat the Back
Chinese medicine college was, and always will be, a memorable time. It was a time of massive personal and professional growth.
Case Histories from Bali: Treating Balinese Chidren with TCB and Shonishin
When I moved to the island of Bali in 2005, I offered my services in Bumi Sehat, which means Healthy Mother Earth, a free birthing center for poor and disadvantaged local women located in Ubud.
Neuroscience: Where Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine Can Come Together
The recent advances in neuroscience are truly incredible. With this expansion of scientific knowledge, I would like to see even more research into the neuroscientific basic of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
June, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 06
Contemplating Thai Massage Regulation
By Nephyr Jacobsen, LMT
I've done deep-tissue Swedish massage for 17 years. I mean really deep; no fluff-and-buff stuff here. But it doesn't come close to Thai massage, and nothing I've seen does. It's yoga and Rolfing and acupressure and tapotment and chiropractic and reiki and deep compression work and myofacial release and hydrotherapy with herbs and the power of spirit, all rolled into one.At the same time, it's none of those things because those aren't Thai and the truth is, Thai massage really is Thai. It's not a new brand of ayurvedic medicine or a twist on Chinese meridians, it's seriously Thai and it's serious medicine.
And here in the U.S., you can practice it after watching a do-it-yourself video, taking a two-day workshop or reading a book. And you can teach it after going to Thailand and taking a five-week course, a two-week course or a one-week course, never having actually had a working practice of it in your life. And people do. So long as you meet the regulatory professional massage laws of your state (which are all written with Swedish massage in mind), you can practice and teach Thai massage without a day of training if you so choose. And in some states, you don't even have to be a licensed massage therapist because you can claim this extremely physically intensive bodywork modality is technically energy work.
There is no regulation of Thai massage outside of the Swedish massage laws in the U.S., and I'm not even sure if there should be. Regulation is a sticky subject and with Thai massage, it gets complicated very quickly. At this time, the majority of states have some sort of regulatory agency that establishes the specific requirements to practice bodywork professionally and governs all massage modalities. A few states have no massage oversight at all and little to no requirements concerning practice. In those states with explicit oversight, all massage modalities are grouped together and have the same requirements. There are no specific laws for specific modalities. At this time, no organization in the U.S. has the authority to specifically regulate, certify, register or accredit Thai massage practitioners, therapists, bodyworkers, instructors or schools.
A Case for Thai Massage Regulation
Thai massage has the potential to cause injury if not done correctly. This applies both to the therapist and the receiver. Thai massage is a far more dangerous modality than Swedish massage could ever be. With proper training, it's amazingly therapeutic. And knowing effleurage, petrissage, cross-fiber friction and the diaper drape doesn't prepare anyone for practicing Thai massage. That's like saying if you're a highly trained golfer, it follows that you are qualified to play professional basketball. It's apples and oranges.
What this means is that states requiring that Thai massage practitioners be licensed massage therapists have really not done anything to protect the public safety in regard to Thai techniques. Because none of the required massage training (I'm not talking about the sciences of anatomy/physiology here) has anything to do with what you must know to practice Thai massage. It is left up to the practitioner to voluntarily seek out quality instruction.
This is why the regulation of Thai massage by a body of professional practitioners can be seen as necessary. In this case, oversight must come from within the community of Thai massage practitioners, because these are the individuals who truly understand the techniques and the proper methods of training. Of course, these individuals also would have to be professional licensed massage therapists, in order to comply with state laws.
A Case Against Regulation
And here is where I start to sound a bit inconsistent, because a part of me believes the way one trains should be voluntary. I have always felt that massage, as with herbalism and midwifery, belongs in the layperson's hands, where some of the best teachers are quietly hidden and carry no state-governed credentials. I am deeply suspicious of massage regulation, with its pandering to large corporate schools and its focus on written exams for a field that involves the unmeasurable ability to touch and feel with intuition and competence.
In the world of Thai massage, regulation is nearly impossible. While schools and practitioners have begun to be regulated by the Ministries of Education and Public Health in Thailand, it remains a fact that some of the most proficient therapists in Thailand are unlicensed, unrecognized and unofficial. Some of these practitioners are masters of hereditary methods; some live in the far-out villages where licensure is not possible.
Maintaining the Status Quo
There are some who suggest Thai massage practitioners should not have to be licensed massage therapists at all, meaning they should not have to meet any existing state requirements in order to practice their profession. This position holds that Thai massage is not the same as other bodywork modalities and should have either no requirements or only those of our own regulatory agencies. They propose that we should not even call it Thai massage, suggesting instead names such as Thai Yoga Therapy or Thai Intensive Stretching. It's as if a change in semantics will change the fact we are "manipulating soft tissue," the common definition of massage in most states. While I agree Swedish massage licensure does not qualify one to practice Thai massage, I do not think it hurts.
Another factor in this issue of creating regulatory agencies specifically for Thai massage is the need to be wary of self-absorption - to the point of forgetting the public we serve. So, how do we regulate Thai massage? We set the standards not by creating more regulatory agencies and attempting to separate ourselves from the rest of the massage world, but by creating classes and schools with a high bar and by being practitioners who don't balk at training. What if, instead of using our energies to fight the existing system and create new regulating agencies, we were to work together within the system? This could be the best of both worlds. Thai massage does not become regulated unto itself (hopefully avoiding homogenization), and by following state requirements of licensure, at least in states that have requirements, the people who can practice will by default be those who are willing to put in a little extra work.
I have looked through both lenses and agreed with what I saw. In the end, I have come to a place at which I accept things the way they are. It's not perfect, but I know the things that bother me most about the present and likely future of Thai massage are not actually going to be fixed by less or more regulation. They are not being fixed by the states that don't require Thai massage therapists be licensed in massage and they are not being fixed in Thailand, where there is very specific government regulation of Thai massage. What bothers me are things like gaps in integrity and the need for better understanding. Things like the tendency to call Thai medicine ayurvedic or Chinese because we don't understand it enough or respect it enough to grant it its own standing. Things like infighting among practitioners and teachers. More importantly, I am bothered by the actual danger of an ancient art becoming watered down and distorted until it no longer exists in its true form.
Luckily, these are things we can change without having to restructure the system. These are things we change through personal commitment. As we teach our students and teach each other, we set the bar higher and encourage quality in the Thai massage community. I believe it's up to us as individuals, not laws, to keep Thai massage safe and authentic. Those who do will shine brightly.
Nephyr Jacobsen is the founder and director of The Naga Center School of Traditional Thai Medicine in Portland Ore. She has been a massage therapist for 17 years and has spent extensive time studying Thai massage, both domestically and in Thailand.
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