resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Energy is a hot commodity. Society pays dearly for it and for the expertise of those who know how to cultivate it.
Medical Payola (Part 2)
Not only has Medtronic made billions selling expensive screws and hardware for highly controversial spine fusions, but a Senate investigation also found Medtronic felt compelled to write and edit medical journal articles attributed to outside physicians that downplayed the risks of the company's best-selling bone graft, Infuse.
History Repeating Itself in Wisconsin?
Thirteen years ago, the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association (WCA) "agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that [the association] orchestrated a conspiracy among WCA members to increase prices for chiropractic services and to boycott third-party payers to obtain higher reimbursement rates."
Business Building: What's Your Strategy?
I know some in our profession love to debate about whether or not spinal curvatures change as a result of our chiropractic adjustment, but I have a question that hits a little more close to the belt than that: Are chiropractors capable of change?
Calcium Supplements and Mortality
When the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study reported that men who took calcium supplements had a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared those who didn't, it was the third large cohort in six months with alarming findings regarding calcium supplements.
Repeating Bone-Density Tests
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women older than age 65 undergo bone-density testing. However, organizations in general have not stated when repeat bone-density testing should be done.
Herbal Medicine: Go Mainstream
When it comes to practicing herbal medicine in a mainstream setting, there are a number of important points to understand when it comes to prescribing formulas. Some important questions to ask are - what method of prescribing and dispensing is most effective in this setting?
There Are No Secrets: Treating Complicated Conditions with TCM
Including standardized extra points, there are just over 400 acupuncture points on the body. You get 400 and I get 400 - same. Yet, time and time again treatment protocols are coveted as if they were some secret formula only intended for the right and privileged.
Economics of Complementary/Integrative Care
Although this column doesn't usually feature a book review, we're going outside of our usual public health format to discuss a new book written by Patricia Herman ND, PhD.
In a previous column, I discussed the history and definition of evidence-based practice (EBP), and expressed concerns with how the concept has been narrowly construed by some academics and payers.
Happenings in Our Evolving Profession
Good things seem to be happening for our profession and recent developments show we are all on board. Talking about being on board, this September The Veterans Express-Purple Heart Tour is expected to make its way out of the station.
News in Brief
Cancer Treatment Centers of America Continues Support of Chiropractic; ACBOH Announces 2013 Practical, Written Exam Dates; PCORI Approves Funding for Research on Spinal Stenosis; Macquarie University to Cease Offering Chiropractic Program.
Covering Chiropractic as a Profession, Not a Single Service
Recently Dynamic Chiropractic published a front-page article about various state essential health benefits and referred to Oregon and four other states not currently providing chiropractic as a covered benefit.
Let's face it – patient evaluation takes time. Unless you are really into the diagnostic evaluation game, you probably have found the formal exam protocol tedious if not downright annoying.
Helping Infertility Patients with the Spirit Essence
As many of you know, when it comes to treating infertility, we are dealing with a patient population that is, generally speaking, in emotional turmoil. These patients often experience fear, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, grief and anger.
You are What You Eat Part II: Integrative Protocols
In the previous installment of this article I discussed important ideas concerning gastrointestinal health and foundational ideas from TCM, which can provide key insights into creating effective protocols for healing the gut.
Helping Patients Through Pregnancy Loss
There is a lot of focus in the acupuncture world on fertility and helping women get pregnant. It's exhilarating to hear the news that a patient is expecting a baby. The other side of that is pregnancy loss. That includes abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.
Peer Points: Stories of Practice Success
When patients go see Arizona-based acupuncturist Jing Liu, it is to get top care from an practitioner well versed in all aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Exercises for Back Pain: Low-Compression Training Program
This program is intended for two groups of people: 1) those who want to engage in resistance exercises for the major regions of their body without developing back pain in the process; and 2) those who already have back pain and want to do resistance exercises, but consistently re-irritate their back when trying to do so.
Spinal-Cord Injuries: Saying No to Steroids
With steroids, epidural and otherwise, in the news lately for their overuse when treating back pain (and their danger when tainted by fungal meningitis), it was high time for a policy change, and we've got one, from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
The Pallof Press for Core Stability Evaluation
Many people become injured because of instability, weakness and poor neural-sequencing patterns in the core. Lack of bracing and support from the inner core cylinder during coronal and transverse movements makes the body vulnerable to compensation injuries.
Wisconsin Exam in the Spotlight
You've passed your national boards with flying colors, including Part IV, the practical examination, at a combined cost of more than $3,000.
Chiropractic Research: A Moral Issue
This year I've had the opportunity to go to three great chiropractic research conferences; the ACC-RAC, the Fédération Internationale de Chiropratique du Sport (FICS) Congress and the World Federation of Chiropractic Congress.
Telecommuting and Technology: Ergonomic and Worker's Comp Considerations
As our world becomes more and more reliant on technology, equipment becomes more dependable and we become increasingly more comfortable with e-mail, the fax machine, the Internet and the smartphone, it is becoming easier and easier to work away from the office.
August, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 08
The ELAP Project vs. The Seven Deadly Sins of Massage Education
By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB
Author's Note: Ralph R. Stephens is a Director of the Alliance For Massage Therapy Education. This article represents his own, personal opinions and not those of the AFMTE.
One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors." Plato
Part of political participation is being informed, and if you care at all about the future of our profession, I urge you to read the five page Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP) description document at: www.abmp.com/downloads/ELAP_2012.pdf. The ELAP stated goal is to standardize educational hours, educational outcomes and improve "portability" – the ability to take licensure credentials from one state to another. All wonderful sounding things; who could be against them? I am not against any of them in principle, however I am extremely concerned about how they might be accomplished.
When you read the document, notice that the project's goal is to determine the minimum educational objectives and Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSA's) needed for an entry-level therapist to pass a licensing exam (MBLEx) and give a "safe, competent" massage. Originally, it was just a safe massage. Competent was begrudgingly added due to the outcry of some concerned stakeholders. Never in the document will you find the term "Massage Therapy" or any other reference to being able to deliver therapeutic or clinical aspects of massage.
A new Job Task Analysis survey (JTA) is being conducted by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) and it contains an add-on section to gather data for the ELAP. The analysis of this data will give more credence to therapists who have been in practice from one to four years and have performed at least 500 hours of massage. (Three years is where the high drop out rate begins.) Doing the math, this is one massage a day for two years or two massages a day for one year. This is what our associations feel is a "functional practice." (From the ELAP Description: "As shown by their persistence for this time, this group has demonstrated perseverance and the skills to develop a functional practice or work productively as an employee.") At two years out, would you define one to two massages a day as a functional practice?
Safety is not a significant problem in massage therapy. The incident rate of actual physical injury caused by massage therapists is miniscule. So, the standards determined necessary to prepare entry level therapists to pass the MBLEx, and give a safe massage, competently are going to be a very lowest common denominator. How is this going to elevate or improve our profession?
It appears the ELAP is a project designed to set another minimal entry-level standard. Why do it again? The data for entry-level KSA's is already on the table and just needs to be recognized and utilized. The danger here is, if this level of training, as defined in the project document, becomes our "standard," the potential exists to reduce/limit our scope of practice. This was tried already by the MTBOK project's scope definition, which fortunately has been mostly ignored. Particularly in states like Florida with a good scope of practice definition in their law, there is a lot to lose. What you might ask? Most likely, the casualty would be the ability to serve the public with the full potential of massage therapy. It could also lead to restrictions in our liability insurance coverage for "therapy," possibly requiring advanced certifications and additional insurance fees and riders to cover therapists doing therapeutic work. As you read the ELAP document, think about this, seriously.
Sadly, the need for the ELAP is based upon a fallacy. Then to begin to argue its minutia becomes an exercise in re-arranging the deck chairs on an adrift ocean liner. We do not need another blue–ribbon panel to set another standard or definition that ignores or papers over the fundamental problems of our profession.
The Real Problem
We have a real problem with substandard, inconsistent entry-level education causing poor quality massage to be delivered to the public. The problem with this low-quality massage training and its resulting low quality of massage practice is the unintended consequence of AMTA's policy of working to get 50 state licensure — no matter what the laws look like, with no attention paid to maintaining, much less expanding, our scope of practice or the regulation of entry-level training programs.
Over the past 15 years, the number of institutions offering entry-level massage training programs has expanded in recently licensed states. Most of these new programs were not traditional start-ups by long-time massage therapists who embodied the lineage of the field. For the first time, we saw the unfettered entry of for-profit career colleges and taxpayer-funded community colleges into our sector. It's simply supply and demand. The passage of new massage laws created new demand for the training required for licensure. These entities were in place with both classrooms and the Federal Student Aid eligibility to quickly add programs. The fact that there was not a population of trained massage therapy educators to teach these programs was not an issue, because the regulations for massage schools and instructors were lax or non-existent.
These institutions are opportunistic: they observe what's happening in the workplace and create or remove training programs according to what's hot and what's not. They have no long-term investment in the profession of massage therapy, as it's just another program to provide revenue. It's solely about the money and not about the lineage of massage therapy or who is being put out onto the street to practice it.
These developments have changed the landscape in ways we could not have imagined. In the rush to "elevate" massage to the status of a profession, AMTA (lately working with ABMP) has actually created a serious decline in the quality of massage services provided to the public (the unintended consequence). This problem is hard to get recognized, because most massage consumers don't know what a decent-quality massage treatment is like.
ABMP's latest massage consumer survey showed that 93% of massage clients were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of massage they received. Does that mean massage therapists are doing a great job? No, it means most people have never experienced a good massage. To use a fast food analogy: a burger made from greasy, undercooked horsemeat is better than starvation, which is why a billion-dollar-a-year empire was able to be built on low-grade massage. Americans are so touch-starved that they will keep coming back for substandard massage, because it's better than not being touched at all.
How do we get the big players to own up to the respective roles they play in this situation? Neither ABMP nor AMTA have been willing to look at this. Not surprising, since students and graduatess from this sector have ballooned their membership rosters. They're both serving up "happy meals," and taking us on important-sounding trips to exotic lands named MTBOK, MOCC and now ELAP, all of which are distractions from the core problems. Despite their ongoing PR messages, these major organizations are interested fundamentally in their own well-being, and not the profession, much less the public. Actions speak louder than words.
At the very heart of the deterioration of massage quality delivered to the public is the lack of a trained teacher corps to staff all massage schools. To its credit, ABMP has created some basic teacher training seminars. However, they have also rejected as unnecessary and excessive the proposals for teacher education standards that have been developed by professional massage educators in a peer review process, which are based on teacher education standards recognized and used by a variety of other professions. Teaching theory and methodology is the issue here, not just knowledge of the subject(s) being taught.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Colleagues, here comes the real truth of the situation that no one has had the courage to put on the table until now. Standardizing the number of hours or the curriculum content (ELAP) will not improve educational outcomes as long as our massage educational institutions are allowed to:
The (ELAP) is a further diversion from the long and challenging work that will be needed to address these "sins." Two things are needed to "heal" the problem, money and moral conviction. ABMP, AMTA and FSMTB must be persuaded to give substantial and ongoing financial support to COMTA and AFMTE to assist them with their respective missions. COMTA because we need a strong accrediting agency dedicated to the field of massage therapy. That is the natural place for educational standards to live. AFMTE because their Teacher Education Standards Project (TESP) is the trail that the entire education sector must follow if we are to truly "elevate" the profession from the sad state in which it currently exists.
These organizations also need to take a public stand - an unequivocal position - that the operational practices listed in the "Seven Deadly Sins" are no longer acceptable in the massage therapy field; that we expect better from our schools and programs. They may not have the force of law, but such moral courage on the part of community leaders, consistently stated, can and will instigate a change in institutional behavior.
We must take up these challenges for the sake of the massage seeking public and for the lineage of our profession. Want to be part of the solution? Get involved. Thank you for your caring for our profession.
Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB.
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