Doug Bertram of Structural Elements
Doug Bertram of Structural Elements

Doug Bertram of Structural Elements on Connection and Community

Doug Bertram of Structural Elements on Connection and Community

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When Doug Bertram, L.Ac., MTCM, founded Structural Elements®, he could’ve never guessed the widespread positive impact it would have on the massage therapy profession. Now, looking ahead into his career, Bertram shares with us how maintaining a community of loyal massage therapists has become even more important and how his company is helping to create more connections through digital technology. 

Massage Today: You’ve been a massage therapist since the mid-1990s helping athletes. What were some key insights you gained from those early years that not only helped you found Structural Elements, but also your unique methodology? 

Doug Bertram: Working with athletes was a great opportunity to learn how the body compensates in response to mechanical stress. As athletes return to sports after injury, adjacent joints and soft tissue to the original injury are more often than not a hindrance to performance. As I learned more about these compensations, I started to see patterns, systemic changes in the connective tissue. This became the foundation of the Structural Elements approach.

MT: What is the Structural Elements approach and how does it help clients?

DB: At Structural Elements, we view ourselves as body engineers. We evaluate the human body according to its structural integrity and establish proper balance between compression and tension elements. Through identifying patterns in the body, we are able to locate areas of compensation in order to help treat the cause of the imbalance, not just the site of pain. Our clients achieve lasting results as we reduce structural imbalances, improve connective tissue health, and re-educate movement patterns.

MT: What is unique about your mapping method?

DB: We take a step back and look through a wide lens and determine cause rather than symptoms alone. We look at the body from the ground up, how it moves, and determine a treatment strategy. We have taken our education, operations and communication infrastructure from our franchise company and made it available to massage therapists. This education platform is known as (se)® Connect and is the only interdisciplinary knowledge sharing platform that exists in the wellness industry.

MT: How can massage therapists become involved with this approach you’ve invented?

DB: (se) Connect is a web-based subscription available to massage therapists for $79 a month. Users will get a 15-minute comprehensive manual therapy (CMT) session, business tools and templates, as well as connect with a community of like-minded colleagues. Students will be able to subscribe for $29 a month. Any experienced massage therapist who wants to take their practice to the next level and join a network of like-minded therapists should subscribe to (se) Connect. Through our community, massage therapists and other providers all learn to look at the body through the same lens, which allows for rich discussions. 

MT: You speak a lot about the power of mentorship. How does Structural Elements promote the power of mentorship through its business practices?

DB: Much like learning a martial art, becoming a good massage therapist requires practical experience. The best way I have found to train massage therapists is to give them a clear systematic approach to assessing the body and allow them to spend time getting comfortable with the method. Once they are comfortable with the foundations, they have to spend time with hands on bodies. Once the work is being applied, then and only then can they ask meaningful questions and help solve real problems. The only way this type of learning is possible is through an ongoing process. Weekend workshops are great, but they don’t create masters. Creating masters requires a relationship with a mentor and this is why Structural Elements is structured the way it is.

MT: How can massage therapists get more involved with Structural Elements?

DB: We are offering opportunities across the country for practitioners to add the (se) Method to their existing practice and become a (se) Network Provider or to open branded Structural Elements clinics. 

MT: What’s your top tip for massage therapists looking to find their own niche? 

DB: Never let yourself go on autopilot. If you get stuck performing a routine versus listening to how the body is responding to your treatment, you will stop learning. Always have a reason for each technique you use. Aim to become the best in the world at one thing rather than trying to learn it all.

MT: Where can readers go to get more information?

DB: We have many resources available, and if a licensed massage therapist would like more information specifically on learning our unique approach, then the best resource is our web-based subscription platform, (se) Connect.  

To learn more about Structural Elements, visit their website.

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