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Massage Today
June, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 06

Interview with Ruth Werner, MTF President-Elect

By Christie Bondurant

The Massage Therapy Foundation Board of Trustees announced recently that Ruth Werner, LMP, author, educator and long-time Massage Today columnist, is president-elect of the Foundation.

She will serve in the newly created position for a one-year term ending March 1, 2010, at which time she will assume her role as president for a two-year term. In an interview with Massage Today, Werner discusses her recently announced position and long-standing commitment to the Foundation and research in the profession.

You have been a trustee with the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) since March 2006, tell us of some memorable experiences working with the MTF, as well as some new projects.

I've been with the Foundation for about three years and in that time I have seen some astonishing things happen. In 2005, shortly before I joined the Board of Trustees, I attended the Foundation's first conference on Highlighting Massage in CAM Research. I have never been around so many smart people who knew so much about massage. Now we're getting ready to host the second Highlighting Conference, which will be in Seattle in 2010 (please mark your calendars for May, 2010). We're also getting ready to host the first Best Practices symposium: this will begin the process of gathering and evaluating input from subject matter experts about how massage may be used most effectively in a variety of situations. This is a generational project: our grandkids will be working on this--and here it is, starting now. Last year, the Foundation launched the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (IJTMB), which is an open-sourced electronic journal collecting articles on research, practice, and education.

Ruth Werner - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Ongoing projects at the Foundation are also inspirational. The Community Service grants promote the ability of therapists to create outreach projects in their own communities. One of the grants created such a change in the lives of the recipients that it became a larger scale research project, which the Foundation also funded. The Student and Practitioner Case Report Contests open the door to the world of massage research to individuals at a truly grass roots level. And the project the education committee has been working on will also launch this year. This is called Teaching Research Literacy: an In-service for Massage Educators, and it will work with massage teachers to integrate principles of research into already existing curriculum. Each one of these projects is awe-inspiring; all together they show that as a profession we are riding the crest of a wave that I think will change the way we think about massage.

Most recently you served as the vice president for the MTF, please tell us your feelings toward serving in this newly created position.

Mainly I feel deeply humble--teetering on overwhelmed--about the possibilities that working with the MTF presents. My colleagues on the Board of Trustees and all the volunteers on all the committees are profoundly committed to the support of our profession, and I hope to be a person who can help to direct some of that energy into some really fruitful efforts. This is the first time the Foundation has named a president-elect, so it is an unprecedented opportunity to learn the job well before taking up the reins next March. I am so grateful to have a full year to work with Diana Thompson, our current president. Her leadership style is an inspiration to me. Diana has overseen some amazing growth and projects at the Foundation, and I can only hope to try to imitate her, at least for a while. Fortunately for all of us, she won't get away easily: she will continue to serve on the Board of Trustees as Immediate Past President for at least a year.

Where do you see research in massage therapy ultimately taking the profession?

Truly I think well-conducted research in massage therapy can take us any direction we want to go! Therapists now are beginning to build a body of information they can call on to help shape their work. This is true for therapists who practice in clinical or recreational settings. And as massage is more integrated in public health, good-quality research that reflects massage as it is practiced will allow us to build partnerships with a community of health care providers who are interested in noninvasive and cost-effective treatment choices. I look forward to the day when the sense of "us" versus "them" attitudes in conventional and complementary or integrative health care are a relic of the past--and I think excellent research conducted by extremely talented and well-educated massage therapists is an avenue to make that happen.

Any other information you think our readers should know about research in massage therapy?

I think the most important message here is that research is something every massage therapist can get involved with at some level. Not all of us are going to conduct research, but we all use it, whether we know it or not. People who went to massage school when I did (let's just say it was well into the last century), grew up on a lot of best guesses and folklore about how massage affects human function. Now we have the tools to test that folklore, and some of the results are very surprising! Massage therapists have a vested interest in how this is done, and by whom--after all, if someone is going to do a study on massage, shouldn't a massage therapist be deeply involved in conducting that experiment? So we need a group of practitioners who are able to become leaders and consultants and supporters of this kind of work, because it has influence on the whole profession.

So here's what I'd like to suggest to readers who think they might be interested: get educated about research. The American Massage Therapy Association sponsors a whole "research track" of classes at every national convention--this is a great place to get started. Check out the IJTMB at and register for free. Learn how to do a Pubmed search: there's a good tutorial on the Foundation Web site, Participate in a Case Report Contest, or help someone else do it. And of course, support the MTF so we can continue to grant research projects in massage. Big changes are happening: there's never been a more exciting time to be a massage therapist!

Ruth Werner is a massage educator who practices near Salt Lake City. She has been with Massage Today since its start in 2001 writing on clinical pathologies. To read her column "Dealing With Pathologies: What's on Your Table?" visit Werner's columnist page at


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