What Do You Do?

Modality: noun ( pl. -ties) mo•dal•i•ty |mōˈdalitē|—a particular mode in which something exists or is experienced or expressed; a particular method or procedure.

The massage and bodywork field is rife with modalities; these are specific disciplines, areas of practice, or specialties. In ABMP’s member database, we have catalogued 422 different modalities practiced by more than 72,000 practicing members (this excludes student members). In our current system, we call them “interests” (to have an “interest” listed, a member must provide proof of training in that modality). Now that I think of it that term doesn’t make much sense. To me, public policy, wine, or current affairs are “interests,” not reflexology or Hellerwork. I may need to get to work on changing that. Of our current membership, more than 93 percent practice massage.

ABMP has long been recognized for its openness toward many forms of bodywork­—a position we have embraced and believed in. Massage therapy is a form of bodywork, but not all forms of bodywork are massage. There are many of our members who don’t practice massage as typically defined (or perhaps more significant, as defined by their state’s regulatory arm).

Regulation has been a typical and traditional means of constructing boundaries between practice disciplines. This has been both an aid and a burden, depending on what side of the conversation you’ve been on. But despite what a state says, the work is the work. Therapists are stuck between a rock and a hard place many times, because some states will only recognize what they regulate. In the case of continuing education, this becomes a problem where therapists want to expand their skill sets, but the state won’t recognize unregulated “non-massage” training.

It’s easy to make the states seem like the bad guys (in most cases, very easy). But we the profession share some of the blame here. Take a trip over to Massagetherapy.com and search for a practitioner. Your first step is to “choose a modality.” The list to choose from is 136 entries long! How many of these will the general public be able to define or identify, let alone desire?

As mentioned, our database lists 422 modalities. This means there are 286 modalities listed in our members’ records in our database that are not listed on Massagetherapy.com. Why aren’t those modalities listed on the web? Because fewer than 50 of our members practice that discipline.

A full 66 entries include the word “massage.” Are there truly that many forms of massage? Does it help the public understand and appreciate our work to segment massage into 66 different classifications?

Sorry, I have no easy answers to these questions. To those who practice these specific disciplines, these distinctions are important. And I don’t want to be an über-homogenized profession either. But greater acceptance and appreciation (goals most of us strive for) require easier understanding, and that might mean trading off some of our “uniqueness” for simplification and greater comprehension—at least to the general consumer, who may only be versed insofar as light, medium, and deep pressure. Besides, in the eyes of the law we’re practically all the same anyway.

I guess that means I’ll postpone introducing the Sweeney Method of Massage.

Follow Les at http://twitter.com/abmp_les.

One thought on “What Do You Do?

  1. Les you bring up a serious question for our profession. With all the names it becomes more confusing than clarifying. Especially since they often get similar results with different technique or modify a technique to trademark for marketing rather than actually have a difference that the public at large would even recognize. Add to that the fact that you can have a therapy from two Therapists practicing the same modality from the same teacher and have a totally different experience. Online reviews can be helpful when searching. Perhaps there is a way to add these to the profile. I know many sites now list reviews linked to the person or business from the many (yelp, google, citysearch, local.com & others). Perhaps this is useful and doable.

    As for “light, medium, and deep pressure” I find these are even more misleading as the interpretation is not only differing between individuals but even between body parts.

    Much to think about.

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