Where is the Bar?

“Spring in Colorado” is one of those oxymorons, like “jumbo shrimp,” “crash landing,” and “clean coal.” This spring Mother Nature has been particularly moody, so last week I was pleased to seek respite from the gloom in—it’s true—Seattle. Not my typical first choice for better weather, Seattle was everything I could have asked for and more. Brilliant weather featuring our old friend Mr. Sun, punctuated by a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable conference, Highlighting Massage Therapy in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, hosted by the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF). A wonderful combination. And I don’t even drink coffee. I attended the conference for a number of reasons, with one particular assignment being present for the unveiling of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK). ABMP has been a member of the Steward group of organizations that provided support for the project. ABMP committed significant financial and human resources to support the project. We are proud of the subsequent accomplishments and the hard work of the Task Force. Not everyone feels the same way; I read a post on Facebook that stated, “Beware the Body of Knowledge.” Just today ABMP received the following email message: Boy, I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you, ABMP, for partnering with this. Shame on you! Here’s a newsflash: I don’t agree with all elements of the Body of Knowledge. And it appears others do not as well. But what’s wrong with developing a body of knowledge? Isn’t that what professions do? The MTBOK represents the work of a highly qualified task force of individuals who volunteered hundreds of hours; their work was vetted by members of the profession, who submitted more than 1,400 comments. The result is not perfect. But the process by which the MTBOK was developed was fair and inclusive, which is probably all we could ask for. And the document will continue to evolve as the profession lives and works with it. Back to Seattle. The impressive work being conducted to better define the efficacy of massage therapy is inspiring. And the individuals doing this work are very impressive—people like Michael Hamm, who five years ago was the winner of the Student Case Report Contest, and now as an instructor is leading his students’ work in research. I have not always been beating the drum re: research in the massage field; I think that research is critical to the continued growth of the field, but I don’t believe it’s for everyone. Literate? Absolutely. Aware of what's happening in your field? Prudent. However, just because you are a massage therapist does not mean you need to be a researcher. In my view, that has been oversold at times. I also do not believe that just because you’re a massage therapist you MUST follow the MTBOK to the letter. These activities are growth opportunities for the field; they aren’t (and should not be) a mandate for practice. Massage therapy is a big tent; there’s room for all types. My organization and I will defend that to the mat. But we should not be afraid to recognize that progress is being made, and salute those who are doing the work.
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