In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren are joined by the newly elected president of the Massage Therapy Foundation, Adrienne Asta, to discuss her passion for massage, what drew her to the foundation’s work, upcoming initiatives, and how to get involved with the foundation.
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0:01:50.6 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford.
0:01:50.9 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly.
0:01:53.4 DB: And welcome to the ABMP Podcast, a podcast where we speak with a massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Adrienne Asta. Adrienne has been practicing massage since 2001 and is co-owner of Center 4 Self-Care in Tucson, Arizona. She holds advanced certifications in Neuromuscular Therapy and Prenatal massage, with her clients seeing her for nurturing and informed approaches to pain management. Adrienne is most proud of her work, her company is doing to bring complementary therapies to those going through addiction recovery, and she is working on contributing to this area of massage therapy research. She has been deeply involved in education for the massage industry, holding various education positions since 2002, and as an NCBTMB approved provider for continuing education. She's developed ancillary materials for textbooks widely used in massage therapy programs and is trained all levels of practicing massage therapists and educators. She's been volunteering for the Massage Therapy Foundation since 2010, and has served as chair of the Community Service Grants Review Committee and on the development marketing committee. Adrienne has also served as Vice President for the Massage Therapy Foundation for just over a year, trustee for the past five years, and began her new position as president on June 1st, 2022. For more information, visit massagetherapyfoundation.org. Hello, Adrienne, and Hello Kristin.
0:03:17.3 Adrienne Asta: Hello. It's great to be here. I am super excited to be on this podcast. I really, really love what you guys are doing here at ABMP. This podcast is so rich with information and I feel really privileged to be on it.
0:03:30.2 KC: Well, we feel equally privileged that you are here with us today, and we're so excited to talk to you about everything about you, your practice and the Massage Therapy Foundation. Let's start with you, tell us your story. You state on the website that Massage is my art and Anatomy and Physiology, my muses. Tell us a little bit more about that. Why are Anatomy and Physiology so special to you? And how did you get into massage? How did this all start?
0:03:56.8 AA: My origin story. [laughter] Alright, so let me start with the origin story first and then I'll lead into the anatomy and physiology as my muse. So I had a lot of roads that kind of pointed me in the direction of massage, but because it wasn't in my sphere growing up, I didn't get it, right? So, the story that you hear from a lot of bodyworkers, especially ones that have been practicing for a couple of decades is, Oh, I like to give my friends massages and I like to rub their shoulders and they say I'm really good at it, and that happened on a number of occasions, and they're, You should go to school for this, you should go to school for this. And I said, For what? To rub peoples backs for a living? I just don't understand that, it was so foreign to me. And I was working in a large advertising firm in Manhattan prior to my massage life, and I kept ringing my hands a lot, I was noticing that started in college, so and I just didn't know, and I thought it was just this tick or habit that I had.
0:05:14.3 AA: Friends of mine were musicians, so I picked up playing the guitar, thinking that maybe using my hands in that way would be able to quell that itch. And it helped a little bit. I got promoted in the ad agency, and as I was getting promoted, it was just farther and farther from my life goals, so it's really late, and at the time, it's probably shifted at this point, really late hours, really unhealthy habits, and I had been on my own wellness journey in a fitness realm, and I was just feeling really good and I wanted to be in that space, I knew Personal Training and group fitness wasn't the right way to go, but there was definitely, there was a movement aspect that resonated with me. I don't know if I would have been able to articulate that 21 years ago, 22, however long it is. So there was a moment, a project I was working on at the ad firm that was just all the way to 4 o'clock in the morning every day, and it was just gruelling, and it was like, "Hurry up and get to FedEx! Hurry up and get to FedEx!" And I'm like, Oh my God, for what? And I just didn't understand how I was contributing to humanity in that moment.
0:06:45.6 AA: So I remember a colleague of mine at the time, I went up behind her and I just dug my thumbs into her traps and she just put out this sigh of relief and a light bulb went off. My mom used to wake us up as kids, with what I would now call a pre-event sports massage, so I always had a healthy touch experience in my life, and then just kind of something that just wasn't resonating with me and then just kind of a clear distinction of this is resonating with me Adrienne, pay attention to that. And I remember while I was waiting for the thing that I had to run over to FedEx, I took a piece of paper and I wrote down all of the things that I disliked about the current job I was in, and I wrote the exact opposite of those things on the other side of the page, and they were pointing me to this health and wellness way, and I Google, I don't even think it was Google at the time, I think it was Dogpile or something like that, right? So "Massage schools, New Jersey," 'cause I was living in New Jersey at the time, and Somerset School of Massage Therapy came up with an Open House, and I said, "I'll give it a shot," but I have this really "good job" with "paid time off" and with "401k match" right? And why would you wanna leave that job? And we all know why, right? It's the quality of life was really, really poor.
0:08:20.7 AA: And went to the Open House and I said, "Well, I'll do this on the nights and weekends, that's when everybody's available anyway. I'll do it on the side for extra income," and as I got deeper into massage school, I had said, I need to really focus my time on this, this is, sometimes I hate using that phrase, "I was called to do this." It's hard to deny it. It's hard to deny it.
0:08:42.5 KC: If you were called, you were called. Yes.
0:08:44.8 AA: You were called. So when I was in massage school, one of my fellow classmates got pregnant during our time, and she missed a bunch of classes just from her pregnancy, and she had asked me to walk her through some of the material that she had missed, and I got a rise out of that, she understood it and she was able to assimilate it, and that brought out that education piece, like, Man, I have a knack for this, so in the beginning of my career, I actually learned a lot about how to teach, because I'm like, Oh, I'm stepping into a classroom, but I don't know the first thing about a lesson plan, right? [laughter] So a lot of my energy went into that piece, it went into how to build a lesson plan, how to deliver it, how to be engaging, the material, I just wanted to tell everybody about it. I'm like, Isn't this neat that you have a femur and I have a femur? And like, Oh my God, and let's palpate the acromion process. Isn't it cool? There's 20 people in this room, we have 20 different acromion processes, but they're all kind of the same.
0:09:54.2 AA: So that piece, 'cause I had taught musculoskeletal anatomy and kinesiology, so that piece just became really fascinating to see all of these similarities from person to person, and all of these differences at the same time, enough to know that we're one, but the difference is to show all of our unique fingerprint and I fell in love quick, I fell in love hard, I stayed in love the whole time, and I feel like I'm in the beginning, I feel like there's so much to do and I can't wait to see what's gonna happen. It's a great way to live.
0:10:31.8 DB: I love your life passion. I can just feel it. I know our listeners can feel it just listening to you here. Let me shift to your first relationship with the Massage Therapy Foundation when you began volunteering in 2010, what drew you to their work? And then can you walk us through the roles that you've had as a volunteer? I know I read them in the bio, but can you walk us through a little bit of that?
0:10:55.3 AA: So when I first learned about the Massage Therapy Foundation, I thought that they were this research organization, right? And I was super happy about that. Great, I'm glad that we're learning more about this stuff, here's a couple of bucks, Massage Therapy Foundation. I am a clinician and at the time an educator too, so I'm like, Great, here's the money, thank you. And then I got a phone call from Tim Herbert of Books of Discovery. He was charing the Community Service Grant Review Committee at the time, so I had a relationship with Tim through the school because our school used Books of Discovery in our book set, and so I knew Tim and he had told me about this particular committee and I was like, Oh, I didn't even know that committee existed, and I wanted to be more involved with the foundation, but I just didn't know how, so that invite onto the committee was my first volunteer step. I eventually became the chair of that committee, and then the chairs got to join the board of trustees on one call for the year, just, "Hey, here's what's going on with the committee," and then I got to hear all of the other committees, I'm like, Man, this organization is awesome. We are doing some really cool and bold stuff.
0:12:16.5 AA: And it really helped me learn about the rigor of a research process too, and really just understand the uphill battle that our researchers have to have to do in order to get the information out to where we need it to get to in order to get it to a higher level etcetera, etcetera. And then I was asked if I was interested in being on the Board of Trustees, and that just sounded so lovely to me, and I was fortunately elected. And then the rest is history, right?
0:12:51.0 KC: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.
0:12:55.3 KC: Anatomy Trains is delighted to invite you to our in-person Fascial Dissection Workshop, October 10th through 14, 2022. We're excited to be back in the lab with Anatomy Trains, author Tom Myers and master dissector, Todd Garcia in Todd's Laboratory of Anatomical Enlightenment in Boulder, Colorado. Join students from around the world and from all types of manual movement and fitness professions to explore the real human form, not the images you get from books. Visit anatomytrains.com for details. Hey, life long learners. Did you know that Elements Massage Studios are hiring? And at the top of their list is curious, massage therapists like you. Elements Massage Studios are all about improving the lives of everyone they touch. For them, that includes giving you training and new skills, a supportive team, and chances to grow a client list. If this sounds like it could be your new home, let them know we sent you by going to elementsmassage.com/abmp. That's elementsmassage.com/abmp. Let's get back to our conversation.
0:14:07.1 KC: Okay, Adrienne, we've talked about the different roles you've had in the Massage Therapy Foundation and your passion and love for massage and education. How does this new role of being the Massage Therapy Foundation president blend those passions together? And talk to us a little bit more about the mission of MTF. And so listeners who may not be familiar get a real sense of what you do and what that organization is all about.
0:14:32.8 AA: We're inherently givers as massage therapists. So the thing that drew me to the Foundation was that it's a philanthropic organization, so funding research projects to talk about the efficacy and the mechanisms of massage therapy, how it works, how it doesn't work, and just kind of keep asking that question. We also support education by giving our schools and our teachers and our students resources to help with research literacy, to make it not this big scary R word. That as a licensed practice, we should really stay current on what's happening and funding community service projects. So that's a granting committee, which we give money to non-profit organizations that have projects that are serving underserved communities, whether it's illness, injury, distance to care, socioeconomic status. And we've seen disaster recovery grant applications come through which were timely and from all over the world. And it's so heartwarming, and I keep telling everybody that they're gonna have to pry that committee out of my cold dead hands. [laughter] It is so heartwarming to be able to fund four or five community service grants per year. It is heartbreaking to say no to the other 65, you know, up to 65 that we've seen in the past to say, no.
0:16:16.6 AA: So the foundation was actually founded on community service. I wasn't aware of that until just a few years ago, Doug Nelson, who was two presidents ago, Doug Nelson had said that he did a little bit of history research and he said, yeah, that was the original intent. And that kind of perked me up because that's what I'm most familiar with with the foundation, right? So this year, we're starting an initiative, Bob King Community Service Initiative for the bodyworkers who were influenced by Bob, we knew that his Chicago School of Massage, they had community service embedded in their curriculum, the huge positive impact, not only on the people who were being served but on the people who were serving and the people who were coordinating these projects. So we wanna help schools who either have some kind of community service outreach project already, or help schools who want to do something like this as part of their clinic hours, either internship or externship. So we're gonna have a couple of grants that are specific to schools to fund community service projects for their clinics.
0:17:27.6 AA: And I'm super stoked about that. Bob King was such a huge influencer of mine. I had the privilege of assisting him in a couple of different CEU seminars that he taught, and I wept when he passed away. And this feels like this legacy program, this is gonna be a legacy program, and I'm hoping it's gonna be ongoing. That's my goal is to set it up so that it is, because I think it's really at the heart of what we do is just this place of service is really, it's always been important to me, and I think it's time to shine a light on it.
0:18:06.5 DB: Yeah, I wanna double down on that a little bit because I had to turn on my little journalistic radar and dive into some blog posts that you'd made. So I actually looked back into 2018 where you wrote a blog called "A few words about my support for the Massage Therapy Foundation", and you really hit home that point, which is, you thought that it was just a research endeavor and that you just wanted to make sure, and I wanna reiterate that here to the listeners, that it's so much more than that. It's that, and so much more than that, and just how powerful that is and how that really triggered you and your involvement and your passion there.
0:18:44.0 AA: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. And it's so easy to give. We have really creative ways of doing it. And really just give me a call, and I'll tell you what I do with my practice. And we can get in touch with anybody, any board member, anybody on staff, and we'll be able to help guide you to pocket change, to help support it, where it won't even feel like anything. When I worked in Manhattan, and I will never forget this for my entire life, when I worked in Manhattan, I took the training into Penn Station at the top of the steps before you got out onto the street, there was a gentleman there and he was collecting for the homeless, that was the project, it was a non-profit organization, he had the big 5 gallon bucket, and he would say, "One penny, one penny, one penny from your lunch change, one penny from your shopping change." Well, two million people come out of those stairs of Penn Station every morning, one penny times two million, we got a good chunk of change that's gonna help a lot of people. So I'm looking to try to show people, like there's these micro-donations that we can do, that really can help move the needle.
0:20:02.7 DB: Okay, so I know, I've served as a president on a couple of boards, not affiliated within the massage area, but in the publishing area, but I know new presidents usually have an agenda or things to accomplish during their term. What are your plans during your term for the Massage Therapy Foundation?
0:20:20.3 AA: The Bob King initiative was something that came to us as an idea, and I said, "We need to prioritize this." So we got that in motion. So I also would love to put a call back out again for the practitioner case report. We used to have a contest a while ago in order to encourage people to do it. Part of the reason is self-serving, I wanna do one, right? [chuckle] So I'm ready to do one myself, and I kinda took this concept of $1, like my blog had said, right? If every massage therapist in the country gave a dollar, we have $350,000 and that can fund a lot. So if every massage therapist in the country did one case report, just one, the amount of information that we have to do higher level research is, we're unstoppable then. Not everybody's gonna do it. However, when we think about one, one client, tell me about that one client, I want everybody who's listening to this podcast to send me an email or get in touch with me in some way, and tell me about that one client, and that's the client I want you to do a case report on. Because we love our clients, we love them. Tell me about them, tell me that love story. So I wanna hear how you have helped this one human, one therapist, one client, a series of massages, and then tell us about it. We have a nice form, we have a free e-book that shows you how to write a case report. So we have all of the tools, we just need to do it. We can do it. I know we can.
0:22:06.5 KC: I love it, and I love that you have that tool for people, because I think they hear case report and they're like, "Well, I can't be in charge of a whole research study", but it's not that, it's doable, and I love that you have resources to walk everyone through the process and give examples, so then it becomes much more attainable and something that they might be really excited about doing versus intimidated, right?
0:22:29.2 AA: And then if you get stuck on one part, you could call us up, like, "Hey, I'm really having trouble with this lit review", and then we can direct you to the right person who can help you with that. Which brings me to the practice-based research network, okay? So the PBRN is something that the foundation has been trying to start and trying to start, we really have good momentum for the PBRN. So here is a point, and again, reflecting on my original relationship with the foundation, I would have never put myself in a research space and I'm like, "I don't know how to get there, I don't know what to do, I don't know what I can offer." And the PBRN eliminates all of that, should somebody have similar feelings, right? So we show up, we tell people what's happening in our treatment room, and then somebody with the research expertise can translate that. So the case report is really big for that, and the PBRN gives us an opportunity to wear our clinician's hat and maybe our educator's hat and still be a part of that research process, right?
0:23:40.2 AA: I had a mentor real early in my career and she used to say, "Research isn't just lab coats and bunsen burners", and that kind of stuck with me too, and I was like, "Oh yeah, there's a lot of ways to collect data and to tell our story". So telling our story, our mentors and predecessors, right? Kristin, they told their story by making textbooks and making e-books, and that's how they contributed to the story of massage. Here's our turn, our turn to write the next story, the next love story, right? Our love story, the clients that you love, we're gonna tell everybody about it through the case report. So I wanna make sure that happens too. We also have Marshall Dahneke, who we know through the industry, unfortunately, Marshall lost his daughter to breast cancer, and as part of his grief process, he qualified for the Boston Marathon, and he offered to raise funds for the Massage Therapy Foundation, with a portion of those funds going specifically to community service grants, serving women and men who are going through breast cancer treatment and their caregivers as well.
0:25:01.4 AA: So I'm grateful to Marshall, and I'm at a loss for words by the way that he rose to kinda do something with his grief, and I am absolutely humbled that he chose the Massage Therapy Foundation as the benefactor of that work. So we should be seeing more community service grants funded through that as well, that's really exciting. We're all excited to gather again, and I think we'll feel the momentum of wanting to take the next step and it's gonna be work, right? So I'm here to remind everyone that the work is joyful and let's keep going, and if we're having a hard time, we're here as a community to push that forward, right? So I would also love to see some collaboration with Allied Professions. I'm personally trying to make an effort to reach out to the American Physical Therapy Association Foundation and other acupuncture foundations maybe, and maybe some things that we're not even thinking of, it's a little bit farther down because of the Bob King Initiative and The Jacquelyn Project that Marshall is doing, the PBRN. However, I'm hoping the board will re-elect me. [chuckle] I don't see why they wouldn't. And I'm really looking forward to collaboration and community, those are my two words for presidency. I think we are in a space where we can lift each other up and love can win, and massage is an avenue to do that.
0:26:48.4 DB: I wanna think our guest today, Adrienne Asta. For more information about the work she's doing with the Massage Therapy Foundation, visit massagetherapyfoundation.org. Thanks, Adrienne and thanks, Kristin.
0:27:00.0 AA: Thank you.
0:27:00.2 KC: Thank you, Adrienne, so much for being with us today. We love hearing your passion and everything that you're doing for the Massage Therapy Foundation and our profession. Thank you so much.
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