Supporting Educators

Manual for Massage Instructors Debuts

By Karrie Osborn

We know the massage profession has changed drastically in the last 10 years, both in the number of people who utilize massage for health and relaxation purposes and the professional therapists who offer them that service. What has also changed is the number of U.S. massage programs to train those therapists, growing from 637 to 1,668 since 1998.1“ We believe this has led to a shortage of seasoned massage instructors,” says Anne Williams, education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), with the subsequent result being an instructor pool spread desperately thin.

Add to that the challenge of teaching complex material to a vibrant group of students who have a variety of generational, cultural, social, and economic differences, and there are significant educational obstacles at play.

In an attempt to support and facilitate an often challenging teaching process for massage educators, ABMP partnered with Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) and developed a new teacher training manual that utilizes the experience and insight of 17 leaders in the massage profession. Released in August, Teaching Massage: Fundamental Principles in Adult Education for Massage Program Instructors helps educators identify their teaching style, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, understand their students’ various styles of learning, find ways to motivate students and manage classrooms, and design and present lessons. The 320-page textbook is accompanied by an online training program. Instructors who utilize the online program work through the textbook content with audio PowerPoint presentations, offline activities that help instructors bring new skills into the classroom, and quizzes to check comprehension. Instructors can earn 20 hours of continuing education credit while honing their teaching skills.

Williams explained that massage instructors don’t typically receive teacher training, but instead are content experts trained in how to interact with clients and deliver a good massage. “Many have a passion for sharing their knowledge and then find themselves trying to manage a class of diverse learners. We hope this book provides support to teachers and to massage schools. By supporting good teaching, we support good education and through good education, we create skilled, knowledgeable professionals.”

Suzanne Carroll, director of education at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado and a contributor to Teaching Massage, says the effort combines the wisdom of a team of veteran massage therapy educators with research and best practices about adult education. She hopes that massage therapy educators, regardless of their experience, will find new ideas, creative inspiration, and support for the great things that they’re already doing in the classroom. “It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut after teaching the same course for years,” she says. “This is an opportunity for more reflection about our teaching practices, and it’s an invitation for further dialogue with colleagues.”

Williams, who served as ABMP’s coordinating editor on the project, says the text will provide something for educators on both ends of the experience spectrum. “Teaching Massage leads the novice instructor through educational theory and classroom activities that can dramatically improve his or her instructional performance. Schools that have an evolved teacher-development program will find that this text serves as a valuable reference book. And seasoned instructors attain new inspiration through methods and ideas that refine their skills.”

Susan Salvo, author of Massage Therapy Principles and Practice, says she considers this new textbook to be “part of an instructor’s arsenal of teacher ancillaries.” Salvo, who contributed to Teaching Massage along with Andrew Biel, Whitney Lowe, Diana Thompson, Ruth Werner, and many others, says a massage conference she attended earlier this year gave proof of the need for an effective teacher-training manual. “I was approached by over a dozen instructors, over a two-day period, who were still struggling with how to convey important information and skills to students. These were bright and talented instructors who just wanted a better support system. This textbook is part of that support system.”

Filled with practical, real world information, Teaching Massage will be a voice of outreach to instructors everywhere, Salvo says. “I suspect that this manual will be the most worn-out book in the instructor’s office,” she says. And Salvo hopes these educators will pay forward what they learn. “It is our wish that instructors who benefit from this tremendous project be a resource to instructors who will follow—a continuation of the each one teach one philosophy.” The result will be far-reaching. “Each teacher has the opportunity to create a powerful and lasting impact on the entire massage profession. Teachers who are student-focused, knowledgeable, passionate, motivated, and dedicated inspire students to reach new heights. Students of these teachers become therapists who are client-focused, community-oriented, dedicated, ethical, and who provide their clientele with quality work. This is an example of the ripple effect of quality massage education—and it starts in the classroom.”

Deane Juhan, noted author of Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork, says Teaching Massage is a “milestone in massage literature.” If the text is aptly utilized, he says it will take massage education, and hence the quality of new practitioners, to another level. “Teaching Massage is far more than an instruction manual for organizing classes and programs, although in this it is exemplary,” Juhan writes in the textbook’s foreword. “It is a philosophy, a commitment to the human enterprise, a source of wisdom and compassion for the difficulties to be addressed in any growth process, and a testament to the weight and value of what we bodyworkers and instructors can bring to our world … Teaching plunges us into humanity—our own, our students, and that of the society we are training them to touch. We all know that touch can bring peace and inspiration to many. This book is a major contribution toward understanding how to achieve that.”

 Karrie Osborn is contributing editor for Massage & Bodywork magazine. Contact her at


1. 2007 ABMP School Enrollment Survey. Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.


ABMP’s portion of the net proceeds from textbook sales will be donated to the
Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and the Massage Therapy Foundation.