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Thoughts on the Profession of Massage

The Benefits of Massage

Spas are those restorative sites of respite and rejuvenation. And massage therapy is their principal elixir — Darren Buford, Managing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

From men to women, from children to the elderly, bodywork provides the healthful, nurturing touch so often lacking in our sense-deprived
society — Darren Buford, Managing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

Massage increases circulation, initiates relaxation and flushes harmful toxins from the body. Less well-known is skilled therapeutic touch may be one of the most cost-effective means of preventive health care available today — a valuable tool in a time of skyrocketing health care costs — Darren Buford, Managing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

For those who are ready to combat their stress-filled, numbed-out lives, massage is a powerful gift — Karrie Osborn, Contributing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

Having a massage does more than just relax your body and mind. There are specific physiological and psychological changes that occur, even more so when massage is viewed and used as a preventative, regular therapy and not an occasional indulgence — Karrie Osborn, Contributing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

Public Acceptance and Respect for Massage

The massage therapy profession has worked to legitimize its standing among complementary therapies, distancing itself from outdated, negative stereotypes. Massage now generally enjoys a receptive, welcoming climate — Les Sweeney, Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage (NCTM), President.

Experiencing a massage therapy session is its own best advertisement for changing perceptions. A recent national consumer survey found Americans had overwhelmingly positive feelings about their massage experience. Ninety-four percent express favorable feelings. Fully 85 percent expressed very favorable feelings about their most recent massage, with 37 percent rating it a perfect ten-out-of-ten. What is striking is that there are very few detractors. Most of those who haven't yet received a massage simply haven't felt a need for it — Bob Benson, Chairman.

Massage's history is rooted in technique and body knowledge, but is also about heart, healing intention and connection between therapist and client. A tension — sometimes constructive, other times uncomfortable — has been prevalent in the field between one impulse toward structure and recognition and another toward freedom and flexibility to be responsive to individual circumstances — Bob Benson, Chairman.

The wave of complementary and alternative medicine is growing larger. Its crest seems not yet in view. Americans continue to search for ways to stay healthy and maintain their youth. The massage therapy profession is reaping the benefits (and some of the challenges) of this popularity — Leslie Young, Vice President Communication.

Practice and Economics of Massage

The median number of massage therapist weekly client contact hours is 12; 51 percent work at a second job outside the profession. This reality should be embraced as a conscious choice to seek balance in one's life; individuals choosing a part-time massage practice path deserve equal respect as those electing to work more hours performing massage. Most practice in a manner of their choosing — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Practitioners of massage therapy and bodywork have diverse backgrounds — approximately 83 percent female, 40 percent with a college degree, 90 percent with at least some college, and an average age of 44. The common thread is a genuine desire to help improve their clients' health and well-being — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Massage Education and Training

Massage therapy is not only heart work, it's hard work. New therapists learn early of the importance of correct body mechanics and personal boundaries, particularly if they want successful, extended careers — Leslie A. Young, Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

Explosive massage school enrollment growth in recent years indicates the field is gaining broader acceptance. Growth so rapid, however, does not come without cost. No profession can double its training infrastructure in six years without creating a challenge in ensuring a high level of instruction Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Raising required education hours does not ensure better or more successful massage therapists. It does ensure, however, higher tuition for students of massage therapy — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

The single largest frustration in the massage field is the waste of resources and training resulting from high attrition among those who start practicing massage therapy. While some affected individuals may have made an ill-suited vocational choice and others underestimated the profession's physical demands, most appear to stumble in assembling the self-confidence and persistent salesmanship necessary to develop a professional practice — Bob Benson, Chairman.

Are we prepared to embrace a vision of massage and bodywork that is broad — with choices for practitioners (styles of work, modes of practice, whether to seek certification credentials, and which reimbursement alternatives to pursue), clients (type of work sought, which practitioner to seek it from), and schools (curricular content, whether or not to become accredited) — or does the field embrace a paramount focus (medical massage reimbursed by insurance companies, delivered solely by certified practitioners who graduated from accredited schools) that ends up driving requirements for the entire profession? — Bob Benson, Chairman.

Legislation and Regulation

ABMP makes no blanket assumptions about the virtues of licensing. In some unregulated states, current massage education standards are sufficient and consumers are well-served by massage professionals. In other states, education and service quality is less uniform or an inconsistent patchwork pattern of local government regulation of massage has emerged — suggesting benefit from adopting uniform state licensing standards. In forming an opinion, ABMP always begins by soliciting the perspectives of its members in the state. When and where state licensing is perceived to be in the public interest, ABMP works for a level playing field, not for special advantage for any particular party or interest group — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

ABMP takes a view that is not as readily found in the profession — when it comes to educational requirements in regulation and mandatory certifications, we object to the philosophy of more is better. We like to think better is better — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

A minimum required standard to obtain a massage license is quite a different matter from a voluntary certification evidencing higher-level skills. Licensing standards should be set at a level sufficient to assure safe practice, but low enough to avoid screening out those individuals who choose to perform basic work — Bob Benson, Chairman.

I think the value of a certification should be to differentiate those who choose to be recognized or rewarded. As it stands in most states, the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is a mandatory toll booth to enter the profession. There is no differentiation that comes with having the NCE credential — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Because so many laws are different or unique, reciprocity is something that everyone seems to believe in, but the reality doesn't quite match expectations — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Ultimately our concern is with the practitioner's ability to practice. Does someone successfully practicing in Iowa with 500 hours of education really need to get another 500 hours of education just because they moved to Nebraska? — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

While medical massage as a term has gained popularity in the field, our view is that all massage is medical in some form since it affects the body's systems and contributes to a client's well-being. We especially do not support efforts to define the term in a regulatory sense — regulations are designed to establish an appropriate entry point, not serve as a market differentiator — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

ABMP and the Massage Profession

Leadership continuity, quick decision-making, a strong service ethic, an appealing lack of bureaucracy, and an attitude of openness to new ideas allow Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals to live up to its "expect more" promise — Les Sweeney, NCTM, President.

Massage as a Community Resource

We saw it in Louisiana and Mississippi. We saw it in New York City. We saw it at Columbine High School. We saw it in Oklahoma. Touch can be the most healing form of health care we can offer survivors during times of tragedy — Karrie Osborn, Contributing Editor, Massage & Bodywork magazine.

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