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My View From Here

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCBTMB

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Abandoning History: The Soul of Massage Therapy is at Stake

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) owns and administers the Massage & Bodywork Therapy Licensing Examination, or MBLEx. As mandated by psychometric standards, FSMTB conducts a Job Task Analysis survey of the field every five years, to re-verify the knowledge base that underlies the questions that appear on the exam.

Massage Therapy: The History & Culture

Based on the data from the latest Job Task Analysis, FSMTB has announced revisions to the exam's Content Outline beginning July 1, 2018. Nothing radical on first glance, but a closer review shows that one of the changes is the elimination of questions on the history and culture of massage therapy. I imagine that pioneers such as Peter Ling, Johan Metzger, et al. are weeping in their graves—at the prospect that the history of massage will no longer be taught in massage schools.

Since the purpose of licensing is to protect the public safety, some would argue that knowing the history and culture of massage doesn't bring about a safer massage; but understanding the lineage and history of our profession is critical to giving massage students an understanding of the meaning, purpose, and potential of massage therapy.

The loss of our history and culture is all part of the progressive dumbing down of healing arts professionals into service workers. Thus, making the great profession of massage therapy no longer attractive to professionally-oriented individuals, and it is certainly not attractive to millennials, who in my opinion should be our target market. These younger folks want to feel a sense of societal purpose and are not enticed by service-work or the cost of the education ($15,000 – $20,000).

Advancing Massage Therapy for the Future

massage therapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark For a discipline to maintain and advance itself, it must recruit and train potential professionals, which means targeting more than high school students. The successful therapists in our profession, who make a good living, have careers of 15-20 years, or more. Perhaps they invested right out of massage school in learning clinical skills to get people out of pain, or enhance physical performance and improve health.

Some have created their own private or group practices. More importantly, they are wellness providers who offer an alternative to the sickness model constructed by institutional health care. Instead they use "manual medicine" to facilitate positive changes in the lives of their clients.

There is a huge difference between cursory massage and massage therapy. At its best, massage therapy has the potential to change the face of sickness care and to become the premier wellness modality. So, why bother to teach the history and culture of massage therapy? In short—if we continue to teach the history of massage it might inspire a renaissance of manual medicine for the good of humanity. The very soul of our field is at stake here.

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