Which Side of the Track are You On?

The massage field has been going through an identity crises for decades and I’m not sure how much progress we’ve made. There seems to be a strong division between those who want to see the profession fully integrated into the medical world and those who don’t. Frankly, I think both worlds can co-exist.

The problem with being aligned with the medical world, is well, being aligned with the medical world. While there will always be exceptions to the case (in the early 1980’s I did massage in an MD’s office several times a month, with very little official schooling), in general the medical field prefers to work with practitioners who have extensive credentials and their work is backed by evidence-based research. And not all massage practitioners want to go that route.

I hope we can find a way to keep both tracks. Otherwise, I fear we will lose even more of the “art” that was the heart of massage. If you track the education requirements over the past 20 years, you will notice the increase of hours required for entry level massage. Lately, there’s been talk about creating a bachelor’s degree program in massage therapy. I have mixed feelings about this. In reality, you don’t need that many hours to do a safe (albeit perhaps not great) massage. And safety is what concerns state licensing boards. Yet, schools do have a responsibility to teach students how to do a good massage and how to earn a decent living.

Also, if this field begins to require the educational equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, we might find that the majority of the general public will not be able to afford our services.

I have always been an advocate for a tiered system. Let the practitioners choose how they want work and take the requisite education, either as part of their original schooling or as advanced course work. Level one could be a “Massage Practitioner” level and work up to a true “Massage Therapist” level with the education that truly connotes the “Therapist” designation.

We need to find a way to keep the massage field inclusive. Any suggestions?