Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020

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Ta k e 5 a n d t r y A B M P F i v e - M i n u t e M u s c l e s a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / f i v e - m i n u t e - m u s c l e s . 43 education MASSAGE THERAPY AS HEALTH CARE In my work to advance the place of massage therapy in the sphere of health care, I sometimes feel like I'm riding tectonic plates—a shift here causes a shift there. Some shifts put things in a better place. Some shifts destroy progress or halt it. I recently attended a reception hosted by the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) to thank its donors. Many ideas were shared, and dedicated people received honors, but one bit really stuck with me. It was an idea offered by the current MTF president and Massage & Bodywork columnist Doug Nelson. Nelson was thanking the ever-growing community of people who continue to support the MTF and, in so doing, continue to highlight the importance of massage therapy research. He said these new and longtime donors are making a unique commitment by "planting the seeds of trees under whose shade they will likely never sit." This idea of participating in what is essentially glacial-paced progress is something that does not appeal to many people these days. And, when you contrast it with the frenetic pace of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it's hard to imagine that planting seeds for trees you'll never see is important, possible, or fulfilling. Even so, creating lasting change in our world requires exactly that: a commitment to a vision that may not result in direct benefit for the people who carry its torch. With that said, I'm excited to open a conversation here, with the support of Massage & Bodywork magazine, about massage as health care. I see such a fascinating tension within and around the massage therapy profession when it comes to the question of whether massage therapy is health care. For example, is massage therapy ready to be health care? What would it mean to be ready? And, does the massage therapy profession really want to be health care? Obviously, there is a tension in this topic that stems, at least in part, from our inability to ask the right questions. After all, massage therapy doesn't want anything. It's a discipline. It's a body of skills and knowledge that can be applied by humans. Humans want lots of things. So, the questions we need to be asking are more about massage therapists than massage therapy. We should be asking questions like: • What do MTs want for themselves? Do they all have to want the same thing to benefit from a common goal? • How much education are MTs willing to commit to acquiring? What kind of education should they have? • What do MTs think they're doing when they enter work spaces? Are they healing? Helping? Fixing? • If an MT does massage at a spa or a franchise, do they want what they do to be considered health care? • What do MTs think health care is? What is their responsibility if they think of themselves as providers of health care? On a more personal note, do you consider what you do health care? If so, why? What makes your practice health care? Have you asked yourself these questions? Are We Ready for Health Care? Do We Want It? By Lauren Cates Also, if you know MTs who are doing something you wouldn't consider health care, what's different about what they do and what you do? Finally, do you think MTs are really ready to come to the health-care table? If so, what evidence do you have? If not, what would it take to become ready? The topic of massage therapy as health care dredges up a lot of questions that are begging for answers, but I believe we're up for the challenge. In this column, we'll be planting seeds that will take years to nurture and grow, but I think it's worth a shot. Health care isn't easy, but I'm willing to take on the challenge of understanding it in the context of our profession. I hope you'll join me on this journey. Lauren Cates is an educator, writer, and speaker on topics ranging from massage therapy in the hospital setting to end of life and massage therapy policy and regulation. A founding director of the Society for Oncology Massage from 2007–2014 and current executive director and founder of Healwell, Cates works within and beyond the massage therapy community to elevate the level of practice and integration of massage overall, and in health care specifically.

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