Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2010

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MASSAGE THERAPY BODY OF KNOWLEDGE "Our profession has long lacked a single, unifying standard that outlines the profession, educational requirements, and scope of practice." JoEllen Sefton, assistant professor of kinesiology at Auburn University and MTBOK task force volunteer Therapy and MTBOK task force member, says the massage community has needed a common body of knowledge for decades. "A BOK helps establish our recognition as a profession, helps to define differences between our profession and other professions, and will become a single source of information about what a professional needs to know and be able to do," she says. "In my opinion, the MTBOK document will become the common language and standard(s) for the profession, and a single source of information as our profession moves forward. Accrediting agencies, state regulatory boards, and committees developing curriculum will look to the MTBOK as the official standards of our profession." When it comes to respectability within the health-care community, Shea says the MTBOK document will open doors to relationships with other professions. He says the document contains language that will be understood by all other health-care professionals, something he believes is a critical component in finding commonalities. "For example, I've worked with a lot of hospitals, and they want to know if we know their language," he says. "Whether it's the medical field or the psychological field, they see that we're looking at these issues seriously through our BOK." Shea says ultimately, the MTBOK could create a "tremendous boon" for clinical massage referrals. "Our profession has long lacked a single, unifying standard that outlines the profession, educational requirements, and scope of practice," Sefton says. "This has hampered our professional standing, acceptance, and development, and has fostered misunderstandings with other health- care providers." Sefton says without such a document, it will be much easier for other professions to define massage therapy "and guide our future" for us. "It is vital that massage therapists guide the development and future of our own profession," she says, and that's what the MTBOK proposes to do. JUST THE BEGINNING Those who have worked on the MTBOK know that while the document is finished, the work has only just begun. "People need to know that the MTBOK should become a living document, and should not be put on the shelf and left there," Hines says. The MTBOK will become the vibrant manifesto it is meant to be when the massage community embraces it, owns it, changes it when necessary, and lets it breathe. "This is a platform upon which we can build," Hines says. Sefton hopes the MTBOK will "serve as a basis for curricula and program development. It is vital that this effort continue and that the MTBOK become a living, evolving document that grows as the profession grows." Pierce says the MTBOK will not be a stagnant entity. "It will exist for the next 30 years, and who knows what the profession will morph into by then. It's a stepping off point." Ultimately, Pierce says, the MTBOK conversation is simple. "We aspire to elevate the standards in the massage profession to be greater than the current status quo." Hines says the concept of a living document is that it should change and evolve with where the profession should go, and not be tied to where it's been. He says it's the opportunity for holism that excites him most about the MTBOK. "Its biggest value is its potential for bringing the massage profession together as a community," he says. "It should create consistency for what people think about massage therapy, what content should be in schools, as well as create uniformity within the accreditation and certification process." Instead of these pieces all being disparate, the MTBOK is meant to gel the profession as a whole construct, he says. "It bridges the core between what people are doing today and what people think should be done tomorrow … a BOK that becomes recognized and accepted, and helps define you as a profession, which is one more step to legitimizing the profession." Ultimately, Hines says, "This isn't the end. It's just the beginning." Karrie Osborn is contributing editor for Massage & Bodywork magazine. Contact her at NOTES 1. M.S. Rops, "Identifying and Using a Field's Body of Knowledge," ASAE Foundation, Washington, DC, 2002. 2. Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge, "Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge FAQs." Available at (accessed May 2010). connect with your colleagues on 51

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