Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2023

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READER FORUM Individualization Key in Massage Research Protocols By Cynthia Price I read Cal Cates's article, "What's Going on with Massage Therapy Research?" (Massage & Bodywork, March/April 2023, page 78), with great interest. I am a massage researcher who developed a research protocol called Mindful Awareness in Body-Oriented Therapy (MABT) 20 years ago to study the benefi ts of helping people develop their capacity for body/ interoceptive awareness. MABT is designed to facilitate engagement with inner-body experience to support client use of mindful interoceptive awareness in daily life for improved self-awareness, self-care, and emotion regulation. I continue to teach and study this approach, examining the benefi ts when implemented by licensed massage therapists in the community care of substance-use disorder treatment, trauma recovery, and/or chronic pain. I wholeheartedly agree with Cates that massage research protocols need to ref lect real-life care. Most importantly, research protocols must be f lexible in order to examine the ways massage therapy, when skillfully delivered, is attuned to the needs of the client—a "best practice" of massage therapy. Examples of this include pacing and depth of altering the strokes or manipulation of tissue to allow the client's nervous system to receive the work. Alternatively, it might be ref lected in the therapist spending more time working with one area of the body and less in another in order to address high levels of tension and muscular holding. It might mean pausing and asking about the client's emotional experience if they are clearly tearing up and then collaboratively deciding what would be most supportive for the client going forward in the session; this could look like simply holding the client's hand while they cry, or it could mean moving to their feet to help with centering/grounding if it is near the end of the session. In most health-care professions, best practice guidelines are published and used to guide education and clinical care and are updated as needed with evidence from research. Likewise, best practice guidelines can and should guide basic tenets of intervention research protocols in the related discipline/area of care. In 2010, a group of about 30 experienced massage therapists (educators, researchers, and clinicians) were brought together for a couple days by the Massage Therapy Foundation. We were asked to work together to identify best practices for the delivery of massage therapy. It was a remarkably productive meeting, and I have one memory that stands out—the overwhelming agreement among the attendees that a fundamental best practice of massage therapy included educating the client with a focus on the promotion of well-being. This aspect 10 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 3

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