You Can’t Please Everybody

I’m not referring to giving a massage…I’d like to think everyone that I’ve ever massaged was pleased, but in this instance, I’m talking about my blogs.

I try to report the news in the world of massage politics, and I interject my comments and opinions. I try to spur people to take action when I think it’s needed, whether that’s contacting a legislator or one of the professional associations or just spreading the word to other therapists.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me, and that’s okay. I’m not here to win a popularity contest, and I would probably keel over from the shock if I didn’t get the occasional angry phone call or snarky e-mail, or opposing comments on the blog from people who don’t see it the same way I do. I don’t censor comments except for really profane language, so even if you call me a moron, it will still be printed.

Occasionally I get an e-mail from one of my mentors trying to rein me in. They’re worried that my comments are too controversial, or that I’m going to infuriate the wrong person or some entity on the whole. While I appreciate their concern, I have to follow my conscience, speak my mind, and let the chips fall where they may.

When I’m reporting on an action concerning a person or an entity that I name in the blog, I am careful to report what’s verifiable; I only want to print what’s true. While I state opinion, it is never my intention to slander anyone by printing unfounded malicious gossip and therefore leave myself open to a lawsuit.  Believe me; I don’t print half of what I hear. Some of it has no relevance to the political issue at hand. I leave out juicy details sometimes, because I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose to include it. I’m not the National Enquirer talking about Tiger Woods cheating on his wife, although I do hear some of that occasionally. If it’s not relevant to massage, it’s not my business.

Sometimes I know the person, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I meet them after the fact. That’s always interesting. If it’s someone in the legislative or representative community and they’re not at the top of my radar, I sometimes ask people if I’ve written anything about them!

When I am reporting on political action by someone in the massage world, it isn’t a commentary on their personal life. I can disagree with some action that one of the leaders of an organization has taken and blog about that, and it doesn’t at all mean that I think that person is a bad parent, or a bad friend, or an all-around bad person. It means I am wondering what the heck they were thinking when they took whatever action I am writing about.

Even though I may disagree with someone in one of our organizations, I still appreciate the fact that the person is in service at all, particularly when it’s a volunteer position, and most board member positions are just that.

Sometimes, though, there is the occasional incident of getting one’s self positioned in an organization in the interest of making a lot of money, if there’s any opportunity for that, or someone who has a personal agenda they want to promote for some kind of gain or even one-upmanship, professional jealousy, or revenge. Rules of professional ethics and by-laws get ignored, or changed in mid-stream to suit the agenda of the person(s) involved. In that case, it’s not about being in service, and I don’t feel bad for exposing that. The people I write about aren’t pleased. But then again, you can’t please everybody, and I don’t try.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

Californication 911

The plot in California just keeps getting thicker. At this point in time, it’s practically sludge, straight from the sewer.

Proponents of CA AB 1822, and specifically President of the California Police Chiefs Association Susan E. Manheimer, have put forth the ridiculous claim that 57% of the applicants approved by CAMTC are known prostitutes, 32% were of questionable character, and only 11% legitimate massage therapists.

Massage Today editor Christine Bondurant has sent a letter to Susan E. Manheimer, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, demanding the proof of the data to support this. I will bet my last dollar it will turn out to be non-existent.

Speaking of dollars, one of my mentors suggested to me that when an action like this is taking place, it’s usually because someone stands to make money on it. Who would that be? If AB 1822 passes, control of massage therapists is going back to the localities. Do the police departments really make that much money on massage regulation? Is it their priority? I doubt it. In my neck of the woods, the police are too busy worrying about murderers and meth labs to pay any attention to massage therapists. Oh, once a year there will be a roundup of the prostitutes operating their “massage parlors” but it certainly isn’t at the top of the radar.

So who does stand to profit from this? Do the police chiefs put the money they collect from massage regulation into their private poker fund? Is Ms. Manheimer getting a cut? Is Arnold thinking it’s going to bail out the financially distressed government in the state of CA?

I think CA, and in fact all states, ought to create some revenue for themselves by legalizing prostitution. Get these people a board and a practice act, and let them buy a license and pay taxes like the rest of us. Legalize all drugs and sell them in the liquor store next to the tequila. The war on drugs certainly hasn’t accomplished anything.

In the meantime, every massage therapist in the state of CA needs to contact Manheimer and reiterate the request for proof the way Massage Today has. That ought to be a public document, if it even exists, which I doubt. Flood her office with polite requests asking to see the data. The address is Susan E. Manheimer, President, California Police Chiefs Association, POB 255745, Sacramento CA, 95865.

You can also visit the legislative webpage and follow the link at the top to make a comment. While it seems like a convenient thing to send an e-mail, the actual and visual impact of having a huge pile of paper arrive in her office will get more attention. It will take five minutes and a stamp.

Just Do It!

Laura Allen

One of Life’s Little Lessons

Yesterday I notified COMTA that I have withdrawn my name from the ballot to be a commissioner.

The blog I wrote earlier this week, where I reported on some of the recent developments there and offered my opinions about them, didn’t sit well with the folks there, to the point where they were trying to figure out how to get rid of me before I ever got there.

I felt compelled to expose that, so I put up another blog about that.

After some heart-felt discussions with a few of my mentors, I have reached the conclusion that I don’t need to serve on any boards for the present time, other than completing the term I am currently serving on the North Carolina Board. I’m on my last year there. Our Board usually isn’t too controversial, and there aren’t many big doings there that would interest the rest of the world for the most part. We try to practice transparency there, and even though I’m a sitting member, I wouldn’t hesitate to call them out on something if I felt there was a need.

The fact is, I enjoy reporting on legislation and the happenings at all the professional associations of massage therapy…I have the freedom to report on comings and goings, expose activities be they mundane or shocking, and express my opinion whether it’s popular or not. If I’m working for an organization, my ability to report on them goes out the door. And I certainly don’t want my ability to speak my truth affected in any way.

I used to volunteer for AMTA, and I enjoyed that. I’ve enjoyed my time on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy. It’s been very enlightening, although stressful at times. I like volunteering; I give 100% whenever I’m devoted to a task, and I would have done the same if I had been elected at COMTA. However, I think it serves the higher good if I’m free to expose what needs to be exposed, and comment on it,  no matter what entity is involved.

I’m still a member of AMTA, also a member of ABMP, a member of the Federation, a member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and an NCBTMB certificant and provider. I have a vested interest in what these organizations do, the ethical or unethical behavior of their leadership, and the transparency with which they conduct their business. And none of them are safe from my pen! Of course, it’s not all negative. I do give pats on the back when I think they deserve it.

I simply cannot give up my freedom of speech just so I can say I’m in some position somewhere, so no more “positions” for me. My chosen position is blogger, and I’m going to stick to that for the time being.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

AMTA-MA Chapter Sets the Bar High

This past weekend I was fortunate to be invited to teach at the 50th anniversary celebration of the MA Chapter of AMTA. Let me tell you, these people know how to throw a party!

To begin with, in honor of hitting the 50-year mark, the members got to attend this magnanimous occasion for the paltry sum of 50 bucks–and that included their education and meals. The food and service at the Crowne Plaza in Worcester was excellent. The folks in this chapter are excellent.

The Chapter made a $10,000 donation to the Massage Therapy Foundation. MTF President Ruth Werner and IPP Diana Thompson were both in attendance and said it was the biggest chapter donation in the history of the organization. They also raised another $800 by raffling off a quilt made by Ruth Werner, that was matched by the NCBTMB for a total of $1600, that was also donated to the MTF.

The vendors were great, lots of giveaways, and Massage Today and Massage Warehouse went a little crazy giving away all kinds of goodies, including a massage table and several chairs.

The NCBTMB was one of the sponsors of the event and I spent time with their CEO, Paul Lindamood and the Director of Exam Development, Elizabeth Langston chatting about the forthcoming Advanced Certification Exam. Even the BOD Chair, Neal Delaporta, was very gracious to me, which is nice since I’ve been quite nasty to him in my blog over the years.

I shared a shuttle to the airport with Diana Thompson. She’s not old enough for me to refer to her as one of the grandmothers of massage, but I found out massage has been her one and only career since the age of 19. After rising to the position of leading the Massage Therapy Foundation, and is now the IPP, she still does 10-15 massages every week. I think that’s amazing.

Mary White, Richard Wedegartner, Allissa Haines, Lisa Curran Parenteau, Sister Pat and all the rest of the chapter members bent over backwards to make me feel welcome. The people who attended my classes in Using Research to Market Your Practice were great.

The theme of this gathering was promoting research in massage therapy, and I don’t think it could have been any better. I also enjoyed seeing so many friends and FB friends–met quite a few people who have been on my FB page and that’s always fun. I also had dinner with Chris Alvarado and Angie Palmier, who were there teaching “Research Rocks.”

I encourage every AMTA chapter in the world to shamelessly steal this theme for an upcoming meeting. We need to educate therapists about research so they can go out and educate the rest of the world.

Thanks so much to the fine massage therapists of MA!

Laura Allen

Professional Associations: Do You Belong?

Do you belong to a professional association? I do, and I find it is well worth the money. Liability insurance  is of course a benefit, but there is so much more.

This weekend I’m hanging out with the AMTA folks from North Carolina. We always have a blast at our conferences. Good classes, a social on Friday night, meals together, vendors….one of the usual vendors sells beautiful handmade jewelry, so twice a year at our meetings I treat myself to a pair of her earrings. I haven’t missed a national convention in years. There is something totally awesome about being with a couple of thousand other people who do what you do.

I also belong to ABMP. Their client newsletter alone is worth the money. They also have cheap online classes, and numerous marketing aids that are yours at no cost if you’re a member.

I blog a lot about the politics of massage, and I want to point out that these two professional associations have government relations representatives, and they pay lobbyists to look out for the interests of massage therapists. I keep saying that many therapists aren’t involved, and I also hope to change that. By belonging to one or both of these organizations, your annual dues money is going to help finance the cost of their assistance in legislation that stands to affect massage therapists.

These organizations also make large annual contributions to the Massage Therapy Foundation, so your membership dollars go to support that, too.

I know a lot of therapists who say they have let their membership go because of the recession, and that it is just one more thing they have to pay for. Just a reminder: if you are operating without any liability insurance, you are taking a huge risk.

According to my research, about 6% of massage therapists have been sued. I am sure it’s actually more, because my figures are just a compilation of those from AMTA and ABMP, and don’t include any therapists who aren’t members. That may not sound like many, but you don’t want to be one of them. If you have that insurance, you’re good to go. If you don’t, and someone sues you, they could get a lien against your property, wipe out your children’s college fund, get your retirement money…you get the picture, and it ain’t pretty! Don’t let that happen to you.

I get a lot out of my memberships. Free listings on their websites, trade magazines, networking opportunities, education opportunities, volunteer opportunities, teaching opportunities…sounds like they’re the place to go for opportunities, doesn’t it? Membership in AMTA and ABMP, along with your insurance and all the rest, amounts to less than a dollar a day. It’s one of the best values around.

If you are a school owner, massage school instructor or administrator, or provider of continuing education, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is there for you. This young organization is holding their first annual membership meeting this June in Park City, UT, and I plan to be there. The AFMTE will act as an advocate for education, and some of the great minds of massage are lined up to speak, including Tom Myers, Carey Smith, and Cherie Sohnen-Moe. Membership is an investment in the future of education. Join us!

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

Massage Legislation: Who’s Helping Us?

Some of us in the rank and file of massage therapy are beginning to feel like we’re fighting a war, with all the unfavorable regulation that is coming down the pike here lately.

In California, AB 1822 is threatening to undo all the work that’s been accomplished there in the past year or so. In Florida, HB 633 is singling massage therapists out in the interest of preventing “human trafficking.”  Although it’s no surprise that Florida has a lot of illegal immigrants, and I can understand requiring any employer to show proof that employees are legal, I don’t see the need to lump “lewdness, assignation, and prostitution” in the same sentence as “massage”. Contractors and farmers use a lot of immigrant labor. Are they being held accountable for the same thing?

When legislation is afoot that stands to crush our rights, who is helping us?

Some massage therapists have the mistaken idea that our state boards are supposed to exist for the benefit of practitioners, but that’s not true. Public boards exist to safeguard the public, and that doesn’t include us. They can’t lobby for therapist rights.

AMTA and ABMP both have government relations representatives, as does the FSMTB and the NCBTMB. I’m acquainted with most of those folks, and they are all good people who want the best for the profession. However, we can hardly expect one or two association representatives to be everywhere at once, to contact every legislator, or to stop something detrimental to us in its tracks.

The fact is, if we don’t help ourselves, we’re not going to get the respect we deserve as professional massage therapists. If the AMTA, ABMP, FSMTB, and NCBTMB send all their GR representatives to Florida to talk to the legislators, that’s a handful of people who will all fit comfortably at my dinner table. They can stand there and say “I represent X number of massage therapists.” I sincerely appreciate their efforts, and sometimes it works, but it just can’t be counted on to have that much impact.

On the other hand, if the 80,000 + therapists in Florida would contact their legislators, that’s enough people to get their attention.  If even a tenth of the therapists in California showed up at a legislative session, that would be a loud voice.

Massage legislation, like any other legislation in America, is often hidden inside some pork-barrel bill that doesn’t have squat to do with massage. If the Federation, AMTA and ABMP didn’t keep on top of legislative actions and disperse that information, most of it would probably go unnoticed until it was a done deal, except by the small number of us who make it a point to keep up with it. That’s a scary thought.

I’m at a loss on what to do. We can’t institute a mandatory draft, to institute interest in the politics of the profession. If we could, I would. We might have come a long way, but in the year 2010, to still have language about prostitution mentioned in the same breath with massage therapy in regulatory bills is a serious sign of how far we still have to go.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

A New Day, A New Blog

Welcome to my new blog site! For the past couple of years, I’ve been blogging about the politics of massage on the Massage Magazine website. More recently, I’ve also been contributing to the WIBB (Women in Bodywork Business) blog on the Massage Today website. I finally decided it’s time to put up my own blog, on my own site.

I’m always opinionated, and sometimes controversial. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the political arena of massage, report that, and offer my opinions on it. The issue with that in the past has been that the magazines that host my other blogs accept advertising from the entities I sometimes report on, and it makes them a little uncomfortable when I slam a big advertiser. Of course, the big advertiser doesn’t like it, either.

Having my own blog site will take care of that problem. Now I can be just as offensive as I dang well please, and the magazines can relax, secure in the knowledge that I am not upsetting their advertisers on their playground. And I won’t worry about being censored or being asked to tone down my opinion to make an advertiser happy.

I support freedom of speech, and I don’t mind when people disagree with my opinions. It would be a pretty boring world if we all thought alike. All comments will be welcomed.

There’s also an “About” page here, and a page with my schedule of classes. Thank you for reading my blog!

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen