Category Archives: Social Media

Love and Light and F—k You, Namaste

I’m going to spare the magazines that host my blog from having to call me up and tell me they are censoring me because of this blog…I just won’t load it to them. This is my personal site and I can be just as irreverent as I please. I can also take a break from writing about massage politics today just because I want to.

I don’t recall which of my illustrious FB friends I first heard use the phrase “F___k you, Namaste,” but it was in reference to the behavioral trend that some massage therapists have, presenting themselves to be all about love and light and positivity and serenity, while at the same time letting their own true judgmental tendencies, their passive-aggressive hostility and their lack of critical thinking skills shine right through. I see it every day. In fact it gets thrown in my face most days.

I am plain-spoken and leave people no room for doubt about my opinions. That sometimes comes across as rudeness when I don’t intend that, especially on the Internet where you can’t hear people’s tone of voice or see their body language or have face to face communication. There are also plenty of times when I intend for my rudeness to come through loud and clear. I can be passionate about something and go from zero to bitch in 2.5 seconds in defending it. I admit that I am missing the tact gene. The difference in me and some people is that I own up to it. I call it like I see it. No one in the massage profession can truthfully say that I have ever presented myself as love and light. I have not. Nor am I the “bitter, vindictive” woman that someone referred to me as last week.

I report on massage politics and the actions (or inaction) of our professional associations, along with a healthy dose of my own opinion about it. I proselytize for massage therapy research, and I expose things that have been proven false, like the myths of massage, or those that are scamming massage therapists and/or the public.

A frequent topic of argument on massage forums is energy work. People have the mistaken conception that I am against energy work. I am not against energy work. I am against holding it out to the public as something other than faith healing. There is a lack of scientific evidence to support it, and there is plenty of scientific evidence that refutes it. It is the same with religion. There’s no double-blind study we can conduct to prove the existence of God. You take it on faith, if you’re so inclined. You take energy work on faith. Just say so. That is all.

Tonight I was in a discussion that escalated–it had nothing to do with energy work–but again, the old F—k you, Namaste, is rearing its head. There are several lively groups of MTs on FB that regularly get into debates on any topic under the sun pertaining to massage. And as is the case when more than one person is present, there is going to be some disagreement. I suggested that someone ought to start a group called “Love and Light” for people who just want to schmooze and pat each other on the back. I won’t be the one starting that.

Debate is a polite word for argument. I wrote a blog about it several years ago. Emotions run high. While I try to refrain from name-calling, there’s plenty of times when I’d like to. If you’re going to make a claim on a public forum, you ought to be prepared to back that up with something besides website hype. If you’re throwing out a “question” to the group that turns out to be one long sales pitch for your MLM group or whatever you’re selling, don’t expect that to fly by too many of us who regularly question things. We’re not that stupid.

There’s a lot of old sayings I can think of concerning the character of human beings. One is “If you spot it, you’ve got it.” Another is “While you point the finger, three of them are pointing back at you.” One old favorite is, “What you think of me is none of my business.” My personal favorite is one that I just saw the other day: “I don’t have an attitude problem. You have a problem with my attitude and that’s not my problem.”

I’m not Miss Popularity. Some people who detest me follow my blog or stay on my FB page because they are interested in knowing what’s going on with the organizations even though they don’t like me personally. That’s fine with me. Somehow I will survive knowing that you don’t love me. And there genuinely are some people here that I can say I have never seen act even remotely hostile or patronizing. But when I see a “F—k you, Namaste” coming from someone who claims to avoid all negativity while they are going about spreading fairy dust, let me just say, I have had my laugh for the day at your expense, because I have enough balls to own my character traits–or lack of them–and you don’t.

Complaints about my unprofessional behavior may be directed to 1-800-WHAAAAA. Namaste.

Calling All Massage Organizations: 911

I’ve seen some ups and downs since joining the massage profession about 15 years ago, but never, in all that time, have I been as disgusted and dismayed with one of our organizations as I am today. I feel as if I have a vested interest in all of them, so I have the right to complain—and to call on them for help.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork was the only path to licensing in many regulated states for a lot of years. Their exams are written into the statutes of about 40 states, as is the MBLEx, which has soared in popularity as the exam of choice in the past 5 years. The exam revenue at the NCBTMB has been steadily declining ever since the MBLEx debuted. The “National Certification Exams” as they formerly existed are the same exams being used for the NESL.

It used to be that taking one exam gave you the status of being Nationally Certified and being able to use that to get your license, but that’s no longer the case. There’s no attraction there anymore. The Federation has been in a position for several years to help solve this problem by buying out the NCBTMB’s entry-level exams; they certainly have the money and the infrastructure in place, but they have apparently preferred to stand by and watch the NCBTMB die a slow painful death rather than be in collaboration. Although I have favored the idea of such a deal in the past, at this point in time I am not going to blame the FSMTB for their refusal to play ball.

The majority of regulated states also have it written into their statutes that the continuing education required for maintaining licensure must be from a provider of CE that is approved by the NCBTMB.

As a provider of CE, I was not pleased when the Federation brought up their MOCC (Maintenance of Core Competencies) plan, which would have made all CE optional, with the exception of classes related to public protection, put forth online by them. My concern was that it would put a lot of CE providers, including me, out of business. In reality, based on some of the claptrap that is approved by the NCBTMB, there are a lot of CE providers that should be put out of business. The NCB’s response to my own repeated questioning of some of the things they have approved for CE has not been satisfactory to date.

According to FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger, they have let go of the MOCC plan, based on feedback from the profession and member boards. Instead, they have put forth a Standardized License Renewal Recommendation. In a nutshell, the language reads: Licensed massage and bodywork therapists will be required to complete six (6) hours of license renewal requirements annually. At least three (3) of the six hours must meet the State-sponsored Ethics and Professional Practice course requirements that specifically address content pertaining to public safety. The remaining three (3) hours could be exchanged for certain Professional Development activities, including but not limited to meeting accredited certification standards, community service, and research.

Bear in mind, that has not been written into the law anywhere yet that I am aware of, and it is what it is—a recommendation.

In my conversation with Persinger this afternoon, she informed me that the online classes pertaining to public protection will roll out in 2014, and that states that require in-person classes will still be able to have that. She also stated that at the annual meeting of the FSMTB held earlier this month, the member states asked that the Federation form a new CE Task Force to look into the possibility of approving continuing education.

I can recall what I thought was the beginning of the downhill slide at the NCBTMB…and it was years ago. I’ve seen an egomaniac that was hell-bent on bankrupting the organization elected to the Chair position. I’ve seen lawsuits filed against them by two of their former executive directors that dragged on for years. I’ve seen the lawsuits they have filed against state boards for getting rid of their exams. Yes, they had the legal right to do that, but in the big picture, it didn’t win any friends for them. I’ve seen the ridiculous, totally un-credible, fantasy-land classes that they have approved for CE credit. I’ve seen the failed plan to turn into a membership organization, which cost them several years of being banished from AMTA conventions.

I’ve also seen the failed attempt at an “Advanced Certification,” and the morphing of that into “Board Certification.” The NCBTMB website states that those who are currently Nationally Certified must transition to Board Certification by their next renewal. Unfortunately, I have heard this past week from two prominent massage therapists, both of whom had let their national certification expire 6-7 years ago, that they received invitations to be grandfathered in on the new Board Certification. They declined for ethical reasons. Personally, that makes me feel as if my own certification is about as valuable as a used dinner napkin.

I’ve seen their attempts to present themselves to massage schools and certificants as if they are some sort of regulatory organization by using language that insinuated that. I’ve seen their attempts to replace lost exam income by gouging the hell out of CE providers. It was only when they were faced with a mass walk-out of prominent providers, who said they would give it up, rather than go along with the plan, that they had to back up and punt.

I’ve seen times when people could not get a phone call or e-mail to the organization answered, and times when it took months for certificates and approvals to arrive, if they arrived at all. I’ve seen an example, just yesterday as a matter of fact, of them blocking people, including me, from posting on their FB page because they had the nerve to complain—and that was after the new Chair encouraged people on my own FB page to make their comments there. I’ve seen well-respected, seasoned colleagues who are experts in massage organizations and government relations offer to help them and give them advice about how to pull themselves out of some of the messes they’ve made, and I’ve seen that help refused or ignored time and time again. I’ve seen their adamant refusals to own up to their mistakes. My distress with them is not new. It’s just been festering for a long time.

I think the NCBTMB has reached the tipping point. Some would even say they are long past it. I have, in the past, given them hell about some things, and I’ve also come to their defense many times, including some when they probably didn’t deserve it. I have stated many times that I wanted to see them survive and thrive, and I sincerely meant that.

I am sad to say I am no longer holding out that hope. I am sad to say that I think they have outlived their usefulness. I am sad to say that I think their credibility has been shot beyond repair. I am sad to say that although there are staff and volunteers there that I personally know and like, and believe have the best of intentions, things have gone too far. They’ve had years to turn this ship around, and it hasn’t happened.

Therefore, I am calling on AMTA, ABMP, AFMTE, and FSMTB to immediately pull out all the stops and use all their available resources to help get the NCBTMB out of all statutes and administrative rules, as it relates to approval of their exams and use of their Approved CE Provider program. There are only a handful of states that approve their own CE, and if the NCBTMB were to suddenly go out of business, confusion is going to reign in those states that still have the NCBTMB exams and CE provider requirements written into the law.

Removing them from all statutory language in the regulated states doesn’t necessarily mean the NCBTMB will go away. They may continue to limp along for a few more years. They may someday come to their senses and create some valid specialty certifications, and reestablish themselves as a viable entity, but at this point in time, I doubt if they have the financial resources to do so. They’ve wasted a whole lot of money on their previous missteps.

Lest anyone get the idea that I am happy about making this request of our other organizations, let me assure you, I am not. I am sad to see that one of our national organizations has fallen this far. It’s time for positive action, and since they’re obviously not going to take it, the other organizations are going to have to seize the moment. I would suggest orchestrating a hostile takeover, but one of my colleagues who knows much more about regulation than I do informs me that’s impossible due to their structure, so this is the next best thing.

The FSMTB is able to offer government relations support to their member states, and AMTA and ABMP can afford the lobbyists. As a young organization, they don’t have enough resources yet, but with financial aid from the other organizations, AFMTE could be a great alternative approval body for CE. COMTA could possibly step into that role as well, but again, they don’t have the financial resources that the other organizations have. I call on all of them to set it in motion immediately to get the NCBTMB out of all statutes. We all know how slow the government moves so it won’t happen overnight, but I believe it has to happen. The FSMTB has been working on a Model Practice Act, so the time is ripe.

I also suggest that anyone who is Certified, as I have been since 2000, examine what that really means to you. Personally, I will not be renewing mine. There was a time when I was proud to say I was Nationally Certified. That time has now come and gone.

Gobsmacked

Gobsmacked: adjective: shocked, astounded, astonished.

Gobsmacked is my favorite word of late, and unfortunately, myself and many other people in the massage world have been gobsmacked recently, to learn that a colleague who was admired and trusted has let us down. I am addressing this because I have had a very public relationship with this person. I have appeared on a blog she owns for several months, which incidentally she refuses to remove my picture from, as well as the pictures of the other women on the blog who would also like to be removed from it. It’s a childish and petty game designed to continue the illusion of credibility by association. She has announced many times over the past couple of years that I am her mentor. I am also addressing this now because I have just now received a thick letter from the MN Attorney General’s Office suggesting additional avenues of complaint for those who have been affected.

The first inkling I had that anything was wrong was a couple of months ago. A therapist attending a class I taught stayed after class to discuss a problem. She had ordered a book (and received it). Months later, she noticed another charge on her credit card. When she questioned it, she was told it was for shipping for a book–one that she had not ordered. It took several emails and messages to get the money refunded. Still, since that was the first report I had personally heard of any problem, I viewed it as an isolated incident.

If only that were the case. About a month ago, I started receiving emails with similar–and in some cases much worse–stories from therapists reporting incidents of unauthorized charges as high as $850 appearing on credit card statements.

There have been reports of therapists waiting as long as six months for books that have been paid for to be shipped, which they have been told were backordered. The books are actually print-on-demand from Amazon’s publishing arm, Createspace. There is no such thing as a back order. You pay, they publish and ship immediately. I have published four books there myself. I order books, they arrive within two to three days. That’s how it works.

There have also been many reports of therapists paying $350 for websites she was offering to build during a promotion, many of which are reportedly sub-par, full of grammar mistakes, have non-functional features, and to the un-web savvy out there, many have not realized that they were not the owners of their own websites, but rather that ownership was retained by the contractor. I received an email from her stating that anyone could request to have their website returned to their ownership. I have also personally seen correspondence that was extremely rude and hostile to a person who had requested that. I have received reports that websites that were ordered (and paid for) months ago have still not been put online, but when the person tried to cancel, were told that they could not because work had already started on it.

Other complaints have included the inability to access webinars that have been promised at the rate of one per day, for a total of 260 webinars…most people have said that they were only to access 8 webinars and some were not able to access any at all. She was also making the offer to do social media marketing for massage therapists, and most were disappointed to find that the posts did not cover the subject matter they had asked for, were again full of typos and/or incorrect grammar, and were not made the frequency they had been promised.

To add fuel to the fire, a newspaper story of a 2010 arrest for swindling a Mankato, MN businessman started circulating on Facebook. Several resourceful massage therapists, including myself, started doing a lot of investigating. I personally called the man who had her arrested. I have also personally spoken with or emailed with numerous massage therapists who have lost money and received no goods or services.

I have also received reports of taxes prepared that were not signed and no PTIN number provided. If that has happened to you, here is the complaint form. If you paid ANY amount of money to have your taxes filled out, the preparer is obligated to sign and provide the PTIN on the return. You may also report that to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, 600 North Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

In the event that she represented herself to you as being a CPA, as she did to many, you may also complain to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy, 85 E. 7th Place, Suite 125, Saint paul, MN, 55101.

According to the letter I received from the MN Attorney General, those who have been affected should file a complaint with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Sheriff Matt Bostrom, 425 Grove St, Saint Paul, MN 55101, and with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Government Ceneter West, Suite 315, 50 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102.

The Attorney General also suggests filing a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Unlicensed and Alternative Health Care Practice, POB 64882, Saint Paul, MN, 55164.

If you have transacted business over the Internet and you have not received the goods or services that you have paid for, you may report that here.

You may also file a complaint with the NCBTMB.

When you use the complaint form, you must quote the section of the Code or the Standards that have been violated, so I am going to provide that here:

Code of Ethics:
VII. Conduct their business and professional activities with honesty and integrity, and respect the inherent worth of all persons.

Standard IV covers Business Practices. In your complaint, you should quote Standard IV and then whichever of these applies to the transactions you had.

d. accurately and truthfully inform the public of services provided

e. honestly represent all professional qualifications and affiliations

j. not exploit the trust and dependency of others, including clients and employees/co-workers

The worst of these offenses is ignoring customers…the massage therapists who believed in her and sent her their hard-earned money. The same story prevails over and over–that therapists who have contacted her to ask where their goods and services are have been ignored, blocked from her FB pages and messages, been thrown out of groups that she had organized on the Internet because they dared to question her, and have been subjected to her failure to return emails and phone calls.

I spoke to the person these accusations have been leveled at on the phone after all of this blew up on FB, and she told me that she was going to contact all the people that she owed goods and services to and make it right. A later communication from her told me that in fairness that I should mention that many people have ordered things from her and received them, so I will. A still further communication from her stated that she has hired attorneys in five states and a PR firm.

Any company can have customer service problems. My company could have a customer service problem. However, I am the owner of the company, and the burden falls on me to do anything about it.The buck stops here.

This is not the kind of post I enjoy making. There is nothing fun about seeing dozens of massage therapists out their money and disheartened over someone they believed was going to help them. There is nothing fun about seeing a colleague who is creative and smart fall from grace. The sad thing is, if all this energy had been applied to delivering what people were promised, she’d be a millionaire by now. I urge you, if you have been affected by this, to take the time to report it to the proper authorities. Your failure to do so will just make it easier for others to be victimized in the future. I cringe to think that someone right out of massage school has had, or will have, this kind of introduction to professional massage.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe and I have recently collaborated on an article that is appearing in Massage Today about how to avoid being a victim of Internet and other scams: An Ounce of Prevention Can Save You a Lot of Heartache.

An Interview with Steve Kirin, New CEO of NCBTMB

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kirin, the new CEO of the NCBTMB. This is the interview I did with him. 

1. You were just appointed CEO in May, but you’ve been on board for a year and a half. What do you see as the major challenges facing the NCBTMB at this time?

·        I believe there are several key challenges.

o   I feel the primary challenge that we continue to face at NCBTMB is defining and communicating the importance of certification.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with hundreds of dedicated therapists during the past year and a half, and believe the profession deserves and needs a credential that symbolizes a commitment to the highest standard of education and practice within the profession of massage therapy.

o   We have rolled out an entirely new suite of products and services over the past 18 months; ensuring that our constituents understand those products and find them valuable in advancing their own professional credentials is essential as well.

o   NCBTMB means different things—good and bad—to different people.  I am committed to defining NCBTMB in a singular way—as the organization committed to providing a pathway for those who value excellence.  Our new programs—which were rolled out and not just promised—are designed to do just that.

·        We are fortunate to not have significant directional challenges as are sometimes evident in CEO transitions.  Fortunately, Mike and I worked closely together in crafting our direction and our programs.  Our customers and those with whom we do business should expect a consistent direction from NCBTMB.

2. What kind of progress have you seen since coming into the organization?

·        “Listening to the Profession” is without question the one progressive change in philosophy that I am most proud of since joining NCBTMB.  Through the development of our social media platform, Quarterly CEO Webinar (coming soon) just to mention a few of the new initiatives, we will continue to demonstrate our desire to listen to the profession.

·        There was a great deal of market confusion between licensing and certification.  By separating our certification product, we have put real value behind the certification credential.  Further, we have had the opportunity to totally recraft every point of interaction between the profession and NCBTMB.  Now our programs not only raise the standard across the profession but give our certificants a means to differentiate themselves to their customers.  I am thrilled with this change in programs and look forward to rolling out further enhancements over the next year.

3. What do you have to say about the mass protest that happened over the revised CE/AP rules?

·        I personally would never refer to it as a mass protest.  I call it feedback. When you make a commitment to listen to the profession and ask for honest feedback, you need to embrace the feedback you receive.  AP/CE was a great example of how we listened and adjusted the program based on the feedback.

4. I notice that the AP/CE page has not had an update since February. Has any progress been made towards another revision of that program?

·        The board approved the final draft of the program at our June Board meeting and we will begin to rollout the program shortly.  The applications are being finalized and as soon as that process is complete we will add all of the information to the website. Before we launch the new program, November 1, 2013, NCB will send eBlast to all of the CE Providers across the country explaining the changes and guidelines of the new process.

5. I’d like to state that the NCB’s policy of approving classes as long as they can show “lineage” is a huge cause of distress to science-based and evidence-informed practitioners. When the classes that are being approved directly contradict the laws of physics and are based on claims that are totally false, why are those classes still being approved?   

·        We are not approving classes as long as they can show lineage but rather we are asking for a historical perspective as to the origin of the modality.  Courses that can be found within the lineage of massage refer to information that has been passed forward through history.  We are here to do a detailed review but we have no right to say that something is or is not “real” in the holistic profession. Regulations and information gathering in this profession is in its infancy and as anyone who has done research about different modalities within the holistic profession has found, there is much room for research in the future. This is where getting public feedback will play an integral part as to whether a class is successful and useful to a practitioner and their clients.

·         Philosophy and Medicine are very similar in that there are theories and practices that work and it is not known why but they are still part of the practice of medicine.  Trying to get all of massage CE around evidence based studies would do no justice to the profession.

6.  How is the new Board Certification going? How many people have earned it so far? How many have actually had to take the exam and how many have been “grandfathered”?

·        I am very pleased with the progress of our board certification. Since the initial rollout of the new credential, our current Nationally Certified Therapists have been affected the most.  I am proud to say that, through the relentless effort of our Customer Service team, every conversion to Board Certification was successfully handled on a case by case basis.  The overall success of the program cannot be measured over months but rather over the next few years.  A major part of the success will come from the continued effort to communicate the importance of certification.

7. What would you say to convince massage therapists that they should seek the new Certification?

·        NCBTMB is committed to developing a platform and a series of programs for those who strive to differentiate themselves in this profession.  From our school programs to our continuing education and exam programs and our ethics and standards reviews, NCBTMB is committed to excellence at every point of interaction with the profession. The profession needs a higher credential comparable to other professions and industries.  The foundation of any certification comes from self-pride.  Wanting to be the best.   And we intend to roll out further enhancements to our offerings that will further allow our certificants the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.  I look forward to our certificants realizing the value of their credential that our direction will allow.

8. Why did the NCBTMB drop the Ethics requirement from renewals?

·        There were several factors involved in the decision to drop the Ethics requirement.

o   First there was the reduction from a 4 year recertification (48 CE Hours) to a 2 year recertification (24 CE Hours).   If 3 of the 24 hours are required for ethics and an additional 3 were now required for research, it would only allow 18 hours for professional development.

o   Additionally, since the States currently uphold an ethics requirement, we did not want to duplicate efforts.  Based on these reason and others, it was decided to drop the Ethics requirement.

·        Based on feedback from the profession,  I am happy to say that our Board has decided to add two topics to the agenda for discussion and eventual vote at the Board meeting this Monday, July 22nd:

o   Reinstatement of the Ethics requirements (Note from Laura: it was reported by Sue Toscano, NCBTMB President, at the AFMTE meeting that it has been reinstanted.)

o   The elimination of the recertification restriction on courses that contain less than 2 CE hours

9. Have you studied the past history of the NCB and familiarized yourself with some of the previous mistakes that have happened there—in the interest of not repeating any of them?

·        It is always easy to judge people’s success from the outside; each of our CEOs has had unique challenges to address during their tenure.  I will say that I am committed to continuing to develop programs that raise the standards of the profession and give interested therapists, instructors and schools ways to differentiate themselves from those not seeking higher credentials.

10. What do you want to say to people who have experienced long wait times for a response, conflicting information from staff members, lack of returning phone calls etc? Is it a priority of yours to improve the customer service at the NCB?

·        This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  My background has always placed a high importance on Customer Service.  In regards to the challenges that surrounded the announcement of all the changes to NCB, no one was happy with the long wait times and confusing information that followed.  We reacted quickly to the high volumes and instructed the staff that every single caller must receive the highest level of customer service possible.  I was very proud of our customer service team.  The volumes have since subsided and Customer Service will continue to be a top priority for me moving forward.

11. Are you personally a consumer of massage?

·        I am very proud to say that “Yes” I am a consumer of massage.  Throughout my life, I have grown to appreciate the medicinal benefits of massage through my many years of participation in high level competitive sports.

Anything else you’d like to say?

·        I am thrilled to be in this position and to have the opportunity to continue the path of excellence that we have blazed over the past eighteen months.  I had significant involvement in developing our current direction and intend to continue on that path as we move forward.

·        At NCBTMB we are striving to improve our credential and provide a more meaningful career path for all therapists.  It is important to us to make it known to the public that there is a higher credential and what it stands for within the massage therapy profession.  I know that, currently, therapists do not always feel the credential is necessary, after all it is voluntary.   I look at it in a completely different way.  The Board Certification credential is truly how you can set yourself apart from others who choose not to hold the certification.  As I mentioned earlier, the foundation of any certification is built on self-pride.  Challenging yourself to achieve the highest credential available within your profession, gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you hold yourself up to the highest standards possible.   I look forward to continuing to grow NCB, WITH the profession and I look forward to our new offerings that will further allow our certificants to differentiate themselves.

E-mail Etiquette 101

I’ve had a few meltdowns over e-mail in the past couple of weeks. In spite of my attendance at one of Michael Reynolds‘ brilliant presentations on how to be an e-mail ninja and have a “zero inbox,” I confess I just haven’t gotten there. And I’m wading through a field of spam.

I have a good spam filter on all my email accounts, so basically most of those trashy emails advising you on how to enlarge your anatomy, how to collect the $40 million that the dead person in Nigeria has left you in his will, and offering to sell you cheap prescription drugs get trapped there.

What usually doesn’t get trapped there are all the unsolicited mailing lists and newsletters from massage therapists and other health practitioners who have taken the liberty of adding my name to their list. Most of them are people from Facebook or LinkedIn…they apparently just harvest the e-mail address from everyone they see on their networks, and add them on. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s just plain spam.

You have to ASK me in order to be added to any of my mailing lists. My websites have the little click-on feature for that, if you want to be added, but just visiting my websites is not going to cause you to receive any e-mail from me.

I use Constant Contact for my newsletters and group e-mail. I have it set to automatically give people the link to unsubscribe if they wish, and to allow people to share it on their networks, if they desire. It’s $30 per month, but I don’t have to be concerned  about removing people who ask to be removed; it’s done for me. If you are sending group e-mails to anyone, whether it’s from a company like Constant Contact or just through your own e-mail, you should have a simple link for people to unsubscribe. Some companies make it such a hassle, by sending you to a new website to create a new account and answer a couple of captchas, before they will allow you to unsubscribe to something that you never subscribed to to begin with. I think they count on it being such a hassle to unsubscribe that you’ll just choose to stay on the list.

The other thing you don’t have to worry about, when you use such an e-mail service, is failing to use BCC (blind carbon-copy)  for group e-mails. It will be automatically done for you. Some people do not realize–and others do realize it but just don’t care–that when you send more than one person an e-mail and you don’t use the BCC function, everyone it is sent to can see everyone else it is sent to, including their e-mail address. The cc may list the people by name, and not e-mail address, but by right-clicking beside the name, or in some cases hovering over it, you can see the address. That opens a can of worms–spam, not to mention exposure to viruses and worms. The most serious thing about it, for a massage therapist or any other health care provider, is your failure to maintain confidentiality. Some people cling to the idea that massage therapists don’t have to abide by HIPAA rules, but that’s beside the point. You are obligated to abide by the Code of Ethics, and safeguarding client confidentiality is a big deal, in case you haven’t ever noticed that.

According to the dictionary of computer-speak, SPAM stands for “Stupid Person’s Advertisement.”  When people turn on the television or open the newspaper, they expect to see advertising. It’s part of the deal. Does it have to be part of the deal on e-mail, too? Apparently so, judging by the amount of it that’s out there. I dumped my spam filter a moment ago, and in the two weeks since I dumped it last time, I have received 694 pieces of spam…in just one of my several e-mail accounts.

People sometimes use e-mail to inquire about a job opening at my facility. While it’s one thing to use emoticons, techno jargon and computer-speak on your FB page, don’t do that in a professional business e-mail. How does this look: “Dear Mrs. Allen, OMG, I saw your job listing and IMHO, I am the best person for the job 🙂 FWIW, I am a graduate of MMMS….” you get the picture. They’re not getting an interview with me.

I found an interesting website that lists the 32 biggest mistakes in e-mails. There are quite a few on the list that jump out at me. Spell-check, for one. Sending out your newsletter full of typos doesn’t do anything for your professional image. Using all bold and all caps isn’t good, either. Forwarding chain letters is another. People have good intentions, but really, just like some of the stuff people continually repost on FB, I’ve received requests to pray for someone who died a year ago. Why in the world would you send those to a business acquaintance?

In a nutshell, if you’re going to use e-mail to market your practice–and you’re missing the boat if you don’t–go about it in the right way. You want your e-mail marketing to be effective–and ethical.

It Was a Very Good Year

As I look back over 2011, it was a very good year. For the 8th year in a row, since I first opened my business, I am going to finish the year with a growth in sales and in my bottom line. That’s rather miraculous, considering the unemployment rate in my county has been between 14-16% for most of the year. Many businesses have closed. The foreclosure notices in the paper have far outweighed the job listings for the past couple of years. And still, we have thrived, and we had zero staff turnover. I’m very grateful to be blessed with such wonderful staff members and clients.

This year started out with a bang when we made a trip to Miami to participate in the Massage School Makeover organized by Angie Patrick of Massage Warehouse. What started as a little project of Angie’s snowballed into one of the most magnanimous displays of generosity throughout the massage world. The Educating Hands school ended up with over $80,000 worth of equipment and supplies donated by industry partners. As they were moving into a brand-new building at the time, it was just a fresh start for their well-respected school. It was a joy to participate in it and to see so many of my friends from the profession at the festivities. I also got to visit my youngest brother on that trip, and got to see a dear friend who used to live here in NC that I  hadn’t seen for several years. That one was bittersweet since her husband, who was also a friend and former business partner with Champ, had passed away suddenly a few months before, but it was a wonderful visit.

I was honored at the American Massage Conference this year as the Massage Therapist of the Year…and that wasn’t even the highlight of the conference. Getting up to play a few tunes with Errol N Schroeder at the dinner dance was the high point for me. I had a blast! Scott Dartnall and the rest of those Canadians came out of the gate running and made their first American event a resounding success.

Then the World Massage Festival came along and I was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, which I appreciated, but I was also awarded there for Government Relations, which I’d have to say meant even more to me. I’m no Sally Hacking–whom I greatly admire and who has been working in GR for several decades–I’m not able to go all over the country attending legislative sessions and even if I could, I certainly lack her expertise and experience; the award was for my efforts to keep the masses informed of what’s going on through my blog and social media. My politics aren’t popular with everyone, and that’s okay. I feel good about it if I am able to jolt even one person out of complacency to take up the fight against detrimental legislation. I got to play some music at that one, too. The Hinkles are just some of the nicest people in massage and I always enjoy the World Massage Festival, which I refer to as the Woodstock of massage. Leave your coat and tie at home, and just come and have a great time! The 2012 event will be in Las Vegas.

My annual trip to Ireland was one of the high points of the year. It always is. I enjoy teaching the students at the Obus School of Healing Therapies, hanging out with my Irish friends, visiting a few pubs 🙂 and in general, just breathing the Irish air.

I traveled a lot this year. I was invited by the NCBTMB to come to Chicago for a meeting with a lot of industry leaders to offer input on how they can improve the Approved Provider program. I in particular appreciated that meeting, because that’s where the seed was planted for the Massage Therapy Profession Leadership Summit that took place a few months ago, where for the first time, all of our national leaders came together for the common good. It was attended by the executive management and board chairs from the AFMTE, FSMTB, AMTA, ABMP, COMTA, NCBTMB, and the MTF. Speaking of the Massage Therapy Foundation, it was another red-letter day for me to be included on Rise and Shine, a CD of wonderful music donated by massage therapists to raise money for the Foundation. If you don’t have your copy yet, get on the ball! I am very honored to be in the company of such great musicians. It is truly a great compilation.

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education meeting in Charleston was one of the best events I’ve ever attended. The annual national convention of AMTA in Portland was probably the best one I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been going to those for quite a few years. Kudos to the Oregon Chapter and to President Glenath Moyle for putting on a heck of a good time in such a lovely city. I also got to make my first trip to New Orleans on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and it was a blast. I completed five years of service to that board this year, and while I miss the wonderful staff and friends I made at the board, I don’t miss that five-hour haul to Raleigh or having to participate in disciplinary hearings. I got to make my first trip to Los Angeles to attend the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting, which was as usual, informative and a good time visiting with so many other board members from across the country.

Without dragging out my calendar, I can’t recall every place I got to teach in this year, but they were all fun and filled with beautiful people. One of the high points–literally–was the Take it to the Top Summit put on by Vivian Madison-Mahoney over in Gatlinburg, TN. The hotel was at the top of a mountain, we were on the 14th floor, and the view was just beautiful. That was one of the best education conferences ever, and Vivian and her husband John certainly know how to throw a great event. A lot of my buds were there–Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Michael McGillicuddy, Irene Diamond,  Mike Hinkle and his wife Cindy and a lot more, and a good time was just had by all. I got to play some music at that one, too. Vivian loaned me her limited edition Martin for the occasion since I came without a guitar. It was great.

I made my first site visit as a peer reviewer for COMTA a couple of months ago. I went to New Bedford, MA to review a community college massage program. It was a good learning experience for me, and the other reviewers were great companions. We had a good time. Our hotel was across from the harbor and a good seafood restaurant, so it was a good time.

I had some great classes at the office this year. Marjorie Brook came down from NY to teach a Scar Tissue Release seminar, and she was accompanied by my friend Allissa Haines. We had a good time visiting with them. Christine Courtney and her husband Colum came over from Ireland for Christine’s classes in Indian Head Massage and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and we always look forward to their visit as well.

On a personal level, lest I just sound like an effervescent fool who never has a bad moment, we’ve had some. My husband’s best friend Brent Stephens passed away this year…he was suffering, so it was a blessing for him to go, but it was still a great loss to both of us. Another dear friend died suddenly this year. Donna Metcalf was the picture of health when I saw her last, and three weeks later, she was gone…an unfortunate case of going to the hospital for a simple procedure that went very wrong. Donna was a force of nature, one of those women who dressed in sparkly clothes and a feather boa, and just lit up every room she ever entered. Her death was a shock. It was also a reinforcement that you ought to live every day like it’s your last. It just might be.

I’ve had some family trauma and drama this year…hasn’t everybody? But I’m pleased to say it seems to be on the upswing. My constant prayer is that those family members who need to forgive each other will just get on with it. One year at Christmas when there were some family divisions, my husband said “Well, we could have two dinners.” He was referring to the people who weren’t speaking to each other and the “I won’t be there if they’ll be there” situation, and my reply was “Hell no, we will not have two dinners. They can sit down and break bread with each other or they can go to McDonald’s.” My fond hope is that they’ll all come to the table. The people we resent feel good. Carrying around resentment is, as someone said, like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It isn’t hurting anyone except the person carrying it around.

One of the last great things to happen this year was my husband Champ passing the MBLEx. He is currently waiting for his North Carolina massage license to arrive. Champ is a builder by trade, and the economy here has been a sudden death to his business. There are so many foreclosed properties here, no one needs to build anything. You can buy a house that was on the market three years ago for a million bucks for less than $200,000. You can buy a perfectly livable house for less than $30,000. In fact, if you only need a small one with one or two bedrooms,  you can find some for less than $20,000. Still, I feel optimistic that things are looking up. Facebook has recently built a new data center in our town, and a couple of other manufacturing businesses have come in on their coattails. Hopefully, the economy is going to turn around and the residents in my county will see their circumstances improve. I certainly hope so.

Another great thing this year was what I have been referring to as The Grand Purge. I have been on a mission the past couple of months to clean out my house and my office. I keep watching the old video clip on youtube of George Carlin and his rant about “Stuff.” I have too much Stuff. Or rather, I had too much Stuff. A lot of it is gone…I’ve donated things, sold things, thrown out some things, burned some things…I’m getting rid of my Stuff. Stuff is like an albatross around your neck. My attitude is if I haven’t used it in a year, I’m not going to use it in another year.  I figured if I was going to move, and wouldn’t want to take it with me, then I don’t really need it. So goodbye, Stuff. It’s been very liberating.

I’ll remember this year. A lot of good things happened. A few bad things happened. That’s the way life goes. But all in all, it was a very good year.

Kudos, and a Few Thumps on the Head

The year is winding down; all the award shows have been on television lately, and I’d like to give out a few of my own, along with a thump or two on the head of those who need it. Call me a critic! These are my opinions only and should not be construed as the opinion of anyone else.

Kudos to Rick Rosen for starting the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and to the organization for putting on one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended earlier this year, and for taking the initiative to set some standards for teaching massage. If you are involved in massage education and you haven’t joined yet, I suggest you quit procrastinating.

Kudos to the Massage Therapy Foundation for all the work they do in promoting research in the field, and in particular for offering classes in Teaching Research Literacy. And to Ruth Werner for being such a fabulous ambassador for the organization.

Kudos to the executive officers and chairs of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, the American Massage Therapy Association, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the Massage Therapy Foundation, and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork for coming together this year at the Leadership Summit, and particular kudos to Bob Benson of ABMP for taking the responsibility for making that happen.

Kudos to Paul Lindamood, former CEO of the NCBTMB, for doing such a great job in putting that organization’s finances back in order. I was very sorry to see him go.

Kudos to AMTA, in particular the Oregon Chapter, and Glenath Moyle, National President, for putting on one of the best conventions in my memory. Kudos also the the thousands of AMTA members who volunteer at their chapters and the national level.

Kudos to ABMP for their generosity in allowing everyone, regardless of what organization they belong to (or none at all) to read Massage & Bodywork Magazine online for free, and for providing the huge forum at www.massageprofessionals.com, which is also open to everyone.

Kudos to Facebook. Not only are they my favorite place to hang out online, they are also spending millions of dollars building their new data center in my hometown, and providing much-needed employment in a very economically depressed area.

Kudos to Dr. Christopher Moyer, Bodhi Haraldsson, Paul Ingraham, Ravensara Travillian, Alice Sanvito, Rose Chunco, and the other folks out there who keep beating the drum for Evidence-Based Practice of massage.

Kudos to Jan Schwartz, Whitney Lowe, and Judith McDaniel of Education Training and Solutions. They don’t toot their own horn enough about some of the excellent work they have done for the Massage Therapy Foundation, the World Skin Project, and in general advancing excellence in online education.

Kudos to Angie Patrick of Massage Warehouse for her tireless work in the Sanctuary and raising money through massage for the Massage Therapy Foundation, the Liddle Kidz Foundation, and other worthy causes.

Kudos to all the massage therapists in the trenches, who give of their time in performing community service and their income to support deserving populations and those who can’t afford massage. I know hundreds of them so I just can’t list them all here, but every day, someone is out there donating the awesome power of touch in hospices, abused women’s shelters, the VA hospitals, homeless shelters, and hospitals. Bless them all.

Kudos to all those teachers out there who have what I refer to as “a higher calling.” Those who are teaching hospice massage, cancer massage, pediatric massage…There are too many to name, but they are led to work with the sick, the dying, the special-needs. Bless them all, and those they teach.

Kudos to any massage school and/or instructor who is teaching their students to be research literate.

And now, a few thumps on the head. The names have been omitted so as not to put the magazines who publish my blog in danger of a lawsuit, but you know who you are:

A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I’m better than any doctor or chiropractor. I will heal you when they can’t.”

A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I don’t refer out to anybody. No one is as good as I am.”

A thump on the head to the therapists who say to their clients “You really need this  (expensive water filter, nutritional supplements, foot patches, juice by so-and-so) etc that I am selling.”

A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I don’t need continuing education. I already know everything there is to know.”

A thump on the head to the therapists who impose energy work on every client who gets on their table, as if it is some God-given right, when the client hasn’t asked for it, doesn’t want it or believe in it, and it hasn’t been discussed.

A thump on the head to the therapists who are telling their clients that massage is detoxifying them and that they need to drink a lot of water to flush out their toxins.

A thump on the head to the therapists on massage forums who can’t behave and can’t have civil discourse, and instead resort to name-calling and personal attacks.

A thump on the head to the therapists on Facebook who are identifying themselves as MTs and posting pictures of themselves that look like they belong in the centerfold of Hustler.

I could thump all day–and give kudos all day–but I’ll save some for a future blog.