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Thank a Veteran

November 11 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday set aside to honor all those who have served in the US Military. It also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, which ended in 1918. In other countries that participated in that war, it’s known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.

I was raised in a military family. My stepfather, CPO Bernie L. Earwood (now deceased), served two tours in Vietnam. My bother, Alan, served two tours in the Persian Gulf. My uncles served in Korea, and in WWII. My great-uncles served in WWI, and several of my ancestors fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

A few weeks ago, I taught a continuing education class for massage therapists, called Working With Veterans: Strategies and Considerations. This class is the creation of Amy Appel of Wisconsin. She sent it to me last year to get my opinion on it, and I was so blown away by it I asked her permission to teach it. We were blessed to have 5 veterans attend the class…two of them were massage therapists; one was the husband of a massage therapist; my brother happened to be visiting for the weekend from his home in Florida and I invited him, and I also had a veteran, Brian Ebert, who was making his second appearance as a speaker in the class. Brian and one of the other gentlemen present were both injured in the war, and both suffer from PTSD. Brian and his brother joined the service together, and his brother did not make it home. One of the men present said “I didn’t do anything. I never saw combat.” I felt that was wrong and told him so. The fact that he signed up meant he was willing to go if needed. It was an emotional class, and an enlightening one, and I think it had a big effect on everyone present. It certainly has an effect on me, to hear the stories these folks have to tell.

In spite of having put their lives on the line for their country, the VA estimates that there are about 50,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the street on any given night. Other veterans’ organization place that figure as high as 800,000. Due to the transient nature of the homeless population, it’s impossible to get an exact count. Like any of us, veterans need a roof over their head, food to eat, and medical care–the basic necessities of life. Obviously, we’re falling short of the mark in taking care of serving those who have served us.

How can you thank a veteran? Simple. Just walk up and say “thank you for your service.” When I’m in airports, and I see someone in uniform, I shake hands and thank them. If there is a person in uniform behind me in the food court, I pay for their meal (anonymously). I was gratified once a few years ago, in the Chicago airport, when a plane bringing home the troops came through the terminal. I didn’t see them at first, but it got my attention when I heard a couple of people applauding, and then it grew to the point that hundreds of people in the airport stood and applauded as the soldiers went marching by.

The other day, I was waiting for a man to finish his transaction at the ATM at my bank. When I pulled in there was a pickup parked beside me with Marine Corps stickers on it. I watched as he turned to walk towards his vehicle, limping, and saw the Semper Fi tattoo on his arm. I said “thank you for your service, sir.” He came to a dead stop and said “No, ma’am, thank you. That makes it all worth it.” A thank you doesn’t cost anything. It’s free to give.

I’ve owned my massage clinic for 13 years, and every year since we opened, we’ve given free chair massage to veterans. I was speaking to a veteran the other day and told him that I wish we had a lot more veterans come to take advantage of that, and he said “We appreciate it, ma’am, but we don’t want any recognition.” Courage, loyalty, humility…the hallmarks of those who have served.

Soothing Touch is a proud supporter of the Task Force Dagger Foundation, a non-profit organization that gives financial aid to wounded, ill, and injured members of the US Special Operations Command and their families. Donations go directly to those in need.

Thank a veteran, not just today, but any day.

Caregiver Syndrome

My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a few months ago. Last Friday, he had the last of his 35 radiation treatments. Two days ago, he had the last of 6 chemotherapy treatments.

A few moments ago, I Googled “caregiver syndrome.” I wasn’t sure whether or not that actually existed, but I figured I was suffering from it if it did. It does, and I am. According to CNN, the symptoms are depression, anxiety, anger, and declining health. Let’s throw in exhaustion and fear while we’re at it.  While this condition is also referred to caregiver burnout, it didn’t take me any time at all to get burned out. Except for the exhaustion, it was all there for me as soon as I heard the word “cancer” and my husband’s name in the same breath. Within just a few weeks of starting to navigate the cancer maze, exhaustion did in fact set in, and I haven’t had time to get over it yet. It will be three months before the next PET scan to see if the cancer is really gone.  I don’t think my depression, anxiety, and anger are going to magically disappear in the next day or two.

As for my own declining health, I have been suffering greatly from A Knot in the Pit of My Stomach. I don’t think that’s an actual medical condition, but it’s been real to me, accompanied by chronic diarrhea, and by chronic I mean a dozen times a day, with intermittent bouts of nausea when Fear Takes Over. I diagnosed myself with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, although I tried to jokingly think of it as Scared Shitless Syndrome. There’s nothing like hearing that the love of your life is seriously ill and knowing that he might die.

Yes, it made me depressed, anxious, and angry. I am not the crying type. I have gone years at a time without crying over anything, but in the past few months, I’ve probably shed more tears than I have in the rest of my life all put together. I’ve been angry…angry that Champ had cancer, and angry at the insurance company for jacking us around, and angry that people who are already under stress have to have the added stress of dealing with them.

I’ve been paranoid that he wouldn’t get well. I’ve been paranoid that we wouldn’t have enough money to survive the experience. I’ve been paranoid at little things. For instance, naps. For our whole life together, my husband would often come home from work, sit down in his recliner, and take a nap. It was just his habit. But after he was diagnosed, if I came home and he was taking a nap, in my head I would be going “Oh my god, he’s taking a nap! Is he sick? Is he okay? Is he breathing?” I know it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t help it.

And in the meantime, the world kept turning. Work had to be done. Business had to go on. Deadlines had to be met. Bills had to be paid. Appointments had to be kept. All together, Champ has had a total of 7 doctors involved in his treatment, which was complicated by his life-long condition of having extremely low platelets. Since his initial diagnosis, he has had a total of 75 doctor visits, and I have accompanied him to all of them except two radiations and one platelet transfusion.

I’ve always believed that helping someone else is a good way to get your mind off your own troubles. I started a Cancer Caregiver support group, for the also-selfish reason of having others who were going through what I was going through to talk to. I also got some anti-anxiety medication, but after reading all the side effects, decided not to take it. We’ve gotten a lot of comfort and support from friends and family, and from FB friends. One friend, who is a long-time cancer survivor herself, called Champ one day and said “I just wanted to call and say this is not all about you. Your wife is going through a lot, too, and you need to understand that. ”

Caregiver syndrome is common among those who are caring for their elderly parents or other family members with dementia and chronic diseases. It’s very easy  for other people to say “You have to take care of yourself. You have to make time for yourself.” That’s all true, but there were weeks when that was a joke, and I know the other caregivers out there know exactly what I mean. Since my husband’s medication was causing him to nap all day, he didn’t sleep at night. He kept me awake at night, and I would be exhausted during the day when I was trying to work. I would literally be ready to go to bed at 7 pm because I was just so tired. On the few occasions when I could squeeze in a massage, I just passed out cold on the table. Playing music is my stress relief, and I had some months of not being able to do that due to nerve damage in my hand. That was depressing to me on top of everything else, and I just wanted to stay in bed and cover up my head, or drink myself into oblivion.

When the sick person has to stop working, their disability insurance may not be any where near the amount of money they were used to making, and while insurance may be covering the sick person’s care, there are still deductibles, out of pocket expenses, over-the-counter drugs, various things that insurance will refuse to pay for that you end  up having to pay yourself, special foods and/or supplements, travel to and from doctor’s appointments, and the like that can be overwhelming. You may think you’re saving for retirement, but if your retirement plan doesn’t contain built-in accommodations for a sick family member that you may have to act as the caregiver for, you can be prepared to see a lot of money circling down the drain. Being a caregiver is not a disability, and neither your own insurance nor unemployment insurance is going to be there to help you. Caregivers frequently either have to miss a lot of work, or give up their jobs altogether, in order to provide care. If you’re self-employed, like I am, and you actively work in your business, you may have to pay someone to take your place, like I  have.

So yes, as a caregiver, you do have to take care of yourself, and that’s hard to do when your focus is on taking care of someone else.

I personally found out that what I needed more than anything was just help with every day things, and I think that’s probably true for everyone. A caregiver will appreciate someone cleaning their house, or doing their laundry, running errands for them, or bringing them a home-cooked meal. Some caregivers might appreciate having someone give their patient a ride to doctor’s appointments. Although people offered to do that, I personally did not want that because I wanted to be there for all of my husband’s appointments. Unless the caregivers you know are independently wealthy, gifts of money, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards to gas stations, local grocery stores, restaurants, or stores are always welcomed. A gift certificate for a massage, or a night away in a hotel–even a local one–is a good gift. Volunteering to stay with the sick person for a few hours, if they need constant attendance, is a good idea.

One complaint that I hear repeatedly from other caregivers is along the lines of  “My sister/brother never helps with my mother.” If one of your siblings is caring for your parent(s) or another sibling, and you haven’t been physically participating in that, then you need to do something else to help, instead of leaving it all on your siblings to deal with. Help them financially, or get off your butt and go spend the weekend doing what they do all the time, or pay for a home health care service to do it, so they can have a break. If you haven’t personally been a caregiver, don’t say “I know how it is.” No, you don’t. You don’t have any idea.

I have been very fortunate that my husband has maintained such a beautiful attitude during this entire ordeal. He took it all like the Champ he is. He has always appreciated me and always shown that, and this experience brought us even closer together. It was just six months ago that he was acting as the caretaker for me, when I was very sick with double pneumonia, a UTI that went systemic, and a gall bladder that needed emergency removal. That’s what we do, we take care of each other.

I expect that I am going to continue to have anxiety until his PET scan comes out clear. And the doctors have said he’ll continue to be regularly checked for the next five years. My depression is situational, and I hope to feel better myself as I see him feeling better and better. I’ll probably remain angry at the insurance company, and have to continue spending my time dealing with them. Based on some of what I’ve had to go through with them, I feel sorry for sick people who don’t have a witch like me in their corner to advocate for them. Our almost-daily doctor appointments are over now, so hopefully I will start feeling less exhausted.

I appreciate all the support, encouragement, cards and letters, gifts, and prayers and well-wishes that we’ve received. It has meant a lot to both of us, and were it not for that support, my caregiver syndrome would probably be a lot worse than it has been. Thank you all. And please, do whatever you can to help the people in your lives who are caregivers, and if you are the caregiver, don’t be afraid to say “I need help.”

 

 

 

NCBTMB Seats New Board Members

The NCBTMB seated their new Board members last week. Bruce Baltz, who has served one term and was not even on the ballot for a second term, was tapped as the new Chair-Elect. Michael McGillicuddy, who was also not on the ballot, was appointed as a therapist member by the Board, and Teresa M. Matthews is filling the remaining therapist member seat. Dr. Stuart Watts has been named the public member.

I wish them all luck, and I feel that they’re going to need it.

To start with, it is my opinion that the NCBTMB is leaving themselves open to a legal challenge of any decision this board might make. I have maintained since his candidacy was announced that Dr. Watts was inappropriately put forth as a public member. I don’t personally know Dr. Watts, but as soon as I read his bio, my thought, and that of several other people who chimed in on my previous blogs about it, felt that he was suitably qualified to be a therapist member, and totally unsuitable to be the public member, based on the bylaws of the NCBTMB. He currently holds a license in two states, although the people trying to defend this decision have said he is retired, and he holds an office in another national organization, which is also against the by-laws, although I was told that he had agreed to quit that position if he was named to the NCBTMB. According to the current bylaws on the NCB website under 6.2 Qualifications. “No Director shall hold a national level office in another competing therapeutic massage and/or bodywork professional or trade organization” and further states………”A Director who is a public member shall not be a Certificant or a practitioner of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork within three (3) years of election, and shall have no material financial interest in the field of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork.” I honestly do not understand how the nominations task force thought he was an appropriate choice for the public member. To me, it’s a big “DUH!”

I also find it less than transparent that the press release did not say he was the public member, but rather put the spin on it that “he has worked for both practitioner rights and the rights of the public throughout his 40-year career.” On a regulatory board, the mandate is indeed to protect the safety of the public. However, this is not a regulatory board in spite of their numerous past attempts to appear as one, and a public member is supposed to represent the viewpoint of a consumer, not be an expert in the field. Watts appears to be an expert in the field with 40 years of experience. I don’t think he is representative of the average consumer and I defy anyone to dispute that. It sounds like splitting hairs, since I would have approved of him as a therapist member. My issue is that I don’t expect a therapist member and a public member to necessarily vote the same way. People have to remember that when you are serving a board, you are not supposed to just avoid a conflict of interest–you are also supposed to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

I have briefly met Matthews a couple of times when I attended the FSMTA convention. She has been a school owner and instructor for 18 years. Baltz and McGillicuddy are both people I know and I am a big fan of both of them. However, I also question the way their appointments came about. Neither were on the ballot sent to certificants. The sudden departure of the previous Chair, Sue Toscano left a therapist seat empty that needed to be filled, so I will assume that was part of the reason. However, I am aware of several other people who had thrown their name in the hat for the election, and I do question that none of them were tapped to fill the empty seat. I have asked both Steve Kirin and Leena Guptha questions in the past about the election process, and they have both replied to me that they are not privy to the goings-on of the nomination committee.

I’ve been nationally certified since 2000, and it seems that there has been controversy on their election process many times….including one time years ago when I threw my own name in the hat. I was interviewed on the phone, and later notified that I had been chosen as a candidate. I was told to write a candidate statement and that it had to be X amount of words; I forget the number. When the ballots came out, the first thing I saw was that my own candidate statement looked ridiculously short compared to the others. I called them on the phone and asked why I was singled out for a short statement. Initially the person on the other end of the phone argued with me that I had misunderstood the instructions. When I sent him the email I had received from them proving my point, he had to back up and apologize, and said that I had received the first draft of the letter by mistake. He said “there’s really nothing we can do about it now.” I was not surprised when I wasn’t elected, because my statement looked idiotic compared to the other candidates. My attitude now is that it was a blessing in disguise that I wasn’t chosen; that particular regime was fraught with management trouble, board trouble, and lawsuits.

I have referred back to my own blogs from past years that had links to the NCBTMB website for the press releases that were put out about some of their major mistakes, and they have all been removed.

The NCBTMB has been dysfunctional for a very long time. Their financial revenues have fallen greatly since the introduction of the MBLEx. Their 990 for 2012 was just posted on Guidestar a couple of days ago and will be the subject of my next blog.

Dr. Leena Guptha stepped into the Chair position about a month ago. Leena is a positive person, and refers to herself as an ambassador for the organization. She has previously served as the national president of AMTA, and I have no doubts that she has the best of intentions. I have no doubts that the new board members, and any of the other people there have the best of intentions. I actually have no doubts that the immediately previous board and management had good intentions…but that has not yet turned things around. Dr. Guptha has stated to me that since she has a three-year term, she will have time to make a real difference and positive changes at the NCBTMB. Time will tell.

I feel that the NCBTMB is on their last chance to get it right. They do not have the financial resources to keep making mistakes. The PR spin that has been put on the new Board Certification doesn’t fly. People want advanced certifications in specific areas, and that hasn’t happened. Developing such things requires a lot of money, and I don’t know that they have it. Leena Guptha is organizing a Think Tank to gather input about the CE Provider program, and I initially agreed to serve on it. However, I’ve taken so much criticism for that in the past few weeks I have decided to back up and punt. I have publicly announced many times that I would not serve an another board as long as I am writing this blog, and even though a committee is not the same as a board of directors, people seem to be concerned that my impartiality will fly out the window. I had even stated to Dr. Guptha that my presence on the CE committee would not prevent me from blogging about them, and she said she didn’t expect it to. It’s a moot point now; I have withdrawn. Even though I am not on the board–it was one of those appearances of a conflict of interest that I referred to above.

I have also served on a previous CE revamping project at the request of Paul Lindamood. About 30 educators came together to discuss it, and the resounding theme was “go back to vetting the individual classes.” That advice has so far been ignored. Ergo, there are a lot of classes approved for CE that are in blatant violation of their own bylaws and that are an embarrassment to the profession and that should be an embarrassment to a board that holds itself out as “defining and advancing the highest standards.” Approving classes in flower fairies and shapeshifting  just doesn’t hold up to that mission statement. There is no need to wait for a Think Tank to start taking care of that situation; the new board needs to start taking care of it immediately.

As I said, I wish the new members luck, and I feel sure they’re going to need it. As always, you’re free to disagree with me; this is my blog and my opinion.

Who Has OUR Backs?

Who is really looking out for the interests of massage therapists? Among all the entities we give our hard-earned money to, it would seem that when we’re in a pinch, we can’t drum up much support for ourselves.

I’m incensed at the Ethics Committee of the NCBTMB for selectively choosing which parts of the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics they are going to honor, and which parts they are going to cast aside.

Many therapists have received a letter from the NCBTMB, detailing their refusal to give any consideration to the complaints they received about Steph Lasch and her behavior towards fellow massage therapists. They have cited the Preamble to the Standards, which states that “NCBTMB requires certificants and applicants for certification to conduct themselves in a highly professional and dignified manner. NCBTMB will not consider and/or adjudicate complaints against certificants and applicants for certification that are based solely on consumer related issues or are based on competitive marketplace issues.” I have been told that they refused to even look at the complaints and supporting documentation.

They seem to have the idea that this is all about money. It is not just all about money. It is about a person who gets to claim National Certification status, who has systematically behaved unethically towards fellow massage therapists, most of whom were either new to the profession and/or already struggling in their businesses, and looking for help in order to do better. It is about the numerous people that she blocked from all contact whenever they questioned her about their missing goods or services that they had paid and contracted for. It is about the numerous people who suffered not only a loss of money, but a violation of trust from a colleague who had vowed to uphold the Code and Standards.

The NCBTMB has decided to take the stance that since the people who were taken advantage of are massage therapists, and not massage clients, that these complaints don’t matter. I beg to disagree. If you are going to treat your own colleagues in an unethical manner, my thought is you wouldn’t have any problem doing the same to clients.

First of all, let’s look at II) of the Code of Ethics:  “Represent their qualifications honestly….”  Lasch held herself out to be a CPA, a status that she does not have.That claim assisted her in obtaining the social security and employer identification numbers of numerous massage therapists that she filled out taxes for, while failing to provide them with her signature or preparer identification number.

Then there’s VII) “Conduct their business and professional activities with honesty and integrity…”  Really? Ask any of the dozens of people who have been affected what they have to say about that.

Finally, there’s XV) Avoid any interest, activity or influence which might be in conflict with the practitioner’s obligation to act in the best interests of the client or the profession.”

The inclusion of the word “profession” there clearly demonstrates a responsibility to those who make up this profession. It’s my opinion that they’re ignoring their own Code of Ethics and passing the buck.

AMTA has not removed Lasch from the membership rolls, either, and realistically, it wouldn’t do much good if they did. If anyone there thinks they think they are being investigated, they just cancel their membership, go to another organization to get insurance, and don’t miss a beat.

Among all the law enforcement that has been contacted over this matter, I’m unaware of anyone getting a response to their complaints, with the exception of several complainants who have received packets from the Attorney General of MN, advising them of other entities to complain to, and many have. However, in the general scheme of murder, mayhem, and meth labs, a massage therapist bilking people is probably not a high priority for the law, either.

There’s no state massage board in MN, although there is a quasi-governmental agency that “oversees” unlicensed health care providers, including MTs. State boards are all about public protection. They would take a license away if a client persuaded the board of wrong-doing on the part of a massage therapist, but like the NCBTMB, they might refuse to view a massage therapist as a client, although this entire hoopla has indeed revolved around massage.

NCBTMB Chair Sue Toscano resigned yesterday, citing personal reasons. Leena Guptha, a former President of National AMTA, was the Chair-Elect and has moved into the job. Leena is a goodwill ambassador wherever she goes, but she definitely has her work cut out for her. Lori Ohlmann, who often represented the NCB as their government relations person at state board meetings, has also resigned. She was a credit to the organization.

I also have to wonder about the elections at the NCBTMB. When people like Dr. Christopher A. Moyer and Glenath Moyle get passed over, I have to wonder about the common sense and/or biases of the committee. Dr. Moyer is one of the most respected researchers in the field of massage therapy. He has been vocal on social media about criticizing some of the claptrap that has been approved for CE credit. Glen Moyle is a past president of National AMTA and has been serving the profession for decades, including during a period of time when the organization had a few issues with the NCBTMB. God forbid they should get anybody there who might actually rock the boat.

So really, who has OUR backs? There were a few of us who tried to spread the information about where and how to file your complaints. There were dozens that did in fact complain. And yet, I feel relatively certain Lasch is sitting back and counting her money, happy as a clam, secure in the knowledge that our organizations aren’t doing anything to protect others from being victimized or giving any consideration to the ones that have already been victimized.

I can virtually guarantee that every certificant who received that letter from the NCBTMB will NOT renew their certification. So, NCBTMB, you can keep the one who has violated the Code, while you will be losing a number who have been proud to uphold it. Good move.

It’s Official: I’m Old.

I’m taking a break from writing about massage today. It’s my blog. I get to do that 😀

In a few more days, I’ll be 54. I confess, I haven’t really thought of myself as “old,” although I don’t dress the way I did when I was 20, I don’t party the way I did when I was 20, and I hopefully have a lot more common sense and acquired knowledge than I did when I was 20. I’m overweight, but I am in relatively good health. I enjoy my work, and I still work as hard as I ever did, usually putting in 12 hour days. I’m also enjoying my second childhood playing in a band, after taking quite a few years off from performing regularly in public. It’s fun to be out there doing something you love and getting paid for it.

I was actually at a jam session last night while the VMA awards show was on, so I didn’t see it (another sign I’m behind the times, I guess, that I don’t have all those techno goodies that let you watch shows at any time). This morning while I was watching the news, they showed a clip of Miley Cyrus “twerking,” which apparently is a dance synonymous with simulating sex, on the show. She also kept sticking out her tongue, a la Gene Simmons, who should in no way feel flattered that she is imitating him.

I guess it’s official: I’m old. I was appalled by her behavior. The same girl who was sweet Hannah Montana, fingering herself with a foam rubber glove, bumping and grinding on singer Robin Thicke, while her mother looked on proudly from the audience…I can’t imagine my mother being proud of that kind of performance. I posted a similar comment on my FB page, and while there were many people who were just as disgusted as I was, I got a few comments along the lines of “my grandmother was mortified by Elvis” and “she is just this generation’s Madonna.”

And of course, that’s all true. The difference is, I was young when Elvis was around–I think I was about 20 or so when he passed. I was still relatively young when Madonna burst on the scene, and I confess, I never was a big fan of Madonna. I know she’s still out there doing her music and acting or directing or whatever else she does, and I can applaud her staying power, if nothing else.I suppose when I was younger, I didn’t find Elvis’ hip action or Madonna’s pointy bras shocking. If I was still 20, I might not have found Cyrus’ performance to be in such poor taste, but I like to think I would.

I’m not entertained by music, if you can call it that, that only contains the same lines over and over, like “baby, baby, baby.” Any time I’m at home on Saturday night, I watch the reruns of Lawrence Welk. They play real music on there, timeless songs that have actual lyrics. After watching Cyrus’ display this morning, I went to my youtube channel and watched a few videos of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers…I thought, “Now that is dancing.”

I still love rock and roll. I play a lot of rock and roll…classic, mostly, but with some of today’s popular music mixed in. I don’t have the body to pull off those show-your-butt shorts and flesh-colored bra that Miley Cyrus was wearing, and I wouldn’t be seen in them, even if I did. I could never imagine myself on stage “twerking,” or grabbing my crotch, or grabbing anyone else’s crotch who happened to be onstage with me, or getting on my knees in front of someone and simulating oral sex. I assume the people who come to see me play music aren’t expecting that kind of thing, so they won’t be disappointed. I have some old videos hanging around of some of my performances when I was her age, and I wasn’t dressing that way or doing that kind of thing then, either.

I don’t think of myself as a prude. I think you can be really sexy without appearing to be tasteless and raunchy.Tina Turner is 74 and still sexy. Turner used to say, regarding her famous on-stage shimmy, that she could look sexy without looking vulgar because she shook it from side to side, and didn’t thrust her pelvis toward the audience. Adele exudes sex appeal, and she’s a fat girl like me. When I think of the women singers I admire, none of them feel compelled to do anything remotely similar to the show that Cyrus put on last night.

Sex sells, and so does controversy. She’s probably sold a few more records today on account of it. Bless her heart.

An Interview with Bill Brown, New Executive Director of AMTA

Bill Brown became the new Executive Director of the American Massage Therapy Association on May 17, following the retirement of former ED Shelly Johnson.

Brown has been with the American Massage Therapy Association for 8 years, the past two and a half as Deputy Director. He has a degree in Political Studies from the University of IL and is bringing a lot of experience to the table in association management, and industry and government relations. Prior to joining AMTA as the Director of Industry and Government Relations, he worked in industry relations for the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, as the Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the International Interior Design Association, and as the Director of State Government Affairs in the IL Office of Banks and Real Estate. I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his background, philosophy, and how he sees the organization moving into the future.

1. Tell our audience something about your background, like where you were born and raised, where you went to college…inquiring minds want to know!

 I think this is actually the hardest question, forcing me to talk about myself.  So here it goes.  I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and moved to the Chicagoland area when I was just a youngster and grew up in Illinois.  My parents were small business owners and worked in a small printing company.  I moved to Springfield, Illinois when I started my career working in state government.  I worked in the legislature, as a regulator and for local government before taking a short break to run my family’s printing company for a couple of years while my father had some health issues.  After we sold the company allowing my father to retire I went into association management.  I began working in government relations setting up new programs for two associations.  When I came to AMTA I really wanted to find a place to grow and be able to utilize my skills — and found much more.  AMTA has provided a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that I hope everyone can experience some day.

2. When you were job-seeking, what was it about AMTA that jumped out at you that initially made you want to come to work for the organization?

AMTA has a good reputation and organizational stability.  That isn’t always true for associations.  I also saw an opportunity for long term growth with the association, and the potential of having a positive impact.

3. When you earned your degree in political science, were you thinking of getting into politics on a broader scale such as running for public office or working for the government? Or do you think that might be in your path in the future?

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in what I do.  Public policy is important to me, but I really see myself able to make a difference working in an association.

4. If you had to describe AMTA in one word, what would it be, and why?

Not to dodge your question completely, but I want to give you three words – massage therapy profession.  AMTA’s board, its other volunteers and our staff take our mission seriously. We are about serving our members (massage therapists, students, schools and educators) and advancing the profession.  So, AMTA wants to improve opportunities for all massage therapists in the profession.  We see AMTA as working to represent and advance the entire profession, whether it is working with our members, the public, other healthcare providers or employers.

5. As you’re settling into your new position as Executive Director, do you have any immediate pet projects you’d like to implement?

My primary responsibility is to implement the decisions of our board of Directors.  Our board has many ideas to serve our members and advance the profession.  I direct our staff to execute them to the best of our abilities.  That means providing excellent customer service and promoting a sense of inclusion.

6. What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges facing massage therapists today?

Our members tell us what is most challenging to them.  A challenge we hear most often is trying to make a good living as a massage therapist in a tough economy.  The right to practice and public acceptance of the real value of massage therapy and being treated as professionals are also important challenges today.

7. What do you think AMTA is doing to help therapists meet those challenges?

AMTA and our Board of Directors are especially focused on trying to bring new clients to our members.  That’s why we began our multi-year commitment last year to our Consumer Awareness Program.  We are proactively approaching national and local media and the health care community every day to educate them about the benefits of massage therapy for health and the importance of finding a qualified massage therapist. We encourage consumers to look for an AMTA member for their next massage.

We provide a wealth of continuing education, so massage therapists can advance and grow professionally.  Many of our continuing education classes are offered free to our members.  We have an online Job Bank and new student scholarship program that will be both expanding this year.  And, our chapters provide advantages for massage therapists they can’t find anywhere else – networking, support, continuing education, a chance to impact the direction of the association, and a very successful mentoring program. All of these address the challenges in the profession and for massage therapists to be successful.

8. AMTA has been participating in the Leadership Summits with representatives from the other professional organizations since they began. What, if any, value do you think has been the outcome of those meetings?

First and foremost are the collaboration and fostering of relationships and camaraderie among the various massage therapy organizations.  This is vital if we want to make the profession better and more beneficial for everyone.  We each have a better understanding of our respective roles in the approaches to the profession.  And, of course, the Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP) is a very positive outgrowth of these meetings. The closer we can work together the stronger the profession becomes.

9. As one who is very experienced in government relations, do you plan for AMTA to be more proactive in the individual states on that front, such as lobbying against detrimental legislation?

We will be continuing our board-approved approach to government relations.  There is a lot to do there.  That means supporting our chapters’ work, and understanding the unique characteristics and needs of each state.  We will continue to be proactive on licensing, because our goal is to have fair and consistent licensing in all states that can lead to future portability of massage therapy practice. 

10. Some massage therapists avoid joining any organizations because the perception is that they are all about cliques and politics. What would you say to those people to change their mind and persuade them to join AMTA?

 I believe they will like it.  AMTA is about our members.  We listen to all our members and develop products, programs and services that benefit all of them.  If someone is unsure about joining AMTA, I want them to come check us out.  There are many ways to participate in AMTA and to engage with others in the profession.  Do you want to mentor new massage therapists or do you need a mentor?  Look at AMTA.  Do you want to network with massage therapists and learn from them?  Look at AMTA.  Do you want to see your association actively promoting its members to the public and trying to get you new opportunities for new clients?  Look at AMTA. I believe that if a massage therapist experiences AMTA they will join.

11. Is there anything else you’d like to say to all the massage therapists out there?

Give us a try and I believe you will want to be a part of the family.  I realize there are choices out there but I truly believe in AMTA and our members, and that we are the right choice for massage therapists.I feel the same way about massage therapy.  We want more people to experience massage therapy for themselves because when people that try it, they see the value and what it can do for their health and overall wellness and come back for more.  

 

Confusion Reigns

I’d like to just steal Sandy Fritz’s blog this week, but instead I’ll post the link to it. She expressed many of the same things I have been feeling in “Beyond Frustration.” Confusion reigns. I get at least a half-dozen questions a day from massage therapists and providers asking me if I understand the latest move from the NCBTMB, or do I know what’s going on with this or that new requirement, or which exam should I take to get licensed, etc. Frankly, I’m confused and frustrated myself, in spite of being relatively well informed about what’s going on.

I see confused massage therapists every day on my social networks referring to their certification from the NCBTMB as a “national license.” There is no such thing as a national license. It would be a lot easier for us all if such a thing existed, but it doesn’t. A few years ago, I noticed that a teacher I had hired to come to my facility to teach a CE class had been ordered by our state board to cease and desist practicing massage without a license. When I called her to see what was going on, she said “But I have a national license!” No, you don’t. None of us do.

My own confusion was compounded again this weekend when I received my certificate proclaiming that I am now Board Certified–the new credential from the NCBTMB. Personally, I think calling it that is a huge blunder on their part. It really doesn’t make any differentiation from the old paradigm of “National Certification” and people are confused about it. The certificate is bigger and a little nicer-looking, but my new certificate says that I have been certified since 2000. Well, yes I have, but this is supposedly a new and different credential, and I didn’t get it until 2013. There is something that doesn’t seem right about that.

I could go on, but I won’t. The tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon yesterday has me feeling sad and angry and confused and just out of sorts. It seems ridiculous to focus on whatever complaints I have about the way things are going in the massage world when people are dead and wounded and grieving for their loved ones so I’m going to save the rest of my rants for another day.

In the meantime, Allissa Haines has posted a good blog that describes how many of us feel. I’ll get back on my soapbox in a week or two.

 

 

 

My Thoughts on the Election 2012

I’m taking a break from talking about massage this week.

I’ve always hated election time. All the constant television ads, telemarketing phone calls from political action committees, and all the rest of it. And now that we have social media to vent our opinions on, it just seems to be magnified a thousandfold.

I have always mostly stayed out of the fray. I don’t discuss politics (or religion) with clients at my office. If any of them bring up those subjects, if it’s in a general tone, I let it pass. If they start with specifics, I usually say “You’re here to relax, and a debate is not relaxing. Let’s focus on your (neck, back, whatever) instead and see if we can help you feel better.”

I haven’t said a word about my choice of candidates until a couple of weeks ago. I have several thousand massage therapists on my social networks, and other friends from all walks of life as well. I have seen some of them nearly working themselves up to a heart attack with their political rants on FB. I no longer see them posting pictures of their kids or their dog or talking about their day; it’s all politics, all the time.

Then one day, I thought to myself, I just can’t be quiet any longer.  I’ve worried about offending people, but then again, in the past five years, nearly every blog I’ve ever written has offended people. I’ve had people un-friend me on social networks on account of my blog. I’ve ticked off not only individuals, but entire companies and organizations with my revelations and opinions about the politics of massage, and in the general scheme of things, I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut. So in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been letting my opinions be known, and like other people who are doing the same on FB, facilitating some juicy arguments.

For every piece of sensationalism regarding either of the candidates that make it to the news, the opposing party always has an answer:”That was taken out of context. This is what he REALLY said.” “He doesn’t really mean that, what he really means is THIS.” “Shame on the biased media that printed THAT.” It just goes on and on. And yes, both parties do it.One is just as guilty as the other. It’s our task, as voters, to muddle through the hyperbole, the half-truths, the outright lies, the edited videotapes, and the photo-shopped pictures in order to make the right choice…for us. And to bear in mind that what’s the right choice for you isn’t the right choice for me.The reason that you vote for someone will be the very same reason that I don’t.

On my FB page, my political affiliation since the day I signed on has been “Sick of the whole damn thing.” That’s still pretty accurate. The first time I voted, I voted for Ronald Reagan. In the ensuing years, I have come to believe that his opponent at the time, Jimmy Carter, is one of the most admirable people on the planet. Some years ago, I stopped voting for the party, and started voting for the person.

One of the biggest factors at election time is always the economy. Here in my corner of North Carolina, the economy sucks. In fact, here is a photographic essay I did about that. But I can’t blame that on the current administration. It didn’t happen on his watch.

Personally, I’m not rich. I’m not poor. I’m just a middle-class, small-business owner trying to survive–and thrive. If I lost my business tomorrow, I don’t think I could blame that on the president, no matter who that is. So for me, the economy is not the deciding factor in who to vote for.

The deciding factor, for me, is the equal treatment of all human beings. I don’t believe Mitt Romney views women as equal. I’m busting my butt at my business every day, and I’m not one of those women who usually gets home in time to cook dinner, but how nice of him to be concerned about that. And I’ll state just for the record that I’m heterosexual and been married to the same man for 20 years. Romney’s statements on and treatment of gay people have been atrocious.

I cannot remain silent on this issue. Gay people are not more than, or lesser than, me or Romney or anyone else. If YOUR religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong, that’s between you and your higher power. The people of the United States are guaranteed the separation of church and state. The government shouldn’t equate “sin,” or the president and his idea of it, or any political party’s idea of it, and the law. If your religion teaches you to be intolerant of someone because they were born different from you, and to deny them the same rights as other human beings, that’s the reason I don’t belong to your organized religion.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and that’s why I support Barack Obama.

So you vote as your conscience dictates, and I’ll vote mine. The day after the election is over, we’ll all still be here on the same planet, in spite of our differences. And we can all rest peacefully, secure in the knowledge that whomever wins, the administration that follows them will blame everything that is wrong on them, because that’s the American way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics and Cliques

This week’s blog is about the elections at the upcoming Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards annual meeting in New Orleans on September 27-29. Who gets chosen to serve on the Board of Directors of this organization is important, because FSMTB controls the administration of the MBLEx– the primary licensing exam in our profession, and is in the process of trying to adopt new national standards for continuing education.

These upcoming elections are shaping up to be a joke, and a bad one at that. I reported last week on the bylaw changes that have resulted in handing over all the power that should belong to the Member Boards to a 3-person Nominating Committee, removed the Delegates’ rights to nominate anyone from the floor, took the power of choosing officers out of the hands of the Delegates and put it into the hands of the Board of Directors, and extended the total length of time a Board member can serve to three 3-year terms.

I don’t know who the Nominating Committee has chosen as their “slate” candidates, but I can tell you some of the people they have overlooked. Two of them are sitting members of the FSMTB Board of Directors: Phyllis Salyers of Tennessee and Billie Shea of Nevada. Both are eligible, and as far as I can tell, both are qualified. Shea was in fact just reelected as the Chair of the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists for the seventh time. Salyers has been off the Tennessee Board of Massage Licensure for about a year, but still acts as a consultant to the Board and under the Bylaws of the FSMTB is still eligible to serve two more terms. Since they were elected the first time, one assumes that they both still possess the skill sets necessary to the job. Since both have been faithful servants to the organization, you have to wonder why they have been passed over for another term.

Another person who didn’t make the cut is Mark Dixon, currently serving as Vice-Chair of the California Massage Therapy Council. Dixon has been a massage therapist for almost 25 years and his list of qualifications and past service to massage organizations would be another whole blog. He is genuine leadership material, yet he was not even granted the courtesy of an interview by the Nominating Committee.

I actually have the biggest issue, not with the candidates, but with the Bylaw change allowing the Board of Directors to serve three 3-year terms. Since Board members can continue to serve after their service to their state massage board is over, this could effectively result in the entire Board of Directors being composed of people who are no longer on their state boards. I don’t think that was the intent of this organization when it was started–and their very name indicates that.

The issue, to me, is that when you are no longer on a state board, you are no longer obligated to follow the agenda of that board, whatever it may be. In fact, as a non-board member, you are in all likelihood not even privy to the goings-on behind closed doors when there is an executive session.  You can have your own little agenda, and that’s what I find disturbing. Due to the various election schedules of the FSMTB Member Boards, I am not suggesting that anyone should be thrown off in the midst of their term, but I think serving out that term is the way to go–and then let another sitting board member have that position.

So, here we have no nominations from the floor; a 3-person committee deciding who is best for the job instead of all the delegates from 42 Member Boards getting to put forth someone they might like to nominate; two sitting members denied another term in spite of their service and qualifications and bylaws that currently allow them to serve; a well-qualified applicant denied; and bylaw changes that are totally contrary to what is in the best interests of the state boards.

Out here in the heartland of the massage therapy profession, we’re counting on our colleagues who do the usually thankless job of representing state boards to do the courageous thing here. I will make another plea for the Delegate Assembly to stand up at the annual meeting, say that this is not acceptable, and to propose amendments to the FSMTB Bylaws that restore an appropriate balance of power and authority.

 

Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice

I have never before devoted my blog to a book review, but I’m doing that this time, because (other than my own books, of course) I think this is one of the most important books that has been published for our profession. I’m speaking of Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice, edited by Trish Dryden, MEd, RMT of Centennial College, Toronto, and Dr. Christopher Moyer, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie. This book was published by Human Kinetics and has only been out for a few months. I got my copy about a month ago, and I’d like to see one in the hands of every massage therapist, every student of massage, and in particular, every massage therapy educator.

The contributors to this book are an impressive group of people. Besides Dryden and Moyer, there are contributions from Janet R. Kahn, PhD, LMT, who has one of the most impressive resumes in the galaxy, culminating in a recent appointment by President Obama as a Member, Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health; Diana Thompson, LMP, former President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Bodhi Haraldsson, RMT, Research Director at the Massage Therapists Association of British Columbia; Albert Moraska, Assistant Professor of Research at the University of Colorado at Denver, and a couple of dozen other highly-educated people with an interest in the evidence-supported practice of massage therapy.

The layperson sometimes panics at the word “research.” People get the erroneous idea that they can’t read, much less conduct, a research project unless they have a doctorate in elementary statistics. Although this book introduces some complicated (at least to me) concepts, they’re broken down into plain enough language that anyone can understand.

The explanations of qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as mixed methods of research, has enlightened me. I don’t mind saying that while I have supported the Massage Therapy Foundation to the best of my ability, and been a vocal proponent of the evidence-informed practice of massage for the past few years, I realize after reading this book just how in the dark I’ve been about the particulars of what actually constitutes valid research.

The main purpose of the book is to introduce massage therapists to the various concepts of research, and how to apply that information to your every-day practice of massage.  There is a whole section, Populations and Conditions, that contains chapters on working with pediatric clients, pregnant clients, athletes, geriatric clients, and adults with a history of sexual trauma. The conditions that are covered include back pain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, cancer, and anxiety and depression–the things that we are all confronted with on a regular basis.

Ruth Werner, current President of the Massage Therapy Foundation, contributed the Foreword to the book. She states the five crucial things that this book addresses:

1. It makes the compelling case that research literacy is a necessary skill even among entry-level massage therapists.

2. It introduces key concepts in a way that is both simple and accurate. Werner states that “As a teacher of a complex topic, I know how often the tipping point between simplicity and accuracy is narrow indeed.”

3. It emphasizes the application of research by giving clear examples of tying published findings to everyday practice scenarios.

4. By emphasizing the practical application of research findings, it acknowledge the importance of the feedback loop that must exist between clinicians and researchers.

5. It lays the groundwork for its own future development as the mass of evidence about massage therapy continues to grow.

Every time a client comes out of the treatment room and says “I feel better,” yes; that’s evidence. However, resting on those kinds of laurels is a big mistake, in my opinion. There are many massage therapists (other than myself and the contributors to this book) who want to see massage therapy gain the respect we think it deserves. The way to do that is research, research, research, and more research.

We don’t all have to BE researchers. We DO all need to know where to find it and how to make heads or tails out of it. Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice, is the only book that I am familiar with that explains it so that those of us who are not scientists can understand it. I urge you to get this book. And as I mentioned earlier how important I think this is for massage therapy educators, let me go a step further and say that if you are teaching in a school that does not address the need for research literacy, then you be the change in that. It is doing students–not to mention the massage-seeking public–a huge disservice to ignore the subject.

While I’m on the topic, The Massage Therapy Foundation has a free toolbar you can download from their website to keep in touch with the latest research developments. Research costs money. I encourage you to donate to the Foundation in whatever amount you can afford to give. Every dollar helps.