Tag Archives: Ruth Werner

Report from the AMTA National Convention

I arrived in Ft. Worth on Wednesday in time to attend the House of Delegates preliminary meeting, which was quite exciting. I was only an alternate this year so I did not get to participate in several spirited debates, one concerning the ACA, and another concerning delegates who arrive late for the meeting (they don’t get seated–something I am in total agreement with.) I spent the evening at the Lippincott author’s dinner, something I always look forward to. Authors and educators Ralph Stephens, Ruth Werner and her husband Curt, Pat Archer, Celia Bucci, Joe Muscolino, Diana Thompson, LWW Publisher Angus McDonald, Acquisitions Editor Jonathon Joyce, my wonderful editor Linda Francis were all present, and I’m probably forgetting someone! We dined at Reata, which served great Tex-Mex food, and the service was top notch.

Thursday morning, the opening ceremony was great. Doc Hendley was the keynote speaker. He is the founder of Wine to Water, and a fellow North Carolinian. He received a standing ovation and had some people in tears, including me. His life’s work is providing clean water to people all over the world who do without it, and it really makes you realize how much we all take for granted. President Winona Bontrager recognized long-standing members and handed out awards, including giving the President’s Award to Rick Rosen, co-owner of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC, and recognizing him for 30 years of service. Rick has contributed so much to this profession, I’ve actually written a previous blog about him. Congratulations to him for well-deserved recognition.

I had another chance to catch up with Joe Muscolino on Thursday when we shared a table at Starbucks. He is such a smart man who has been around this business for a long time. I’m hoping to attend his dissection class one of these days. Back to the House of Delegates on Thursday evening, where three position statements were considered.

Thursday night, the North Carolina Chapter went out to dinner together. Great to catch up with everybody. I walked back to the hotel with Joel Tull and we got slightly lost…which was okay…we took a good walk! Joel is a sweetheart and a gentleman, and he told me an Irish joke, which I won’t repeat here, but it was great to visit with him.

Friday I visited the Massamio booth for my appointment with Michael Reynolds. His task was to whip me into shape at using HootSuite, and he gave me some great advice. He and Allissa Haines were busy, busy, busy educating people about social media marketing. I hate I didn’t have more time to visit with both of them. That was the case with a lot of folks that I loved to see but just didn’t get to hang out with much.

Bruce Baltz saved me from a total meltdown by giving me a foot massage at the Bon Vital booth….shame on me for wearing a pair of flats all week, my feet were killing me! Note to self, don’t do that again!

On Friday I attended a presentation on the parasympathetic nervous system by Dr. Sandra Smith, Dr. Drew Riffe and Dr. Christopher Moyer. This was one of the research track classes and I was thrilled to see the room packed. The same thing happened on Saturday when Dr. Moyer taught a class on the effects of massage therapy on anxiety and depression. He’s a great teacher, and again, it was so wonderful to see the room filled with people who are interested in learning about and advancing massage therapy research.

Friday night I attended the reception for the Massage Therapy Foundation. I’m still trying to take it all in. AMTA’s annual donation to the MTF was $450,000. The Florida Chapter of AMTA made a $20,000 donation. The MA Chapter made a $10,000 donation. Massage Envy made a $10,000 donation. Then Massage Envy VP CG Funk made the offer that she would match up to $500 if someone passed the hat. Richard Wedegartner passed his cowboy hat around and in ten minutes collected over $800. He said next year he would wear a bigger hat. Biotone made a $15,000 donation, and Massage Warehouse made a $10,000 donation. Performance Health made a $2500 donation in honor of Diana Thompson, whom they honored for her many efforts on behalf on the profession. Outgoing President Ruth Werner also honored Diana, and I could not think of a more deserving person. I was really blown away by the generosity and dedication to massage therapy research that was on display. Thank you to every donor, whether your donation is big or small, it all helps!

Friday after the reception I spent some time catching up with Ariana Vincent. Ariana is dynamite in a small package! We actually roomed together Friday night and had a great chat.

After my class on Saturday I made a quick visit through the exhibit hall before heading to the airport. I missed the closing panel presentation on the ACA. According to Ariana, who took notes, the four panelists spoke knowledgeably about the health and legal ramifications. Therapists are encouraged to investigate thoroughly before jumping into the insurance waters, and reminded that you must be HIPAA compliant in order to accept insurance. The therapists in unregulated states will not be allowed to participate in insurance filing under the ACA. I’m sure there’s more but that’s the gist of it.

All in all, I had a great time. I always do! There is just something awesome about being with a couple of thousand people who do what you do! The Texas Chapter did a great job as hosts and we all appreciate it. Already looking forward to next year in Denver!

Report from the International Massage Therapy Research Conference

This past week I was blessed to attend the International Massage Therapy Research Conference. This event is only held every three years and it was my first time attending. It was held at the Seaport in Boston, a beautiful hotel right on the harbor and right across the street from the World Trade Center, in a great part of town. We enjoyed excellent service from the staff there, so kudos to them.

I arrived on Wednesday in time to view the DVD showing of the International Fascia Research Conference from Vancouver. The presentations from that conference were fascinating, and that event will be the next thing on my wish list. Nothing is better at a movie than popcorn and Milk Duds, which were provided…some of the science presented was above my head, but hey–I went there to learn!

The Conference officially kicked off on Thursday morning with Massage Therapy Foundation President Ruth Werner making some opening remarks, followed by a beautiful blessing from three Native American ladies who were present. Dr. Jeanette Ezzo was the opening keynote speaker. Her topic was “Mechanisms and Beyond: What is Needed to Prove the Effectiveness of Massage?” I must confess I was taken aback at one of her early comments regarding acupuncture. She stated that although there was no scientific proof the meridians exist, that “the efficacy of it gets us off the hook.” I was rather surprised to hear that at a research conference where the focus was on scientific evidence. There was also a poster display, including one entitled “Is There a Place for Energy Work for Children Living With Autism?” It’s just my personal opinion that it was out of place there. That was my only complaint about the entire experience.

On Thursday I also attended a presentation on “Massage Therapy for Specific Conditions,” where four different researchers presented their studies on tension headaches, osteoarthritis in the knee, vascular function, and chronic pain in opiate-addicted patients.

Thursday afternoon I attended the newcomer’s luncheon, where Jerrilyn Cambron, Ruth Werner, and Allissa Haines all gave short talks to those in attendance. Thursday night I attended the welcome reception and met up with a lot of friends.

Friday morning I met with my representatives from Lippincott Williams and Wilkins and then listened to the keynote speech from Leslie Corn, “Somatic Emphathy: Restoring Community Health With Massage,” followed by a panel presentation on “Massage in the Community; Informing Public Health.” That afternoon. I attended a workshop in “Best Practices Guidelines: Building the Framework,” presented by Michael Hamm, Keith Eric Grant, and John Balletto–all previously known to me as Facebook friends–so I was glad to meet them all in person and participate in their class.

Saturday I attended Dr. Janet Kahn’s keynote speech, “Massage in 21st Century Healthcare: Let’s Seize the Moment.” Dr. Kahn’s presentation was probably the most informative and eye-opening moment for me, personally, about the state of health care in general in the US. Let’s just say it is not a pretty picture! As Dr. Kahn pointed out, there is a trend among our politicians to act as if the US has the best health care in the world, but the statistics really show the contrary.

That was followed with a panel presentation on “Next Steps in Massage Therapy Research” moderated by Bodhi Haraldsson, Research Department Director at the Massage Therapist’s Association of British Columbia. I’m telling you now, I could nearly cry when I see how much is done in Canada to advance massage therapy research compared to what is done here. We look disgraceful in comparison. Research literacy is required of every student in every school. $100 of each therapist’s registration fee is used to fund massage therapy research.

Saturday afternoon’s final event was a workshop, “Massage Therapy Research Agenda Planning,” where the approximately 250 attendees split into small groups to brainstorm recommendations for future massage therapy research.

During the whole event I got to visit with so many people, both longtime friends and people I  had only previously met through social media. I shared breakfast one morning with Keith Eric Grant, who was blogging about massage long before I started. I had lunch one day with Lisa Mertz from New York, whom I had previously met in person at the World Massage Festival. Saturday night I had dinner with Ben McDonald and Cliff Martin, owners of Massamio, that I had previously met at another conference.

All in all, it was just a wonderful event. My only regret is that I couldn’t attend every single presentation; some of them overlapped and there was just no way to be in two places at once. Thanks must be given to AMTA as the major sponsor of this event. Other sponsors included Books of Discovery, ABMP, the MA Chapter of AMTA, Anatomy Trains, and Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. The staff of the Massage Therapy Foundation and numerous volunteers kept things running smoothly. A round of applause to them all.

That being said, I feel compelled to go on a rant before I close out this blog. If you are an educator and/or a school owner, you owe it to your students to see to it that they are research literate. I believe there is a serious lack of any knowledge of research literacy in this profession. I am not asking schools to turn out researchers…I AM asking that the basics of research literacy are included in your curriculum, so that your students at least know the difference in what is valid research and what is website hype, one of the numerous myths of massage, or claptrap from a magazine. There is just no excuse for not doing it.

This event only takes place every three years, and the location of the next one has not yet been decided. I don’t care if it’s held on the moon; I will plan to be there.

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.

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.

The Leaders of the Massage Profession

Last week, the leaders of all the major organizations representing the massage therapy profession came together in St. Louis for a Massage Therapy Leadership Summit.

The Leaders of the Massage Profession

The Leaders of the Massage ProfessionMassage Therapy Leadership Summit meeting. The executive directors, CEOs, and board chairs of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA), the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork were all in attendance.

I have personally prayed for this to happen for a long time, and was thrilled that it took place. Rick Rosen, Executive Director of the AFMTE, shared this photo on my Facebook page. I of course spread it through my networks, and it prompted a question from Julie Onofrio: “Are these people massage therapists, and have they ever been in practice?” I’ll try to answer that to the best of my ability. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all these folks, and I know some of them better than others. In the event I get any of the facts wrong here, I’m sure someone can straighten me out!

I will say up front that as for the most part these are organizations that have many members, huge budgets, and myriad issues and details to take care of, I don’t believe that being a massage therapist is a prerequisite for being a CEO or an ED. That is a position that generally requires a college education, and enough expertise to run a multi-million dollar concern. The AFMTE is only two years old–they don’t quite fall into that category yet, but they will someday. Leadership of such an organization doesn’t necessarily require one to be a massage therapist, although it would certainly require an interest in massage. Here’s my scoop on the leaders:

Rick Rosen, the founder and Executive Director of the AFMTE is indeed a licensed massage therapist. In fact, he is the proud owner of the first massage therapy license issued in the state of North Carolina. He is the co-founder, along with his wife Carey Smith, of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC, which they started in 1983. It is one of only two COMTA-approved schools in the state. He was the founding chairman and a past member of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and was the first Executive Director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, a national organization for massage schools, teachers and continuing education providers. Rick is a 2010 inductee into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, and was named as one of the Top 10 People in Integrative Medicine/Integrative Health Care in 2010. He also has a degree in advertising from the University of Florida, a master’s in humanistic psychology from West Georgia College, is certified by the Hakomi Institute body-centered psychology, is certified in structural integration, and is a graduate of the Florida School of Massage.

Pete Whitridge, the President of the AFMTE, has been a massage therapist since 1987 and has been an instructor at the Florida School of Massage since 1989. He has served AMTA on the Council of Schools, served 5 years on the Florida Board of Massage including being the Chair, served COMTA as a reviewer, has also served on the faculty of the Spacecoast Health Institute for 14 years, and Indian River Community College for 7 years. He is also on the Education Committee of the Massage Therapy Foundation. Pete also has a BA in History and Political Science.

Shelly Johnson, Executive Director of AMTA, served as the Deputy Director for 8 years before being named ED in 2010 after the departure of Elizabeth Lucas. Shelly is not a massage therapist, but she has worked with associations for 22 years, including the American Society for Quality. She also was previously Executive Director for the American Society of Neuroscience Nurses, the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing, the Neuroscience Nursing Foundation and the American Society for Healthcare Materials Management of the American Hospital Association. Johnson has a BA in Political Science and Communication from Augsburg College.

Glenath Moyle, President of AMTA, gets the longevity award in this crowd! Glenath has been doing massage for more than 50 years. In her first career, she was a geriatric nurse, and massaging patients was a regular part of her routine. She attended massage school in Portland OR and started practicing in earnest in 1987. Prior to becoming the President of the national organization, Moyle was a tireless volunteer in her state chapter. Needless to say, she’s very excited that the national convention is coming to her hometown this year.

Bob Benson, the Chair of ABMP, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Prior to coming to ABMP, Benson worked in public policy in Washington, DC, and spent 19 years as President of two public companies. The membership of ABMP has grown by more than 10 times over since Benson came on the scene. He was the catalyst for the creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, notably funding that organization to get it off the ground, and he worked for nine years to get statewide regulation in California, where he now serves on the board of the California Massage Therapy Council.

Les is More! Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, joined the organization in 1994 after learning about association management at the Club Managers Association of America. He served as VP from 1999-2006. Sweeney has an MBA from the University of Colorado. In 2006, Les decided to step up to the plate and get an education in massage! He graduated from the Holistic Learning Center in Evergreen and became Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage. Les has expressed to me personally that he just wanted to know more about massage and get the “real feel” for what ABMP members do. Good for him for taking the plunge and investing in that.

Kate Zulaski is the Executive Director of COMTA. She has a BA in Geology, and attended the Institute for Psycho-Structural Balancing in CA, and went on to become the Dean of Education at the school before joining COMTA in 2009.

Kate has in-depth experience both as a massage therapy practitioner as well as an educator, having most recently served as Dean of Education from 2006 to 2009 for the International Professional School of Bodywork (IPSB) in San Diego, California. Prior to being named Dean of Education, Zulaski also served as an IPSB Massage Instructor and Clinic Supervisor.  Zulaski has also studied a variety of bodywork modalities through the California Naturopathic College; Society of Ortho-Bionomy International; the Natural Healing Institute; and the International Professional School of Bodywork. She has been active in volunteer work for the AMTA Teacher of the Year Awards Committee and the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education Standards Committee, and is a long-time member of the ABMP.

Randy Swenson, a COMTA Commissioner who was also present, is a chiropractor. Dr. Swenson is currently a tenured professor and Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). He developed the Massage Therapy Program in 1999 and continues to manage the day-to-day operations of the program. He is also responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree completion and professional pre-requisite programs. He was previously the Academic Dean and the Dean of Curriculum Development for the chiropractic program at NUHS. He holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from NUHS and a Master of Health Professions Education from the Department of Medical Education of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has led NUHS Steering Committees for Higher Learning Commission Self-Study Reports (SSR) and Commission on Chiropractic Education SSR’s. He has led and written COMTA SSR’s for the NUHS massage program. Dr. Swenson has been a site-team member, site-team leader and off-site peer reviewer with COMTA since 2006.

Ruth Werner, fearless leader of the Massage Therapy Foundation, is the author of the Guide to Pathology for Massage Therapists and the Disease Handbook for Massage Therapists, both published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Werner is a graduate of the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle in 1985, and completed the Advanced Training Program and Teacher Training Program with the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge, MA in 1991. I’ve attended a couple of classes (a definite privilege!) taught by Ruth, where she honestly shared with the class that she feels her real talent is sharing research about massage rather than actually doing massage. We’d all be a lot worse off if that wasn’t so. Her pathology book has been my go-to source from the moment I entered massage school. She has taught curriculum at 4 massage schools and continuing education classes all over the world.

Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, has a PhD in human services from Kansas State University. Dr. Persinger, a native of New Zealand, joined the National Certifying Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in 1996. Before accepting the position of interim CEO, she served as the commission’s executive director of operations, and was originally hired to be its director of examination development. Persinger is also co-author of Sand to Sky: Conversations with Teachers of Asian Medicine (iUniverse, 2008).

Paul Lindamood, current CEO of the NCBTMB, has more than 20 years of executive-level experience. Lindamood has devoted his career to positioning, directing and promoting associations, professional firms, healthcare organizations, businesses and non-profits. In fact, it was in this capacity that he first began working with NCBTMB, directing the organization’s communications, public relations, media and re-branding strategies. He has worked with a wide-range of healthcare and non-profit organizations and led successful branding, fundraising, recruitment and consumer awareness initiatives for American Red Cross, United Way, International Association of Business Communicators, Jobs for Graduates, Leukemia Society of America, March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, City of Hope, Hospice, Junior Achievement, Small Business Administration, and many others.

Alexa Zaledonis, Chair of the NCBTMB, is the owner/operator of Even Keel Wellness Spa, a therapeutic massage and skin care center in Annapolis, Maryland. A graduate of the Baltimore School of Massage, she passed the NCE in 2002 and has spent the past seven years building her practice in the community.  Zaledonis is a certified Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength Professionals Association. Zaledonis currently is completing her Yoga Teacher Training (RYT200). She also teaches Thai Massage seminars at Even Keel Institute for Continuing Education and is an NCBTMB-approved provider.

A former Certified Public Accountant, Zaledonis specialized in healthcare and nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. I spoke to Zaledonis earlier today, and she told me that in addition to working 40 hours a week on behalf of the NCBTMB, she also personally does an average of 17 massages a week. A fellow workaholic!

Well, folks, there you have it. So yes, many of these folks do have actual massage experience. And those that don’t have been around this business long enough to appreciate those of us who do. They have all, in my opinion, served the massage profession with the best of intentions and keeping their eyes on the fact that it is the massage therapists in the trenches that they are working for. May they all enjoy peace and prosperity.

The World Massage Festival: A Great Time!

Champ and I got home from the World Massage Festival this morning, and while I’m tired, I must say it’s that good, satisfying kind of tired, the kind you feel when you’ve really had a great time. We certainly did!

This year’s Festival was held on the beautiful campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, and as usual, it was like a family reunion! We got there on Wednesday, in time for me to take Ruth Werner‘s class on Teaching Research Literacy. That night, about 20 or so of us who were helping with the Festival went out to dinner together. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to Champ (his 59th). We sat around for a couple of hours just catching up.

Thursday, I spent the day helping with registrations while Champ helped people set up in the vendor hall. There were about 80+ vendors present and by the end of the weekend, quite a few of them had sold all their product and signed on for next year in Las Vegas. Lots of goodies were given away…and I even got some extras. AMTA National VP Nancy Porambo won a diamond charm bracelet and she gifted it to me (thank you, Nancy!). Champ is famous for winning raffles and he won a nice set of essential oils. Lynda Solien-Wolfe was there representing Performance Health/Biofreeze and she was giving away the goods everywhere! I love that company and all their products…I’ve been selling Biofreeze since day 1 at my office and it’s a best-seller.

Thursday night there was an awards ceremony. I was not expecting to get an award, and I was really worn out from working registration all day and I almost didn’t go. I’m glad I dragged myself there, because I received the Government Relations award. Of all the kudos I’ve ever gotten in my life, I have to say that one pleases me the most. I would have dressed up for the occasion if I had known I was going to have to go on stage, and I was slightly embarrassed to be getting an award in a pair of jeans and t-shirt…but hey, it was a special t-shirt that Cindy Michaels embroidered just for me! ABMP was recognized as the Association of the Year for the third year in a row. Ryan Hoyme, Pat Donahue, Darcy Neibur, Mike Hinkle Jr, and Vivian Madison-Mahoney and her husband John were also honored, and Ruth accepted an award for the Massage Therapy Foundation. I’m probably forgetting someone! Mike Hinkle and James Waslaski handed out the awards.

Friday morning I taught a class in Using Research to Market Your Massage Therapy Practice. Friday night, the amazing Lori Stegner entertained a big crowd, first as Patsy Cline and then as Tina Turner. I roped my favorite and very talented cousin Todd Rollins into playing a set with me in between Lori’s performances and then after the show, we led a jam session. Ruth Werner started things off by singing some Beatles’ tunes. Ralph Stephens had his washboard so we played a few bluegrass songs, too. Several other attendees got up and sang…kind of a live karaoke! We had a blast.

I spent Saturday in the vendor hall visiting with all kinds of people and doing massage in the Sweet Serenity booth. Sweet Serenity is a project started by Darcy Neibur to raise money for charity. The proceeds from this event went to the Shriner’s Burn Center and we raised $800. I not only gave, I received, and I got a great reflexology session from Travis Alligood. He saved the day for me.

Saturday night, I was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame along with my fellow North Carolinian Gloria Coppola, Leslie Young Giase, Editor of Massage & Bodywork Magazine, Richard Rossiter, Joseph Goldman, David Lauterstein, Michael McGillicuddy, and other hard-working souls. The ceremony was opened with a beautiful prayer from Medicine Woman Jenny Ray. Champ and I hung out with Jenny and her teaching partner Janelle Lakman every evening when we got back to the residence hall…we probably kept the whole place up with our story-telling and laughing.

Sunday was not only the high point of the Festival for me, I would have to say it was one of the high points of my entire massage career. I took a class in Thai on the Table from Mukti Michael Buck. It was the best hands-on class I have ever attended, and I have attended hundreds of hours of continuing education. Mukti is undoubtedly the most charismatic teacher on the planet. The bodywork was sensational. The whole class was in such a state of gratitude at the end of it, we were one big melting pot of thankfulness and grace. I would recommend it to anyone.

Sunday night, we wrapped up with a Facebook Friends party at O’Malley’s, an Irish pub (my kind of place, you know!) It was very well attended and we had a great time visiting with old friends, making new ones, and meeting FB friends in person for the first time.

The staff at WCU bent over backwards for us. The campus is gorgeous, the food in the cafeteria was good, the residence hall we stayed in was top-notch, and the staff and students were all as friendly as they could be. True Southern hospitality.

The Massage Therapy Alliance of America also seated its first Board of Directors. Pat Donahue is at the helm as President and her husband, Joe Ferguson, is 1st VP. Pat and Joe each have more than 40 years of experience in the massage profession. I’m excited to see them there! Tina Rivera is the 2nd VP. Darcy Neibur is the Treasurer; Leslie Lopez is the Secretary, and the Members at Large are Lynn Shell and Carrie Thompson. Thanks to all for serving.

Throughout the week, I saw so many friends it was like old home week…I wish I had more time that I could have visited with them all. I did get a few minutes to speak with the crew from the NCBTMB, the FSMTB, our state chapter of AMTA, and so many more. M.K. Brennan was there from the American Polarity Therapy Association. There were so many of my favorite folks in attendance…Michael McGillicuddy, the Massage Nerd, Sharon Puszko…I just couldn’t get around to everybody!

Mike and Cindy Hinkle are to be commended for all their hard work…Mike gets the big ideas and Cindy pulls it together. He knows what a jewel she is! We were joking last night at dinner and Cindy told Mike he couldn’t get any more ideas until after August…she needs a rest! It was a great time and I’m looking forward to next year in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there!

Glad Tidings for Massage Therapists from the World Massage Festival

The World Massage Festival brought glad tidings to over 50 massage therapists yesterday when founder Mike Hinkle held the drawing for the Christmas in July contest, gifting all of them with free tuition to the 2011 Festival that will be held July 14-17 in at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.  That’s what I call “community service.” The $350-value tuition covers all the classes you can pack in over the course of the three days. The plan was to have a winner chosen from every state in the union, all the Canadian provinces, DC and the American territories; only 5 states didn’t have anyone enter the contest. There was also an international winner chosen, who was from Poland, and two winners chosen from Canadian provinces (the others didn’t have any entrants).

Mike Hinkle has one mission: to help as many massage therapists and industry supporters as he can. Recognizing that people want great continuing education at an affordable price, he started the World Massage Festival in 2006 as an alternative national event.  The WMF is not associated with any of the national organizations–who are ALL welcome to be there. Politics are not a part of the Festival; vendors are not excluded based on which organization competes with another and that kind of thing. All who wish to sponsor an event or have a vendor exhibit are welcomed with open arms. The Festival still needs sponsors for 2011, and I in particular urge those who have been turned down at other places due to politics to get on board.

There’s a vendor exhibit hall that anyone can enter at no charge, including members of the public who’d just like to know more about massage; there’s some very exciting live entertainment happening (I get to be the emcee), and the lineup of classes and instructors is nothing short of downright impressive. The 2011 theme of the conference is “Research and Education is Our Future.”  Over 40 instructors, including Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Nancy Porambo, AMTA National Vice-President; Dr. Ben Benjamin, and so many more will be presenting more than 285 hours of CE classes.

I cracked Mike up last year when I started touting the Festival as the “Woodstock of massage gatherings.” I called it that because it’s three days of peace and harmony…a big family reunion. I ran into so many friends at last year’s event in Berea, I couldn’t even spend time with them all. There was picking and grinning going on, too, as well as a number of free student events, social gatherings, and just a general good time. The Massage Nerd was there making free videos for anyone who wanted one. You couldn’t beat the whole thing with a stick.

Leave your coats and ties at home, and you don’t have to bring a pile of money. Accommodations and meals are available as low as $60 per day for those who wish to purchase a package. WCU has beautiful dorm rooms and a cafeteria that rivals most chain buffet restaurants, including vegetarian options. There are also a number of other food outlets and a convenience store on-campus. Transportation to and from the airport is available, and so is ride sharing and opportunities for room sharing to keep the cost as low as possible.

I’d really like to applaud the organizers for their generous gift. They don’t have a membership organization, they don’t collect dues or anything of that nature that would subsidize such a selfless act. Mike and Cindy’s generosity in giving this gift represents a personal cost to them of close to $20,000. A lot of this campaign was conducted over Facebook, and I noticed the comments immediately start rolling in from winning therapists as soon as they were announced.  People are so excited, and I’m excited for them. Merry Christmas to the winners, to the Hinkles, and to all of you. I hope to see everyone in Cullowhee.

The Financial Health of Our Organizations: AMTA

This marks the second year I have reported on the financial health of the non-profit organizations that represent the massage profession. I am not an accountant or a financial expert. The information reported here comes directly from Form 990 as filed with the IRS; non-profits are obligated to make their tax reports public knowledge, and these can be easily accessed on Guidestar.

Last year I reported that the American Massage Therapy Association had taken a hard hit from the recession. The AMTA has gone through some major changes this year, not the least of which was the sudden departure of Elizabeth Lucas, the former Executive Director. Lucas’ compensation accounts for a big chunk of change on the filing, $279,438 to be exact, almost $6000 less than last year. Shelly Johnson, the former Assistant Executive Director who is currently Interim Executive Director, actually received $14,000 more in 2009 than she did the previous year. I personally support Shelly for moving permanently into Lucas’ vacated position; I do have to say, however, that I thought Lucas was overcompensated and I hope that the next ED, whomever it is, will not be getting more money than the governor of most states, which was formerly the situation. Compensation overall increased by $144,004. Since the membership dues collected went down by over $150,000, and the total revenues have declined by $459,000 since the previous year, I have to wonder why we’re paying out more money to provide services for less people.

The balance sheet shows accounts payable of almost $3.5 million and accounts receivable of only $241K.

AMTA spent $40K less on lobbyists during the 2009 fiscal year than 2008. I’m not sure that’s a good move, unless the organization is sending out board members in place of the lobbyists. When it comes to protecting the legal rights of massage therapists and putting a stop to detrimental legislation, I think that’s one of the obligations of this organization to the stakeholders. I’d rather see the lobbyists paid and that money cut somewhere else.

Travel expenses were cut again this year by about 15K, but office expenses rose by more than twice that amount. In fairness, total functional expenses decreased by $568K, so they’re saving money somewhere. Total net assets declined; total liabilities increased, which is still a move in the wrong direction.  Grants and assistance to organizations declined by over $265,000. The main beneficiary of that money has in the past been the Massage Therapy Foundation; hence Ruth Werner’s presentation at the open BOD meeting in Minneapolis about the necessity of seeking other partners to support the Foundation sounds all the more like a good plan to me.

AMTA is certainly not alone in being fiscally challenged by the economy. In the coming weeks I will be reporting on financial status of the other non-profit organizations. I need to say that I am a card-carrying member of AMTA, and reporting on their finances is obligatory to me as one who tries to keep up with what’s going on in the world of massage and keep my readers informed. I report the news, whether it’s good or bad, and that doesn’t always suit everybody all of the time. I don’t apologize for it.

The 3 R’s: Research, Regulation, and Raising Standards

Yesterday, I had shared on my FB a post from Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation, entitled “Who Needs Research Literacy?. I commented on that that all massage schools need to ramp it up and start including research literacy as part of their core curriculum.

That garnered a comment from a fellow massage therapist that schools wouldn’t start teaching it unless there was a regulatory requirement that they do. I hope that isn’t true.

I think the MTF has been doing a great job of spreading the word in the massage community. And there are so many industry supporters as well. The MTF transcends politics, as I have said before. The AMTA, ABMP, and NCBTMB all contribute. Massage Warehouse, Massage Envy, Biofreeze, and others have done a lot to raise money and raise awareness. I blab about it a lot myself on my blog and to my networks.

Research literacy does not imply that we expect massage schools to start teaching advanced statistics or turn out the next Tiffany Field. According to Ruth’s post, research literacy means being able to:

1. Find a pertinent article

2. Read and understand it

3. Critically evaluate its credibility

4. Apply findings to practice

5. And if you’re really paying attention, come up with some more questions to ask about it…

Why would any school wait for regulation to force the issue of raising standards, in the interest of improving the education of students, which in this case could potentially have such effects as raising the credibility and profile of massage therapy in general, not to mention giving their therapists a leg up in their career? Physicians are impressed by research. Research benefits clients; any time a therapist has more knowledge of a condition they’re presented with, that applies directly to their practice in the planning of treatment and client education.

Research literacy can increase the marketability and prosperity of the massage therapist. I’ve been offering a CE class in “Using Research to Market Your Massage Therapy Practice” recently, and the prevailing comment from students is “I never thought about using research until now.” My class surveys show that hardly anyone attending my classes had been introduced to research literacy in massage school.

My colleague said verbal admonitions and challenges wouldn’t spur schools to pick up the cause of teaching research literacy, and I hope to prove him wrong. I urge you right now, if you’re a school owner or director, to start including it in your program, and don’t wait for regulation that may never come. It isn’t about regulation; it is about you voluntarily raising the standards in your corner of the world.

The Massage Therapy Foundation has help available. If you are with a school and you’re interested in the Teaching Research Literacy program, click here: http://www.massagetherapyfoundation.org/teach.html

Report from AMTA National Convention

I attended the AMTA National Convention in Minneapolis this week and had a great time, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and running all over the place. Minneapolis is a beautiful city; very clean and I felt safe on the street at night, and the people were very hospitable. Here are some of the high points:

Tuesday I attended the Board of Directors meeting. It was business as usual, until Ruth Werner took her place at the table to talk about the Massage Therapy Foundation. Since I’m known for being plain-spoken myself, I appreciate it whenever anyone lays it on the line, and that’s exactly what Ruth did. She stated that while the AMTA and the MTF are bound together in perpetuity, that in order to survive and thrive, the Foundation must seek additional partners for support. She also said that the rumblings about the MTF being ungrateful to AMTA are entirely false, and I agree. AMTA may be the biggest donor to the MTF (this year the donation exceed $500,000), but they’re not the only ones, and we need to be thankful to ABMP, the NCBTMB, Massage Warehouse, and all the other entities and individuals that step up to the plate. I’ve said before that the MTF transcends politics, and it certainly ought to. I personally think it’s the safest and best strategy to have many smaller donors; if there’s only one big one, and finances don’t allow for the usual donation, it could really hurt the Foundation. My own words–not Ruth’s–all the whiny people need to shut up, and that goes double if you’re not putting your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday night I attended the annual Lippincott author’s dinner. It was hosted by Kelley Squazzo, Shauna Kelly, and Linda Francis, my editor whom I hold in high regard. Present were Ralph Stephens, Pat Archer, Ruth Werner, Mary Beth Braun, Diana Thompson, Tracy Walton, Leslie Young Giase, Carole Osborne, and Les Sweeney. I hope I didn’t miss anybody. I’m always a little star-struck and very grateful to be a member of such an illustrious group of people. Lippincott has so many talented massage therapists in their stable of authors. These aren’t just people who decided to write a book. They are working massage therapists and educators and the cream of the crop. The restaurant, 112 Eatery, had an eclectic menu including house-made charcuterie. Leslie asked the waiter to describe the gruyere et mortadella sandwich, to which he replied “cheese and baloney.” HA! You can dress up anything if you list it in a foreign language. It was all good.

President Kathleen Miller-Read gave an opening speech about balance, the theme of this year’s meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was Dr. Loyd Frank Jarrell, a chiropractor, who carried on with the theme. While Jarrell didn’t say anything offensive, he was not what I would call a dynamic speaker, and I personally would have preferred to see a massage therapist doing the keynote speech. Some of our past keynote presenters have rocked the auditorium–Judith Aston comes to mind–and Jarrell was more of a big yawn. I also heard a little sniping about Miller-Read giving the President’s Award to her sister, Maureen Moon. To that I can just say boo-hoo; the President has the right to give it to anyone she chooses, and like Miller-Read, Moon has had almost 30 years of service to AMTA.

I attended a great class from the Research Track, Steps Toward Massage Therapy Guidelines: A First Report to the Profession. While it was a good class and well-presented, I personally signed up for it because Ravensara Travillian was listed as one of the teachers, and she wasn’t there. She was probably out digging up some invertebrates or something of that nature–she’s a very busy and multi-talented woman–but I was still disappointed that the class didn’t include her.

I also attended the COMTA training session for peer evaluators. Some of you may recall that I had a little snarkfest with COMTA earlier this year on my blog, and Kate Henrouille, the Executive Director, had personally invited me to attend the COMTA meeting, so I did. It was a good session and I’m glad I went.

The convention was Party Central this year, too. I attended the President’s Reception with Sally and Ed Hacking. Sally is the undisputed Queen of Government Relations in this profession and currently works with the FSMTB. I’m hoping for some of her knowledge to rub off on me.

I went to several chapter socials, but one of the biggest bangs was the Facebook Friends gathering at Brit’s Pub Thursday night. About 300 of us converged on the Pub and I don’t think they believed the organizers who had warned them that a big crowd was going to show up. The place was packed and I stood at the bar about 15 minutes waiting for a beer. It was a blast.

Friday night, I attended the Massage Envy party, the Massage Therapy Foundation reception, and the Massage Today party. All three were great fun. The highlight was Angie Patrick receiving the Bob and Kathy King Humanitarian Award at the Foundation event. Angie works tirelessly for this profession and it’s great that she was recognized for it.

I didn’t get the count on how many therapists attended this year. I think the economy probably kept it from being as well-attended as last year’s meeting. There were also less exhibitors in the vendor hall. Notably absent was the NCBTMB and the AFMTE. AMTA made the decision to deny both of those organizations a booth, which I personally think was a very poor choice and one that I hope is rescinded by next year’s meeting. I have stated that on this blog and I also wrote a letter of complaint about it to the recently-departed Executive Director, Liz Lucas, just before she left the organization a mere three weeks before the convention. Lucas’ service to AMTA was mentioned by Miller-Read during her opening speech, and also by acting Interim Director, Shelly Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, I had several opportunities to talk to her this week, and I have decided to throw my support to her for the Executive Director position. No word yet on who else is in the running, but that’s irrelevant to me. Johnson has years of experience as the deputy in that position, and I think she deserves her shot. I hope the BOD will give it to her.

I also attended the Teacher’s Networking Luncheon on Friday and witnessed Melissa Wheeler being honored as the Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year. I later had the opportunity to speak with her. She was a good choice for the honor.

As is usually the case when I go to National, the high point for me was connecting with people. I was glad to see so many friends there, including a lot of our NC Posse, meet a lot of my FB friends and blog supporters in person, and as always, there’s something magical and awesome about being with over a thousand people who do what we do. Next year’s meeting will be in Portland, OR. I hope to see you there!

You can see all the pictures I took at the meeting here.