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:

8 Replies to “The 3 R’s: Research, Regulation, and Raising Standards”

  1. Thank you Laura, you are an amazing advocate for our profession! The biggest obstacle I to getting basic research literacy incorporated into core curriculum is a perceived language barrier. Once the vocabulary is addressed, much of the rest of the content is easier to follow. I hope all our readers, especially those who work with schools, will pick up this challenge to raise the bar for all our colleagues!

  2. Laura, great article! Research can seem like it is difficult to learn and grasp, but really, it is no more difficult than learning A&P. And Ruth, to respond to those who perceive a language barrier, I’m pretty sure that any massage student who can learn all the bones and muscles in the body, not to mention medical terminology we may work with, can certainly learn most if not all of the main research terms and concepts 🙂 Not a good enough excuse for me! Thank you Laura (and Ruth!!) and everyone else promoting research/research literacy!

  3. I work at a community college in their Massage therapy program, and unfortunately I know my school will have to be required before they will offer training in research literacy. I get very frustrated in my position because our program gets little support and barely survives from year to year. As a massage therapist with a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, I truly understand the importance of research and being able to apply it in a practical manner. I have pushed for a lot of changes in our program, but have yet to get anywhere. Please keep encouraging and advocating though…it helps me and many others I’m sure.

  4. Research literacy is the foundation of advanced education in any field. Students come out of high school with this ability, it is our teachers who need to know this information. This is a COMTA accreditation standard and it helped my school and faculty get on the bandwagon. I have graduates who have received community service grants and presented posters at AMTA National! It is fun to know more about manual therapies. I’ve attended all of the recent conferences and congresses and love how the information has helped me in my practice and as a teacher. I think critical thinking, being able to be a discerning reader, and understanding bias are aspects of learning at a higher level.
    Most massage therapists don’t have to do the research. They need to be able to read about it and apply that information in your private practice. In the future as they get a handle on the process of research methods THEN therapists can create a study that is interesting to them.

    Pete Whitridge-Faculty Florida School of Massage

  5. At our school in the Pacific Northwest, even in our 750-hour program, we offer research literacy. In that case, after several lectures, we send students to find a peer-reviewed article and critique it. In our 1,000-hour program, students write their own case study. We’d not remove such training for all the world.

    I’m the Librarian for the school, and I’ve taken great pains to dramatically increase our resources, and have developed tools to drive students along an ‘easier’ path to research literacy. There are many ways in which literacy of this kind can help the client, and a specific incident I talk to students about all the time is a graduate whose employer refused all potential clients living with cancer (past or present). He used the Library, used his training from the program, and now that employer has a procedure to help clients where appropriate.

    It’s all about the client safe and sound under the sheets being helped in whatever ways a Massage Therapist can.

  6. Laura,

    I am fast becoming a huge fan of yours! I do agree that massage schools should, at the very least, provide and require a basic research literacy course as part of a massage therapy curriculum for the many reasons you cited. If some school administrators disagree, then there is a huge advantage to other schools to set themselves apart and market their curriculum as being more advanced or better preparation for new massage therapists than schools that do not offer such training. Forward-thinking school administrators take note!

    In addition, if formal massage schools do not want to offer research literacy and training in their curriculums, then CE providers such as you, myself and others can step up and fill the void. As complimentary and alternative medicine modalities became more successful based on consumers clambering for alternatives to allopathic medicine, perhaps massage students and practitioners will lead the way to integrating research literacy into massage school curriculums by voting with their CE dollars.

    Keep up the good work, great blog posts and CE classes!


Comments are closed.