There’s a survey currently online at the US website www.massagetoday.com asking people to vote for what they feel is the most important issue facing the massage therapy profession in 2012. There are four possible issues to vote on (the %s are of the current votes at the time of writing):
1. Improved educational standards (18%)
2. Published research validating the effectiveness of massage (26%)
3. Acceptance by the medical community (38%)
4. Other (18%)
This is a fairly good summary of the issues that are likely to be important to massage therapy professionals in the UK in 2012. Leaving ‘other’ aside for the moment, the first three are interrelated.
Great work on educational standards is being done at an individual level. For example, the Jing Institute in Brighton now runs the first accredited degree-level advanced massage training diploma in the UK. But work to improve educational standards at a more general level appears to have been hampered by poor coordination between the various self-appointed representative bodies to which massage therapists may choose to belong. Some progress has been made by the General Council for Massage Therapies to set a basic core curriculum for bodywork training, but what continues to disappoint is the lack of recognition for advanced massage therapists with a demonstrable record of high-level knowledge and training well above minimum standards.
Without improved educational standards, and better links with academic and research organisations facilitated by our representative bodies, it seems unlikely that individual massage therapists will themselves be able to fund the type of research necessary to ‘validate’ the effectiveness of massage therapy, however willing they may be to cooperate with that research. In my role as an educator, I spend a lot of time talking to massage therapists who are more than willing to participate in research. This willingness is only partly motivated by the expectation that properly framed research will ‘prove’ what massage therapists and their clients have known for years about the effectiveness of their methods. There is also a genuine desire among massage therapy professionals to participate in any research that improves standards and outcomes for clients – and to be part of a wider and expanding debate about healthcare and wellbeing.
Greater acceptance by the medical community would almost inevitably follow from improved educational standards and proper research. The medical community is trained to respond to scientific ‘results’. But there is also a question of attitude here. And attitudes are already changing. More and more GP practices, NHS clinics and private healthcare providers are offering some form of complementary therapy to their patients as they have seen the improvement to patient health in those patients who have independently sought out complementary therapies.
So, now the ‘other’ issues for 2012? Private health insurance schemes that allow customers to choose complementary therapies? More massage therapists holding their representative bodies to account by asking them hard questions about what they are actually doing to raise the standing of the massage therapy profession? Your comment here?