Revolution: “A dramatic change in ideas or practice” (Encarta World English Dictionary)
The profession of massage therapy in the UK stands on the edge of a great precipice. Its future is balancing on the edge of a steep cliff, where we have the opportunity as therapists to use the power of the current strong winds of change to fill our sails and fly or we can surrender to the storm of bureaucracy and external uninformed directives that will result in the diminution of our esteemed profession.
Now is a pivotal moment and we must act!
This may sound dramatic. However, as one of the largest providers of CPD courses in the UK, we work with hundreds of UK therapists hungry for continuing education to take their skills to a higher level. By doing so we are all collectively striving to make the profession more professional, therapist by therapist.
As each therapist improves their skills, patients get better results and the knowledge of the value of the profession grows. What we all share is an innate desire and a true ability to offer a quality of health care to the public to which no other profession comes close. Without a doubt this desire to help is the common thread that unites us as bodyworkers – I love this touching story recounted by craniosacral therapist and teacher John Page who attended the memorial service of John Upledger, founder of Upledger craniosacral therapy, who died in 2012:
“In her simple testimony Lisa Upledger told us that she had more than once during John’s last months asked him to state, to define, the overarching intention or mission of his life and his work, as perhaps a message for all of us. Sitting in that room we wondered how would he, this great original thinker, encapsulate for us more than 50 years of groundbreaking course development, teaching, treatment and authorship with its legacy of literally roomfuls of catalogued articles and other research paperwork? What final guidance would he offer? Twice, Lisa told us, he would not be drawn, discouraging her from pursuing the matter. A third time, and when she reckoned would be, during his decline, possibly the last opportunity, she made the same request. Following brief and typically curmudgeonly resistance he at last made his statement: “Helping people”
Like Dr John, we all long to help but feel frustrated by the lack of respect and consideration of massage as a form of rehabilitation from injury and chronic pain. I hear these complaints again and again from passionate and skilled massage therapists:
• Massage is not recommended within the NHS
• Many of the general public are turning to osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors first for treatment of pain conditions while proficient massage therapists are being ignored
• People are spending years in chronic pain due to simple musculo skeletal conditions being treated by pharmaceuticals rather than more effective hands on work
• Massage is still viewed by many as “fluff and buff” rather than a serious therapeutic treatment
Yet all of these things can change, especially if we cast our eyes further than the narrow shores of the UK where many of us feel that massage has been unnecessarily “dumbed down” as a profession. We believe that massage therapy in the UK is fundamentally out of step with leaders in the profession worldwide and that passionate UK massage therapists should stand together to demand high standards from training providers. Too many courses set massage therapists up to fail – this is not an easy profession in which to earn a living and to do so means having a high level of skills coupled with a knowledge of business and marketing.
Massage in the UK is not unified and this is problematic. It creates a divisive group, where those who are higher educated want to distance themselves from those who are only trained at a basic level. We feel that all massage therapists should work together to protect the profession that we love.
What can we do about it? Where does the revolution begin?
We must look at ourselves and our education.
To be a successful massage therapist and raise the standards of the profession, we have to be the best practitioners we can possibly be. We have to get the best results for our patients. We have to have confidence in our approach and the uniqueness of our profession. We have to be able to speak intelligently and be informed when talking to other practitioners. Yes, we need to know anatomy inside and out. Yes, we need to know the pathology of conditions. Yes, we need to know orthopedic assessment.
Massage is very different from other bodywork professions. Our work takes into account both the psychological and the physiological. We are often dealing with chronic pain conditions that are a result of a long term combination of both emotional and physical pain. To deal with such conditions effectively demands a high level of training yet this is often hard to find in the UK where a 10-20 day qualifying level has become the norm. Although this may be a good start, this in no way equips the average massage therapist with the skills to build a rewarding and financially viable career.
In contrast if we look at ‘basic’ qualifying levels of training for therapists in the US and Canada where massage therapists have a more professional status we find a very different story:
Massage Therapist New York State legal requirement (each US state is different)1000 hours (2 years)
Massage therapist Canada Federal requirement 3000 hours (3 years)
Massage Therapists UK- mandated by individual independent professional bodies Can range between 5 to 24 days hands on training- (40 to 192 hours )
What does that mean?
Looking at the difference in both the Canadian and NY state model, it is not surprising that the profession is well respected in those sectors and those trained are well equipped to treat the myriad of complicated soft-tissue pathologies that can develop through a life time. There are of course still trainings in these countries, that one can take to massage friends and family. But there are distinct differences between those who take it up as a hobby or part-time and those who are professional therapists respected by the medical profession.
This is not the case in the UK, where the majority of those who are registered as massage therapists with professional associations are not doing this work full-time, although they might want to. And further more, the average life span of a full-time massage therapist is between 3-5 years.
If we were better educated from the start, we might be more successful in our goals. This is something to consider at this crucial time when voluntary registration is firmly on the agenda. It may now be voluntary but things will eventually change and we must be on the forefront of that change.
The above trends are for a variety of reasons. However -two seem at the very core
o ONE-after basic training, one is not equipped with skills to run a therapeutic clinic (which is what most people are willing to pay for) and
o TWO-massage therapists don’t feel they can charge enough in professional fees to make a full-time living of the profession, for instance in comparison to an Osteopath, Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor.
Part of this is what we invest our education in time and in money. Look at the comparison of other qualifying courses, which are between 3- 5 years and ours.
Subject UK £££ USA $$$ Canada $$$
Physiotherapist £28 – £36,000 $42-144,000 (£26 – 88,000) $38-78,000 (£24 – 50,000)
Osteopath £28 – £36,000 $42-144,000 (£26 – 88,000) $38-78,000 (£24 – 50,000)
Chiropractor £28 – £36,000 $42-144,000 (£26 – 88,000) $38-78,000 (£24 – 50,000)
Massage Therapists £400 – £2000 $23 – $35,000 (£13-19000) $16-25,000 (£10 – 16,000)
After such an investment, one feels entitled to charge appropriately.
If we invest in ourselves, it will be logical that we are willing to ask for others to invest in us. Not only in personal professional fees, but in research grants and educational platforms that raise standards. Unfortunately there is a basic correlation between the amount of time and money invested in a profession and results and financial return. Most successful massage therapists invest heavily in their ongoing CPD and training
What you can do
Revolution is from the inside out – individual by individual –
Invest in yourself,
Invest in your education,
Invest in your profession.
Our mandate must be to
Educate the medical establishment
Educate the public
….because everyone needs to know what massage can do.
Over a lifetime:
Yes do as many CPD courses as you can. And yes-get a degree level qualification!
You must become informed abut who is making decisions on your behalf regarding standards. You must make your voice heard. Join the CNHC, our regulatory body for the complementary therapies and let your views be known
Read, write, talk, research, blog, question- be active.
Get involved with professional associations. Get involved with the massage therapy professional community – not just in the UK but worldwide. Go and talk with other professions and talk about the power of massage. Gain knowledge about clinical research and the positive proven outcomes. We cannot blame the medical establishment, nor the public for not holding massage therapists in esteem, when we as a profession have no unified professional standards of educational excellence. If we create them now, the future will be different.
We can do this not because we want to – but we need to!
Massage means too much not to-
We need a revolution to make a true change.
This article is born out of JING Directors; Meghan S. Mari, BA, MA ,L.M.T and Rachel Fairweather, BA, AOS, L.M.T. CAM key note speech Revolutionising the future of massage therapy: Making the profession more professional on a world stage – a video of the speech can be found on their website and facebook page
To find out more, visit Jing’s website www.jingmassage.com, as well as its Twitter (https://twitter.com/JingInstitute and like us on Facebook JING Institute of Advanced Massage.
The Jing Institute offers numerous CPD courses plus a degree level BTEC Level 6 in sports and advanced clinical massage therapy – the course for those who truly want to make our profession professional on a world stage!
Rachel Fairweather and Meghan Mari May 2013