Rethinking Massage Therapy School for the 21st Century
What They Don’t Have Time To Teach In Massage Therapy School
As a forty year professional in bodymind processes — meditative arts, postural yoga, hands-on bodywork and other whole health processes — my perception is many massage therapy school curriculums are on the wrong track.
Rather than see themselves for what they are — narrowly focused trade schools — many of them appear to be attempting to be more engaged in being seen as academics. .. Or at least moving that way. Many of the educational elite in the mass world overtly state they hope for the day massage is “recognized by the health care system,” therefor gaining benefits of being part of the medical establishment. Such benefits include prestige, insurance payments, and a higher level status in society in general.
I — David Scott Lynn — never went to massage school, even though I’ve been in professional massage / bodywork practice since 1981, and a yoga teacher since 1976. I was VERY involved in the political aspects of the massage industry in the early days of the push for licensing (late 1980s, early 1990s).
Why I decided to go to massage school at this time in my life, I discuss elsewhere. But I did. I attended a school with a reputation for being one of THE most therapeutic and cinch focused schools in the country.
What’s Missing from Modern, Medical Massage Therapy School and Bodywork Trainings?
- Integrating Philosophy Underlying Sciences, Patient Assessment & Treatment Strategies
- Consistent, In-Depth understanding of relevant Physical & Medical Sciences and how they work in the human body and therapy
- Comprehensive Assessment Processes for creating effective & efficient Strategies & Tactics
- Deep Understandings of Fundamental Processes of Clinical / Medical Massage and Myo-Structural Bodywork
- How to work with Complex Cases not fitting into the usual categories of assessment, procedures & contra-indications
A Philosophical View of What They Don’t Have Time To Teach In Massage Therapy School
Non-Integrated Education: No Underlying Philosophy
Many years ago, in a private conversation, a Naprapath* I knew quite well offered this insight:
When in Naprapathy School, students received 1.) an excellent education in basic physical medicine sciences, 2.) excellent diagnostic methods, and 3.) equally excellent treatment procedures. Yet there was presented no underlying, interconnecting philosophy integrating the three distinct courses of study and practices of therapy.
Therefore, unless a particular Client fit well into a specific, pre-established diagnostic category, the newly practicing naprapathic therapist was not equipped to produce a valid strategy for the Client. The Client then “fell through the cracks,” not receiving the best and most well-targeted care. Therapy might or might not have worked, due to some degree of lack of relevance to their exact condition.
“Modern'” Orthodox Medicine Has Same Failings
Surprisingly, the modern, orthodox medical professional (often referred to as allopathic), with the vast amount of information they must assimilate in school as it is, also runs into this philosophical problem. They learn extensive sciences, in-depth diagnostics, and precise treatment protocols; but little in the way of an underlying philosophy to connect them all, giving practitioners the tools they need to deal with those Clients or Patients whom do not fit neatly into the pre-defined diagnostic categories. Much of the dissatisfaction certain Client’s have with the medical system is due to this lack of underlying, or overarching, perspective.
Yet unique illness requires unique evaluation and treatment.
There is a book titled How Doctors Think that showed me I was not alone in this assessment of the orthodox medical profession.
In both examples above, naprapathic and allopathic medicine, the root problem is similar:
Philosophical Integration of Health Care Sciences & Practices
Insufficient common, underlying philosophy of health and healing allowing everyone, and every component, to work together in support of the Client, and that connects the sciences, diagnostics and treatment protocols (standard procedures) in giving the practitioner the tools necessary to deal with those who do not fall neatly into the predefined categories.
The above conversation with the Naprapath inspired this author (me, DSL) to approach all of his own training programs with this in mind: all of his own programs would be designed such that Students would receive, to the best of the instructor’s ability, the underlying philosophical foundations linking and coordinating the sciences, the diagnostics and the treatment systems.
Ironically, this is exactly what I encountered when I recently attended a 720 hour program with a reputation of being among THE most therapeutically focused massage therapy schools in the country. … Although I was NOT surprised at all, I was disappointed, to say the least. But agin, NOT surprised.
* Naprapath: a system of treatment by manipulation of connective tissue and adjoining structures and by dietary measures that is held to facilitate the recuperative and regenerative processes of the body.
Naprapathy is, then, quite similar to chiropractic and osteopathy. Differences in methods are more nuanced and subtle then, for example, when comparing chiropractic with orthodox, allopathic medical practices.
To be fair, however, it must be noted that (although not true for all orthodox physicians and practitioners) when it comes to actual inter-cooperation on patient care delivery, the orthodox medical system does have more of an an underlying philosophy of cooperation and full consideration for fellow practitioners. And they do, more-or-less, subscribe to a common and highly organized philosophy of medicine in general. This allows them to cooperate more closely than most wholistic practitioners are, generally speaking, at this time capable of. And, right or wrong, orthodox practitioners are more philosophically aligned that drugs, surgery, radiation and such procedures are the main features of a healing paradigm, with little real dissension on that core issue.
MORE On What They Don’t Have Time To Teach In Massage Therapy School
Minimal RELEVANT Foundations & Sciences of Therapy
It seems the massage “industry” is so intent on “fitting in” with the orthodox medical system, and pushing to become “higher education,” they get a few things somewhat, or quite, wrong.
One of these “things” I experienced in massage school (within the last two years) was a near complete lack of teaching of medical and massage sciences in ways making them directly relevant to what a massage or bodywork therapist actually does in the treatment room. This is NOT just basic massage schools, either. Advanced Training programs fail here as well.
For Example, in the 1990s, I was traveling a lot to various cities teaching the DSL Method, now known as DSL Edgework, to mostly neuromuscular (NMT) therapists. NMT made a pretty big deal of being “science-based.” They had taken, almost word-for-word, the information from Dr. Raymond Nimmo’s system called Receptor / Tonus Technique. Dr.s Nimmo and James Vannerson (both chiropractors) invested quite a bit of time in developing the scientific foundations and explanations for their soft tissue techniques (primarily focused on resolving “Trigger Points”).
Exposure To Sciences is Not Application of Sciences
So NMT trainings supposedly “taught” the basic neuromuscular sciences underlying NMT. Yet in MY classes, when I asked the students if they ever actually USED the NMT sciences in the treatment room, most of them said NO. Meaning they really had no clue on how to apply basic scientific knowledge to producing physical assessments and developing treatment strategies.
So too, in the six months I was in massage school, while they spent a LOT of time “teaching” a wide range of scientific concepts, there was VERY LITTLE in the way of explaining HOW to apply those concepts to actually practicing massage and bodywork.
I even remember attending a graduation for a class that was ahead of my class. I was quite surprised, even horrified, when I heard the Keynote Address given to the graduating class of new massage therapists by a practicing physician who also taught at the masa school.
She said to the class they would probably never “think about actin-myosin filaments again.” Well, I had recently written some articles describing how THINKING ABOUT and ACCOUNTING FOR actin-myosin filaments was a focal point of performing therapy. Or, at least, it was in the way *I* do — and teach — therapy.
In fact, one of my articles was on how the actin-myosin filaments were and are The NEXUS between various aspects of the human being and the Therapist with the Client. The focus of the article was primarily yoga therapy, but the principles are the same, and cross-apply to bodywork and massage, as well.
Anyway, we love these problems in the DSL Edgework Training & Coaching programs.
Thanks for Reading,
David Scott Lynn (DSL*)
* DSL: Your Hi-Touch Up-Link to the Inner-Net
Inner-Net: Your Psycho-Neuro-Musculo-Fascial System