Tom Hanks said it best when he played astronaut Jim Lovell in the movie Apollo 13: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Massage therapy, we have a problem.
Whether you’d like to admit it or not, we are on a critical mission: we must land our dysfunctional profession back down on earth safely (this will sound like wacky-babble unless you’ve seen Apollo 13. If you haven’t, Netflix it then come back and continue reading). Oh, where do I begin… let’s start with the pluses.
Our profession has a rich global history and an overall delightful personality. As MTs, we are a quirky, colorful bunch of folks of the loveliest manner imaginable. It takes a certain kind of being with a unique blend of compassion, artfulness, and curiosity to be able to offer this service consistently well. This is the common ground we stand on as MTs. It is the fabric of who we are. Our work lifts burdens, even if only temporarily. These are qualities we can be proud of.
Becoming a professional MT involves a great deal of introspection. Due to our curious natures, we enjoy exploring different cultures, philosophies and methodologies (this is a beautiful thing). The common ground of naturally wanting to help others is always there, but things can quickly derail as we individually explore our work, ourselves, and the dynamic interplay between the two. It is in this interplay where some lose sight of the Prime Directive (Star Trek fans, you know what I’m talkin’bout!).
A big problem occurs when the paths of our work and the path of the work we like to do on ourselves cross in a healthcare setting. Most of these things do not belong in the world of MT because they are not doing our profession any favors whatsoever. These things are holding our profession back.
No more abracadabra.
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it. Reiki and all of its similar energetic friends have gotta go from our general modalities list. It’s just not working out between us. Now, before you get your oil holster in a twist, take a breath and let me finish.
We signed up to be manual therapists and bodyworkers. This clearly entails working with our hands upon the physical bodies of others. The goal wasn’t/isn’t to use MT as a cover to work with our *not* hands upon non-physical bodies. When people make a massage appointment, it does not mean they want their aura’s fluffed- it simply means they want their physical needs attended to. *That* is what is expected. That is what we need to focus on delivering, first and foremost.
I’ve heard too many complaints about too many therapists pushing their philosophies upon others. Reiki-like modalities are akin to faith-based religions because they are not supported by rigorous research (“well, it works for me” is not an acceptable scientific explanation). It is a form of prayer, which is wonderful for those who pray, but you cannot force others to want to pray in the exact same way as you (if at all), whether you are Christian, Muslim, Pagan, atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, or a Greek mythologist. Not everyone believes in the same thing, but everyone can stand firmly on the science backing touch therapy. That’s our common ground. Like in politics, religious beliefs are best kept out of the neutral, equal-opportunity, safe space of manual therapy.
In order for massage therapy to thrive as a respected healthcare profession, we’ve got to step up our game and stick to the facts without the foo-foo. We need separation of church and state, otherwise fuggedaboudit. We’ll remain in limbo with no uniform regulation or credibility; doctors will consider us nothing more than tie-die wearing crystal slingers, instead of professionals that can be of value to their patients. There is a lot of potential for us in healthcare, but this is not how we will realize it. So let’s cut it out with the unsolicited Reiki-isms. It freaks the general public out, as it should… who knows where that crystal’s been?!
I understand the allure.
No one is saying you must completely stop doing Reiki-like things. Just stop trying to cram it down the throat chakras of people who do not want or believe in Reiki, crystals, prana, chi, whatever-you-like-to-call-it. Especially when they are in your treatment room. It’s a borderline and, at times, egregious violation of ethics. Separation of church and state is essential for our modern professional community to thrive in the realm of healthcare.
Frolicking through the ethers is activity best done on personal time along with knitting, book-clubbing, and glass blowing. I know the feeling: when I first heard of chakras, the notion I was balanced by invisible-rainbow, glowing-orbs of energy had me thrilled to no end (I mean, how cool is that). However, I also realized a line must be drawn. This thinking was to remain in the land of unicorns and wizards no matter how much I liked to visualize it. We simply cannot ethically tell someone their headaches are caused by energetic blockages due to repressed past-life emotions, because:
A) it is in no way plausibly true
B) it is not within our scope of practice to say such things
C) it sounds mega cray-cray bonkers
Believe it or not, massage therapists spout things like this all the time to clients who do not care to hear it. There is a sacred line that shouldn’t be crossed.
Be you, just don’t force you on others.
Don’t get me wrong. I like aligning my chakras as much as the next guy. I think it’s relaxing to meditate upon because I enjoy practicing visualization and it gives me a pleasant focal point with a priceless sense of well-being. But what I don’t do is tell others their chakras need alignment or anything of the sort. Because they don’t. They most likely don’t even have chakras. So let’s leave the energy orbs alone and do the work massage therapists are intended to do. I do not go to a dentist expecting to be healed from childhood trauma and that is not the general objective of a massage therapist either.
Now if someone comes to you and says “Hey, my aura has been really sore lately and I would like a past life regression. Can you help with that?”, and those are services you clearly offer, go for it! Otherwise, keep it in the personal sphere or we’ll never join the ranks of legitimate healthcare professionals. Knowhatimean?
Happy ending spoiler alert: the spacecraft in the movie and in real life was safely returned to earth without any casualties. If we all get on the same page with our core identity as manual therapists, I have faith we can do the same and resume our intended mission. Over and out.
P.S. Please enjoy this episode of Holistic E.R. (it’s a funny 🙂 )