One of the leaders in massage therapy (MT) education in this country asked me something interesting the other day. I am paraphrasing here, but essentially what she asked me was whether or not I hate the MT profession.
She conceded that it is clear I love massage itself, and she is right about that. I have always loved getting massaged, and for as long as I have been an aspiring scientist I have loved thinking about what goes on in the body and mind to produce the feelings and benefits that result. But the profession, with its character and politics and history and traditions, that is another thing – do I hate that?
I suppose I cannot really fault her for wondering if I love MT but hate the profession. The truth of the matter is that I am often a vocal critic. I criticize the dismal state of the research. I complain about the near impossibility of finding a good academic position from which one could study MT despite the fact that it is an ideal tool for furthering our understanding of social dynamics, the therapeutic relationship, social psychophysiology, and other fundamental aspects of psychology. I voice frustration with a profession that cannot seem to effectively address problems that other health professions sorted out decades ago. I get frustrated with a few MT organizations that seem to do little more than sanction and promote pseudoscience just to make a buck while the advancement of legitimate MT pays the price for that. And recently I took an extended break from everything pertaining to MT research and education – I canceled a prominent conference presentation, reduced my social media exposure to zero, and told a few trusted colleagues that maybe I was done.
So I can understand if someone asks whether I hate the profession. But I want to take this opportunity to say I do not hate it. In fact I love it.
Despite the difficulties and frustrations I have encountered in trying to establish myself as a MT researcher – and they have been numerous, significant, and often unexpected – I love the MT profession and the things it has done for me. I love the open-minded, giving, independent, and helpful demeanor that so many people drawn to the profession seem to have. I love that there are people who get satisfaction from and take pride in touching other people, both literally and figuratively. I love that in many cases this community of people have been very, very good to me. And I love the potential that the profession of MT has to benefit humankind.
I am critical. And I do get frustrated. I already know that the profession has lots of things that are great, but from my perspective there is also so much more potential for growth, advancement, recognition, and for providing benefit. But I do love it, and I want to see it grow and prosper.