There are many many types of massage therapy, each with their own unique history. My list includes about 100 types but I will be revising and adding more to that. ABMP’s list of various types of massage includes 350.Many come from the same lines in history. Massage Magazine has a list of 350 but not sure if it is the same list as ABMP’s. When you start looking back, there are a few main streams of knowledge and expertise that are expanded upon and adopted as new methods. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have a thread. Chinese, Japanese have similar roots expanding into Acupressure, Shiatsu and many others. Esalen was a big part of the history of techniques, many of which draw from Freud.
When you look at the history of physical therapy, they often use the same historical events to describe their history. The same goes for Chiropractic and Osteopathic Doctors. So how do we choose a type of massage therapy to receive as a consumer, client, patient when there are so many? How will you know what is what? What about how to choose what to study as a massage therapist?
Choosing a type of massage to study
When it comes to CE and choosing a type of massage to study, the various methods help create a structure around learning what happens in the body and how to work with the body. It helps put the body into perspective and real life in a way that it can be used. The same could really be done just by studying anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology.
With so many variations to study and more coming all the time, the modality gurus have created followers who are sharing incorrect information like the idea that toxins are released, that posture matters, that cupping may or may not be based on scientific evidence, that their method is the only one that people should be studying at any one time. The massage CE system allows anything and everything just about. There is no screening of material taught or qualifications required of teachers. The NCBTMB does a bit of screening with their CE program, but not all states require NCBTMB certified classes and their methods of screening does not take out material that is not based on evidence or that is talked about in a way that does not have evidence to stand behind it.
Right now we are also in the middle of a CE Conundrum where two associations are working on CE — the NCBTMB have a CE approved program and the Federation of Massage State Boards is working on creating a CE registry and directory that would make it easier to report your CE to your state board. Neither offer a way to verify CE teachers qualifications, curriculum or methods.
MY CE/Modality Story
Back in about 1992 or so, I got an amazing, amazing massage from a friend of a friend. I got off the table saying way more than WOW! I felt so amazingly different, alive, clearheaded, vibrant and I was asking her “What did you do to me?”. Turns out she had studied with a teacher for many years in an offshoot of structural integration methods. I immediately started taking classes and studied with the same teacher for about 5 years — not just one or two weekend classes. Each year it was 10 weekends a year, with the same classes repeated. It provided such an intensive train of study and I am so grateful for it now, but I am not sure if I ever was able to give the same kind of massage the friend of a friend gave—you see it was really HER and how she applied the method, how she interacted, how she touched my body… It was the Person! not the method!
One of my early massage school teachers used to actually say that…
It is 10% technique and 90% the person!
You can take the same class by the same teacher on the same day as someone else, in the same class and walk away to give a massage to another person and it will feel totally different to that other person.
Too many types of Massage Modalities
Technically, you could just study anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology and create your own type of modality or technique. The problem is getting to be that people see each type of massage as something that might solve their problem so they go from therapist to therapist looking for that one method that might do it. Is it the method that makes the difference or how the massage therapist uses that method and their own experience and knowledge?
People don’t even know the difference between Swedish massage and Deep Tissue massage. With so many different types of massage are we really doing anything good for the profession?
I propose we start focusing on outcomes from sessions especially when it comes to marketing your massage business. I guess the modality craze can help when it comes to marketing as people are thinking they are getting something really special or different. What they are really getting is YOU though, and a little bit of your techniques.