Massage is in the midst of a profound transformation. Increasingly popular and sought-out by clients, it has also attracted the attention of scientists, doctors, nurses, and other researchers, who have begun putting massage "under the microscope" in order to better understand outcomes and mechanisms of its demonstrated beneficial effects.
As a result, massage stakeholders--MTs, their teachers, and their clients, among others--are confronted with more information about massage than ever before, much of it supporting the case for the integration of massage with biomedical healthcare. Not all that information is user-friendly, though--a great deal of it is locked away behind subscription paywalls, and much of what we are able to find is confusing and contradictory. At the same time, the profession demands we become more responsible for finding and processing information, and for sharing it with each other.
These trends are converging with calls for educational reform in massage therapy in order to provide a generation of practitioners who can step up and manage these changes. I am absolutely confident that MTs will be able to do so, as long as they are properly prepared and grounded with the necessary information, and that means they need teachers who can prepare them for the task.
This is where I see huge unmet needs. Up until now, an implicit social contract has allowed MTs to go on to become teachers and to teach they way they had been taught in the past by other MTs, and so on back for decades. As well as this may have worked in an earlier environment, that social contract is no longer sufficient to meet the educational needs of such a fast-changing and multidisciplinary future, and it needs to be revisited. It's no one's fault that this is the case, but we do need to acknowledge the situation, and craft a plan to address it.
The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AMTE) is addressing the situation by developing a teacher standards project. Pete Whitridge, president of the AMTE, explains:
"It is an act of self-determination and empowerment for the teachers, administrators, school owners and continuing education providers that comprise this community to join together to work for the greater good. This project will require diligent work, respectful dialogue and a willingness to address the shortcomings of massage education without blame or judgment. Improving the quality of teaching in the massage therapy field will improve the success of students in massage programs and continuing education seminars. This process, by its very nature, will improve the quality of massage therapy delivered to the public. That's the payoff for this bold endeavor."
From Massage Today magazine article : "Alliance to Lead Development of National Standards for Teachers", accessed 31 December 2010
I think this is a tremendous initiative, and one which weaves itself nicely into other emerging trends that are changing massage education as we have known it. However, bringing this initiative to life means that the students and teachers being asked to make these changes need strong and consistent support. Otherwise, they won't have the information necessary to succeed--and simply requiring heightened teacher competencies without this support is not enough.
This is where POEM comes in. POEM will be an open-access interactive community portal containing informational and educational resources for various stakeholders in the massage community. So, for example, in addition to resources such as ready-to-use hands-on classroom activities and teacher's guides in foundational subjects such as anatomy, it will also provide a forum for discussion, exchanging ideas, and empowering the massage community to fulfill the new social contract for teaching massage in the 21st century.
To require higher standards of teachers, we have to provide a way for those teachers to get the information they need to rise to the challenge of those requirements. POEM will provide a way to deliver those resources.