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Massage Therapy as Social Activism Massage Therapy as Social Activism

   Tue, January 3, 2006 - 7:55 PM
Massage Therapy as Social Activism
Tim Holt, CMT

Being a massage therapist is a form of social activism. The act of providing healing massage therapy empowers the recipient to take responsibility for his / her own health and well- being. It empowers the individual to seek healing and provides proprioceptive information about their own body. It uses a time honored form of healing which is most often provided outside of the medical and corporate structure. It is an act which often stands in defiance of the messages we receive from the corporate world, especially the corporate world of health care.
Each time I give a client a bodywork treatment or teach a class to aspiring professional massage therapists, I reflect on the truly radical nature of this process. We live in a time of privatization and elimination of social services. Record numbers of Americans have no health care coverage. According to an article which appeared on Google News on February 5, 2005, half of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are now caused by soaring medical bills. The pharmaceutical companies are spending mega bucks on the development of designer drugs marketed by Wall Street ad agencies instead of finding vaccines for illnesses. We have witnessed American health care become a liability based system operated by insurance companies instead of health care professionals. Insurance companies dictate the standard of treatment and the pharmaceutical companies provide drugs for excessive profits rather than health. We find ourselves in this situation despite the millions of well intentioned and talented health care professionals working today. We find ourselves in this situation despite the helpful and advanced technology of our century. We have built a health care system based on heroic intervention rather than prevention.
In Taoist China it was said that “a good doctor has no patients”. The itinerant physician would come into the village , meet with his patients, and would apply the various modalities of ancient Taoist Chinese medicine. He would assess their health and advise them on self care prior to symptoms becoming pathological. Most of his treatments would include the person’s spiritual, energetic , and physical body. In cases where a patient became ill, it was often seen as the fault of the physician for not assessing and preventing the illness. A definite part of this medical model was a form of “hands on” healing that we would call massage in the American culture. This ancient system was based on a preventative model.
I do not believe that it is helpful to sit in a cloud of incense and long for the past, but a blend of preventative and heroic medicine would be a more cost effective and safer for our culture today. The direct relationship between healer and client is clouded in our health care system by layers of bureaucracy and liability. To provide healing touch as a professional is a very direct, low cost , preventative form of health care . Massage Therapy professionals can be allies of medical health care professionals.
But do we really want to be a part of the health care system as it exists today? Do we really want to struggle to obtain validation by the established medical hierarchy ? Do we really want to participate in the existing insurance system?
Each time I complete a bodywork session or teach therapeutic massage techniques to students of massage, I am thankful for the professional healing intimacy that this work offers. I am thankful for the direct access to my clients. I often consult with other health care providers to better serve my client, but I am not restricted by the overwhelming fear of liability. I challenge those who wish to over regulate massage therapy in the United States to demonstrate sufficient liability to the consumer.
Receiving massage therapy empowers the client to take direct responsibility for their healing. Everyone is empowered by this transaction. Empowerment is a form of activism. Activism is defined as vigorous action in pursuit of a political or social end. Massage therapy is a form of social activism.

Tim Holt, CMT, Director
East West Massage School
8017 Washington Ave.
Sebastopol, Ca. 95472

1 Comment

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Wed, June 6, 2007 - 11:51 AM
thank you for your post
I'm reinventing myself lately as a person who cares more about our social environment. This had required looking at my addictive behaviors. I'm glad to help people make profound connections to themselves and their lives. I often think about how my work supports this revolution towards wellbeing.