Saturday, April 2, 2016

Past time to update.

So here it is, almost 5 years since the inaugural MTBOK was published, and what has happened? I'm sorry to say that ultimately what began as a brief pause to give the profession time to absorb and adopt as well as make suggested changes ended up as an extended 5 year delay in adoption. I think this has been a well intentioned, but ultimately ill advised approach that has prevented acceptance and incorporation throughout the community, and has resulted in a static rather than "living" MTBOK as was promised to the profession.

I was the original Project Manager for the MTBOK, which I continue to believe is one of the best things the various professional organizations who constitute the MTBOK Stewards have done for the profession. The concept was important, and was developed with an almost unheard of spirit of cooperation by these organizations. It also laid out a process that was well throught out, and helped forestall the likely objections that could derail this project. We have a lively, open, and passionate professional membership, and trying to define the body of knowledge that guides and grows the profession was likely to create issues.

Like this country itself, we have liberal and conservative views of the profession, libertarian, narrow focused sub professions, progressives and even deniers. Of course this diversity is both a strength and a challenge.

The original project environment was designed to get a good, solid start to defining "what an entry level massage therapist should know and be able to do" in order to be considered professional. This defined the scope of the project to make it manageable and to not require expertise in all the advanced approaches professionals use in the broad massage therapy profession. Some other characteristics of the study:

Independence: the task force would work independently of the sponsoring organizations in order to ensure the steward organizations did not direct the outcome.

Formal Guidlines: were given to the task force that mandated an approach that was as inclusive as possible and that as much as possible input from the profession was to be solicited, encouraged and reviewed by he task force with a record of consensus determination.

No New Bureaucracies: the task force was composed of widely open solicitation, rigorously evaluated by a group from e steward organizations and representative of the wide range of talent we have in the profession as a whole. But the project was of fixed length, and the task force would be dissolved as soon as the formal product was developed and presented/published for the profession. This would ensure that following work would not become the pet project of the few already vested in the product. This was an important aspect of the project, but also left the MTBOK without vested champions to ensure its integration with and adoption throughout the profession.

There was some controversy surrounding the final product (in my opinion virtually all of this could have been resolved with more discussion and publicity) and ultimately the steward organizations decided to stand back leave open a place for comments to be addressed when the next update took place. What first sounded like a few months of delay while the stewards continued to get the word out and solicit next steps ended up being a 5 year period in which the MTBOK was left to get dusty.

So, the bad news is that the MTBOK hasn't reached its potential, isn't "living", hasn't been updated, hasn't been changed, hasn't been integrated and adopted by he community, and hasn't addressed the more advanced knowledge, skills and abilities in a full Body of Knowledge of our profession. The good news is that the existing MTBOK fulfills its mission of describing what an entry level massage therapist needs to know and be able to do.

Before anybody starts shouting, it's not perfect, and there may be some things that need significant change. But the problem is that if there had been addressed years ago we could have achieved an integrated, adopted and secure foundational document for the profession

So what's different today? I've finally heard rumblings with in the stewards that at least some of them want to complete the job, or at least get the process started again. 

I urge all of you, whether you love or hate the MTBOK, that you notify the steward organizations (see the organizations listed at the site) what your thoughts are - and it doesn't need to be long like this blog - just tell them to get it moving again. I would caution that a Body Of Knowledge document is a foundation of a profession, and I really think it is not feasible to ask that the MTBOK be abandoned.

It's as easy as sending an email to

Let's get this party started... And thanks for all you do to make our profession better!

– Chip