What I Wish I Said…

Recently I was honoured with One Concept’s Massage Massage Therapist of the Year award.  Normally I’m quite comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, but the enormity of being recognized in this way, and some challenges with the microphone function deflated the impassioned speech I prepared.  This is what I’d wish I’d said….

Dear colleagues, friends and supporters of the massage therapist profession.  It is my honour and privilege to receive this award.  There are many in this room equally deserving of this award, and I stand on the shoulders of giants.  My efforts have built on the efforts of colleagues past and present.

I would like to speak for a moment on our gracious hosts for the conference, One Concept.  This group – composed of Monica Pasinato-Forchielli, Lorna Pasinato, Scott Dartnall, Robyn Lynn Donovan-Green and Dr. Andria Hoda – are trail-blazers.  When the original conference – the Massage Therapy Canada Conference – was to be cancelled by then organizer and publisher Jill Rogers due to a personal health issue, Monica, Lorna and Scott swept in with just 4 weeks to go to save the conference.

They carried the torch for successive conferences and added Robyn and Andria to support the emerging theme of a Canadian-wide conference.  One Concept invited our American cousins to both speak and participate (up to this point Canadian and American massage practitioners rarely worked together), and then ventured into one of the largest marketplaces in the world to host the American Massage Conference.  These cheeky, audacious Canadians did this despite established and competing organizations.  This year in the spirit of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) collaboration, they invited our chiropractic sisters and brothers to an integrated conference – the Canadian Massage and Chiropractic Conference.

One Concept doesn’t wait for permission or policy.  They, as my wife Cheryl (who is a job developer, employment advisor and is entrepreneurial-minded) would say “See a need, then fill that need”.  In this climate of unfavorable government health care and taxation policy, unmovable insurance reimbursement, skeptical public and media opinion, territorial gatekeeper health disciplines and their ambitious assistants, and profiteers and exploiters that would take advantage of the popularity of massage, One Concept sees a need, and is filling that need.

Our profession needs to organize, self-examine and take steps to form our own present and future circumstances – not have them dictated to us.  Our professional associations, training colleges and regulatory bodies seem stymied in this, but One Concept is not waiting…they’re getting ‘er done!  And, we as practitioners, suppliers/manufacturers, educators, publicists and writers, training schools, professional associations and regulatory bodies, we are all benefactors of One Concept’s audacious work.  We all owe them a large debt of gratitude.

As for me, I’m often asked “How”.  “How do you do it Don?  How do you teach across Canada, write books and articles, and engage in social media regularly?”  Not to mention family (my wife Cheryl, sons Gabriel and Noah, and our whippets Max and Balto), home responsibilities, and of course my practice.  Practitioners often assume I don’t practice any more, but of course I practice…it’s my favourite thing to do!

To answer the question, I believe you can manage “how” when you’re passionate enough about something.  I wish more people would ask me “why”.   I do all the extra work I do because of the practitioners that have approached me privately over the years – in person or by email – that are  struggling to make a living, and their bodies.  Their bodies are breaking down from the care they’re providing others an they’re looking for some way to keep working, to make it through.

Increasingly I’m approached by massage therapists-turned-business-owners brokering opportunities for other practitioners, but complain that the political culture of massage doesn’t support them.  They ask why our culture perpetuates that the lion’s share of the service fee goes to the practitioner – despite capital and risk sustained by the business owner – and why the business model we’re encouraged to follow is unsustainable for the owner.  By encouraging unsustainable business models we’re actually harming our practitioners and those that would provide opportunities for them to work.

So for all those practitioners, you are my “why”, and I will continue to work to improve your circumstances.  Tonight I share this award with you.

Thank you.

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