Alphabet Soup

images (3) There was no better lunch when I was a kid than a salami sandwich and a big bowl of alphabet soup. I loved to dunk the sandwich and when I was finished soaking up the soup, I had all the letters to make up stuff with. There was a never ending combination of letters and tons of hysterical laughter as my siblings and I came up with sayings to match the initials. Sometimes they made sense, other times they were just funny. Either way they all came out of the same bowl, tasted the same and helped fill our tummies.

I was recently reminded of those forgotten afternoons. A friend who has been a very successful massage therapist for 25 years attended my Scar Tissue Release course last weekend. He has never joined any of the massage organizations , he rarely attends continuing education courses, preferring to read studies and magazines. However, with the new CEU requirements for New York, he decided to come hangout with me and 47 others for a few days.

The next day he came in for a session and while discussing the course material he thanked me for taking the time during the class to continually explain the multitude of acronyms that were being tossed about by the students. He was both amazed at the sheer number of them and amused that, when explaining them, I would break down the techniques to the origins from which they hailed. He said for a moment there he felt…well, really out of the loop…but then he realized it was all just different version of what he already knew and he felt much better. I just smiled and agreed that there are really no new techniques, everything stems from something else. There are only new points of views and presentations.

Right after that conversation, another massage therapist friend (a continuing education junkie) called asking had I heard of this technique or this one (insert any three letters at random) and what did I think of them. Once again, I found myself breaking down the technique with her and taking it back to the origins of the work. She also told me how arrogant a fellow student was during the class, continually challenging the instructor, not to contribute to the information being shared, but rather to simply prove her wrong. Unfortunately, this is not a very uncommon situation I am sad to say.

A few thoughts came to me after this combination of conversations.


There is obviously a need for coming up with a descriptive name for a technique (or a disease for that matter) and who does not enjoy a good abbreviation these days. However, as professionals, we really need to get into the habit of clarifying what we say for those around us. Using acronyms without explanation alienates us from those we are trying to work with, whether they be clients/patients or fellow professionals. There are only so many combinations of letters, many get used over and over again and have many different meanings.

If you find yourself using an acronym during a conversation, which we are all want to do, take two seconds to clarify what they stand for and to make sure the person(s) you are speaking with is familiar with the therapy/technique/disease you are referring to. Spouting off a series of letters and big words does not make you seem educated and professional, more likely you will come off arrogant and full of yourself. Instead, take the time to acknowledge the possibility that not everyone is in the know and have the where with all to clearly define and explain what those snappy letters stand for. This my friends, is not only proof of your intelligence and competence but of your consideration and compassion for others.

I know better than you….

It is very popular for professionals to disparage other professions. Doctors & Physical Therapists look down on Massage Therapists. Massage Therapists complain about Physical Therapists. Massage Therapists & Physical Therapists alike criticize Doctors and so and so on. It is bad enough that the health professions are divided and not working together for the benefit of the client/patient, now it seems we are often condescending towards the various styles of practice within our own professions.

We should all be banding together to support the needs of our clients/patients by learning and understanding other therapies/techniques and what they have to offer. Whether or not you agree with another style of massage or another therapy, as a professional, you should never belittle or denigrate it to an inquiring client or colleague. As a professional, you should be capable of explaining the premise behind the therapy/technique, what it seeks to achieve and how it is administered. After stating the basics, then you can explain from your point of view, how it differs from your approach. This leaves the client/patient or colleague with the ability to make an informed decision of their own as to whether or not to pursue it further. The clients/patients needs vary depending on the individual and the moment in time of the need. There is no one end – all -be-all therapy and more often than not it takes a cocktail mixed to each person’s particular needs.

Time to change the menu…

Throughout my classes I encourage my students to contribute information on their specialties. I discuss a variety of therapies, their merits and when they can be used in conjunction and when one is more preferable then another. I encourage my students to seek out training in specialties that may call to them such as Oncology Massage or Visceral Manipulation. I recommend other courses from Instructors I respect such as Tracey Walton and Marty Ryan. I have even asked them and others to help round out my students knowledge with one page handouts sheets (i.e the top ten facts about massage & cancer) including their promotional information.

I will also ways love Alphabet soup, but lately I find myself more in the mood for Stone soup. It is not a meal one makes on their own, rather it is a community effort, all contributing their own special ingredient, combining all together to share with each other for the betterment of all. I have the pot and have tossed in the first few stones and there is a seat for all who wish to join in at the table.
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