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A Note from Your Friendly Delegate

Hello! This is Gigi, your friendly AMTA MN Chapter delegate, here to give you the “low down” from the 2023 convention floor!

First of all let me say what a fun and inspiring convention this was. I really enjoyed meeting all the other delegates, my MN Chapter members, and many neighboring state members. I believe we had a total of 8 members from Minnesota, half of whom I’d never met before, and half of whom this was their first convention. We had a fun time in classes, collecting pins from other states, trying out the local cuisine (did you know that certain peppers in fajitas that are sizzling can curl your eyebrows??), and getting to know each other better. I’d say getting to know my other MN chapter members was the very best part!

As your delegate, I was also privy to the discussions for the Assembly of Delegates. We had two lively discussions, one on the topic of a position statement surrounding cancer and massage, and the other on the issue of sex workers, human trafficking, and potential impact on the massage industry should those issues either become decriminalized or regulated.

The first item of discussion was whether or not the AMTA National should adopt a position statement regarding cancer and massage. A position statement carries some weight, because it can be used by the members to promote whatever the position of the organization is, fund more research, and create public acceptance of an idea. In this case, a position statement about cancer and massage could say something like “massage therapy done by properly trained oncology massage therapists has shown the following benefits for cancer patients: reduction of nausea, improvement of quality of life, reduction of aches and pains. Research is showing massage can be beneficial through the stages of care. More research is being done on other potential benefits.”

Discussion ensued and the group agreed that 1) a position statement by AMTA National would be a good thing, 2) it should be general, but also research-backed, 3) it should have some sort of educational credential noted. It was noted to the AMTA that organizations like HealWell and S4OM have already broken ground in introducing oncology massage and its benefits to a variety of hospitals, and have already created some credentialing parameters. The AMTA National was therefore encouraged to work closely with these existing organizations to create a unified message. The motion to adopt a future position statement was approved 100% by the delegates. The next step will be to go to a smaller committee to create the statement.

The other discussion was just that: a discussion. Sometimes discussions go on to be proposed as position statements, but in this case it was just a discussion to make the body of delegates and their states aware of the problem of sex-workers, human trafficking, and the potential effect on the professional massage therapy community.

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting at the table with one of the delegates from Rhode Island who actually proposed this discussion topic. Here were the main take-aways:

  1. We’re dealing with a mafia-like group of businesses who are very used to skirting law, moving workers across state lines quickly, and who are dealing in the “world's oldest profession” which is not likely to go away anytime soon.

  2. Human trafficking is a real problem that sometimes offers a real benefit like job training in areas like massage therapy. Some of these gals have “legit” albeit often foreign training. When they are released from their human bondage, sometimes they are interested in doing massage legitimately. How do we handle this credentialing wise? How do we as a profession help (or at least be compassionate towards) these victims?

  3. Decriminalization may have distinct disadvantages over regulation legalization. Decriminalization only punishes with a small slap on the hand. The bad players go back to their bad ways because there is no accountability. With regulation, anyone stepping outside their scope of practice gets shut down; there is accountability and punishment.

  4. Language may be our “best offense”. When a state creates a state license, it uses language to define who gets to call themselves what when practicing under the licensed scope of practice. The delegate from Maryland mentioned it makes sense to pull in ALL the words, desirable or derogatory, such as “masseuse, masseur, parlor massage, massage therapist, massage practitioner” etc, any title we can think of, to be included under our umbrella of licensing with our defined credentials. That way, ideally, no one can create a regulation using these terms without consulting our regulation (once we get one).

  5. It may make sense for the AMTA National to define a set of national credentials, as all states have different levels of education required.

  6. It may make sense for AMTA National to invest $$$ in public education, Public Service Announcements, etc in order to “elevate the profession” connected to the AMTA name ABOVE the sex-workers and massage parlors.

  7. It is also worth noting that there are some outside neoliberal/deregulation groups (the Rhode Island delegate mentioned one with the acronym COYOTE) that are coming in and quietly sneaking in decriminalization bills “under the radar”. In Maryland this happened; the bill “stole” some of the language in their massage licensing as well, which has now threatened the ability of some massage therapists to call themselves “massage practitioners” (or something like that).

  8. We need to seek ways to ensure that we cover any “loopholes” allowing bad actors to exploit or adversely impact the standards of licensed massage therapy. However, there may be too many loopholes to try and define them all.

Obviously controlling language and having our state lobbyist keeping a sharp eye out for decriminalizing legislation are going to be important steps in the future.

The consensus from the final discussion was that there was a lot of opinion on the subject. Whether or not our discussion creates more discussion or any action on the part of the AMTA remains to be seen. But mostly the Rhode Island delegates wanted awareness of the various issues around the topic to come to the light and be exposed for future discussions.

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything in my summary!

Sincerely, Gigi Decker

Ps if you haven’t popped onto our Facebook group for a while, you can see pictures from the convention. If you’re having troubles finding us, do a search in Facebook for “amtaminnesota” and our group should come up.

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