Adrienne Asta, new president of the MTF
The new President of the Mass Therapy Foundation (MTF), Adrienne Asta, LMT, wants to continue a conversation between massage therapists, healthcare professionals and the public about the benefits and cost-effectiveness of massage.
She’s also, understandably, a supporter of the MTF, a 501(c)3 founded in 1990 that funds research, publishes an open-access journal, and supports community service projects, among other programs.
On June 1, the MTF announced that its Board of Directors had elected Asta as its new President and that Robin B. Anderson, MEd, LMT, BCTMB, CEAS, had resigned from this position for personal reasons.
Asta sat down with MASSAGE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Karen Menehan to discuss MTF’s current and future programming and goals, and why she wants every massage therapist to understand what MTF does. (The MTF contributes a quarterly column in MASSAGE Magazine, written by various authors.)
Karen Menehan: When and how did you get involved in the Massage Therapy Foundation?
Adrienne Asta: I have been practicing massage for over 21 years now. And when I heard about the Massage Therapy Foundation, I thought its focus was research – and since I consider myself a clinician, I was grateful that such an organization existed and was happy to help. to support the cause.
Then I got a call from one of the trustees, asking if I wanted to be on the community service grant review committee. And it was really at that moment that I discovered the extent of what the Massage Therapy Foundation does.
Later, I was asked to apply for the board and was elected to the board. And then Robin [Anderson]former president, asked me to be his vice-president.
KM: If someone has never heard of the MTF, what presentation would you like to give them?
AA: Go to massagetherapyfoundation.org and check out all the free resources we have there to help inform your practice. Find out about current research. There are downloadable infographics that you can put in your office or give to your client at the end of a session.
You could see all community service grants we funded, and it’s really heartwarming to see all the people being served, who otherwise wouldn’t be.
There are free downloadable e-books. There is the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, a free, peer-reviewed open-access journal. There are opportunities for volunteer as well.
KM: You are currently serving a term as President that extends through February 2023. Where do you want your attention directed?
AA: I really hope the rest of this term will focus on connecting and collaborating. These are the two words that I believe are what drove me to where I want to see the MTF continue to grow.
KM: Who do you see yourself or who does the MTF connect and collaborate with?
AA: Our main stakeholders are always the massage therapists. I want all massage therapists around the world to know that this organization exists. So, of course, massage therapists are the ones we want to connect with. However, for this to really be as solid as the board and staff see it, it’s going to be the healthcare providers, the industry stakeholders – and the consumer, really
KM: What do you think is the axis of your communication?
AA: The focus is on the well-being of the whole person, of course. In order [for that to happen], we have to focus on the whole person, on the whole community. And that goes beyond our job. I know from my personal practice that I see the exponential benefit my clients get from not only seeing me, but seeing the physiotherapist, the chiropractor, the acupuncturist, the nutritionist, the surgeon. We really can’t do it alone.
I think having these professions related and adjacent to massage as part of this conversation will really be a key part of growing the Massage Therapy Foundation to support how the industry can grow.
KM: When you say “this conversation”, is it a conversation about holistic health care, as well as collaboration within health care?
AA: For sure. We’ve already started this conversation with massage therapists, although massage therapists can be siled. That’s the cornerstone of what we’re trying to do with the MTF. Here’s all that programming, whether it’s projects, community service or education, and we want you to know. But what use is the information if we keep it to ourselves?
KM: You mentioned that massage therapists can seem isolated. What do you mean?
AA: I think what happens is that after we finish our basic studies, we start getting interested in a certain subject. We get to feel the direction we want to go – and sometimes there seems to be just like that. If I want to treat pain, I have to do A, B, C and D.
In reality, there are many different approaches to pain management. You don’t have to identify yourself as a neuromuscular therapist, for example, to be successful in the treatment room.
So the MTF wants the information to illuminate technique, or to illuminate treatment, not for a massage therapist to identify as a certain type of therapist – because we could actually say that each of us is a unique therapist, delivering what feels most connected to us and our customers.
Really, what is the mechanism? What happens when I put my hands on you? What happens when I press? What happens when I slip?
Those are the things we’re interested in, in that we could provide some really basic, researched information about how massage works.
KM: What does the MTF want to see as a result of this? In other words, when you present this information to adjacent health professionals, what is the ultimate goal of massage or the massage profession?
AA: I think it’s to show our complementary partners, health care providers and the public, that massage therapy is an integral part of what their well-being and health care can be. That it’s not instead ofhis next to. This is in partnership with.
KM: This conversation about integrating massage therapy into the health care system seems to go on forever. I keep hoping for a big breakthrough with this. I wonder if you have any idea why this hasn’t happened yet.
AA: That’s an excellent question.
KM: I know we are all working towards that answer.
AA: I personally think we’re health care providers, and if we see the benefits, if we see the cost-effectiveness of what massage therapy can do in so many different settings, then I think we just have to be persistent and keep on to show [other health care providers and the public]– keep showing them and keep telling them – and just keep being part of that conversation.
The opportunity for us to develop a deeper relationship with other health care providers, this is a great opportunity. It’s really about an ongoing conversation and continuing to introduce ourselves to people. It’s going to be difficult, because we’re a very small voice right now, in this big, big world of health care.
KM: What do you think is the role of the massage therapist in this conversation?
AA: We have a really fantastic opportunity, in the work that we do, to spend so much time with a client or a patient. We are uniquely positioned to be in a place where we can show the benefits [of massage] and communicate the benefits, and we need to feel comfortable doing that.
My goal for the rest of this term, until the end of February, is to keep talking, to make sure that we have a group of people together, saying the same thing or saying a similar thing, and also to seek out those opportunities where we could be in partnership and collaboration with other people, with other organizations that may not be directly related to massage, but who could potentially hire massage therapists.
KM: Which current MTF projects are you most interested in?
AA: The Practice-Oriented Research Network is going to be fantastic. I think this is going to be the tool that’s going to connect massage therapists who are really interested in participating in research or having a conversation about it, discussing what they see in the treatment room, either formally or semi – formal way – and researchers who want to study the effects of massage therapy but are not sure where to find the right person for it. So I certainly see a great expansion of opportunity in our field through the practice-based research network.
KM: What specifically would you like to see come out of the practice-oriented research network?
AA: Information on not only “how does this massage therapy stuff work?” but “how does massage applied by a licensed professional massage therapist make a difference?”
I’m not saying the Practice-Based Research Network guarantees that, but I’m saying the ability to search for that answer and ask questions about that particular item is going to be really beneficial for us—because if anyone can [massage], we will just have nurses massage, or we will just have volunteer staff massage. Then we will have no work to do!
So the hope is to find the understanding of “how informed is this work?” “How does this educational piece really improve someone’s service and outcomes of care?”
KM: Are you actively recruiting massage therapists for the Practice-Based Network?
AA: We seek information from massage therapists on what you are looking for in a practice-based research network. Want to participate in research? Want to talk about research?
There is an ongoing investigation at the moment which massage therapists can completeto be informed and to help shape what this practice-based research network looks like.
KM: We’ve covered a lot of ground here, from MTF resources, to the broader healthcare conversation, to how massage therapists can get involved in research. What else would you like to add?
AA: We want to make sure that every massage therapist’s practice is sustainable. We believe that informing and getting informed will attract a lasting clientele.
Also, it’s not my foundation. This is our foundation. This is the massage therapy foundation. So really, we should all have a vested interest in this organization. We are proud to serve the industry.
KM: Thank you so much for all the MTF does and has planned for the future of the massage therapy profession.