Transitioning at your massage job

Transitions are often a part of work in the massage industry. Co-workers come and go as therapists transition through places of employment.  The one constant in this profession is that things will change.  For some this change comes comes easily, yet for others, this change can be upsetting, and offer a feeling of mourning.

We have been reviewing Tuckman’s 4 Phases of Group Dynamics. In more than 10 years after his introduction to this work, he came up with the 5th and final phase… The ending phase:

 Adjourning and Transforming

In 1977, Tuckman added a fifth stage to the original 4: adjourning and transforming, which involves completing the task and breaking up the group.  In this stage we can begin to witness anything from fear of the unknown, to excitement of embracing a new career, to feelings of abandonment to elation of moving on.  As instructors, it is wise for us to be aware of, and acknowledge our own relationship to this change.

This entails the termination of the relationships as we know them, and a sense of mourning may arise.

Group Dynamics at your Massage job – (3)


When the class manages to put their differences aside, and move forward with their learning, regardless of everyone being seen as “perfect”, this is called the norming stage.  Often there is also a norming stage that settles in somewhere between the Forming and Storming phases.  At this point, the class has one goal and come to a mutual plan to learn from the instruction, and trust in the process. Sometimes a few students may have to give up their own ideas and agree with others in order to make the class function. In this stage, all classmates take the responsibility and have the ambition to work for the success of the school’s and class’s goals of learning.


Sometimes it feels like it may be impossible, yet it usually happens that classes reach the performing stage. These high-performing classes are able to function as a unit as they find ways to dive deeper into their learning and experience the massage school as it is intended.  By this time, they are motivated and knowledgeable. The students are now competent, autonomous and able to learn and grow without intervention. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channeled through means acceptable to the peaceful nature we are trying to develop.

During this phase instructors are encouraged to go deeper with the material, and invite inquiry in closing circles. Even the most high-performing classes will revert to earlier stages in certain circumstances. Many classes may even go through these cycles several times as they react to changing circumstances.

Group Dynamics at your massage job – continued


After the classroom settles into doing and learning what is at hand, they will next enter the storming stage in which different ideas and personalities compete for consideration, and even power. The classroom begins to openly address issues such as interpersonal feelings within the group, resistance to learning, emotions arising from the bodywork, and performance anxiety. This is when classmates begin to open up to each other and confront each other’s ideas and perspectives. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the class never leaves this stage. The emotional maturity of the class or the depths of the wounds they are addressing, usually determines whether the class will ever move out of this stage. Often some members will focus on minutiae and detail about the class temperature or the clinic management to evade real issues.

The storming stage is necessary to the growth of the individuals and the group as a whole. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the class or even staff at the school.  Tolerance of each student and their differences should be emphasized. Without tolerance and patience the class can get even more contentious, and the learning will not be achieved. This phase can become destructive to the class and will lower motivation if allowed to get out of control. Unfortunately, some classes will never develop past this stage.

It is essential that instructors remain accessible, and remain directive in their guidance of navigating these issues within the classroom, as we encourage professional behavior. Often the class will resolve their differences and members will be able to participate with one another more comfortably. The ideal is that they will not feel that they are being judged, nor shamed and will therefore share their opinions and views without having to be “right”.

Group Dynamics at Massage School or at Work!

In 1960’s Bruce Tuckman was one of the first psychologists to look into the emotional dynamics of groups and group development.   In a 1965 article entitled “Developmental Sequences in Small Groups”, he initially announced the four phases a group journeys through as the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of group development.  He maintained that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the group/class/team to grow, to develop, to face the challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results. This model has become the basis for subsequent models, and out of it grew the industry of change agents and business coaches.


In the first stages of team building, the forming of the team takes place. The individual’s behavior is driven by a desire to be accepted by the others, and avoid controversy or conflict. Serious issues and feelings are avoided, and people focus on being busy with routines, such as team organization, who does what, when to meet, etc. But individuals are also gathering information and impressions – about each other, and about the scope of the task and how to approach it. This is a comfortable stage to be in, but the avoidance of conflict and threat means that not much actually gets done, as everyone is trying to understand the situation.

Team/class members are usually on their best behavior but very focused on themselves. Mature classmates begin to model appropriate behavior even at this early phase. Sharing the knowledge of the concept of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing can be extremely helpful to the class.

Instructors/Facilitators of the class tend to need to be directive during this phase.

The forming stage of any classroom is particularly important because it is at this time that the members of a team get to know one another, exchange personal information, and potentially make friends. This is also a good opportunity to see how each member of the class works and behaves as an individual and how they respond to learning and group.

The Science of Healthy Living Continues to Expand!

High-Fat Foods Cause Brain Scarring

Keeping pounds off long-term is difficult for even the most successful dieter, and scientists may now be on the path to determining why.

A study published recently in The Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that high-fat foods cause damage to the hypothalamus – an area in the brain responsible for hunger, thirst and the body’s natural rhythms and cycles – in rodents.

“These are really important papers that begin to push the idea out that we’re not in control as much as we think we are,” says Dr. Steven R. Smith, co-director for the Sanford-Burnham Diabetes and Obesity Research Center, who wasn’t involved with the study.

However, Smith says researchers must first determine if the scarring happening in the rodent models will translate to the human condition. Not everything that scientists observe in rodents also applies to humans, of course, but it is a starting point.

“This is the tip of the spear. We’ve been talking a lot about diet and willpower and exercise and this sort of thing.  This is radically different [thinking] – that diets can actually re-program the structure of the brain.”

The human body is designed to regulate how much fuel is stored as fat through a process called energy homeostasis, the study’s lead author Dr. Michael Schwartz says. For a normal-weight person, that’s good.  But once a person becomes obese, his or her body seems to want to stay at that new weight permanently.

“That’s the biggest problem with obesity treatment,” says Schwartz, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington. “Obese people can lose weight, but they have trouble keeping it off.”

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ASIS – Offering a Wide Variety of Alternative Living Seminars

and Massage Therapy Workshops

Happy Graduation Flagstaff Fall 2011

ASIS is proud to announce the completion of another successful program!

Good luck to you all!

ASIS in Flagstaff will begin another training on February 16.

Come join us as we explore a multi-faceted perspective of health and education.

The aspiration that guides ASIS is to create a safe, supportive, and evocative learning environment, while celebrating the diversity, uniqueness, and beauty of each individual being’s body, mind, and soul.

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AMTA recommendations for Massage Therapists

Ten Things Massage Therapists Can Do to Make a Difference for the Profession

American Massage Therapy Association:

1.    Know the Message You Need to Deliver. AMTA believes that fair and consistent licens- ing by all states of the practice of massage therapy is the best way to meet the needs of the public and the profession. AMTA seeks licensure with a minimum entry-level massage therapy education of at least 500 supervised classroom hours.

2.    Write to Your State Legislators. Educate them about your practice. Share with them your specialized education and discuss the many benefits massage therapy offers to the public.

3.    Schedule a Meeting With Your State Legislators. Visit the state capital and talk to your legislators about the importance of fair and consistent massage therapy licensing laws.

4.    Attend a Meeting of Your Chapter’s Legislative Coalition. Learn about the issues affecting massage therapists in your state and find out how you can help. This is also a great networking opportunity for you and your colleagues.

5.    Understand your State Legislative and Regulatory Environment. Contact your Chapter Government Relations Chair and Legislative Coalition for information on the political cli- mate in your state. Be sure you understand your state lobbying laws as well.

6.    Talk to a Massage Therapy Instructor. Find out what issues and challenges are facing the massage therapy profession. Request that instructors address these issues with their students.

7.    Meet with City Officials. City officials are as important as state legislators to the mas- sage therapy profession. Restrictive municipal ordinances are in place across the country that create significant obstacles for massage therapists. Educate your local city officials on how massage therapists are educated and trained. Discuss the problems associated with prohibitive business permit and zoning regulations with your city officials. Let them know that state licensing is the best way to regulate the profession.

8.    Make Connections with the Local Media. Use the media to educate your community about massage therapy. Invite the media to public AMTA government relations events and draft editorials when issues relevant to the practice of massage arise in your community.

9.    Recruit a Colleague. Set a good example for a friend or colleague by personally asking him or her to work with you on legislative activities. A unified and mutually-supportive effort is the most effective.

10.    Keep the AMTA National Office Connected. For information or assistance, please contact the AMTA Government Relations Department at 877-905-2700 or

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ASIS – Promoting Peace, One Body at a Time

Helping Your Massage Clients get clear – Reflective Listening for the Massage Therapist

Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It attempts to “reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client” It arose from Carl Rogers’ school of client-centered therapy.

Several ways to do this is as follows:

– Actively engaging in the conversation with your massage therapy client, by reducing or eliminating distractions of any kind to allow for paying full attention to the conversation at hand.

– Genuinely empathizing with the massage client’s point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with the speaker, just viewing things from his/her perspective. The massage therapist encourages the person to speak freely, by being non judgmental and empathetic.

– (not during the session, but perhaps after the massage session), Mirror the mood of the massage client, reflecting the emotional state with words and nonverbal communication. This calls for the listener to quiet his mind and fully focus on the mood of the speaker. The mood will be apparent not just in the words used but in the tone of voice, in the posture and other nonverbal cues given by the speaker.. The listener will look for congruence between words and mood.

– Summarizing what the massage client said, using your own words. This is different than paraphrasing, where words and phrases are moved around and replaced to mirror what the speaker said. The reflective listener recaps the message using his own words.

Reflective listening is a simple technique that anyone can use to help another person work through a difficult situation. In order to learn the basic skills involved in reflective listening, read and practice these simple steps.

Step 1

Paraphrase what the speaker is saying, repeating the statement in question form. For example if the speaker said “My husband never listens to me!” you might say “You feel like John doesn’t listen very well?”

Step 2

Listen for the underlying emotion. For example if the speaker said “My boyfriend acts like such a jerk!” you might say “You sound mad” or “You sound frustrated.”

Step 3

Ask clarifying questions in order to make sure you understand what the speaker is saying. For example if the speaker said “That kid just made me feel so stupid!” you might say “It sounds like you’re pretty upset. Did something happen?”

Step 4

Encourage the speaker to keep talking by letting them know you are listening. Make direct eye contact. Use open, receptive body posture  Nod your head, and make comments that encourage further communication such as “Ok, go on.”

Step 5

Approach the conversation with the belief that the speaker has the ability to solve the problem for him or her self. Resist the temptation to offer advice, or give opinions about what the speaker is saying. Instead ask questions such as “So how will you deal with that?” and “What do you think can/should be done about this situation?”

A reflective response lets you communicate to a person what you perceive they are doing, feeling, and saying and why they are choosing their behaviors. It is impossible to be the other person and your best understanding is only a reasonable approximation. Be open-minded and cautious. Consider all ideas as tentative since our best understanding will always be limited because of the uniquiness of all people.  In Massage Therapy we may sometimes use this technique to assist a client to become more clear with what they are saying, or why they may be holding their body a particular way.

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Making friends with our parasites.

Massage Education – More than just touch-y  feel-y

The fun part about never leaving massage school is the constant influx of information.

Researchers have found several reasons to believe that bacteria affect the mental health of humans. For one thing, bacteria produce some of the same types of neurotransmitters that regulate the function of the human brain. The human intestine contains a network of neurons, and the gut network routinely communicates with the brain. Gut bacteria affect that communication.

“The bugs are talking to each other, and they’re talking to their host, and their host talks back,”

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Strictly by the numbers, the vast majority — estimated by many scientists at 90 percent — of the cells in what you think of as your body are actually bacteria, not human cells. The number of bacterial species in the human gut is estimated to be about 40,000, according to Daniel Frank and Norman Pace, writing in the January 2008 Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. The total number of individual bacterial cells in the gut is projected to be on the order of 100 trillion, according to Xing Yang and colleagues at the Shanghai Center for Bioinformation Technology, reporting in the June 2009 issue of PLoS One, a peer-reviewed online science journal. Xing calculated a ballpark figure for the number of unique bacterial genes in a human gut at about 9 million.

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