The Rub: a podcast about massage therapy

The Art of Conferencing for Massage Therapists

March 07, 2024 Heawell Season 1 Episode 6
The Rub: a podcast about massage therapy
The Art of Conferencing for Massage Therapists
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Embark on a journey of professional transformation with me, Corey Rivera, as we break free from the confines of routine massage therapy practice. Our latest Rub episode invites you to discover the untapped potential of interdisciplinary collaboration, with valuable takeaways from the Shiley conference in palliative care. Dr. Melinda Kavanaugh joins us, bringing her passionate insight as a social worker and researcher, to illuminate the powerful synergies that await when we step out of our comfort zones. The episode promises to equip you with a new perspective on how massage therapy can integrate into broader healthcare paradigms, and how stepping beyond familiar territory can lead to growth and impactful connections.

Tune in for tips on getting the most out of your conference experiences. Whether you're seeking education, promotion, or networking opportunities, you'll learn how to craft a strategy that aligns with your goals and the event's offerings. From the subtle art of commanding attention and sparking enriching dialogues to the merits of solo dining for recovery, this episode serves as both a guide and an encouragement for health practitioners of all disciplines to seize the day. Don't miss our conversation if you're ready to embrace new opportunities, expand your professional network, and foster the kind of growth that only comes from stepping boldly into new experiences.

Write to NCBTMB about what they should include as approved CEs!


Dr Melinda Kavanaugh's Youth Care Giving Program YCARE
Dr Katie Robinson

Conference Information:
Shiley National Symposium
NHPCO
Black Massage Therapist Conference

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Corey Rivera:

Welcome to the Rub a Hewile podcast about massage therapy. We say the quiet things loud, have a hunger for change and a desire to connect the dots. I'm your host, corey Rivera, licensed massage therapist and information magpie. In today's episode, we're going to talk about the three steps of conferencing and why you should take a chance on an event that isn't massage focused. First of all, there ain't no silo like a massage therapy silo.

Corey Rivera:

It is completely normal for a massage therapist to go from their small entry level class straight into private practice without ever looking up once. Once we have our license if our estate even requires a license it's up to us to decide what kind of education or training to take. Anything that isn't approved by a continuing education board doesn't count for relicensing, and if you work in a franchise, they probably have their own ideas about what you should know. This doesn't exactly encourage curiosity or exploration. So why would you go to something as big as a conference if it doesn't get you credit? Because, my friends, there is a whole world out there waiting for us and they have no idea we exist.

Melinda S. Kavanaugh, PhD, LCSW:

Well, I think it. I mean, we go through life and we know things right, or we?

Melinda S. Kavanaugh, PhD, LCSW:

think we know things that are kind of in our everyday experience. But then when you take something like massage or massage therapy out of its little box in my mind it's always been in right and then you blow it up. You blow it up and it's all of its opportunities and possibilities and what that means for not just kind of rehab or health or wellness but really part of you know we're speaking about the Shiley conference in palliative care but like that role of massage therapy in treatment in a way that I just hadn't really thought about before.

Corey Rivera:

That was Dr Melinda Kavanaugh. She's a social worker, researcher and educator at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She was one of the organizers of the event we went to in February of 2024. Melinda studies and creates programs to help the wildly underserved group of caregivers who are under the age of 18. When I think about Melinda, she strikes me as an unstoppable force. She's committed to helping these kids. Despite the fact that people don't want to discuss it because they think it shouldn't be happening, she keeps moving forward. Hot tip when you're looking for allies, look for unstoppable forces.

Corey Rivera:

Okay, you may have noticed that conference titles are meant to be read and not set out loud, so bear with me. We went to the National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research held by the Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care. From now on I'll just call it Shiley. The Shiley Institute is a part of California State University. It teaches palliative care skills to a bunch of disciplines at many levels, like students, professionals and the community. The Shiley conference was held in San Diego and it was about 40 degrees and rained the entire time Straight up. It was warmer at home in Michigan than it was in California and everybody I met from California apologized for the weather the entire time. We were there, as they should. Okay, national Symposium. Are you wondering what a symposium is? In practice, it usually means the same thing as a conference, but its original meaning in Greek is something like a drinking party and or excellent discussion held after a banquet. Shiley had food, they had drinks and they definitely had excellent discussion.

Corey Rivera:

A plus, before we get to the three steps of conferencing, I want to tell you the most important thing I learned at Shiley. Folks, we are not the only ones. Massage therapy is so closed off from other professions it's hard to know if what we experience is common or abnormal. Here are two things that are common that I thought was totally us. The first is that everybody is intimidated by the results section in a research paper. I was at a workshop with a smorgasbord of health practitioners talking about research and everybody in the room got uncomfortable when we got to the numbers part. It's not just us. Everybody thinks they're too dumb to understand the numbers.

Corey Rivera:

The second thing I found out had to do with the exhibitor tables. I hate going to a conference and seeing the trash people are selling, from plastic chakra crystals to incredibly overpriced face cream, to Young Living's predatory multi-level marketing scheme. Yes, I totally just said that out loud. But you know what? Two out of the ten exhibitor tables at Shiley were red light therapy for skin, the newest gadget available to keep you feeling bad about how you look. The people manning the booths were absolutely gorgeous humans who stared daggers at each other across the room. All of a sudden, I felt better about the weird things that show up at our conferences. Apparently, everyone has a weird thing that shows up. It's expensive to host a conference and while I'm a little on the fence about the ethics of letting things like multi-level marketing into your event, does it kind of suggest you're okay with it? I mean, get that money Okay. We've talked about what I've learned.

Corey Rivera:

Now let's turn to the three steps of conference going. Step one know why you're going. Step two understand how you want to interact and how you don't. And step three overestimate your recovery. Step one know why you're going.

Corey Rivera:

One of my favorite books is Quiet the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, by Susan Cain. It has an idea called the Core Personal Project. These are projects that thrill your soul and can push you to work outside your comfort zone, whether you're fired up being around people or happiest scouring documents in a wingback chair in front of a blazing fireplace or maybe that's just me. Anyway, your personal projects inspire you to take action and also to act out of character. It's important that you take into account the cost of these actions, which we'll talk more about when we get to step three. Your core personal project should help you decide why you are going to a conference.

Corey Rivera:

Are you in to help people communicate? Check out a social work event? Are you interested in repetitive stress injuries? Maybe a physical therapy event is for you? There are all kinds of valid reasons to attend a conference. You could go just to learn. You could go to have a new experience. You can go to network. You can go to have fun and see your people. You can go to have fun and find new people, like our friend Sakina, who went to the first Black Massage Therapy Conference in October of 2023.

Sakinah Irrizarry, LMT:

It met and surpassed all expectations. When I heard about it I went back and forth about going, because I Because travel is not always my jam but see, I figured this would be my best chance to see and meet and talk and Face time with people. Upon arrival At the conference that morning I didn't stay in the hotel where the conference was held. A lot of people stayed. I tend to do, you know, I want to crawl back off into my hiding hole. Whenever I'm so I have to have very much my own space for no one can find me. But so I didn't stay at the hotel. So I arrived very early the morning of the conference and the first thing I walk in and I meet a black massage therapist from Anchorage, alaska. Wow, all the way from Alaska and I'm like and now New York just doesn't seem that far away from the airline at all.

Corey Rivera:

Sometimes it's really just enough to get people thinking about massage therapy. Just being in a space can bring attention to what massage therapy has to offer. Here's Cal Cates, executive director of Healwell.

Cal Cates, LMT:

I Think my approach is to demonstrate that, as a massage therapist, I'm also thinking deeply about the other questions that have brought all these people to this conference and that I feel like massage therapy, the cultural understanding of massage therapy, is so sort of limited, and I don't I Don't think most people, certainly people in healthcare would consult a massage therapist about the big questions of patient outcomes or Satisfaction or access or things that are sort of the bigger problems in healthcare. So I feel like by asking those questions and making it clear from the outset I'm coming at this from the massage therapy perspective. It sort of turns heads in this way that like, oh huh, well, massage therapists think about stuff that's that's so interesting.

Corey Rivera:

And here's Melinda, the unstoppable force, talking about how meeting us kind of changed her mind.

Melinda S. Kavanaugh, PhD, LCSW:

Yeah, and I have to say Genuinely, what was really fantastic about it was it wasn't just like, oh wait, massage therapy can, can do this, and it's like totally different and my brain is moving. But I have to be very honest here. It was the experience of meeting and interacting with you and Cal particularly. Both of you Brought it home in a way. You were so open and engaging about it and both of you really we're like hey, what do you think? Like no, what? So I think that was really that, to me, made a lot of difference.

Corey Rivera:

Knowing your goal will help you make plans, so you're less likely to feel like you've wasted your time and money.

Corey Rivera:

And Keep in mind not all conferences are created equal. It isn't just about why you want to go. It's about why the hosts are holding it in the first place. So make sure you know a conference's goals before you go.

Corey Rivera:

Most massage therapy conferences are about continuing education, but there are other reasons to gather. Sometimes it's education, sometimes it's promotion. You need to be more careful about what you're doing here. Sometimes it's education, sometimes it's promotion. You should be able to tell the event's goals from browsing their website. Check out who speaking, look at the topics. Read there about us blurb. Don't be intimidated if it doesn't say anything about massage therapists. Remember people simply don't think about us at all. That doesn't mean you don't have something to offer them or a ton of new things to learn. The Shiley event in California was about education and fostered an atmosphere of collaboration. It lent itself to a more intimate setting of around 150 people. Larger conferences, like the one held by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, or NHPCO, regularly have over a thousand people and are just as much about seeing and being seen as they are about finding people to work with. There's nothing wrong with a hundred people or a thousand people, but know what you're stepping into before you buy that ticket.

Corey Rivera:

All right. Step two understand how you want to interact and how you don't.

Corey Rivera:

What interactions make sense for your goals. Small groups and workshops are awesome places to have conversations. I much prefer going to workshops where there are planned activities. Those plenary sessions, the ones where a person stands and talks at a podium, aren't really why I'm there. They can be super interesting and can be great conversations. Start with a little bit of a conversation. They can be super interesting and can be great conversation starters later. But I can watch webinars all day at home at a conference. I want to know other people's thoughts and experiences.

Corey Rivera:

The best event I went to it Shiley was a workshop on bioethics. The professor running it hadn't prepared anything because he wanted to hear what the people in the room are struggling with. For 20 minutes I listened to healthcare professionals who work in the same healthcare system discuss talking to patients about assisted end-of-life care. Nobody had the same directions. Everyone was confused and distressed and no solutions were offered, because that wasn't the point. The point of the workshop was for people to express themselves in a safe space and know they weren't alone. Another way to interact if you are feeling frisky is to ask questions of the microphone after people give their presentations, like Calcates does.

Cal Cates, LMT:

Yeah, I think when I go to a conference under the auspices of Healw ell, I'm looking to invite people to think about massage therapy full stop. That you know. I go to health care conferences, palliative care conferences, hospice conferences, and even if I'm not presenting, I try to go up to the microphone and ask a question, where typically they want you to say your name and why you're there and sort of what your discipline is. And so then I get to become the person who wants to talk about massage therapy.

Corey Rivera:

Also in the category of interacting. Think about who you want to meet. Notice what questions people ask. If they intrigue you, you can seek them out later with a. You were at that rubber ducky session earlier. I liked your question about limited edition rubber duck collecting. It made me curious about your experience collecting rubber duckies. Also, notice what people are wearing. When you live in a college town, like I do, spirit wear just kind of appears in your closet. My Michigan State sweatshirt's almost unfailingly caused someone to yell go green at me at the wildest moments. The proper response, by the way, is to scream go white right back at them. It's a great icebreaker. Alternatively, talking to somebody for two minutes and exchanging business cards is great. You can catch up with people after the event is over. Learn about that in step three.

Corey Rivera:

Sometimes knowing how you want to interact is about not interacting. For those of us who get overstimulated, here's some tricks I've picked up. Scope out the quiet places and that way you know where to hide if you need some down time. There's this introvert trick called owning the room. It's fantastic and I use it all the time. It involves getting to a location earlier than everyone else and staking out of space. This is not difficult for me because I have anxiety about being to things on time and I'm always quite early. Now when people enter the room. They're entering your space, you're not intruding, and, of course, you will be wonderfully gracious and welcoming when they get there. This also forces other people to open the conversation with things like is this seat taken and is it okay if I sit here? Know how many people are too many people for you? Once about four other people enter a conversation, it can be difficult for me to process, especially if I'm already nervous or uncomfortable.

Corey Rivera:

Okay, this one is really important. I hereby officially absolve you of the pressure to eat with other people. Food is complicated and that might only get worse if you're supposed to be talking and eating in front of people at the same time. There is nothing wrong with grabbing a plate and walking away from the crowd, maybe to that hidey hole you scouted earlier and maybe back to your room. Eating is important because conference days can be long, but you should eat when and how is comfortable for you. My last advice Stay on site if you can. The biggest regret I hear from people is not staying in the hotel where the event is. Here's Sakina again talking about the Black Massage Therapy Conference.

Sakinah Irrizarry, LMT:

Well, I'll say this, as far as the ability to build community, and quickly, one of the reasons why I actually now regret that I built in my escape hatch is because I built escape hatches into many social interactions, one of the reasons I actually kind of regret it.

Sakinah Irrizarry, LMT:

I'm kind of like is because I could clearly see how people arriving the night before already knew each other. Already knew each other from the night before. Community was already being formed. Community was formed. As soon as I walked in the door I could see community had been formed from just one night prior. It was really amazing to just be with a lot of people who work in the same profession that look like me.

Corey Rivera:

And here's Rebecca Sturgeon, Hewels Education Director.

Rebecca Sturgeon:

Honestly, I think if I do go, I will stay at the resort while the conference is happening, because I think that there's opportunities, not that your whole life has to be networking when you're at a conference. But there were people there who I just thought were interesting people, you know, and it would be nice to have a chance to talk to them when we're not like when's the next session start?

Corey Rivera:

Sometimes it's the informal version of the symposium, the drinking and conversation but are the most fun and, surprisingly, the most productive moments. This is Dr Katie Robinson. She's an assistant nursing professor at California State University and one of the Shiley organizers. You should know that Katie is a lot like a glass of champagne she's effervescent welcoming, goes down easy and can probably talk you into agreeing to something before you realize what's happening.

Katie Robinson, PhD, RN-BC, CHPN:

We were talking with the planning committee total side note at the hot tubs, like you do right With our little drinks of various kinds at the hot tub, talking about removing hierarchies from interprofessional teams and how you cannot really do interprofessional collaboration without removing those hierarchies.

Corey Rivera:

I'm sure we've all had our moment talking about interprofessional practice in the hot tub.

Katie Robinson, PhD, RN-BC, CHPN:

I think that is part of again, when we were at the hot tub having that conversation, trying to really break down on what does true interprofessional collaborative practice look like when it's done in a healthy, effective way? What does that actually look like? We're such dorks, right. We're sitting here on a hot tub drinking the pan, rumb, rumbopitos and some whiskey in paper cups and we're talking about hierarchies, interprofessional hierarchies. There was a guy who got out and he was like hey, I just want to let you guys know I'm a social worker and it's been fascinating listening to your conversation. We're like oh, are you at the conference? He's like no, no, no, no, I'm in a different training about play therapy.

Corey Rivera:

Okay, we've talked about why you would go to a conference and what you might do there. Step three is about coming home. Step three overestimate your recovery. If it's been a while since you have knobbed, be kind to yourself. Your recovery process and timeline have probably changed since the before COVID times. Try to schedule extra client appointments to take place before you leave, especially if you're an introvert. Have a little consideration for future. You there is no faster way to resent your clients than traveling, meeting a bunch of people, learning a bunch of things, traveling again and then having more appointments than usual. That's a recipe for becoming what we at Healwell call a fuzzy nubbin. So what do you do about keeping track of what happened while you were at the event? Make a note or voice memo about your experience? It's just for you. You could do it at the end of each day or after you get back home.

Corey Rivera:

Often, when I get back to my real life, I forget a lot of things, especially the nice things. I have a really great memory for stuff I regret saying and the tendency to lose the good moments. So I write myself notes and when it comes to getting in touch with people you met personally, I like to pre-write emails and then schedule them to be sent seven to 10 days after the conference. This helps keep my thoughts and questions fresh, but gives other people time to breathe and makes me look less like an excited puppy pressing my nose to the window. So one more time. Why should you put in all this effort? Here's Champagne, katie, again.

Katie Robinson, PhD, RN-BC, CHPN:

Again, coming from my practice side, I all you know massage as a healing modality. That's never been a stretch for me. You know any of us who've had massage right, like we're like, yeah, there's, there's, it's therapeutic. But also, you know, practicing and talking with patients like, certainly massage was something that has been recognized as, yes, like that is, that is something that can be healing, right, what was my light bulb moment, with you all being there, was elevating massage as a true clinical intervention and a therapeutic intervention by trained therapists. Right, and my best analogy is sort of like my discovery of music therapy as, like trained clinical musical therapist is different than someone coming in and playing a guitar. I love music and so, like, what's your favorite song? Great, I'm going to play it for you and sure that has some like therapy in its own right. Like great.

Katie Robinson, PhD, RN-BC, CHPN:

And also when I had a patient with in respiratory distress and I knew I could call my music therapist who could come in and actually perform a clinical intervention for that patient. That's a whole different level and I know I hadn't ever thought of massage therapy at that level and being able to talk to you all and the way you think about massage therapy at that level was just an amazing light bulb moment of like. Yes, yes, you mean this is like another team member that just adds to like the Captain Planet power of our powers combined. Yes, please tell me more. I want to know more. I want to know more about, like, how this is how you are part of that clinical intervention, and so that was such a huge value.

Corey Rivera:

And here's the unstoppable Melinda one more time.

Melinda S. Kavanaugh, PhD, LCSW:

So here's the backstory. I know massage therapists because in a different part of my life, my husband and I actually own a salon and a spa, and so we have five massage therapists that work for us. And so I'm like I know massage therapists, you know, I know how they are and kind of what they do, but getting to know you and Cal and heal, well, it was like light bulbs going off. You know, I'm like, oh yeah, that's right, there are so many cool things that massage therapy can do for our patients and our families that are involved in palliative care, that are in hospice, that are in any sort of healthcare setting in a way that's different than where I had always interacted with massage therapists was like, oh, I'm kind of stressed out, I'm going to go get a massage.

Melinda S. Kavanaugh, PhD, LCSW:

Or you know I got a headache, I'm going to go get a massage, whereas this felt different. You know, this felt like oh, wait a minute. So, like my, my massage orientation with our oh, this is really cool. How do we think about massage therapy in a research engaged setting, which is really where my mind went right.

Corey Rivera:

And now it's time for today's call to action. If you go to a conference that isn't about massage therapy, please write to the National Certification Board for therapeutic massage and body work. Their contact information is in the show notes. Tell them you think you should be able to get CEs and why you thought this experience was valuable to you as a massage therapist. Tell them what you learned. If we want to have more options to count for CEs, we need to say so. You have nothing to lose by sending them a note and all kinds of opportunity to gain. Also, write to us at podcast at healwellorg and tell us all about it. I hope you choose to go conferencing. I hope you have a great time. I hope you learned things. I hope you teach other people things. Massage therapy is awesome and other people should definitely know about it. The only way they're going to know is if we tell them. Thank you for listening.

Ain't No Silo Like a Massage Therapy Silo
Shiley Hanes National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research
We're Not the Only Ones
The Three Steps of Conferencing
Step One: Know Why You're Going
The Black Massage Therapist Conference
Step One: Not All Conferences Are Created Equal
Step Two: Undertstand How You Want to Interact
Step Two: Who Do You Want to Meet?
Step Two: Not Interacting
Step Two: You Don't Have to Eat with Other People
Step Two: Hot Tub Conversation
Step Three: Overestimate Your Recovery
The Reason to Go Conferencing
Write to NCBTMB!

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