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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Celebrating Nine Years of Massage: Service, Education, Preservation

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Today is the 9th anniversary of the day I got my Massage Therapy License. I want to take a look back at my career and discuss some of my immediate plans for the future!

You know the last time I wrote a blog like this (Celebrating Six Years Of Massage in 2020), my career looked so much different than it does today! So much has changed in just 3 little years! When I looked back at the 6 year blog post, I kinda didn't love the format I used back then... So this year, I’d rather focus on my recent rebranding with my new tagline; Service, Education, Preservation. These three aspects of my career are the highest priority for the work I will accomplish over the next 10 years (and hopefully many decades beyond!)


Service

The cornerstone of my massage therapy practice has got to be service. These days my service is twofold; there is service that I provide for my clients and there is volunteer service that I do for my colleagues and the profession as a whole.


To review the services I provide for my clientele; I am available 6 days of the week, four days in Rogers Arkansas and two days in Fayetteville. My practice in Rogers is employee work that sustains me financially with work benefits and a steady pace of clients. But my passion and where I’d really like to grow is my work in Fayetteville as a microbusiness. For over two years, I have been sharing a space at White Lotus Salon & Massage. Originally, I wanted to have the part time at White Lotus to accommodate the clients that had been loyal to seeing me in Fayetteville as a courtesy to them. It would be great to see the business I do at White Lotus grow and be able to sustain me in a way like my work at Spa Botanica in Rogers does! To be able to make the switch from Spa/Franchised work to being an independent business owner at White Lotus would be a dream 10 years plus in the making.


I am also proud that since the last time I did a look back, I have become Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork! This is the highest level of voluntary certification in the massage therapy profession- and no easy feat! The exam was every bit as hard as the MBLEx (the licensing examination) and I passed with a slimmer margin than the MBLEx nearly a decade ago. Being Board Certified is a sense of pride and I hope a demonstration of my commitment to my career and quality service.


I am continually taking continuing education courses to learn new modalities and techniques to provide for my clients. The service I am currently passionate about providing is a mix of myofascial release, reflexology, and cranial-sacral therapy. These three disciplines of massage are incorporated into every massage (if a client will let me work on their feet, scalp, and face of course). I am getting to a point where I am not able or willing to push myself to provide the intense and deeper pressure that spa work has often demanded. I also happen to be in agreement with many thought leaders in the profession that tell us that evidence supports the notion that LESS pressure and SHORTER sessions yield the highest benefit for clients. 90- and 75-minute sessions are just too long and deeper pressure overloads the body system.


30-to-60-minute services providing light to medium pressure in order to reduce stress and relieve pain are going to become my focus in the future. That being said, I have always loved my thermodynamic and other tools of the trade; hot and cold stones, aromatherapy, percussion devices, and massage cups to name a few- those will also be available as add-on/upgrades moving forward.


The service I provide for my colleagues and profession are just as important to me these days! As many of you know, I began volunteering with AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) when I was elected to the position of Board Member for the Arkansas Chapter this April. I have learned so much in just around 6 months as a volunteer. The Volunteer Leadership Conference held in Rosemont; Illinois this June was my first chance to meet volunteers with AMTA from all across the nation! And National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona in August was where I graduated from the association’s Chapter Volunteer Orientation Program and my first time attending the national convention! Each one of these national events offers me a chance to see a new part of the nation I’ve never experienced before. I also get to meet so many incredible therapists and learn from bigger and more active chapters (Texas and Louisiana are top of mind) but also discuss similar challenges in the profession/governing agencies (like Oklahoma, and Tennessee), or just make really great friends (like Mississippi and Missouri). Each event sharpens my skills as a volunteer and contributes to my personal development as well.


In addition to the volunteer work, I am doing with AMTA, I have also began collaborating with other organizations, like the for-profit, ABMP (Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals) to plan and develop a Massage Therapy Legislative Awareness Day in Arkansas for 2024. Unlike AMTA, ABMP does not have local/regional chapters so I cannot volunteer in a more direct way with their association. I have also done great work with FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) and kept a pulse on the IMpact (Interstate Massage Compact), which has afforded me an invitation to our nation’s capital next week to attend a legislative strategic summit for IMpact. Volunteer work has been rewarding on personal and professional levels.


Education

Another great component of my work as a massage therapist is my education efforts. I provide continuing education for other massage therapists but with these blog posts and the accompanying video (vlogs), I like to think I’m educating my client base as well.


Since I last took an inventory like this, I’ve had twelve (12!) Continuing Education courses approved by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). In the last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of taking my CE courses on the road and provide continuing education to other Arkansas communities of massage therapists (and a few estheticians along the way). I love educating, it’s a great place for my need to serve and the needs of my ego to meet in a healthy and positive way. I learn just as much from those who attend my courses as they do from me.

I am also pleased and honored that my 18 CEs in Hot Stone Massage course(s) have been approved through NCBTMB (National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork). Most states automatically accept NCBTMB approved courses for renewal, so while I’m serving Arkansas therapists, I can also help professionals from out-of-state also! I am working on getting my other courses approved through NCBTMB as well. I will also be applying to upgrade my Arkansas license to Massage Therapy Instructor (MTI). Will I open a massage school with the upgraded license? Maybe someday in the far-off future…


As far as this blog and my TikTok vlogs that go with them, I am very proud of this work too! I hope that they are informative and (somewhat) entertaining. When 2023 began, I made it a goal to create a new blog and video to go with it each week. And so far I’ve made good on that goal (I have had to recycle some older blogs, but the videos are all new!) so far. Massage Mondays have been really enjoyable for me. But I am in need of new ideas for topics in the new year- if you would like them to stay consistent! So send in questions or discussion topics you’d like me to address.


Preservation

Finally, my last aspect of my professional direction- Preservation! This one is my passion project, it doesn’t earn me any income (in fact, I’m supporting this project out of pocket), but I am dedicated to the cause of historic preservation of the story of massage therapy in Arkansas.

A History of Massage Therapy in Arkansas will hopefully be a complete book by 2030. I am still in the research and gathering resources phase before I will get into any real writing on the subject. Arkansas has such a unique and long history of massage therapy! Our state was one of the first to regulate the profession with a registration act introduced in 1951- I want all that history recorded and accessible in one place for my colleagues and future therapists in perpetuity.


This project is unlike any other history book on the profession. Other texts similar are about massage as a world-wide and ancient scope, this project is scaled down to be regional (about Arkansas) and within the timeframe of licensure (1951- present day).


And I am still in need of help; I’ve had a number of great oral history interviews (some recorded, others not. Some anonymous, others not) and been able to collect some random documents and text books from yesteryear. But it’s not enough to provide a comprehensive narrative of the history of massage in Arkansas. I am still asking for more narrators for oral history interviews, participants in the History Survey I created last year, and donations to the project. I’ve had people donate old massage textbooks, old copies of the massage laws and rules, photographs, and, of course, a couple hours to record oral history interviews. There is still so much more to be researched and learned! Practically the entire decade of the 1970s is absent from any records I can come across- a whole decade with next to nothing I can find so far. Laws and Rule (& Regulations) from anytime before the 2000s and 1990s are also elusive and unpreserved! The Law & Rules themselves tell a history of the profession if you can read and listen well enough.

It is also a dream of mine to someday establish an Arkansas Massage Therapy historical museum/library for all the resources and documents I’ll come into in the next several years and decades. Right now, my home office/library is acting as an interim archive- I’d like very much someday to have a public building for these artifacts and research to live.


These are my tenants of my massage therapy career that have guided me in the last couple years that I will look back to for direction moving forward; Service, Education, and Preservation.



Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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