This summer I have had the good fortune to work at the Samueli Institute in the Washington, DC, area. The institute, founded in 2001 by Henry and Susan Samueli, is a research firm dedicated to the scientific investigation of healing and its role in health care and wellness. Their focus includes complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, optimal healing environments, relationship-centered care, the mind and lifestyle in healing, health care policy, and military and veterans’ health. If you’re keen on industry findings, you may be familiar with them. If you’re new to the field or its emerging research, their name might be yet unknown to you. I would like to propose that the work of this institute and others like it is reshaping the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) around us in innumerable ways—and so it behooves us to pay attention.
While massage is often a standalone service in clinics or private practices (as in mine, I’ll admit), I’ve come to understand that research supporting the efficacy of our work is truly relevant if we are ever to be peers in comprehensive client/patient care. In short, I think CAM research is raising the bar for massage practitioners by generating quantitative and qualitative data meaningful to people outside of our field. Maybe you’re inclined to dismiss the importance of research regarding things you “already know,” e.g., that massage and complementary medicine are effective. I would suggest that the research isn’t necessarily for you, the practitioner. It’s for those who want nonnarrative-based support that CAM therapies work. Like it or not, the Western world craves scientifically validated results that go beyond empirical experience. So even if you yourself don’t need proof, are you willing to support agencies working nonstop to bolster our reputation to laypeople?