The world of therapeutic massage took a giant leap forward today as Ravensara Travillian presented the Project for Open Education in Massage (POEM) to the public. The world of massage therapy will never be the same.
What is POEM?
Impossible to describe in just a few words, POEM is a resource for massage therapists like nothing ever seen before. It is an online gathering place for massage therapists that is intelligent, articulate, and civilized, much like Ravensara herself. It is a resource for learning about the latest research, learning how to read and understand research, learning how to do case studies. Still incomplete and in a testing stage, it will include forums, quizzes, places to pose questions, articles, and educational material, including Raven's book on research literacy for massage therapists. Not only will research papers be presented but also analyzed and critiqued, allowing the massage therapist to learn to evaluate the quality of research. POEM's stated intention is to:
• provide a central, universally-accessible repository for existing knowledge about evidence-based biopsychosocial massage;
• provide semantically-integrated tools and views on knowledge about massage and other foundational domains that stakeholders in the community can use for learning and teaching purposes;
• promote communication and build bridges with other healthcare professional disciplines in order to help the patient-centered care team work together more effectively;
• generate new information from the mashup of different existing bits of knowledge;
• provide a sense of pride and accomplishment in members of the community at the cumulative body of evidence-based massage knowledge; and
• provide a safe and empowering place for discussion of and learning about biopsychosocial massage.
Who is the force behind this massive project?
Ravensara Travillian, also called simply "Raven," is a massage practitioner and biomedical information scientist. She divides her time between Seattle, Washington, and Cambridge, England. You can read about her education and experience, which is impressive, here. However, what she is too modest to tell you herself, but you'll learn from experience, is that Raven is one of the most intelligent, well-informed, science-literate, articulate, and patient people you will ever know. If Carl Sagan had been a massage therapist, he would be Raven. Over the past year I've gotten to know her in online forums and the care, gentleness, and thoroughness with which she explains scientific principles to massage therapists who are often completely unfamiliar with them is a wonder to behold. I have never seen her write an unkind or condescending word to anyone. Raven's intention is to create a safe and civilized place for open and honest discussion and inquiry. As the SomaSimple Culture Page put it, "You are safe here. Your ideas are not." Ideas are allowed to be questioned and challenged, but attacks and insults will not be tolerated. The atmosphere she hopes to create is one of a classroom where discussion is encouraged but always respectful.
This project is a massive undertaking and displays a love and commitment to excellence in the field of massage therapy that is rare. Getting it off the ground has been a huge project and keeping it going and growing will be an even bigger one. For now, POEM is free and open to the public and hopes to stay that way. To do that, POEM needs support.
Massage is as old as humans, even older. Primates and many other mammals groom and lick each other, as much for bonding and soothing as any hygienic reasons. Coming out of folk traditions sometimes thousands of years old, explanations and claims made in a pre-scientific era do not hold up in modern times. We know from experience that massage makes people feel good and seems to bring relief to some physical conditions. The more we understand how and why, the greater the potential to bring these benefits to greater numbers of people. The profession is moving to a new level as critical examination of exactly how massage effects the body is explored. As interest grows in integrating massage therapy into health care and is accessed by a larger segment of the population, a higher level of professionalism is expected of us. Until now, the small amount of research that has been done has been unavailable and unintelligible to the average massage therapist. Much massage research has been of poor quality, often because massage therapists have not been educated in how to conduct research. POEM is an attempt to address some of these and other challenges so that we can truly claim the title of "therapist" and truly bring the benefits of massage therapy to a world where there is much suffering on physical, psychological, and social levels.
POEM needs your support!
Please check out the POEM website and if you agree that this is a project that should continue forward, please hit the "donate" button on the lower left of the home page and make a contribution. Whether you are a massage therapist, other health care provider, or simply a person who has benefitted from massage therapy, your support will help the world of massage therapy grow and expand. No amount is too big or too small. Help POEM to survive and thrive. Tell your friends. Tell your massage therapist. Tell everyone.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.