Massage therapist and educator Tara McManaway talks about working in a college environment and shares details on her upcoming presentation at the AMTA 2017 Schools Summit in Boston, Massachusetts February 23 -24.
Tara McManaway (right) with some of her students (Photo credit: Val Nyce)
What drew you to the massage therapy profession? How long have you been practicing?
I became interested in touch as a therapy back in the 1980s when I was a counselor working in private practice in West Virginia. I received my first massage from Cynthia Lea Miller, who had a background in social work and massage therapy. After that experience, I became aware that there was more to getting a massage than just getting a massage. I was very intrigued by the idea of understanding how touch and body awareness could be integrated into psychological counseling. I signed up for a 100 hour course and drove to Baltimore for massage training. I was hooked!
I finished the 500 hour program in the '80s long before licensure was a "thing." When licensure came along in West Virginia in the mid '90s, I became licensed. I continued my practice offering couseling, massage, and integrative bodywork until I moved to Maryland in the early 2000s.
What is your current work setting like?
When I moved to Maryland, while I was waiting for my licenses to practice in massage and counseling in the state, I began teaching at the College of Southern Maryland in the Psychology and Sociology Department as an adjunct. That very year, the college was given permission to start an AAS in Massage Therapy program. I was in the right place at the right time.
In 2002, I began to develop curriculum for what would become a full-time career teaching, learning, mentoring, and supervising massage therapy students, instructors, and graduates. In addition to teaching, I offer supervision to counselors and body-oriented therapists, including massage therapists in my private practice.
What do you enjoy most about your current position? What are the challenges?
I love taking students from "massage therapy kindergarten" to "massage therapy graduate." Watching the transformation of each student is what draws me to education and supervision. All of the students gain more than just an education - they gain confidence, insight, personal and lifestyle awareness and professional competence.
The greatest challenges are what spur me to be better and find new ideas. What complicates that is time...it can be your friend or your enemy. Trying to juggle all the hats I wear in my position as Program Coordinator within the Division of Health Sciences at the College of Southern Maryland is often a challenge. Giving students the best educational experience is my goal. Finding time to innovate and create better ways of doing that is always a challenge.
How has AMTA impacted your career?
I went to massage school with Jeff Young, who served with AMTA Maryland and who was instrumental in achieving certification/licensure status for massage therapists in Maryland. From the mid 1980s, I have benefitted from AMTA's legislative efforts to improve the status of massage therapy as a profession.
From my very early conversations with Jeff and my support of his work with AMTA in Maryland to keeping my students informed of legislative changes and involving them with AMTA's Legislative Awareness Days in Annapolis each spring, AMTA has been a partner as we work to improve educational, licensing, professional requirements and recognition for the role massage therapists and practitioners play in wellness and health care.
Why should massage therapists attend your session, Developing Core Supervision Competencies in Entry Level Education, at the AMTA 2017 Schools Summit?
Preparing students to be successful after graduation is a part of our mandate as educators. We teach our students "soft" skills as well as hands-on skills to help them be successful. Supervision is often talked about as one way to provide support, but few massage practitioners really understand what it is and how to use it, much less what skills are needed to help our graduates use supervision effectively. I want to help educators create a skill set for themselves and their students that includes a framework for the use of supervision as a post-graduation support system.
Related: AMTA 2017 Schools Summit Continuing Education
What are some takeaways from your session that attendees won't read about in the session description?
When I attend conferences, I want to find out what others are doing and what is working for them so I can improve what I do in my classroom. While I will be providing really useful information, the best information will come from the stimulation of ideas and discussion with your colleagues around the topic of supervision, what it is and how we use it.
Part of how I teach is to pull out what you have already been doing and help you identify how that supports supervision as a skill set. Most of us don't have time or room in our curriculum for inserting new things, but if we can identify what we already have that supports important skills, then the path to improving how we teach is much easier.
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