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Licensure: An Existential Dilemma

Author
Translator
Pages: 19-20
Year: 2007
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute – June 2007 -Vol 35 – Nº 02

Volume: 35

Is State licensure of Rolfing structural integration practitioners good for us? This is more than a practical question. It might be the turning point at an existential brink. To me, the answer is obvious. Not now. Not ever. No way. Granted, I assert an extreme position-perhaps because I’m a dyed-inthe-wool libertarian for whom some of the scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” But beyond that, it is a reflection of what I feel Rolfing is and who we, its practitioners, should be.

THE JUSTIFICATIONS FOR REGULATION

The State’s strongest argument is that in the absence of its benevolent oversight, Rolfers present a threat to the public. We might be incompetent or unethical, or even harm someone. But one need look no further than our insurance premiums to see that this argument is specious: Rolfers can buy insurance in the amount of $2 to $3 million per occurrence for yearly premiums that barely cover the cost of administering the policies. Such is the actuaries’ judgment on how likely we are to harm anyone. The infrequency of ethics violations are similarly telling: In my time as a member of our own Ethics and Business Practices Committee since 1997 – despite our eminently fair and open policy toward public complaints – I know of only two cases in which we had to discipline members for ethical improprieties.

Our track record is this good because we are a self-regulating body. Our private regulation through certification is superior to public regulation through licensure. No one knows more than we know about what we do, or has greater motivation to make sure Rolfers are competent and responsible in their dealings with the public. And no one has a greater ability than we have to discipline and correct practitioners who have violated the public trust. But would State regulation – as opposed to the private variety we already enjoy through our training, certification, continuing education and ethics implementation procedures – advance any properly informed and motivated interest of our own? If so, none of its proponents has ever articulated one to me. They propose a gamut of questionable justifications, and cluster into five camps.

Those who take Big Government for granted. Because they see regulation as a natural condition, a necessary corollary to the existence of Rolfing is the need to regulate it. Isn’t everything regulated? Not yet. That regulation is becoming ubiquitous does not make it a law of nature.

Those who believe regulation to be inevitable. They don’t see regulation as natural or even good – only unavoidable. Let’s hurry up and get ourselves regulated before someone else does it for us. This recalls the argument that the impositions of technology are inevitable. Can’t stop progress, you know. In fact, regulation is just another man-made tool. In the mid-19′ century, Karl Marx articulated the absurdity of being slaves to our tools, which are, after all, no more than the work of our own hands; more recently, Stanley Kubrick warned of the consequences. The threat the Inevitability Camp recognizes is real, but can be met by exempting ourselves from regulation as well as by embracing it.

Those who are insecure. They argue either that State regulation would save the public from untrained or unscrupulous practitioners, or that it would protect their own legitimate practices from unfair competition by pretenders. Mommy, Mommy – Billy’s telling lies to Sally so she’ll play with him and not with me! This infantilizes everyone but the regulator. With today’s information resources, the public is quite able to verify practitioners’ credentials. Impostors will be discovered; and incompetents will not survive the rigors of the marketplace. Rolfing will thrive by the well-deserved reputations of competent and responsible practitioners – just as each of us succeeds or fails on our own merits.

Those with low self-esteem. To feel good about themselves, they need an authority figure to validate them. We demand to be recognized and treated like professionals! But professionalism does not issue from degrees, certificates or licenses. It is a state of being, a calling to bring specialized skill or knowledge to the world. We feel the power of a professional by instinct; and just as instinctively, we sense the weakness of anyone who whines about not being treated like one. The NCBTMB comes to mind.

Those who need bigger practices. They want regulation so they can make more money. With state licenses, they could more easily bill health insurers. I could have so many more clients if only I had a license! But why should we expect health insurance payments? Health insurers pay for health care, and Rolfing is not and should not be described as health care. Persons having doubts about this should check their states’ medical practice acts and stay out of jail. When we started our Rolfing training, each of us knew that Rolfing is not alternative medicine. To claim otherwise to an insurer or a client is fraud. Those who need to be co-opted into the insurance morass just to make a buck should take responsibility for that personal deficit and get some other credential. Pass a state massage exam and hire yourself out in someone else’s office. Go to school for physical therapy or osteopathy. The options are many.

THE EXISTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS OF REGULATION

To me, the obvious best choice for any human being is to make a living free of State imprimatur or interference. Given the twisted reality of today’s world, that might mean seeking regulation of Rolfing by legislative exemption. This is a reality in several states, often based in part on the existence of our trademarks. Absent exemption, we have four options – listed below from bad to worst:

1. Continue the fine American tradition of civil disobedience (they have to find you to shut you down);

2. Seek licensure specific to structural integration (SI) from state departments of professional regulation;

3. Accept “bodywork” licensure through state massage boards under standards appropriate to SI; or

4. Submit to “massage” licensure by state massage boards under generic standards.

Civil disobedience or licensure of SI as a distinct profession are alternatives to exemption that we can live with. However, any form of regulation by State massage boards is unacceptable. Beyond the difficulty of backing out from under the dubious shelter of the massage umbrella, it would accelerate the degradation of RolfingfM from a profession to a technique. This is already happening as massage schools purport to teach SI. It does not help that the Rolf InstituteT’M implicitly represents itself on its web site and elsewhere as a graduate school for massage therapists wanting more – and is even seeking to get the School certified as a massage school by COMTA. And all of this goes hand-in-hand with regulation by state massage boards: If the Rolf Institute operates a massage school, why shouldn’t other massage schools teach SI? And why shouldn’t massage boards regulate it?

Anyone perceiving me as alarmist, elitist and paranoid would be correct – but those attributes don’t make me wrong. The infiltration of SI by massage therapists wielding power tools might not kill us, but it is debilitating. Massage schools should not teach SI – and Rolfers or other SI practitioners should not instruct massage therapists -because our habits of mind are and should remain fundamentally different. Police academies cannot produce Navy Seals just because both cops and Seals use guns and chase bad guys. The key is not subject matter, but existential orientation.

The Socratic dialogue The Ion illustrates the problem. Ion is a Homeric bard. He travels to public festivals to recite Homer. To ancient Greeks, bards were inspired by muses; a bard had a special calling – just like any professional. Socrates asks Ion why he doesn’t do Hesiod, too.

“But I can’t do Hesiod,” exclaims the perplexed Ion. “I’m a Homeric bard!”

Socrates presses on: “So what? Don’t Homer and Hesiod talk about the same things?

War, peace, the gods, agriculture, politics, and so on? Why shouldn’t you do both?”

Poor Ion is dumbfounded. He must have been thinking, “Where shall I even begin to explain myself to this clod?”

In the dialogues, what Socrates says is not necessarily the best position; he often makes his point by playing a na I or buffoon. Socrates’ line of questioning here is deliberately preposterous. It shows not even the slightest sense of the bardship calling. It’s as clueless as asking a Catholic priest why he reads the Bible every day, but not the Koran. “What’s the difference? They’re both holy books in the Abrahamic tradition, aren’t they?”

This is exactly our problem. “You’re a Rolfer. Surely you do massage, too. Both touch the body and release tight tissues, don’t they? Don’t clients in both modalities get on a table with their clothes off and have you touch them? People do feel better after Rolfing, don’t they? And, I’ve heard that fascia runs along the same planes as acupuncture meridians. Gosh, that must mean you do Chinese medicine, too.” In each instance, the questioners miss the essence of the subject. They would fancy anyone with a Sub-zero and a Vulcan to be a chef; and anyone who plants a bush to be a gardener.

Rolfing is not a technique, a formula, or a bag of party tricks, nor is it just a peculiar take on human anatomy. To the contrary, it is a singular view of the world, actualized by practicing a certain protocol for making decisions about how to optimize the function of a human being. Like any profession, it’s about being – not doing. The essence of our training is to form Rolfing beings. And, yes, the students get some tools along the way. A massage school can deliver tools, techniques and formulas; but it can’t reliably produce Rolfers because it is the rare student that can be formed into both a Rolfing being and a massage being. They’re different animals.

State licensure or regulation of Rolfers as anything less than a distinct profession would further blur the distinction between Rolfing and massage not only for the public, but for ourselves. There’s quite a bit in a name. If we fail to stand up for who we are, we are in danger of becoming less.[:de]Is State licensure of Rolfing structural integration practitioners good for us? This is more than a practical question. It might be the turning point at an existential brink. To me, the answer is obvious. Not now. Not ever. No way. Granted, I assert an extreme position-perhaps because I’m a dyed-inthe-wool libertarian for whom some of the scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” But beyond that, it is a reflection of what I feel Rolfing is and who we, its practitioners, should be.

THE JUSTIFICATIONS FOR REGULATION

The State’s strongest argument is that in the absence of its benevolent oversight, Rolfers present a threat to the public. We might be incompetent or unethical, or even harm someone. But one need look no further than our insurance premiums to see that this argument is specious: Rolfers can buy insurance in the amount of $2 to $3 million per occurrence for yearly premiums that barely cover the cost of administering the policies. Such is the actuaries’ judgment on how likely we are to harm anyone. The infrequency of ethics violations are similarly telling: In my time as a member of our own Ethics and Business Practices Committee since 1997 – despite our eminently fair and open policy toward public complaints – I know of only two cases in which we had to discipline members for ethical improprieties.

Our track record is this good because we are a self-regulating body. Our private regulation through certification is superior to public regulation through licensure. No one knows more than we know about what we do, or has greater motivation to make sure Rolfers are competent and responsible in their dealings with the public. And no one has a greater ability than we have to discipline and correct practitioners who have violated the public trust. But would State regulation – as opposed to the private variety we already enjoy through our training, certification, continuing education and ethics implementation procedures – advance any properly informed and motivated interest of our own? If so, none of its proponents has ever articulated one to me. They propose a gamut of questionable justifications, and cluster into five camps.

Those who take Big Government for granted. Because they see regulation as a natural condition, a necessary corollary to the existence of Rolfing is the need to regulate it. Isn’t everything regulated? Not yet. That regulation is becoming ubiquitous does not make it a law of nature.

Those who believe regulation to be inevitable. They don’t see regulation as natural or even good – only unavoidable. Let’s hurry up and get ourselves regulated before someone else does it for us. This recalls the argument that the impositions of technology are inevitable. Can’t stop progress, you know. In fact, regulation is just another man-made tool. In the mid-19′ century, Karl Marx articulated the absurdity of being slaves to our tools, which are, after all, no more than the work of our own hands; more recently, Stanley Kubrick warned of the consequences. The threat the Inevitability Camp recognizes is real, but can be met by exempting ourselves from regulation as well as by embracing it.

Those who are insecure. They argue either that State regulation would save the public from untrained or unscrupulous practitioners, or that it would protect their own legitimate practices from unfair competition by pretenders. Mommy, Mommy – Billy’s telling lies to Sally so she’ll play with him and not with me! This infantilizes everyone but the regulator. With today’s information resources, the public is quite able to verify practitioners’ credentials. Impostors will be discovered; and incompetents will not survive the rigors of the marketplace. Rolfing will thrive by the well-deserved reputations of competent and responsible practitioners – just as each of us succeeds or fails on our own merits.

Those with low self-esteem. To feel good about themselves, they need an authority figure to validate them. We demand to be recognized and treated like professionals! But professionalism does not issue from degrees, certificates or licenses. It is a state of being, a calling to bring specialized skill or knowledge to the world. We feel the power of a professional by instinct; and just as instinctively, we sense the weakness of anyone who whines about not being treated like one. The NCBTMB comes to mind.

Those who need bigger practices. They want regulation so they can make more money. With state licenses, they could more easily bill health insurers. I could have so many more clients if only I had a license! But why should we expect health insurance payments? Health insurers pay for health care, and Rolfing is not and should not be described as health care. Persons having doubts about this should check their states’ medical practice acts and stay out of jail. When we started our Rolfing training, each of us knew that Rolfing is not alternative medicine. To claim otherwise to an insurer or a client is fraud. Those who need to be co-opted into the insurance morass just to make a buck should take responsibility for that personal deficit and get some other credential. Pass a state massage exam and hire yourself out in someone else’s office. Go to school for physical therapy or osteopathy. The options are many.

THE EXISTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS OF REGULATION

To me, the obvious best choice for any human being is to make a living free of State imprimatur or interference. Given the twisted reality of today’s world, that might mean seeking regulation of Rolfing by legislative exemption. This is a reality in several states, often based in part on the existence of our trademarks. Absent exemption, we have four options – listed below from bad to worst:

1. Continue the fine American tradition of civil disobedience (they have to find you to shut you down);

2. Seek licensure specific to structural integration (SI) from state departments of professional regulation;

3. Accept “bodywork” licensure through state massage boards under standards appropriate to SI; or

4. Submit to “massage” licensure by state massage boards under generic standards.

Civil disobedience or licensure of SI as a distinct profession are alternatives to exemption that we can live with. However, any form of regulation by State massage boards is unacceptable. Beyond the difficulty of backing out from under the dubious shelter of the massage umbrella, it would accelerate the degradation of RolfingfM from a profession to a technique. This is already happening as massage schools purport to teach SI. It does not help that the Rolf InstituteT’M implicitly represents itself on its web site and elsewhere as a graduate school for massage therapists wanting more – and is even seeking to get the School certified as a massage school by COMTA. And all of this goes hand-in-hand with regulation by state massage boards: If the Rolf Institute operates a massage school, why shouldn’t other massage schools teach SI? And why shouldn’t massage boards regulate it?

Anyone perceiving me as alarmist, elitist and paranoid would be correct – but those attributes don’t make me wrong. The infiltration of SI by massage therapists wielding power tools might not kill us, but it is debilitating. Massage schools should not teach SI – and Rolfers or other SI practitioners should not instruct massage therapists -because our habits of mind are and should remain fundamentally different. Police academies cannot produce Navy Seals just because both cops and Seals use guns and chase bad guys. The key is not subject matter, but existential orientation.

The Socratic dialogue The Ion illustrates the problem. Ion is a Homeric bard. He travels to public festivals to recite Homer. To ancient Greeks, bards were inspired by muses; a bard had a special calling – just like any professional. Socrates asks Ion why he doesn’t do Hesiod, too.

“But I can’t do Hesiod,” exclaims the perplexed Ion. “I’m a Homeric bard!”

Socrates presses on: “So what? Don’t Homer and Hesiod talk about the same things?

War, peace, the gods, agriculture, politics, and so on? Why shouldn’t you do both?”

Poor Ion is dumbfounded. He must have been thinking, “Where shall I even begin to explain myself to this clod?”

In the dialogues, what Socrates says is not necessarily the best position; he often makes his point by playing a na I or buffoon. Socrates’ line of questioning here is deliberately preposterous. It shows not even the slightest sense of the bardship calling. It’s as clueless as asking a Catholic priest why he reads the Bible every day, but not the Koran. “What’s the difference? They’re both holy books in the Abrahamic tradition, aren’t they?”

This is exactly our problem. “You’re a Rolfer. Surely you do massage, too. Both touch the body and release tight tissues, don’t they? Don’t clients in both modalities get on a table with their clothes off and have you touch them? People do feel better after Rolfing, don’t they? And, I’ve heard that fascia runs along the same planes as acupuncture meridians. Gosh, that must mean you do Chinese medicine, too.” In each instance, the questioners miss the essence of the subject. They would fancy anyone with a Sub-zero and a Vulcan to be a chef; and anyone who plants a bush to be a gardener.

Rolfing is not a technique, a formula, or a bag of party tricks, nor is it just a peculiar take on human anatomy. To the contrary, it is a singular view of the world, actualized by practicing a certain protocol for making decisions about how to optimize the function of a human being. Like any profession, it’s about being – not doing. The essence of our training is to form Rolfing beings. And, yes, the students get some tools along the way. A massage school can deliver tools, techniques and formulas; but it can’t reliably produce Rolfers because it is the rare student that can be formed into both a Rolfing being and a massage being. They’re different animals.

State licensure or regulation of Rolfers as anything less than a distinct profession would further blur the distinction between Rolfing and massage not only for the public, but for ourselves. There’s quite a bit in a name. If we fail to stand up for who we are, we are in danger of becoming less.

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