Value is a highly subjective term. Were we talking about monetary value or just the intrinsic value of human touch? Or, were we talking about the value of good health? Because of this uncertainty, we decided to go back to the basics. We asked ourselves the following: What motivates a person to go to a therapist of any sort? We came up with another list of answers, most of which had to do with improved wellness. So, we surmised, massage's ability to improve wellness made it valuable. But wellness was another one of those subjective terms; we still hadn't discovered anything concrete. Finally, we asked ourselves, Why is wellness valuable? That's when we had it ...Wellness allows people to do what they want, how they want.
Perhaps that sounds overly simplistic, but if you think about it, you will realize, as we did, that most people only seek health care services when they actually experience or fear the loss of a desired activity such as running, walking, or typing at a computer. Therefore, it wasn't pain relief, stress reduction, or even good health per se that made massage (or any other health service) valuable to the public, it was its ability to help individuals regain or maintain the ability to do certain, chosen activities without pain, stress, dysfunction, or limitation. However, desired activities were not simply limited to those conscious activities people cared about, it could also include unconscious activities like breathing, digestion, and growing healthy skin. Furthermore, because every person has different activity desires and needs, wellness could not be defined as a single thing for all people.
What we needed was a simple method of determining a person's activity needs and hence, their wellness. So, based on the assertion that activity was synonymous with wellness, we developed a model which divided all the activities humans perform into three wellness areas. We then used this model to create a massage practice building manual which exploited this phenomenon and called it The Active Wellness System.
At this point, we knew why massage was valuable, but we still hadn't been able to describe massage. Being professional communicators (in addition to being massage persons) it was readily apparent to us that a significant factor contributing to the difficulty lay in the terms therapists were using; most were obscure, unfamiliar words to the public. Once again, back to the drawing board. What came out of that research was a plain-English guide for massage consumers we called The Massage Treatment Objectives and Preferences Guide or TOP Guide for short.
The objectives portion of the TOP Guide drew upon our previous discoveries revealed in the Active Wellness System. The Preferences portion of the guide were those optional factors we felt were common throughout all massage practices. What happened next was totally unexpected.
Therapists who ordered TOP Guides for their clients started telling us that the information (originally intended for the massage consumer) had helped them to focus their careers. Until the TOP guide, these therapists had never seen such a succinct, yet comprehensive, explanation of the range of possible choices available through massage. That's when the penny dropped.
It became clear to us that it wasn't the consumer who needed educating, it was the therapists. So we got out our pencils and paper (again) and revamped the entire format of the TOP Guide for use by therapists. It was only later, after we and some willing volunteers had a chance to test and implement these principles, that we discovered the range of benefits this approach to career focus afforded.