Book Review: Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work?

It pleases me greatly to publish this book review from Dr. Christopher A. Moyer. Dr. Moyer is a friend and has become my first call when I need guidance of the massage research variety. We’re lucky to have him as an advocate and a teacher in our profession.

laura allen book coverLaura Allen undoubtedly has energy – but what does that actually mean?  In massage therapy circles, that word is used loosely so often it can be difficult to know what it means.  In this instance I mean she is active, productive, and industrious.  Allen has been a successful restauranteur, musician, blogger, businesswoman, massage therapist, educator, and author.  Most recently her prodigious energy went into writing her seventh book, Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work?  Hocus Pocus in Holistic Healthcare (Amazon Digital Services, 113 pages; ).  Those who use the word “energy” loosely should take note.

Anyone who knows Allen will recognize that the title perfectly captures her friendly-but-still-challenging style that is tempered with a dash of Southern sass.  And while there are an increasing number of books that advocate critical thinking for the massage therapy profession, this book could only have been written by Allen.  In addition to her distinctive style, the book draws on her considerable experience in massage therapy along with her quest to learn about a range of alternative medicine practices.

The first third of the book is essentially a memoir.  Allen describes, in an engaging way, how curiosity and varied experiences led her to study massage therapy but also reiki, crystal healing, magnet therapy, homeopathy, and other alt-med practices.  She describes herself as willing to try just about any of them in order to learn from the experience.  This approach is laudable, but incomplete when it is unaccompanied by any critical reflection.  Looking back, Allen admits “I was looking so hard, I got lost.”

The turning point comes abruptly.  Allen, now a reiki master and teacher, is preparing to teach a class on the practice and finds herself wondering “how is my drawing a few symbols in the air and blowing a puff of air onto someone going to turn them into a healer?”  Realizing there is no sensible answer to that question, she makes the decision, on the spot, to abandon the practice and to adopt a more thoughtful approach to evaluating alt-med claims and practices.  Most importantly, she recognizes that it is an ethical imperative for learners to be able to ask how health practices work, and that it is also an ethical imperative for practitioners and educators to be able to provide sensible answers that are consistent with well-established knowledge in physics, chemistry, medicine, and psychology.

From this perspective, the latter part of the book examines a range of alt-med concepts and practices commonly encountered in or attached to the massage therapy profession, including special water and juice formulations, devices that claim to interact with one’s human energy field, detoxification, and ear candling.  Readers who have not already encountered these, as well as those who have adopted them without question, stand to learn a lot from this portion of the book.

The importance of professional ethics, and the need for them to be rooted in critical thinking and evidence, is the common thread that ties all the sections together.  Important ethical concepts, such as avoiding harm, and providing effective treatments for appropriate fees, are addressed.  However, I would have liked to see Allen pay more attention to an ethical problem that I think is especially important – the fact that massage therapy schools, continuing education providers, and the governing bodies that accredit and sanction them are heavily invested in perpetuating nonsensical information that supplants opportunities for students and practitioners to learn modern, well-validated information that would help them be better therapists and which would serve to elevate the profession.  Allen’s take on that specific issue would be an illuminating and welcome addition to the book.

Allen’s best achievement in writing this book is that she provides a model of how to approach health claims.  Such a model is badly needed in massage therapy, where students, practitioners, and educators are often more likely to invest time and energy on New Age claptrap than on the art and science of their effective, evidence-supported treatment.  The profession needs more people who are willing to ask “excuse me, exactly how does that work?”  Perhaps this book will inspire some to do just that.

Christopher A. Moyer, PhD, is a psychologist and massage therapy researcher currently residing in Milwaukee.  He is the coeditor of Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice.

Hey, whatchya readin’?

computer on table

Roughly 4 years ago (okay, it was more like 2 months, it just seems like it’s taken me that long to get it together) a reader named Marie asked on the facebook page:

You say you’re behind on your reading which prompts my question(s):

What do you read on a fairly regular basis? How much time do you spend a week reading professional material? What type of material (marketing, industry development, cutting edge research, etc) do you read? Where do you get your material?

Whoa, Marie. That’s a lot of questions! I like it when you make me think. Here’s a lot of answers.

I read a ton of stuff. Well, that’s not entirely true. I skim an awful lot of stuff. I sink my teeth into whatever catches my interest pretty quick. If I’m lucky, I can spend 30-40 minutes a day really reading, so probably 5-6 hours a week. More often I’m skimming and reposting things to the various pages I manage, and to my own massage business page (and twitter and google plus and interest when I remember).

If I happen upon something I really want to dive into and concentrate on, I use instapaper to bookmark it for later.

I’ve got a list below, but be assured it is incomplete. I’m getting better now at bookmarking sites I want follow regularly, and when there’s an option to subscribe via email, I usually do. I used to have RSS feeds set up in my computer’s email program but at some point, something went awry and I lost them all, and I haven’t set up a replacement option.

As you’ll see when you peruse the list, I read a wacky variety of blogs and online magazines. I don’t read every post of all of them all the time. But when I’m stuck, or just can’t concentrate but don’t want to totally waste time, I try to read things that may inspire me, or at least teach me something. All of these blogs do that.

Now, my question to you. What are YOU reading online?


massage industry

business & marketing



general life & health

photo courtesy of

Well, hello 39.

birthdayIt’s my birthday. I had a pretty fantastic day. Michael called first thing (while I was eating my cinnamon bun pancakes. Yeah, that’s a thing.)

I read a whole book. Fiction, even. I played with great kids, I got to be mellow and chill with their mom.

Now I’ve got cupcakes and wine and the music of a 12th century nun rocking the house.

I did some really cool stuff in my 39th year. I’m totally cool with being a little self-indulgence (hey, it’s my blog, also I’m totally revamping this thing soon so you’ll be getting Extreme Marketing junk soon enough) so I thought back and whipped up my list of Stuff That Mattered to Me This Year.

I revisited the Birthday post of 2011. I marked off a few things that I’ve accomplished.  There are still plenty of adventures I haven’t enjoyed yet. I’m cool with that.

I started a thing. It’s gonna be a big thing.

In what I still think of as the best 2nd date ever, I saw rodrigo y gabriela in hot & sweaty House of Blues with a hot & sweaty super cute guy. He didn’t last, my affection for the duo did. (Seriously. I want to play uke the way she pays guitar.)

I got my heart bruised up good and hard. Thrice.

I ran away to find comfort with a friend, and some alpacas, and Hildegard of Bingen.

Then I let it go.

And I kept trying.

I fell back in love with my massage practice. Then I noticed my skills are stale. Whoops. That is being remedied.

I bit my tongue a few too many times. Then I didn’t. And it was good.

My office got Vader-ed.

I made fancy drinks for my bestie.

I saw a old college friend, now a new(ish) MT sing and tell stories and talk shop on stage.

When I was in a craptastic, humiliating, vulnerable position I said “I can’t get cold cocked again. I am entirely out of resilience.” And I meant it. I got the mercy I needed. I don’t miss my pride.

I got cozier with myself. 30 minutes before a first date I couldn’t find the concealer. The blemish was just going to be there. And it didn’t matter.

I gave some massage to my nieces and nephews. I don’t think they know how much that means to me.

I showed up for some people. I stopped showing up for others. All good decisions.

I got used to saying, “I have depression”.  Although I did catch myself averting my eyes a bit when I told someone new recently. Probably gotta work on that a bit still.

So all in all, it was a decent year. Reading the list over, I worry that I’ve harped on the negative. The reality is, it was a HARD year. I spent a lot of time under my metaphorical bed hiding. But I learned stuff under there.

I’m coming for ya, 40. You best be ready.

Networking: my morning with a BNI group

trust handshakeLast week I went to a BNI (Business Network International) meeting. A local chiropractor belongs to the group and invited me to attend Visitors Day.

If you’ve never been to a BNI meeting, here’s the scenario in a nutshell: It’s a very structured referral group. At each weekly meeting, every member gives a 60 second schtick about their business and the kind of clients they want more of. Each week one particular member does a more in depth 10 minute presentation.

Each chapter only allows one member from any particular profession or specialty. Referrals are tracked and reported in a very organized manner. There’s an annual dues and fairly strict attendance requirements. I know many, many therapists who have had wonderful experiences with BNI and other similar networking group. I’ve been to a few different chapters as a visitor, and also to fill in for members who couldn’t make it to a meeting.

We all know that I’m making efforts to bump up my client numbers, and I’m also making an effort to push outside my cozy zone, too. So when the invitation was offered, I said yes. (Also, this particular chapter meets at 9:15am vs the typical crack-of-dawn time, so I felt that was a good sign.)

I was all ready with my 60 second schtick, “Hi, my name is Allissa Haines, I have a massage practice up the street in Plainville. I’ve got varied clientele, but mostly I’m looking for new clients dealing with depression and anxiety issues. We’ve got lots of promising research that shows massage can be helpful with these issues, and it’s an area I’m pleased to specialize in.” I even busted out my research book to make sure I was speaking the truth here.

I showed up on time, didn’t run away when I saw that my chiro friend wasn’t there yet, and made happy small talk with him when he arrived. He introduced me to a few people and then the meeting started.

The first thing the leader-person said was, “This isn’t going to be a typical meeting.” I almost audibly sighed. I knew I wasn’t going to get to do the 60 second speech I had prepared. Bummer. But I did get to do 10 second intro, and when I stood up to do it, I saw I already had some clients in the room. Sweet!

After some opening chatter, the speaker gave us a mission. “Grab a stack of your cards and in two minutes, introduce yourself to as many people as you can and get as many cards as you can.

And off we went. I felt awkward, of course. A few times I went to shake a hand as I introduced myself and the person was already using it to give me their card. People rushed. A client I hadn’t seen in a few years came over and we started to chat but a dozen other people were rushing towards us to throw business card our way and then run like the wind.

I cannot express how very happy I was when the two minutes ended. Then the speaker guy had people count their cards and gave some props to the woman with the most (17). People applauded. I pondered.

The rest of the meeting was fine. I spent some time afterwards talking to a few people and making some useful connections. Then I went back home, got back into my pajamas and took a nap. (Hey, it was 11am and my work-at-home Wednesday. Don’t judge.)

Since the meeting, I’ve thought a great deal about the ’2 minute’ activity. I understand the point of it for that event, the organizers wanted to impress upon us how many connections could be made quickly. But for me it highlighted a flaw that is so common.

I met a bunch of people. They’ve got my card in their wallet or purse now. But I only connected with a few. I know the aussie web developer has 2 kids, they go to the local parochial school and he hangs out at the local pool club with them all summer. My client that I hadn’t seen in awhile changed careers, and is loving her new job. She’s a member of the group and was thrilled when I said I would be happy to sub for her if she ever needed me. I’ve got about 9 other cards and I can’t place a face or character trait with them

This meeting was good for me. It reminded me that I like having time to hear a person’ s story. That’s a big part of why I do this work. I like to connect. But the event got me out of my networking rut and reminded me of a long-term goal: to start a small, slightly less rigid networking group of my own.

I would like to gather some of my favorite small business owners and do semi-weekly drop-in group. Maybe combine it with an online group of some kind. I’m not sure yet, I put in on the schedule for the fall.

Overall, it was a great adventure for me, and I’m so glad I went. Go me!

My question to you: What is your experience with networking and referral groups?

Things I Want to Tell You

There are some things I’ve been wanting to tell you about.

I want to tell you that I’ve been walking. For fitness, not just transportation. Not fast and not particularly far. But some. And enough. There’s a great little park near me, I saw the last pile of snow there last week. I felt hatred at it and admired its perseverance at the same time.


I want to tell you that I’ve never seen a winter like this one. Not necessarily weather-wise, but in spirit. It’s been crushing. It has beaten us down like none I’ve seen before.

I want to tell you that I got smoked by my friends and their toddlers at candlepin bowling last week. Smoked.


I want to tell you that I’ve been hustling to get more clients on my table. And it’s sort of working. Today I got invited to a BNI meeting. I don’t love them, it’s been years since I went to one. But in the interest of pushing myself, I’m going.

I want to tell you that I loved teaching at NERC. It was a weird but secret prestigious victory that my Sunday morning class was full. And attentive. I want to see the evals but I don’t, because I’m thrilled with the feedback I’ve gotten directly from attendees and I don’t want to be heartbroken.

I want to tell you that when I was preparing for NERC I found myself capable of more productivity and creativity than I though possible. and i’m trying hard to keep that going.

I want to tell you that I’ve been standing up for myself. Diplomatically, even.

And that I’ve failed to stand up for myself a few times and immediately regretted it.

I want to tell you that my clients are hilarious.

pogo text

And that I listen to The Moth when I walk and this episode made me ache, and this one made me giggle, and this one sucked. me. in.

I want to tell you that with my 39th birthday in sight I’ve never been happier. And I’ve never been less happy. I am confused and intrigued and inspired by this. I’m cool with that.

And that Greg and I went to a play at a cheesy little community theatre and it was so much fun. SO much fun, because when I was feeling icky, I could nap all day and not worry about cleaning my house because Greg is the kind of friend I don’t have to clean my house for.
I want to tell you that getting an email marketing plan together may just be the smartest thing you can do for your practice.

I want to tell you that I just passed 9 years in practice and I still get a little nervous when a new client walks in the door. Sometimes when a regular client does, too.

I want to tell you how that nervous feeling is a little bit the same as it was 9 years ago. But it’s mostly different. It’s more excitement now and less fear. Well, it’s a more confident fear, that I can handle what walks in.

I want to tell you that I took the high road. I probably won’t always, but I did on one occasion and I feel good about it.

I want to tell you that I whined to a colleague today about being busy, and when she told me to ‘not put too much work’ into my project with her, I laughed inside, because hers is the project I’m most excited about. Then I reminded myself to stop whining.

I want to tell you that many of the people I think of as trailblazers in massage are also my friends. And volunteering made that possible.

I want to tell you that I’m sad that I’m not an AMTA member anymore. And as I wind down working for some chapters, as I build committees to replace me so I can step away fully, I’m mourning that loss. (I also want to tell you that if you’re a CT or MA chapter member and want to train under me to learn some crazy marketable skills and also feel great about volunteering, you should email me right now.)

I want to tell you that I’ve finally figured out what this whole Blue Streak endeavor is supposed to be. But I won’t be showing that to you right away.

I want to tell you that I’m clearing time to make that happen, but I’m not putting deadlines on it because I’m going to do it right, from the ground up, this time. That may take awhile.

I want to tell you that this work, this somewhat odd job we have, where we touch people, is really, really important. You know that already, but I want to remind you. It can be hard to hang on to that when we’re tired, when the rent goes up, when you miss a spontaneous get together of friends because you’ve had a client scheduled for 3 weeks and you just can’t cancel.

I want to tell you that because you are a massage therapist someone is sleeping better tonight. Someone is handling the news of a death a little better. A kid who didn’t before is hugging their parent. Someone is creating their next great masterpiece without pain. Caregivers are keeping kids healthier.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about all of this, but I’ve been kinda busy doing it, taking your advice and hustling to get clients on the table. And it’s working. So thanks for that.

My very own nostalgia video

-or- It’s a snow day and no work shall be done.

In a move of marketing brilliance, Facebook is running a 10 year birthday campaign that includes a video retrospective, made up of highlights from a user’s profile.

It’s catchy, it’s fun, and it’s causing lumps in throats and adorable bouts of nostalgic weepiness across the country.

After watching my own video I realized they did a damn fine job of curating and featuring the things that have been most important in my life for the past 7 years.

The opening two pictures are my 2008 AMTA-MA Chapter Meritorious Award, and the third is a picture with Harold Packman, an amazing and hilarious massage therapist I met when he came to teach for us. My great-niece makes an appearance, there’s a fabulous shot of my friend Melanie and I after conquering a run up and down the Gillette Stadium ramps in the July heat, a reminder of how much I adore my job, and more than one photo chronicling my friendship with Greg. I estimate 90% of the video is related to my massage friends and events. This makes sense. In the absence of offspring, I am able to throw myself into work I love, and I have the freedom to play with my massage friends often. This pleases me, I love my work. It also ignited my recurring “Shit. Am I codependent on my work? Do I have a life outside of massage?” concerns.

Then I started watching my friend’s videos. I appeared in Greg’s, in a photo of our post meeting/class scotch ritual. And in Jaime’s, holding her baby. And in Angela’s, before and after a 13 mile stroll together and then one with fancy drinks. Her video was rife with clips of accomplishments from kids who have changed my world. (That’s when I… ummm…got something in my eye.)

I had been thinking so hard about what’s in my life, I kinda forgot about the other lives that I’m a part of. And I am part of many.

You understand that it’s about Relationships, Allissa.

That’s what Michael has said to me nearly every time I’ve questioned if I should have anything to do with teaching marketing. The answer to any question about marketing usually comes down to relationship-building. Do you understand what your people need? Do you really, genuinely care about finding the answer? Will you serve?

Not sell, convince, or persuade. But inform and serve.

For a long time I thought I had to serve in a particular way. I thought I had to volunteer through certain channels. I thought I had to conform to the typical Online Business-y/Sell ebooks model. Turns out that was all crap. We’ve build something very different here. This little Blue Streak community spans organizations, modalities, and an ocean or two. We do it with brains, and humor, and love. And we do it well.

So then I thought, what would the nostalgic Facebook video of my Blue Streak page look like? Facebook isn’t doing it with pages, so I had to make my own. Enjoy. And thanks for coming along.