Douglas Nelson, LMT, BCTMB
My Massage Therapy Journey
My journey in massage therapy began in 1977. I had just finished a year-long training. As I was leaving, my new roommate was a new massage therapy graduate, and asked if he could practice on me. I remember encouraging him that, “If you want to be really good at this, you should practice as much as possible!”
I pursued training in massage and never looked back; I was enthralled with the power and promise of massage therapy. What I saw in 1977 was that there were so many people who suffered with soft-tissue pain, and the resources available to help them were very scarce. This was at a time when manual approaches were very much out of vogue with mainstream medicine. I believed that massage therapy had something really important to offer to the health care system, especially for people whose pain was not life threatening, but made everyday tasks much more difficult. Over all these years, that vision has been clarified, matured and strengthened, but is essentially the same. The public really needs what massage therapy has to offer.
My Life’s Work
After practicing by myself for several years, I began to add additional therapists to my office. At this point, I have 18 massage therapists who are employed at my clinic in Champaign, IL. One of the things of which I am proudest is the level of community engagement we do. We sponsor many artistic events, support charities, and are very involved in working with athletes from the University of Illinois. We have a very visible presence in our community, and I think that reflects well on the massage therapy profession as a whole.
I began teaching in this field in the early 1990’s and began teaching Precision Neuromuscular Therapy in 1998. My institute, NMT MidWest, has taught about 100 seminars annually since 2000. I just totaled up the hours I have spent teaching and it was over 12,000 hours! Whew!
While teaching and writing books and articles is wonderful, the anchor point for me is still being in my treatment room, seeing people who hurt. I think that when I am teaching, the real credibility comes from my experience with seeing so many clients (about 1,300 annually for almost four decades now). I know what it is like to struggle and fail, looking for the right key to help the client in the best way possible. Sometimes I think that students believe that if you are really an excellent therapist, you go from one success to another. Real life in the clinic isn’t like that at all; the more skilled you are, the more you simply learn to fail faster. That is only possible with assessment techniques that give you accurate feedback, helping to confirm or disconfirm your present course of action as quickly as possible.
I really enjoy the “Sherlock Holmes” aspect of the work; it is so gratifying when real progress is made. I fear that without that deep ongoing clinical experience with clients, there could be a tendency to have very simple answers to very complicated questions. Actually, most of my clients don’t know that I teach, they just know that I am either the guy who helped them, or the guy who didn’t. I like respect that is earned, not given. In the clinic, you have to earn it every day. That is a good thing.
Board Certification is important to me as it is a symbol of a deep commitment to constant improvement in the field of massage therapy. It is not a symbol of having achieved an end goal, it is a symbol of a lifelong commitment to excellence. The Grail is in the seeking, not the cup.
I choose Board Certified because it is an outward symbol of a very inward commitment to the highest standards in our profession. As the highest voluntary credential in our profession, Board Certification is an outward symbol of achievement for clients who are searching for a therapist who can best serve their needs. Personally, after 38 years in practice, it is an inward symbol of many years of dedication to constant learning and growth to this wonderful discipline of massage therapy. Board Certification represents a constant desire to be the best massage therapist possible for the clients who grace my doorway.