"Healing With Metal: Prosperity, Inspiration, Presence"
By Deborah Valentine Smith, BA, AOBTA-CI, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM) and Yolanda Asher, BFA, AOBTA-CI, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA
The 2007 AOBTA Convention, held at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel over Labor Day weekend, centered on metal, the third of the organization's Five-Element convention themes.
Participants agreed that the qi generated by the meetings, workshops and social events at this convention was powerful, positive and inclusive, and will help to enliven the organization and its members through the coming year.
The weekend began on Aug. 30 with Re-Visioning Day, an opportunity for all members to participate in a lively exchange of ideas about the future of the only nonprofit professional membership organization in the U.S. representing Asian bodywork schools and programs, instructors, practitioners and students. Introductory topics included what AOBTA is, how it works, where it is, what kinds of interactive forces are at work, where it wants to go and how it might get there. Members participated in a discussion facilitated by AOBTA Director of Education Michael DeAgro, in which they identified several topics related to the generation of organizational qi: new member orientation, increasing member participation/volunteerism, peer support, practical legitimacy, profession-building, strengthening AOBTA certification and education.
Assisted by AOBTA Board Member-At-Large, Michelle Racich, they then formed smaller groups to identify issues and brainstorm on projects that could move the organization ahead. Members constructed several task forces that will spearhead the exciting new projects, including a fact-finding, computer-savvy group that will assist Legislative Director Yolanda Asher, in updating regulatory information across the United States.
The next morning, stepping energetically into her second day as the organization's new president, Maria Spuller delivered the welcoming address at the opening breakfast and membership meeting. Her remarks highlighted the metal element theme of the convention and plans for further vitalization of the organization in the coming year. In the audience were distinguished guests from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the National Qigong Association (NQA), the Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners (AMTWP) and the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). Members were introduced to Bryn Clark, chair of the NCCAOM Board of Commissioners; Barbra Esher, NCCAOM commissioner; Janet Sullivan, president of the NQA; Don Himmelman, board director of AMTWP; and Leena Guptha, president of the AMTA. Later distinguished arrivals included Elizabeth Lucas, AMTA executive director; Michael Kastris, International Association of Structural Integrators board director; and Cliff Korn, editor of Massage Today.
The reports from the board of directors included a description of the process of investigating the organization's membership title "certified practitioner." The board's research has clarified that there are two types of certification: assessment-based and exam-based. NCCAOM provides a psychometrically sound national certification exam for ABTs, who are then awarded diplomate status. AOBTA offers an assessment-based certification which involves evaluating a membership candidate's education and practical skills. Therefore it is both ethical and appropriate for AOBTA members to continue to use the title "certified practitioner." The AOBTA affirms that the NCCAOM ABT exam and ABT diplomate status are vital in the regulatory arena and for the elevation of the ABT profession.
In related news, Cindy Banker, AOBTA-certified instructor, founding AOBTA member, and chair of the AOBTA Forms Committee, announced that Jin Shou Tuina, which saw six of its instructors certified by the AOBTA at the last convention, had just completed the process of becoming an officially recognized AOBTA Form.
The convention team, including Gonzalo Flores and Michael DeAgro, past and current directors of education, respectively; Debra Howard, convention director and outgoing president; and Teresa Patterson, convention coordinator, gathered an energetic and stimulating roster of presenters who covered topics around the theme "Healing With Metal: Prosperity, Inspiration, Presence," that ranged from stimulating acupoints with (metal) tuning forks to business practices for ABTs. The participants, from students just beginning the study of ABT to veterans of many decades, attended exciting and stimulating workshops including "Quantum Body" with Pauline Sasaki; "Twelve Wondrous Exercises of Qigong" and "Infant and Pediatric Bodywork From Asian Medicine" with Jake Paul Fratkin; "Meditation for Inspiration From the Twelve Officials and Five Elements" with Deborah Valentine Smith; "Tai Qi Easy" and "Clinical Qigong Energetics" with Roger Jahnke; "Acutonics: the Energetics of Transformation Through Sound Vibration" with Donna Carey and Ellen Franklin; "Life and Business Success" with Michael Gaeta; "The Energetics of Foods and Medicinal Plant Remedies" with Susan Krieger; and "Ki Exercises" with Gonzalo Flores. Michael DeAgro led a lively "Resolving Ethical Dilemmas" course and Mark Moore presented a workshop on developing research around ABT. Michael Gaeta also led a daylong preparation for the NCCAOM ABT exam.
On Saturday, experienced practitioners made up a panel to answer "What Do I Do When...?" The panel members were Stuart Watts, AOBTA-certified instructor (CI) and AOBTA treasurer; Barbara Blanchard, AOBTA-CI, one of the founding members of AOBTA and the founder and director of the Acupressure Therapy Institute in Quincy, Mass.; Maria Spuller, AOBTA-registered instructor (RI) and AOBTA president, Catherine White, AOBTA-RI; and Gonzalo Flores, AOBTA-CI and former AOBTA director of education. In the audience were students just beginning their training, recent ABT graduates and practitioners with many years of experience, including Toshiko Phipps, AOBTA's founding member, honorary board member and the first AOBTA-CI. Stimulated in large part by questions and comments from the "newbies," the panel format dissolved as the expert members came out from behind their table and joined the audience in a lively roundtable discussion in which everyone participated, perpetuating the energy of involvement and exploration from the opening Re-visioning Day.
One of the highlights of the convention was the Saturday evening keynote address by Candace Pert, PhD. Dr. Pert is a former research professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and section chief at the National Institute of Mental Health. She was featured in the movie "What the Bleep Do We (K)now!?," and in Bill Moyers' "Healing and the Mind," and her Molecules of Emotion provided the chemical evidence for the body-mind connection. Her address was a delightful mix of tantalizing scientific tidbits about her discovery of the opiate receptor and further peptide research, and personal anecdotes about the body-mind connection. She endeared herself even further to the audience by reporting that the Asian Bodywork Therapy sessions (which she describes as part of "new paradigm healing") given by AOBTA members Gonzalo Flores, Barbra Esher and David Andrews were the best form of treatment she had received to date. The Q&A session following her talk was more like an informal conversation among colleagues as she answered questions and then asked the audience to contribute from their own experience. She truly embodied the philosophy of her new book, To Feel Go(o)d: The Science and Spirit of Bliss, which was written in response to the questions people ask her on her speaking tours. She discovered, she said, that in the end, what people really want to know is how to feel good.
Of course, the activities of the convention were not limited to the items posted on the official schedule. Members tucked meetings into every available space in the five days of the convention. During Saturday lunch, members of the Council of Schools and Programs (COSP) gathered with Deborah Overholt, COSP director, to exchange ideas and advice from their experience of providing ABT education. The group included longtime and recently approved COSP members, as well as a group that is in the process of completing its application to become a new school.
A delicious banquet on Sunday night was followed by the convention awards ceremony, emceed by AOBTA Vice President Bev Sonen. Both the Lifetime Achievement Award and the President's Award were given to Patricia Carusone, AOBTA-CI, former owner and director of the Charles River Institute in Boston and longtime supporter and member of the AOBTA. Then it was "everybody out on the floor!" dancing until midnight.
The next AOBTA convention is tentatively scheduled for San Diego in March 2009. Check www.aobta.org for further updates.