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It’s Time To Start Building Your Tribe

It’s Time To Start Building Your Tribe

“If you think leadership is only for other people, you’re wrong. We need YOU to lead us” – Seth Godin

We live in a time where information and innovation are at our fingertips.

Yet, within our profession, we still sit steeped in outdated information and a lack of updated education for our students coming out of college.

But there is a reason for that. It’s easier!

It’s easier to teach people to be sheep that follow along, rather than challenge the status quo. It’s easier to go decades without updating curriculum, while still teaching old information with confidence, and failing students for questioning otherwise.

What’s also easier is to just follow rather than question. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s human nature. Why would we question what educational institutions and regulatory bodies say?

Well, we have to in order to grow. 

This is where you come in. Your community needs you, and our profession needs you. We need you to embrace the tension between what you were taught and what new information says (it’s literally at your fingertips). 

If you don’t think you can do something like this, you’re wrong. There is a leader in all of us, sometimes we just need to learn how to bring it out.

So with that, here are some examples of therapists doing great things in their communities both locally and professionally to bring about change and make a difference.

Four Therapists Building Their Tribe

Rajam Roose

She was not a professional event organizer and had never taken on the task of organizing a conference while running her massage therapy practice. But, in January of 2014, after organizing a combination CEU course with Barrett Dorko, and Diane Jacobs, a light bulb went off. Rajam would go on to create the “San Diego Pain Summit,” which would officially start in 2015.

Rajam reached out to presenters and would organize them coming to one place to present on pain science, which would, in turn, start to influence our industry (this is where she started building her tribe). Many don’t know that she does everything for the conference herself, from managing the website, organizing speakers, hiring video, negotiating venues, and organizing volunteers (just to name a few of the necessary tasks), which has led her down a road into being more of an educator than strictly a Massage Therapist. Not only has this opportunity led into more business developments, it has also developed quality relationships with therapists from around the world, and gives her a feeling like she is serving our Massage Therapy community by helping therapists change how their patients pain is managed.

All too often many of us sit back because of “imposter syndrome” for fear that we can’t do something, or don’t know enough. So, I have to include this quote from Rajam:

I also have a bit of a rebellious personality. From prior life experiences, I’ve learned that we can do anything we set our minds to. I enjoy shaking up the status quo. For example, most people may be shocked to learn that I have very little formal education. I only have 2 years of high school and 1 year of a college education under my belt. I hope people will read this here, learn what I have and am doing, and be inspired to know they can do anything if they want.

Sarah Haag

Six years ago sitting on a train platform in Milan, Sarah was talking to her friend Sandy Hilton discussing how much better the world would be if healthcare was better, simpler, more efficient, and more scientific. They shared common goals and dreams when it came to patient care, so they started Entropy Physiotherapy.

Part of the goal was to host courses in their clinic where they and other therapists could learn from the best in the world, not just the best who happened to be closest to them when they needed a course. When picking speakers, they chose the ones that would challenge them, make them a little uncomfortable, and start discussions that would make practitioners better.

They wanted course offerings that left you energized from new ideas, collaborations, and developed new relationships. They reached out and started to find those exact kind of instructors, and also took a different approach in dealing with them. As a team, Sarah and Sandy would be very mindful of treating speakers well and not gouging them, or the course participants. While they didn’t have the intention of building a tribe, it has happened in the ensuing years. The people they’ve met at courses and conferences have become their tribe, which is something they’re only too happy to be a part of, not one they feel like they are leading (and they’re having a lot of fun doing it).

Brian Rutledge

“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Plato

After years of co-owning a successful group practice, Brian decided to go out on his own. 

He thought he had all the right skills and all the right plans, but he had no idea what was in store. While solo practice hasn’t exactly been great for his wallet, there have been other opportunities develop.

Having extra time, he has been able to learn about himself, while growing and refining his vision and purpose. This has given Brian the time to start teaching (even though advocating for up-to-date science can be an uphill battle and one that isn’t exactly rewarded), to engage with other professionals, and to pursue other interests. Some of those interests have led into building a community locally and online, as well as creating more educational content, to put on more courses locally for other practitioners.

Those interests have helped shape his practice and resulted in more enjoyment in what he does, a better relationship with patients, and the ability to refine crucial communication skills which have brought about a greater connection with people.

Two years of personal and professional development haven’t been easy, but building his tribe has been priceless.

Jenn Sharman

In October 2017 Jenn teamed up with an old classmate to open a new clinic.

They had a strong desire to create a clinic grounded in evidence-based approaches to treatment and patient care within the biopsychosocial lens while staying within their scope of practice as RMT’s. 

Knowing there was new research detailing advances in pain science for patient care, that wasn’t taught in school, they wanted to discuss these developments with other colleagues. They decided to create a monthly ‘pain science discussion group’ at their clinic. So far the response has been far more enthusiastic than expected (especially since it’s on Friday nights).

So far, three meetings in, the discussions have been on topics like “reconceptualizing pain, enhancing placebo-minimizing nocebo, and shifting from structural pathological to biopsychosocial.” 

Their group has a wide range of people from new grads to seasoned veterans who are all helping in their own way. While this represents an exciting time for manual therapy, it has brought about concerns. If students are not taught up to date information on pain it is doing a disservice to the public, which highlights how we need to come together as a profession to understand current best practices and let go of approaches or theories not supported by scientific evidence.

In creating this group, there is an attempt to share relevant research and get conversations started based on where to look for valid research and information.

This is another spot where I will include a quote:

it’s really exciting to see the level of interest amongst the community of RMTs. Once you get a group of passionate people talking in the same room, new connections and opportunities to create change will grow from there. I’m really excited to be a part of the conversations that need to happen to move our profession forward so that we can provide effective, compassionate and evidence-informed patient care.

Photo by: rawpixel

Now It’s Your Turn

I hope some of those examples will resonate with you as a therapist. 

It doesn’t take a fancy education, huge credentials, or a big financial backing to start making a difference. It just takes some motivation and the desire to create change. 

Part of what needs to be done is changing the effect some of the “modality guru’s” have within the manual therapy professions, they have made their own tribes. But those people are not where we are going to make change. Growth happens when we reach out to those who aren’t committed members of a tribe, but rather those who are at the fringes questioning modalities, old theories, or questioning those gurus. 

Looking at your local community right now, there are a few ways you can start to build your own tribe. Start by reaching out to other practitioners, whether they are Physio’s, Chiro’s, Athletic Therapists, or other Massage Therapists and be willing to start a conversation (just for the love of all that is good, please make sure it’s evidence-based). You will soon find out if they can be part of your tribe. 

Start pulling people in and discussing best practices, business, education, and whatever else will help each person in your tribe grow professionally and personally. 

Be a leader!

Once you have started locally, reach out online. Start fostering relationships with other practitioners, join in conversations, start conversations, watch debate and see what you can learn.  Join some facebook groups that will challenge your thinking, you will soon find out who you can learn from, and who is still stuck in old theories. Just make sure you join in the conversation.

As Jenn Sharman said, “it’s an exciting time to be a manual therapist,” and it’s a lot more exciting when more people are joining in. 



As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.

Jamie Johnston
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Jamie Johnston

Founder at The MTDC
As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.
Jamie Johnston
Follow me

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