Rebekah Owens, LMT, BCTMB
How did you discover the massage therapy profession?
From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted my superpower to be the ability to heal someone by touching them, which eventually led me to nursing school. As a nursing student, we were taught the basics of Swedish massage and I used it on many patients. While it doesn’t cure all ills, I found that massage – the power of human touch – made a positive difference in nearly all patients. One day I received a flyer in the mail about massage therapy school and after speaking with the school representatives, I switched gears and changed my career path.
How did you develop your passion into a career?
I tried out many different majors in college and eventually found myself in nursing school. It was wonderful, but I always got sidetracked in my duties because I would stop to check in with each patient, often gently massaging a foot or hand, even neck or shoulders. I saw a huge difference in pain and comfort levels, anxiety, ability to sleep, and general demeanor. I have used my healthcare background to support my massage career and have worked in healthcare settings and have had the opportunity to teach the basics of massage to medical students and other healthcare professionals.
I am certified in infant massage instruction and pediatric massage, and have training in fertility massage, pre- and post-natal massage, oncology massage and a variety of modalities. These skills allow me to work with a wide variety of people in diverse environments, which is very satisfying.
How has your career evolved?
Since I was first licensed 14 years ago, I have worked as a massage therapist at a chiropractor’s office, day spa, Massage Envy, my home office, client’s home/office (travelling), and most recently at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. I also work as the PR Specialist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where I teach “Introduction to Therapeutic Massage” class as part of the 4th year medical school elective in Integrative Medicine and to healthcare providers enrolled in the Applied Integrative Medicine Program we offer. I also present about massage at national conferences that we have hosted (the first one featured Dr. Andrew Weil as the keynote), offer workshops on campus, and teach self-care through massage to patients and others. Additionally, I write informational articles about different types of massage and articles with tips for self-care using massage, and I have been quoted in several newspaper/published articles, such as this one in The Washington Post alongside Tiffany Field and Josie Briggs.
The most recent development is one of the most exciting! We recently started collaborating with the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC) here in Baltimore to provide an Integrative Wellness Program, of which massage is a part. We primarily treat oncology patients who are being seen for proton therapy, but also take care of family members and staff when space is available. This program is something that sets MPTC apart from other centers because it offers whole person care and wellness. Massage is a very popular aspect of the program.
What does Board Certification mean to you?
In the academic and healthcare worlds, a lot of value is put on degrees, education, and certification. To continue cultivating and elevating the field of massage, board certifications are most certainly needed, in my experience. The specialty certificates are a great way to encourage thorough, consistent education as we embark on new paths solidly placed on medical teams.
Working for the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, I am part of a team of interdisciplinary health professionals who value treating the whole person – not just the cancer or the pain or the disease. I am a part of the team of experts – Board Certified in my field.
What does the future hold for you?
I am actively working with our Integrative Wellness team at MPTC to write Case Reports to be published in peer reviewed journals. I plan to write grants to bring massage to more people who cannot afford it. I have recently completed post-graduate training in Fundraising and Grant Writing to help facilitate this. I would also like to help implement therapeutic massage services throughout the hospital – and wider, if possible. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is funding. We must work with generous donors, supportive hospitals, and find other funding to support the programs. Additionally, I would like to lobby to encourage insurance companies to reimburse for massage services again (insurance reimbursement for massage was discontinued in Maryland in 2005).
How do you hope to see the massage therapy and bodywork profession evolve?
I would like to see massage therapy continue on its trajectory to be firmly part of the healthcare field. Baccalaureate programs for healthcare-focused massage therapists would be a good start and should include training in oncology, orthopedics, pediatrics, hospital-based massage, and so forth. Since education and certifications are highly valued in healthcare, the massage field should rise up to meet the demand in order to be fully accepted by healthcare providers.