A drawing of people talking from their computer screens to each other is used to illustrate the concept of an international organization united around research and conversation.

Have you heard of the ICMT—the International Consortium on Manual Therapies? Its goal is to bring together the many diverse practitioners of manual therapies, including massage therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, structural integrationists, physical therapists and others who specialize in various types of bodywork, in order to allow them to collaborate, share research and understand each other’s approaches.

This organization formed in 2019 and had its first online conference in 2022.

As a massage therapist, you may derive great benefits from becoming part of this organization. MASSAGE Magazine spoke with people who belong to the organization to bring you inside information on how the ICMT can help further you in your professional life.

1. Submit a Research Poster

Brian Degenhardt
Brian Degenhardt

The ICMT is currently accepting applications for research poster presentations for an upcoming online event, Brian Degenhardt, DO, the ICMT’s chair of conference planning committee and assistant vice president for osteopathic research at A.T. Still University, told MASSAGE Magazine.

In 2024 the ICMT plans a webinar around the topic of secondary outcomes or secondary mechanisms for the effectiveness of hands-on manual therapies, “contextual factors that are influencing the outcomes of manual therapies,” said Degenhardt.

“We’ll be having a poster call so that we can keep everybody up to date on the latest research that’s happening within the general field,” he said. “And so that is what we’re hoping to have next in the upcoming fall, and then the following year to have a conference webinar around the topic of secondary outcomes or secondary mechanisms for the effectiveness of hands-on manual therapies, contextual factors that are influencing the outcomes of manual therapies.”

Sandy Fritz
Sandy Fritz

“I learn a lot from the poster presenters,” said Sandy Fritz, LMT, BCTMB, an ICMT member, author and owner of the Health Enrichment Center School of Massage Therapy in Lapeer, Michigan. “I am actively involved in the conferences representing the massage therapy community.”

2. Network with Colleagues

The ICMT’s 2024 event will feature keynote speakers and breakout sessions, but will remain an online event because the content is more of a presenter-to-audience type of format, said Degenhardt. The group has decided it is more cost-effective to keep some presentations online rather than live.

“Our goal is to put on programming that is able to engage people from the diverse professions within the manual therapies arena,” Degenhardt said, “so we’re very conscious about putting on programming that people can easily afford and engage in.”

The ICMT’s 2025 conference will be in-person. Degenhardt explained that ICMT organizers hope the cost savings in 2023 and 2024 will allow people to more easily participate in the 2025 conference’s in-person activities and breakout sessions.

3. Build Your Professional Community

The ICMT is a welcoming group that has the potential to introduce you to some very interesting people who are in related professions, Degenhardt said. You will “be part of a collegial and respectful interprofessional group of science-oriented manual therapy professionals and basic scientists who routinely interact with the goal of maintaining meaningful research collaborations within manual therapies and disseminating clinically relevant research that promotes evidence-based practice,” he explained. “This process will open up one’s mind to the complexity of the human body and the healing potential of human interaction.”

There are also multiple opportunities to get involved, especially in scholarly activities. “Right now that would be the preparation of the manuscripts and then beginning to prepare for our next round of conferences.” 

It’s important that the massage therapy community be well-represented in the ICMT, said Fritz.

“Building community is essential for interdisciplinary communication,” she said. “Developing the ability to communicate cross-discipline supports respect and understanding. Massage therapists have much to offer, but if we cannot communicate effectively we are limited in the ability to educate and be educated.”

4. Better Understand Other Professionals’ Approaches 

Fritz says one significant benefit of ICMT membership for her has been an enhanced understanding of how other types of manual therapists practice, and what their contribution can be to the well-being and healing of a client. She also has valued the chance to inform other bodywork professionals of the unique benefits massage therapy can bring to the table. This kind of mutual understanding, she says, is especially important when it comes to clients who present with complex issues. 

“It has been rewarding for me to experience how massage therapy is better understood by the other members [representing] other manual therapy professions,” Fritz said. “I have been able to identify areas of confusion related to working together in interdisciplinary care and clarifying skills and scope of practice interface. It has become more clear that various professions use similar methods, but who we work with autonomously and when working as part of a team and who is the team leader is very important. 

“For example, all of the member professions use joint-movement methods, but with various outcome intentions,” Fritz said. “Joint movement as assessment and an intervention by a massage therapist when working with a healthy individual who is stiff is much less complex with less risk than work with an individual who has had a joint replacement. The more complex the client, the more important is the interdisciplinary interface.” 

5. Look to the Future

In addition to its website, the ICMT keeps members informed of new developments and events via an automated email list. You will be added to this list when you become a member.

Potentially important developments are on the horizon in the field, Degenhardt predicted. “If we are looking at where manual therapies are going from a big picture, there are some major initiatives that have been launched in the past year by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Three centers have been funded to facilitate research in the manual therapy field. They are Force.NET, Neurons_MATTR and SPINE-WORK networks. Like ICMT, these networks are breaking down the silos that have hampered advancement in this field and are promoting collaboration.”

Degenhardt urges massage therapists to join the consortium to keep abreast of all new developments in manual therapy. “To stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening within the field and as a result to be able to keep your practice, your understanding about and your ability to communicate about what you are doing up to date, that is an important value of being part of the ICMT.” 

Allison M. Payne

About the Author

Allison M. Payne is an independent writer and editor based in northeast Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “You Asked: What Can Craniosacral Therapy Address?” and “Massage for Medical Professionals: Your Skills Are in Demand.”