What Do You Call a Gathering of Massage Therapists?

By Sharon Livingstone

Although she vehemently denies it was anything other than a genuine question about why massage therapists pay a lot of money for online courses, AMT CEO Rebecca Barnett could not have hoped for a better response when she posted in AMT’s private Facebook group:

Why are massage therapists willing to invest over $1000 to enrol in dry needling trainings that are mostly delivered online but baulk at $450 for AMT annual conference registration?

Despite Queenslander Sam McCracken registering within a nanosecond of the 2018 AMT Conference going on sale, it looked like it’d be a small attendance. Which was disappointing, given the fantastic programme of workshops and plenary sessions, not to mention AMT’s coup of securing Doctor Doubter, a.k.a Professor Ian Harris as the keynote speaker.

Then Rebecca posted her tantrum genuine question. Within days, workshops were filled and someone at Head Office had to source more lanyards.

Clyde Andrews

Clyde Andrews, from Victoria, decided to attend, making it “part of a holiday for me. My wife and I stayed on a few more days to enjoy the sights of Sydney”.

Not everyone needed the inspiration of the CEO’s Facebook question. Christine Taylor booked her spot only a few minutes behind fellow Queenslander, Sam.

Christine Taylor

“I pester AMT as early as possible (sorry not sorry) to find out where and when the conference will be, so I can budget my time, money and CEU into a big happy ball. As soon as the date and venue were set for the 2018 AMT Conference, I leapt into action and booked flights from Brisbane, my hotel room at Rydges and my place at the conference. Then I told my husband I was off to Sydney for four days in October, and he was coming.”

Whatever the motivation, the 29th Annual AMT Conference turned out to be the best attended in the history of AMT Conferences. There were people sitting in the back of the room in workshops, standing along the walls during the plenary session and the burble of conversation over lunch rivalled Rainbow Lorikeets at dusk.

Did everything go according to plan? Er, no.

I know there were some rather stressful moments as booked speakers got sick or cancelled. But you know what, everything turned out fine – so much so, socially awkward introverts like me didn’t even notice.” – Clyde

I heard that there were last minute hiccoughs that had elves running about fixing but it all looked seamless from out front.” – Christine

Was there an unusually high number of Canadians in attendance? Why, yes.

Robert Libbey

His accent was something else. Hey, he could read the phone book and I’d listen!” – Clyde (on Robert Libbey)

Robert Libbey was a bit of a hit with everyone who had the joy and privilege of attending one of his workshops.

I walked in and sat down and was wowed by Robert Libbey and his LAST presentation. To be in the hands of a trainer so passionate about his craft is very inspiring. I am pleased to report that I have used techniques from both presentations with total success.” – Christine

It was a workshop where there was something I could take away to my practice. Pity we didn’t have more time with him.” – Clyde

But Robert wasn’t the only hit at the conference. The two men who replaced one woman (refer back to “did everything go according to plan”), Matt Hempsell and Mike Foy from One Health in Port Macquarie ran a pre-conference workshop and 2 breakout workshops.

Mike and Matt do some explaining.

There is something to learn in every presentation and Matt Hempsell and Mike Foy certainly delivered. A lot that was said was reviewing past learnings and I am glad for any chance to review and revive as it challenges my brain to stay alert. I also find that with my hands-on experience ideas now become relevant and I can now activate the practical application as I have greater understanding. An example is “you can change Neuromuscular Adaption but not necessarily be able to change bony (genetic) structure”. A simple enough statement, or is it?” – Christine


It was difficult to get up and introduce Ian Harris, the keynote speaker, after singing a round or two of “Guten Morgen, Guten Morgen, Guten Morgen” in his face. I’ve long been banned from singing in the shower – I’m that terrible – and I can only apologise to Ian for subjecting him to that.

Have you seen Ian on the SBS Insight programme – Joint Operation? Or read his book, Surgery, The Ultimate Placebo? Or subscribe to his Doctor Skeptic blog? It’s no wonder I hyperventilated during that introduction. He’s a sensible voice in the din.

Ian Harris’s speech really set the tone for the whole event in my opinion. And opened a lot of eyes and minds in the process, I’m sure. Who would have guessed that a professor of orthopaedic surgery would confirm that cortisone injections (along with many other procedures people endure) are a placebo! Also, how he explained what a placebo really was added weight to his words.” – Clyde

The stand out speaker for me was Prof Ian Harris. I admire his chutzpah for being brave enough to publicly and very intelligently challenge the Medical System in which he resides and makes his living. Unbelievable! Sharon Livingstone’s message about doing things habitually just because they make us feel good seemed to counter his whole presentation. But when the “thing” that is being done to us through habit and tradition, and dare I say it $$$$, may cause harm while offering hope turns out to be nothing more than that, another approach could be simply to do nothing or adopt a less invasive option i.e. coffee, fresh clothes, a shower and compression socks, then questions do need to be asked of the whole system.” – Christine

Rebecca Barnett

But an AMT Conference is not all about workshops and plenary sessions. It was a great opportunity for Rebecca Barnett to receive many hugs and kind words about her advocacy and her blog articles. It was an opportunity for us members to thank and put a face to a name of the people who help us, and put up with our whingeing, on a daily basis – the Head Office staff. It was a chance to speak to other massage therapists and, for some, to dress up for the cocktail party.

I was the best dressed fellow there and my wife Leanne was equally stunning in her dress,” Clyde boasted before adding, “I chatted with heaps of people, including having an in-depth conversation with Mike Foy. What a great guy.

The energy over the entire conference was positive. And there was a lot to take away.

“Each of the speakers alluded to slowing treatment down and ask for calm from my client’s body. Calm down the whole system and allow the body to start to heal itself. If injury has occurred whether acute or from years past, find that restriction and try to bring it back to a less excited state, then educate your client through breath and movement that they can achieve wellness and return to function more quickly.” – Christine

I have to say, I really did make some wonderful contacts, both with fellow colleagues and people I had only met on social media before the weekend. It was nice to put faces to them. It was my first AMT conference, and I really did feel connected to the wonderful therapists I met. We work in our own businesses, or for others, not really getting a chance to meet others like us. It is conferences like the AMT one that makes us all realise we’re not alone in what we do for others.” – Clyde

I need to sleep for a week.” – Rebecca

I will be able to speak in coherent sentences again soon, won’t I?” – Sharon

About the Author

Sharon Livingstone is a massage therapist in Sydney, NSW. A love of sport drew her to the industry but discovering job satisfaction came from helping people live with less pain keeps her in it. Sharon is a writer, keen bushwalker and frustrated traveller, who has just returned from a 300km walk across France (shower, change clothes, compression garments and coffee).

Photo credits: Dave Moore and Sharon Livingstone

Share this post:
Finding Your Village
Stuff … and nonsense


  1. When and where is the 2019 conference please ?

    • Hi Angela. The 2019 conference is being held on the Sunshine Coast on November 1 and 2. We hope you can make it!

  2. Jo Cotterall
    25/10/2018 - 12:10 pm

    Looking forward to attending the 2019 conference…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *