Today I'm following up with another correction to the otherwise decent article on Rolfing® Structural Integration that appeared in USA Today recently. Yesterday's post corrected the article's misconception that Rolfing SI is a form of "massage." The mistake I want to discuss today is the author's neglect to use the Rolfing service mark, and why this is important for the public. (She also did not capitalize Rolfing and follow it with "Structural Integration" as will be explained below.)
What is a Service Mark?
A service mark, designated by "®" after the name, is like a trademark – technicaly, it is a legally protected mark used to identify a brand to consumers. Thus, when you buy "Coke®" you know you are getting a particular brand of cola and you know what to expect; it is not a generic cola that may or may not taste like Coke. Similarly when you buy "Kleenex®" tissues you know they will have a certain softness or texture that you expect, while generic "tissues" are an unknown entity until you try them. In a nutshell, a service mark protects a brand and the quality it represents, while a generic term has no governance. Anyone can throw a liquid in a can and call it "cola," and as we'll see below, anyone can say they do "structural integration" – even with no training – while certification in Rolfing® work as a Rolfer™ tells the public that the person is competently trained.
"Brands" of Structural Integration
Ida Rolf originally called her work Structural Integration, which is now the umbrella or generic name for all work that has a connection back to this original concept. During her life, Dr. Rolf granted the rights to the name "Rolfing" to the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration, the school she founded to teach her work. Thus, the correct title for Rolfing work is "Rolfing® Structural Integration" – where "Rolfing" is the brand and Structural Integration is the generic form that Rolfing is a specific brand of. Other types of structural integration have other brands: Dr. Rolf's lineage includes, for example, Hellerwork Structural Integration and SOMA Neuromuscular Integration®. The author of the USA Today article seems to have some inkling of this as she identifies Mary Alice Felder as "a structural integration practitioner" (aka, a non-Rolfer who practices structural integration of unspecified training) and Randy Mack as a "Rolfer" (although that should be "Rolfer™" as that too has a trademark).
There should be similarities between all structural integration work (as there are similarities between all "tissues" and all "colas"), but differences too as each offshoot school has its own interpretation and variation of the work and its own unique emphasis. Only practitioners trained at the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration (RISI), can legally use the terms "Rolfer™" and "Rolfing®," likewise SOMA is service marked, and Hellerwork probably is too, although I couldn't find it on the Hellerwork website. I would never presume to call myself a "Hellerworker" without graduating from their program – in fact I can't tell you exactly what they do as I haven't been to their school or received Hellerwork sessions. So I take umbrage when I hear non-Rolfers say they do "Rolfing" as if they know what that is. Rolfing is what is taught at the Rolf Institute, and if you haven't been there as a student you don't qualify to say what that is and to compare your work to Rolfing. Ideally, other structural integration schools develop their own brands rather than trying to take a free ride on our well-known service mark. When graduates of the various structural integration schools respect each other's service marks, we strengthen our field as a whole and the quality and diversity of our various forms of the work, as well as educating our potential clients about what we each do.
For Consumers: Finding a Qualified Practitioner
However, there's more at stake than a certain "sibling rivalry" between the heirs to Ida Rolf's work: service marks ultimately protect the public from untrained practitioners – those who have never set foot in any structural integration training school. I sometimes hear from clients that their massage therapist or chiropractor "did a little Rolfing work" on them. Usually that person was not trained in Rolfing work or in structural integration at all, but rather imagines that sticking an elbow deeply into a psoas means they are doing Rolfing work. This is false promotion, and if the work is bad it gives Rolfing SI a bad reputation, and if the practitioner is untrained it won't help you and could have an ill effect.
To be sure you are getting a trained practitioner do this: When you are looking for a Rolfer, check the Rolf Institute website to make sure a practitioner is certified as a Rolfer – even if the person says he or she is a Rolfer. Do the same with the Hellerwork site when you are looking for a Hellerworker, the same with the SOMA site for a SOMA practitioner, and so forth. That way you will know you are finding a skilled practitioner and what form of structural integration he or she practices. If someone says he practices one of these modalities, but you cannot confirm it, that is suspect and speaks of the person's lack of integrity, and probably a lack of training as well.
Had the journalist writing in USA Today used service marks correctly and discussed both Rolfing as a brand and structural integration as a whole, she would have educated the public and steered them toward qualified practitioners.