New National Organization Launched for Massage Schools and Educators

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is being established to serve as an independent voice and advocate for the entire education sector – from entry-level training programs through post-graduate studies. It will include three primary groups: Schools (for the institutions themselves); Teachers (for instructors in those institutions); and Continuing Education Providers (for those who offer post-graduate training). The Alliance will be structured as a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors elected democratically from within its membership.

As the field of massage therapy continues to move forward in its evolution toward becoming a full-fledged profession, it is clear that the education sector must have a champion of its own. The challenges and opportunities that exist call for an autonomous entity that will take its rightful place among the primary stakeholders that comprise the field.

The Alliance will offer a comprehensive range of services to its members, and will represent their interests in all domains. This advocacy will come into play in dealing with state and federal regulatory issues, accreditation, standard-setting projects such as the Body of Knowledge and teacher education requirements, as well as ongoing efforts to get massage therapy better recognized and integrated into the health care delivery system. By strengthening and improving massage education, the Alliance will bring great benefit to massage schools, teachers, students and practitioners, along with everyone in the general public who receives massage therapy.

As the education sector in this field is large and highly diverse, the Alliance will embrace all disciplines across the spectrum of what is commonly known as massage, bodywork and somatic therapies. In the United States and Canada, there are more than 1600 schools and programs, and approximately 12,000 teachers at those institutions. In addition, NCBTMB has more than 1000 continuing education providers in its approval program. On one hand, each of the three membership groups within the Alliance represents a distinct constituency within the massage therapy field that has its own needs and perspectives. Taken collectively, they are a significant force that exist for and serve the larger mission of learning, healing and growth.

Twenty-five years ago, an independent Council of Schools (COS) was created by a group of massage school owners. In 1999, the COS chose to go under the administrative control of the American Massage Therapy Association. For a number of reasons, this structure no longer meets the current needs of its members. At the AMTA COS Annual Meeting in San Antonio this past January, school members adopted a motion to begin the process of separating from AMTA and re-establishing an independent education organization.

In the spirit of this initiative, a Leadership Team has been formed by six veteran massage therapy educators who have stepped forward to assume responsibility for the startup phase of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. The members of this group have been involved with the COS for many years, and bring great depth and breadth of professional experience to this project:

  • Su Bibik, LMT. Founder and Director of the Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts in Kalamazoo, MI.  Has been active in the community of ABMP-affiliated schools for many years.
  • Iris Burman, LMT. Founder and Director of the Educating Hands School of Massage in Miami, FL. One of the original COS members, and part of the group that established  COMTA in the early 1990’s.
  • Stan Dawson, DC. Owner and Director of the ASHA School of Massage in Norcross, GA. Chiropractor and Massage Therapist, and founder of the first integrative health clinic in the Southeast in the late 1970’s.
  • Eugenie Newton, MA. Educator and former Executive Director of the International Professional School of Bodywork in San Diego, CA. Specialist in human resources and organizational development. Continues to serve IPSB as a senior faculty member.
  • Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT. Founder and Co-director of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC. Founding chairman of the NC Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and the first Executive Director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
  • Pete Whitridge, LMT. Continuing education presenter based in Fort Pierce, FL. Former Chair of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, former Director of the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville, FL.

In addition to his role on the Leadership Team, Rick Rosen serves as the Executive Director of the Alliance. He is the official spokesperson for the organization, and is responsible for its day-to-day operations.

Over the coming months, the Alliance will be creating an administrative office, conducting a membership recruitment campaign, and planning for the initial organizational meeting in 2010. Following the election of the Alliance’s Board of Directors at this meeting, the Leadership Team will transfer governance functions to that new body and its professional staff.

Please note that the Leadership Team is not affiliated in any way with the AMTA Council of Schools or the American Massage Therapy Association. The Alliance is a fully independent effort that is of, by and for the domain of massage therapy education.

About the logo: The leaf symbol was chosen for the Alliance to represent growth, change and our connection to the natural world. The overall design of the logo embodies flow and movement – qualities that are indigenous to the practice of massage therapy. The official Internet address for the Alliance is www.afmte.org.

Massage school directors, administrators, teachers and continuing education presenters who are interested in becoming members of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education are encouraged to email Rick Rosen at <rrosen@afmte.org> for information.

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