Archives for September 2011

Leaders Meet to Discuss the Future of the Massage Therapy Profession

Representatives of the seven primary organizations that comprise the massage therapy profession gathered on September 13-14 for a Leadership Summit in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: to identify the most significant challenges and limitations that currently exist in this field, and to begin the process of developing and implementing solutions that will enable it to move forward in its evolution. Those present were:

  • Alliance for Massage Therapy Education
    President Pete Whitridge and Executive Director Rick Rosen
  • American Massage Therapy Association
    President Glenath Moyle and Executive Director Shelly Johnson
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
    Chairman Bob Benson and President Les Sweeney
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation
    Commissioner Randy Swenson and Executive Director Kate H. Zulaski
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
    Executive Director Debra Persinger
  • Massage Therapy Foundation
    President Ruth Werner (AMTA’s Executive Dir. also serves in this capacity for the Foundation)
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
    Chair Alexa Zaledonis and Chief Executive Officer Paul Lindamood

The meeting was facilitated by Andrew Lebby, PhD, founding partner of The Performance Group, a consulting firm based in Washington, DC that assists organizations in navigating the process of large-scale change.

In preparation for this meeting, each of the organizations submitted proposed agenda items which provided the raw material for the discussions. Broad agreement emerged about a need to pursue opportunities for improvement in order to become an effectively functioning profession. The current challenge, at its most fundamental level, goes to the inconsistent quality of massage therapy services provided to clients.

Inconsistent quality, depth and focus of entry-level massage therapy education and licensure portability (or professional mobility) were identified as priority discussion items.

Regarding entry-level education, a series of factors were identified that need to be addressed, including: curriculum design, teacher competency, student assessment, and updating subject matter to match evidence-informed practice. Diversely successful massage school program results are perhaps not surprising given the group observation that, unlike most other allied health fields in which both institutional and programmatic accreditation are mandatory, barely half of the 1,382 massage therapy programs in the United States have received institutional accreditation and only 100 have received specialized programmatic accreditation.

On the issue of portability, the group agreed that the problem stemmed from the lack of consistent state regulations. In pursuit of a solution, the group affirmed the role of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards in its recently-launched project to develop a Model Practice Act. Participants noted the particular importance of working toward a common scope of practice definition and of substituting a substantively-derived basis for required minimum education hours for current arbitrary hour requirements. The group examined a specific proposal to address the education hour question. Each organization agreed to consider the proposal within their organization and determine next steps.

Participants also agreed that, as model practice guidelines emerge, a re-calibrating of government relations advocacy efforts by several organizations could facilitate widespread state adoption.

With a combination of insightful discussion and professional respect shown by the 12 representatives, the meeting was positive, powerful and highly productive. Overall, it was recognized that a high level of cooperation and coordination among all the players is necessary to address the problems at hand – and that many of these changes will take a considerable length of time.

The representatives decided to continue the inter-organization dialogue begun in St. Louis. That will include another face-to-face meeting on May 1-2, 2012, as well as ongoing telephone and electronic communication.

Participants in the Massage Therapy Leadership Summit
St. Louis, Missouri, September 13-14, 2011

Left to right: Ruth Werner (MTF), Shelly Johnson (AMTA), Rick Rosen (AFMTE),
Glenath Moyle (AMTA), Randy Swenson (COMTA), Debra Persinger (FSMTB),
Bob Benson (ABMP), Kate Zulaski (COMTA), Paul Lindamood (NCBTMB),
Pete Whitridge (AFMTE), Les Sweeney (ABMP), Alexa Zaledonis (NCBTMB)

Alliance Celebrates the Second Anniversary of its Launch

Exactly two years ago, the start of a bold new venture was announced that would change the landscape of the massage therapy field.

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education was formed to serve as the voice, advocate and resource for the community of massage schools and educators. Like other groups within the massage therapy field, the education sector needed a champion of its own. In pursuit of this goal, a group of six veteran massage therapy educators came together in 2009 to lay the groundwork for this new organization.

It was an idea whose time had come. The Alliance’s Leadership Team had more than 200 years of combined experience in massage therapy, teaching and the healing arts. However, they launched this endeavor without the benefit of grants or startup loans. The group turned to the community itself, and invited massage schools, teachers, continuing education providers and companies to become Founding Members of the Alliance. In just 12 weeks, nearly $50,000 was raised that funded the first stage of organizational development.

Much was accomplished in the first year, including development of bylaws, incorporation as a non-profit, and holding the Alliance’s inaugural Conference in June 2010 in Park City, Utah. At that historic meeting, members came together to elect the first official Board of Directors, and to shape the future of massage therapy education. Out of those group visioning sessions, consensus emerged on the most compelling challenge facing the massage therapy field: teacher development.

As the Alliance moved into its second year, efforts branched out into a number of areas: a Code of Ethics for members was developed and published; outreach continued with other stakeholder organizations in the field to build mutually beneficial relationships; a survey was conducted to gather input about setting standards for teacher education, curriculum and continuing education; and a comprehensive review of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge was begun.

In December 2010, the Alliance published a white paper that provided the rationale and overview for a National Teacher Education Standards Project. This will be the centerpiece of the Alliance’s agenda over the coming years, and is focused on the goal of strengthening and improving the quality of massage education. Members of the Alliance’s Professional Standards Committee are actively at work on the first phase of this project, which is development of the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. This document will outline the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) needed for teachers to produce successful and consistent outcomes with adult learners in a variety of educational settings.

The Alliance is also active in the arena of standards for continuing education. As announced earlier this year, the Alliance will be collaborating with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) in the development of a new national program for the approval of CE courses and providers.

“Bringing Teaching to the Next Level” was the theme for the Alliance’s second Annual Conference, recently completed in Charleston, South Carolina. This event gave attendees an opportunity to provide direct feedback on the first draft of the Core Competencies document, and it featured inspiring keynote presentations and professional development workshops for attendees.

In addition to these many projects, the Alliance has been building a set of valuable benefits and services for its members over the past year. A new and streamlined membership framework was rolled out at the beginning of 2011, with a two-tiered dues structure for Massage Schools, Teachers and Continuing Education Providers. The Alliance now offers an Associate Level membership which provides basic affiliation at a modest price, as well as the full-featured Gold Level Membership Program. Complete information on membership and benefits is available on the Alliance website.

It has been an exciting and rewarding two years. The goals for the coming year are to grow this non-profit organization and to continue the efforts to bring massage education to the forefront. The Alliance seeks the active participation of all those in the education community, both by joining and through involvement in the committees and projects that will make a great difference in our field.