(Fort Pierce, Florida – November 3, 2014) – As a representative of the community of continuing education (CE) providers, and schools that sponsor CE at their institutions, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) has maintained a position that there needs to be a single national-level approval process for CE providers and courses.

A decision last month by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) to “implement a program that provides reliable, unbiased and appropriate vetting of continuing education providers and the classes offered to the consuming public” is of deep concern to our organization and its members. The Federation’s action completely ignored the largest existing CE approval program in our profession, administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), and that is utilized in whole or part by 27 state massage regulatory agencies.

Adding another administrative process to the mix will not improve public protection, but it would needlessly increase the cost and burden to CE providers and sponsors who already face redundant requirements with the NCBTMB program and a number of state boards that have their own CE approval programs.

Instead of creating a new and duplicative approval system for CE providers and courses, AFMTE strongly recommends that FSMTB partner with NCBTMB to be able to utilize their well-established Approved CE Provider Program which will better serve the needs of FSMTB and their Member Boards. AFMTE believes consolidation of this key function will be beneficial to all who are involved with the provision, approval, regulation and utilization of continuing education in our profession. A cooperative model, grounded in a legal agreement and with collective oversight of the program, will also resolve the problem of Improper Delegation of Authority that state boards currently have with their use of NCBTMB’s Approved CE Provider Program.

Having consistent standards is one of the hallmarks of a full-fledged profession. Several years ago, the AFMTE endorsed the Massage & Bodywork Therapy Examination (MBLEx) offered by FSMTB as the optimal single-source exam for our field. We encourage the FSMTB and NCBTMB to finalize an agreement whereby NCBTMB will cease to offer its examinations for licensure purposes in favor of the MBLEx.

This is also the opportune time to consolidate state and national CE approval processes as well. AFMTE stands ready to work with both FSMTB and NCBTMB to ensure that a single-source CE approval program is created and administered that meets the needs of all stakeholder groups. We see this as a balanced and mutually-beneficial solution that will advance the profession.

Statement of Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations

Statement of Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations

“We believe that the efforts of work group members have resulted in an extraordinary, ground-­breaking body of work. Their Blueprint, and the underlying process described in the report, gains strength from its intellectual integrity and independence.”

The “Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations” comprises seven organizations listed at the end of this statement. Our organizations play different roles, each contributing to the betterment of the massage therapy profession while also educating the public about benefits of professional massage therapy. We share a national focus: each of the seven organizations has members or constituents throughout the United States. Each of us seeks a thriving massage therapy profession that enhances the health and well-­being of clients throughout the United States. We also share a desire to help our profession beyond serving each organization’s self-­interest.

Our Coalition initially convened in 2011 to identify and address opportunities to advance the massage therapy profession. Two senior leaders from each organization participated in that initial meeting and three subsequent meetings.


Consistency and Portability

In a healthy profession, effective improvement requires candor in acknowledging current imperfections. When our group of organizations initially assembled, we began by naming and prioritizing profession challenges that required attention. Emerging at the top of the list were two concerns:

  • inconsistent quality, depth and focus of entry-­level massage therapy education; and
  • lack of licensure portability (professional mobility).

Why these two? Numerous participants referenced observed knowledge and skill deficits among many recent school graduates and expressed concern that a resulting potential increase in inconsistent quality massage experiences could dull public enthusiasm for seeking massage therapy. Uncertainty about education quality and how to evaluate transcripts from unfamiliar schools, combined with inconsistent entry-­level examinations utilized by different states, impairs state massage board confidence about approving licenses for practitioners moving to a new residence state.


Identifying Entry-­Level Skills and Knowledge

A preliminary proposal advanced at that meeting was refined by participating organizations over the following six months. The objective: identify and gain agreement on what should be core elements of entry-­level massage therapy instructional programs – the knowledge and skills an entrant to the profession should possess to be ready to work safely and competently with clients.

The proposal recommended formation of a seven-­person work group composed of  massage content experts and two individuals holding credentials in education and instructional design. Each Coalition member had an opportunity to recommend participants and to listen and offer comments during the March 2012 selection process.  The aim was to bring together a group possessing objectivity and judgment alongside specific classroom instruction, curriculum development, instructional design, and assessment expertise. A clear instruction to the group was to approach their work with impartiality and integrity, to arrive at sound, research-­informed conclusions unconstrained by precedent or political acceptability.

The project was initially estimated to require slightly over one year. As it evolved, participants quickly realized that more time would be required to do the job thoroughly. In the end, it proved to be a 21-­month endeavor.

It is our belief that the resulting work product, combined with engagement and courage by leaders throughout the profession, can assist substantially over the next several years in alleviating both entry-­level education quality and professional mobility concerns.

The project was titled Entry-­Level Analysis Project (ELAP). If that title fails to sing, it does accurately identify the project focus. The ELAP process illuminated some predictable strengths in massage education, but also some wide-­ranging knowledge and skill gaps. We can’t be certain how these skill gaps formed, but we can speculate that educational programs leave out certain subjects, address others in inadequate depth, fail to reinforce particular desirable behaviors, or dilute essential learning with too much focus on other topics.

With such gaps and inconsistencies, exacerbated by frequently vague state education requirements and equally vague education content descriptions on school transcripts, further compounded by diverse profession entry testing options, it is no wonder that some state licensing boards are cautious about licensure portability.

Such education inconsistency frankly also causes some other health care professions to look at massage therapy with a skeptical eye, and to be hesitant about referring patients to massage therapists. Getting to a place where every newly trained massage therapist has completed education in agreed-­upon core knowledge and skill development, thereby being positioned to be able to reliably deliver a quality basic massage, can potentially increase confidence among other health care providers. Our profession thrives when primary care providers recognize the power of evidence-­informed massage therapy for the treatment of pain, stress, and other common problems.


The ELAP Work Group

The Core: Entry-­Level Massage Education Blueprint is the product of the seven work group members – Pat Archer, Clint Chandler, Rick Garbowski, Tom Lochhaas, Jim O’Hara, Cynthia Ribeiro, and Anne Williams. While other individuals potentially could also have been constructive work group contributors, we are confident the final group of seven chosen individuals has superbly represented the interests of the massage profession.

The work group was asked to consider a multitude of previously completed massage and bodywork studies and reports, but to aim at constructing from the ground up what they believe should be the fundamental building blocks within every entry-­level massage therapy instructional program. Existing studies did contain useful nuggets, however, what is known about learning and delivery means has changed in the interim and, equally important, the kinds of learners populating massage classrooms have changed.

Work group members also reached out to all interested members of the profession for input. They commissioned fresh research to learn practitioner, instructor and employer perspectives. Then, about two-­thirds of the way through the project, they provided an opportunity for public comment about which learning objectives and activities should be embraced within core education. That public commentary significantly informed the final product. Where the work group judgment differed from majority perspectives, the work group has clearly articulated those differences and provided a compelling rationale for their choices in the Project Report document.

Integrating all this input into the group’s work proved a massive undertaking.


Coalition Support

The group’s work was funded by several of the Coalition organizations, but the work group worked independently and arrived at its conclusions independently, with no steering from Coalition organizations. The final report contains a highly comprehensive, detailed education blueprint that provides guidance on essential knowledge and skill components and the depth to which they should be taught. With so much detail, opportunities for divergent views certainly arise. Representatives from our seven organizations indeed may differ on several particulars. As such, neither the Coalition nor its constituent organizations, endorse every specific recommended sub-­topic, activity, or proposed weighting in the report

Those differences aside, we all heartily support the message of The Core: Entry-­Level Massage Education Blueprint and its companion document The Core: Entry-­Level Analysis Project Report. We believe the work group processes have been thorough, inclusive, intellectually honest, and defensible. Their instructional design approaches are solidly grounded. Their development of a tailored, innovative learning taxonomy is potentially an important gift to vocational education.

The work group agreed to clear parameters to guide their work. Following initial Coalition guidance, they put aside attachment to any particular philosophies or products to focus on outputs that reflected data findings, feedback from the profession, and the best interests of massage clients.

The Coalition specifically supports important work group choices to include in basic instruction for all massage therapists not only assessment protocols, but also the development of skills necessary to “choose appropriate massage and bodywork application methods to benefit [each] client’s unique health picture.”

The Coalition also commends the work group for its inclusive bridging approach, in response to profession feedback on the initial draft, to long-standing profession differences about techniques, approaches and language with reference to application methods. Rather than choose between Western and Eastern approaches and vocabulary, or among diverse styles and forms, the work group usefully has organized its recommended content around approaching “application methods and techniques based on ways in which the hands and other anatomical tools … manipulate … soft tissue structures.”

We believe that the efforts of work group members have resulted in an extraordinary, ground-­breaking body of work. Their Blueprint, and the underlying process described in the report, gains strength from its intellectual integrity and independence.


Core Outcomes and Instructional Hours Recommendations

One key focus of the project is to recommend the minimum number of instructional hours schools and proficient educators need to prepare their students for entry into the profession. Instead of attaching a relatively arbitrary number of hours to subjects and topics, the work group approached this task by using data and feedback to define core content first – differentiating foundational learning from advanced theory and practice. It was only in the final month of its endeavors, when the blueprint was complete, that the work group tabulated hours for subjects, topics, and sub-topics by translating learning objectives into recognizable classroom learning experiences as a means to determine timeframes.

That said, the work group’s eventual recommendation that approximately 625 classroom hours of capable instruction would be required for students to acquire just core skills and abilities is invigorating. For context, a majority of states with massage regulation (28 of the 45 states including D.C.) now require 500 total education hours; another 7 require between 570 and 600 hours, and 10 require more than 625 hours. Still, the typical distance to be bridged may not be so daunting: a 2012 survey of massage programs revealed that average program length was 697 hours.

The hour estimate is what it is – an honest, objective best estimate by seven instructional design and curriculum experts who thoroughly examined the profession’s body of past work in this realm. The elements making up The Core were built piece by piece. The 625 hour total represents simply the summing of the instructional hours associated with each of the pieces.

We encourage interested parties to focus less upon the total hours and more on recommended subject matter and subtopics. Indeed, many massage therapy instructional programs already provide more than 625 total education hours. The Coalition recommends that, in addition to meeting the total education hours mandated by individual states, every  massage school curriculum include Core report recommended subjects, topics and weighting.

This report will require each of the constituent organizations to assess our perspectives on the subject of appropriate education hours. What we do clearly agree upon is that the work group endeavors represent real progress in that its findings are based upon substantive assessment. That is far superior to arbitrary bases and biases that all too frequently have animated past decisions by licensing boards, cities, accrediting bodies, professional associations and others.


Education Costs: Career Impacts

One other constituency – prospective massage school students – will be impacted should The Core gain the breadth of influence we seek. As previously noted, most states now require a minimum of 500 hours of massage instruction to qualify for a license. Adoption of The Core would entail a 25% increase in minimum required instructional hours, which will likely translate into more tuition dollars for students.

It is important to note that today 40% -­ 50% of massage school graduates exit the field within 24 months after graduation. Many factors contribute to this result, including unrealistic expectations about the physical demands of massage work, compensation realities, and evolving life circumstances for 20-­somethings. Implementing The Core won’t cause all attrition from the field to cease, but, by providing a sound knowledge and skill foundation, a more functional curriculum should materially help to lessen the proportion of massage school graduates having to write off the cost of their massage education just a year or two out from graduation. We believe that use of The Core has the potential to lengthen and strengthen the careers of new massage school graduates; that is a cost benefit that will outweigh any increase in tuition from a 500-­hour program.


The Importance of Diversity

It is vital to understand what The Core is not – it is not a complete massage school curriculum. The contents of this report are seen as the core – the foundational knowledge and skills every beginning massage therapist should possess – that should be part of every entry-­level massage instructional program, but not the entirety. The massage and bodywork profession benefits from diversity in program points of emphasis and features. Diversity and innovation are profession strengths. While we believe that a student completing an instructional program containing just the recommended core elements would be ready to begin practice, we encourage individual schools to add program elements that reflect each school’s expertise and philosophy, or to provide greater instructional depth in selected subject areas.

Indeed, the recommended hours allocated to the practice of essential massage and bodywork application methods are independent of any specific modality. The work group listened to profession feedback that insisted that one form of hands-­on work is not superior to others. Instead, the defining feature of massage and bodywork is therapeutic, structured touch, regardless of the system through which it is applied. This is a significant departure from previous thinking in our profession, one that builds on valuable diversity and exploration in education.


What’s Next?

The Coalition believes use of The Core will elevate instruction, because it presents clear learning objectives and guidelines. Relatively inexperienced instructors will especially benefit from an improved road map. However, it is important to understand that the ELAP blueprint and the hours allocated to topics define minimum classroom hours. The blueprint places an emphasis on practical, real-­world learning appropriate for adult education. It assumes that teachers are competent, that learners have average learning ability, that only the defined content is taught, and that class time is well structured and used efficiently.

Clearly, with these caveats, instructor training needs greater focus. Next steps in our profession should focus on helping massage content experts transition into classrooms with effective strategies to support adult learning

Our desire is that The Core: Entry-­Level Massage Education Blueprint will have a positive, transforming impact on the massage therapy profession. Our organizations do not have the power to force the re-­modeling of massage therapy instructional programs, but we believe that a movement toward adopting the ELAP standards would be beneficial for both massage therapists and massage therapy consumers.

We aspire to have this report influence several profession audiences:

  • the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, which can use The Core as it builds guidelines for a model practice act;
  • state licensing boards, which can use The Core in setting education requirements for licensees;
  • the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, which can refer to The Core in creating teacher-­training standards and curricula;
  • the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, which can   use The Core as it identifies beginning vs. advanced knowledge and skills for its Board Certification credential;
  • professional membership organizations, which can use The Core in shaping membership criteria;
  • the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, which can use the Core in evaluating massage and bodywork curricula for programmatic accreditation;
  • other accrediting organizations, which can use The Core in shaping their accreditation criteria;
  • school owners, administrators and faculty, who can use The Core to strengthen or validate curricula and to adopt consistent learning outcomes;
  • and, potential massage therapy students, as they consider where to enroll.


The Core may also influence publishers and writers in the development of new textbooks and teaching materials; continuing education providers who can develop offerings that build onto Core principles; employers, who will be able to rely on graduates of programs that use The Core to have dependable skills; health care providers, who want to make referrals to consistently well-educated massage therapists, and finally the end-­users: massage therapy consumers, who will more reliably be able to get the therapeutic massage they are looking for.

The single most powerful lever for change would be a decision by every state massage therapy licensing board to require license applicants to have completed an education program that includes The Core. Pragmatically, such a requirement could neither be retroactive nor immediate. Time would be required for schools to implement the new recommendations, for teaching materials to be developed and for creation of a method to identify which programs have implemented The Core.

The heavy lifting – identifying and prioritizing the key needed knowledge and skills – is done. However, The Core relies upon other stakeholders in the profession to take important next steps.

Experience matters. Committed massage therapy professionals develop advanced skills from working with diverse clients, but this is only possible with a good start in the profession – and that requires a fundamentally sound core education. The Core provides a persuasive, comprehensive road map, available for all to use: a gift to the profession. Let us individually and collectively seize this profession improvement opportunity.

Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations:

  • Alliance for Massage Therapy Education
  • American Massage Therapy Association
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
  • Massage Therapy Foundation
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

Alliance Presents National Massage Teacher Standards for Public Review and Comment

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education has completed the formative work on the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers, and is pleased to present a final draft of the document to the massage therapy profession for review and comment.

The development of this document represents Phase One of the Alliance’s National Teacher Education Standards Project (NTESP). This is beginning of a long-term effort to create a culture of teaching excellence in our field. To that end, the competencies in this draft document are presented in a set of ten standards, each of which describe the knowledge, skills and attitudes which form the basis for effective and successful teaching.

Results from a 2010 national survey by the Alliance showed overwhelming support for this massage project. A common consensus was that improving the quality of massage education should lead to an improvement in the quality of massages performed on the public. Ensuring that teachers are not only content experts, but also trained educators is the main goal of the teacher standards in the Core Competencies.

Over the past two years, the Alliance’s Teacher Standards Committee has worked diligently to research competences as defined in other realms of education – and to delineate standards that are relevant to the unique nature of massage therapy education. These will apply to teachers across the spectrum from entry-level programs to continuing education and advanced training.

Attendees at the Alliance’s 2011 and 2012 Annual Conferences have played an integral role in this process. Through dedicated feedback sessions, massage school directors, teachers, CE providers and representatives of the primary stakeholder organizations in our field provided valuable input on the initial versions of the competencies. We also sent a preliminary draft to our members for comment. This feedback was utilized by the committee in development of the final draft presented here.

Following a public comment period of 60 days, the committee will review all feedback submitted and will make any needed revisions to bring the Core Competencies document to completion.

The Alliance now invites individuals, schools and organizations to review the final draft of the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers and to provide feedback using this convenient online survey form. The comment period will be open until November 15, 2012.

The members of the Teacher Standards Committee are: Rebecca Blessing (chair), Debra Curties, Stan Dawson (liaison to the Board of Directors), Holly Foster, Sandy Fritz, Sandy Grover Mason, Gloria Lawrence, Mable Sharp, Dawn Saunders, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, and Lucas R. Zarlengo. This group of education professionals has brought a deep well of experience and a diverse range of perspectives to this vitally important process.

The Alliance is also compiling a list of teacher education resources that teachers and administrators can immediately utilize.

Alliance Conference in Tucson a 5-Star Success

June 15, 2012  

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) Conference focused on creating an atmosphere of collaboration, respect and mutual support. The conference theme was “Deepening Connections in the Massage Education Community.”  Keynote Speaker Benny Vaughn’s inspirational opening reminded us that a society is judged by how it educates its young and that massage therapists need to increase their self-esteem.  Vaughn says, “In this digital world touch is vital.”  He envisions a world where we will be greeted with reverence and shouts, “The touchers are coming!  The touchers are coming!”

The Alliance re-elected Pete Whitridge, Iris Burman, Su Bibik, and Cherie Sohnen-Moe to the board as well as elected two new board members Heather Piper and Stephanie Beck. The Alliance held elections for the leadership Development Committee and announced that Debra Curties, Joe Lubow, Susan Beck, Tracy Walton and Tim Herbert were elected.

The Board deemed this meeting an incredible success. It brought together a distinguished group of participants from the US and Canada.

From the AFMTE Leadership Development Committee

The  group of veteran educators who established the Alliance For Massage Therapy Education have accomplished a tremendous amount in a short period of time. Spring-boarding from the AMTA Council of Schools, where they were members but wished for a more independent voice on behalf of the massage education sector, Iris Burman, Pete Whitridge, Stan Dawson and Rick Rosen initially conceived of this new organization in mid-2009. They began by calling themselves the Leadership Team and Eugenie Newton and Su Bibik joined the group.  It included a blend of school faculty/owners and continuing education providers, and represented varied organizational affiliations and diverse geographical locations within the United States.  In September 2009, the Leadership Team formally announced the Alliance’s launch to the massage therapy profession – and Rick Rosen was hired to serve as its Executive Director. The Alliance was incorporated as a non-profit organization the following month, and The Coulter Companies was retained to provide day-to-day management in December 2009.

With the basic structure in place, they planned and held the Alliance’s inaugural conference in Park City, Utah in June 2010.  The Leadership Team was officially disbanded at this meeting, giving rise to the first formally-elected seven-member Board of Directors, pursuant to the organization’s Bylaws. From the startup group, Su Bibik, Iris Burman, Stan Dawson and Pete Whitridge were elected to the new Board positions. They were joined by Ralph Stephens, Cherie Sohnen-Moe and Mark Beck who were also elected in Park City to complete the seven-member roster.

The seven Board positions formally represented two each from the categories of faculty, school owners/directors, and continuing education providers, with one at-large seat. Board positions were established as two-year terms, but the initial group had three one-year positions so that normal turnover controls could be established. Stan, Mark and Ralph were re-elected for two-year terms in 2011.
Another major evolutionary moment occurred at the end of 2011 when it was decided that the young organization could not sustain the management structure it had put in place. Operating without an ED or management firm, the Board members have handled huge workloads and responsibilities in 2012. It was decided that two additional Board positions were needed, specifically for individuals with talents in marketing and membership recruitment. A marketing position was created mid-year; Stephanie Beck joined and has thrown herself into the marketing area. Stephanie’s mid-year appointment is up for ratification at the upcoming conference in Tucson. Pete, Iris, Cherie and Su indicated their willingness to run for new two-year terms.
All candidates have been interviewed by the Leadership Development Committee (LDC), and all incumbents have been recommended for re-election by their Board peers. The Leadership Development Committee proposes reelection of the four incumbents and ratification of Stephanie Beck for one of the new seats. The LDC conducted an applicant search for the ninth position and is recommending Heather Piper.

Alliance Announces Leadership Changes

Moving into the new year, the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education announces two important changes in the organization’s leadership:

Rick Rosen, MA, LMBTIt is with the utmost appreciation and gratitude that we bid farewell to our Executive Director, Rick Rosen, MA. LMBT. He is stepping down from this position to bring his full attention to the Body Therapy Institute, the school he founded in 1983. Rick’s vision, skills and commitment have helped to build a solid foundation for the Alliance, as well as a strategic direction that will support the continued success of the organization.

Rick is a founding member of the Alliance, was the head of the startup Leadership Team, and became the first Executive Director in August 2009. The Alliance has been the fortunate beneficiary of Rick’s many talents in the areas of communications, planning and policy development. His influence throughout the organization will be missed.

At this time, we are also moving from our association management company, Coulter Nonprofit Management, of McLean, Virginia. We have enjoyed working with their team of professionals during this crucial startup period. In particular, we want to acknowledge Shane Robinson, Alliance Managing Director, and Coulter CEO Thomas C. Gibson for their contributions. We are extremely appreciative of the high level of support and guidance the Coulter team has provided; their continued belief in the Alliance’s mission means a lot to us.

Within the next 30 days, the Alliance will be announcing a new administrative location for the organization. In the meantime, use the existing phone number and mailing address. The Alliance’s email <> and website address <> will remain the same. This restructuring is in keeping with our fiscal responsibilities.

This transition brings challenges, yet we are excited by the opportunities and are seizing the moment to reconfirm the Alliance’s original vision to serve as the voice, advocate and resource for the entire education sector. We are confident that the evolution of a new structure will make the organization stronger and better able to serve our members and the massage therapy profession as a whole.

As we move into this new phase, we invite you to join us now as a member or sponsor, and to participate in the work of the Alliance.

Alliance to Represent Massage Therapy Education as Core Member of ACCAHC

The Board of Directors of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) voted unanimously at its recent meeting to approve the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education to serve on their on their core council of colleges and schools as the representative of the massage therapy profession.

ACCAHC consists of accrediting agencies, certification and testing organizations, and councils of colleges and schools that are associated with the five distinctly licensed complementary healthcare professions which have a federally recognized accrediting agency. These professions are: Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Chiropractic, Direct-entry Midwifery, Massage Therapy, and Naturopathic Medicine.

As a consortium of 16 national organizations, the members of ACCAHC engage in and support activities in the areas of education, clinical care, research and policy clarification which will help transform the client/patient experience through strengthening understanding and cooperation. Alliance Board member Stan Dawson, DC, LMT, currently serves on the ACCAHC Education Working Group.

According to John Weeks, ACCAHC Executive Director, “We have been watching the Alliance with interest since its launch two years ago, since all mature professions have an independent agency representing education. We are pleased that the Alliance is emerging as the designated representative of the massage education community, and is engaged in projects to improve the quality of teaching. We hope the massage field will increasingly see the value in participating with the Alliance. We look forward to their participation and to their contributions.”

The Alliance will join the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, Association of Chiropractic Colleges, and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as the newest member of ACCAHC’s council of colleges and schools group.

The massage education seat on this ACCAHC council has been occupied by the American Massage Therapy Association, through its Council of Schools. As AMTA discontinued the COS in 2009, it no longer met the criteria and its term will end as of December 31, 2011. Weeks notes that AMTA has been a founder and core supporter of ACCAHC and that ACCAHC is pleased that AMTA plans to remain involved as an Associate Member and perhaps in other capacities.

This new relationship with ACCAHC will benefit Alliance members by bringing massage educators together with those from other complementary health, integrative medicine and other health professions education fields, to increase the level of collaboration as all groups work together to create new and more effective models of health and client care.

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.

Alliance Brings Teaching to the Next Level at 2011 Conference

The Alliance held its second Annual Conference in beautiful and historic city of Charleston, South Carolina on August 18-20. It was an enthusiastic and collaborative event attended by 125 participants from all facets of the massage education sector, including school directors, teachers, continuing education providers, and leaders of stakeholder organizations. This represented a 50% increase in attendance from the Alliance’s inaugural meeting held in 2010.

With a theme of Bringing Teaching to the Next Level, the conference brought a specific focus to the need for establishing standards for teacher training in the massage therapy field.

The opening keynote presentation by Tracy Ortelli explored the challenges involved in “Creating a Culture of Teaching Excellence” and the many benefits it can bring. As a renowned educator and organizational leader from the nursing profession, she brought an important perspective from her discipline – which was in dialogue for more than 100 years before deciding in 2005 to adopt competency standards for faculty who teach in nursing programs. Ortelli suggested to those present at the Alliance meeting that it was up to the massage education community to take this crucial step on its own behalf. She also pointed out (with some comic irony), “You certainly don’t have to wait as long as we did!”

Building on this theme, the Alliance’s Professional Standards Committee presented an overview of the National Teacher Education Standards Project. Closely tied to our mission, this is a long-term effort intended to strengthen and improve the quality of massage therapy education. The project’s initial phase – development of the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers – was a focal point of the conference. As this document is the first of its kind in the massage therapy field, it outlines 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.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to provide direct input on the first draft of the Core Competencies in a half-day discussion forum. School directors, teachers and CE providers met in three concurrent sessions to share their perspectives and concerns about the standards, which were reported back to the full assembly. This high-level feedback will be used by the Alliance in the next stage of revisions before a second draft of the document is put out for public comment later this year.

The conference also included a forum to gather input on a forthcoming project that will create a new national approval process for continuing education courses and providers. As announced earlier this year, the Alliance will be partnering with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) to develop these standards. In support of this effort, FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger facilitated a session in Charleston that invited CE providers (and other interested people) to share their experiences with existing approval processes in the field, and to provide ideas about what they would like to see in a new national process.

Along with the focus on standards, there was a wealth of other presentations that gave conference participants specific information and tools to use in their professional roles. Dr. Ben Benjamin led a keynote session on the SAVI – the System for Analyzing Verbal Interaction, a leading-edge communications approach. Jan Schwartz inspired the group to reach beyond the borders of the massage therapy field in her keynote on The Role of Massage Education in Complementary Health Care. In addition, the breakout workshops included:

  • Strategies to Improve Learning Environments with Anne Williams
  • What Educators Need to Know about Government Relations with Sally Hacking & Pete Whitridge
  • Understanding the New USDE Program Integrity Rules with Dr. Tony Mirando & Demara Stamler
  • Instructional Design for Inspired Learning with Cherie Sohnen-Moe & Iris Burman
  • Creative Marketing Ideas and Powerful Lead Follow-up Strategies for Your School with Lex Filipowski
  • Developing Competency-based Assessments to Evaluate Student Performance
    with Jan Schwartz
  • Ethical Issues in Massage Education with Nancy Dail

Here are links to full videos of two of our keynote presentations. These are courtesy of Ryan Hoyme, (aka The Massage Nerd), and are posted to YouTube:

Tracy Ortelli, PhD(c), MS, RN, CNE
Creating a Culture of Teaching Excellence

Ben Benjamin, PhD
The Dynamics of Effective Communication:
Introducing the System for Analyzing Verbal Interaction

In addition, Ryan’s website includes a number of interviews with educators from the Conference, which are being cataloged as part of our Massage History Project. On the Massage Nerd site, do a search for “AFMTE” to bring up a list of these videos which highlight educators speaking about those teachers and mentors who were fundamental in shaping who they are today.

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All in all, this was truly a gathering that was greater than the sum of its parts. To expand on those sentiments, here are some of the reflections shared by conference attendees:

Gloria Coppola, a teacher of traditional Hawaiian massage observed:It was truly the most cohesive and collaborative event of colleagues in my 25-year massage career! Thank you all so much for this event and for this organization. The future of massage education is in the hands of many well-respected and talented individuals. I am honored to be a part of this process and group.”

Noted teacher and author Laura Allen commented in her recent blog: “It was an excellent gathering from start to finish. Whether you are a school owner, program director, CE provider, or industry support partner, the Alliance is going to accomplish great things for the advancement of massage therapy education. This is an opportunity to have a voice and a partnership in many resources to support that goal, and I encourage my colleagues not to pass it by.”

Maria Schick teaches massage therapy at a career college, and had this to say about the meeting: “Thank you for an intense, educational and enjoyable three days. I am in awe of the “sweat equity” already invested in the Alliance and can only hope that I will have something worthwhile to add through my membership.”

Massage school owner and respected author Sandy Fritz shared: “I was pleased to be a part of this conference. It is gatherings like this with free exchange of information among peers that encourage me. There has been a lot of work done behind the scenes and that really came through at the meeting.”

Finally, therapist and CE provider Kathleen Gramzay gave this insightful perspective: “I anticipated that this would be a quality conference, but it far exceeded that expectation. This gathering was a unique combination of high-level professionalism, passion and vision for the future of massage therapy in term of Real World Relevancy. For me, it was humbling and inspiring to participate in this goal with so many mentors, teachers and authors I have long admired and from whom I continue to learn. It was also very satisfying to bring home new skills that I know will improve me as an educator today. I am encouraged that the Alliance – in its leadership and members – has the integrity, heart and fortitude to lead the way. I am honored and grateful to be in such outstanding company.”

As the Alliance approaches the second anniversary of its launch, this successful conference is a powerful affirmation that the organization has built a solid foundation. With the active support and participation of the massage education community, the Alliance will be able to carry out its mission for the benefit of all those who teach across the diverse spectrum of massage, bodywork and somatic therapies, and all who benefit downstream from that teaching.

Alliance Conference Attendees will Influence the Future of Massage Education

The rich historical tapestry of Charleston, South Carolina will provide the backdrop for the second Annual Conference of Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, to be held at the Charleston Marriott Hotel on August 18-20, 2011. With a theme of Bringing Teaching to the Next Level, the Conference will be highlighting one of this organization’s primary goals – to strengthen and improve the quality of massage education. Those who attend will have two important opportunities to provide input and perspective that will be used by the Alliance in key projects that will influence the future direction of massage education.

The Alliance will present an overview of its National Teacher Education Standards Project, which is a long-range endeavor to create a culture of teaching excellence. Launched at the end of 2010, the project is in its first phase, which is focused on establishing the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. These standards — the first of their kind in the massage therapy field — will outline the foundational knowledge, skills and attributes (KSAs) needed for teachers to produce successful and consistent outcomes with adult learners in a variety of educational settings.

Developed by the Alliance’s Professional Standards Committee, the first draft of the Core Competencies will be the subject of a special half-day discussion forum that will give Conference attendees an opportunity to provide direct feedback on the document. This valuable input from school directors, teachers and continuing education providers alike will be used by the Committee in the next stage of revisions before the standards are released to the full massage therapy community for comment later this year.

Those who are attending the Alliance’s Conference in Charleston, along with all Alliance members, will receive an advance copy of this draft document for review. A white paper on the National Teacher Education Standards Project, which describes the five phases of the project, is available from this link.

The Alliance is also active in the arena of standards for continuing education. As announced earlier this year, the Alliance will be partnering 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. The upcoming Alliance Conference in Charleston will feature FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger, PhD in a special workshop session that will provide the scope and rationale for this new approval program. She will also give CE providers (and other interested participants in this session) an opportunity to share their experiences with existing approval processes in the field, and to provide ideas about what they would like to see in a new national process. This input will be used as FSMTB and the Alliance begin work on this important effort.

Complete descriptions of the Conference educational program, logistical details, as well as information on the new 2011 Alliance membership options may be found in a free 16-page booklet available by clicking this link. Conference participants can earn up to 15 contact hours of CE credit.

Registration is still available for this event, and can be done through the Conference page on this website or by calling the Alliance Office at 703-506-2888.