Monday, January 6, 2014

What's Up?


Picture of the Michigan ice storm-outside my front door. 

I am entering the New Year very hopeful for the massage community. Here is why. We may be actually beginning to work together.  Check out these developments.

The COALITION OF NATIONAL MASSAGE THERAPY ORGANIZATIONS remains active. Participating organizations include:

•Alliance for Massage Therapy Education AFMTE

•American Massage Therapy Association AMTA

•Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals ABMP

•Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation COMTA

•Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards FSMTB

•Massage Therapy Foundation

•National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork NCBTMB

The group continues to meet behind closed doors and I would hope for more transparency, but at least they are working together and I am really hopeful about that.

ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project)

Education for massage therapists is an issue where the missions of every organization overlap. The ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project) is the first project supported by the seven organizations to address these educational concerns.  The ELAP project launched to mixed reviews and I was very vocal about the way the project was being conducted. I was not the only one.   However-  I believe I can support the end result.  It has not been released to the public yet. Currently the COALITION OF NATIONAL MASSAGE THERAPY ORGANIZATIONS representatives are reviewing the document.    It will not be perfect but like most forward advancements, it will evolve.  Most professional advancement is messy, bumpy and contentious. Ultimately, if it is going to be valuable there needs to be adaptation, and rethinking. I sat in so many meetings about this project but the one I most remember is the presentation by the ELAP work group at the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education AFMTE meeting in July 2013 at St. Charles, Missouri.   The realization of the work group members for the need to adapt was visible to me and I wanted to hug the work group members just because I know how exhausting a process like this can be.  The results should be available once the Coalition members finish with the review.

The Federation of State Massage Boards has been working on a Model Practice Act for massage. 

While it may take a while to trickle down, more than any other development in the massage community, the Model Practice Act will influence legislation the only mandatory requirement of practicing massage therapy.  There is very little information available so this development needs to be carefully watched.


Changes for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Effective January 1, 2013, the original National Certification was retired and no longer exists; The BOARD CERTIFICATION CREDENTIAL launched in January 2013 has replaced it. This new credential requires fulfilling additional qualifications, including more education, hands-on experience and a background check. There is an exam that reflects the advanced level of practice. The intention of this process is to provide validation of professional development beyond entry level education and practice.  By increasing educational requirements and including a work experience component Board Certification is a way for a massage professional to validate that they support ongoing learning and professional advancement.

Those who were previously certified with the old national certification process have an opportunity to transition to Board Certification without taking the test.   By December 31, 2016 the transition process to Board Certification for those who were previously nationally certified under the old system will be complete.   From that point on to be board certified massage professionals will need to meet all eligibility requirements and pass the exam.  Those who have not been previously certified under the old NCBTMB system will have to meet all requirements and take the Board Certification exam. Here is a link to the knowledge content expected for Board Certification

New Certification Test Specifications are found on page 21.  For more information see


College credit awarded toward a major in massage therapy bachelor’s degree.

In December 2013, a partnership with Sienna Heights University and the NCB was announced for the new NCBTMB Board Certification to be used for college credit.

NCBTMB Board Certificants are awarded 33 college credits toward the 120 credits required to achieve this degree. A 45-credit major in Massage Therapy is established through Board Certification and completing 12 credits of cognate/major-related study at Siena Heights. The 12 credits are designed to assist with the business/human relations aspects of a successful massage career. The entire degree requires 120 credits, 33 of which are awarded with proof of Board Certification. Additional transfer credit up to 90 credits total can apply toward the degree. Students may need only 10 courses (30 credits) to complete their degrees.  Siena Heights University offers upper-division courses in areas such as leadership and management, organizational behavior, marketing, health care management, professional communication, social science, liberal arts, and more. These are areas that have been identifies as the most lacking in current massage education. This is a real monetary value for board certification for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity.  Sienna Heights University is progressive and open to work with the massage community like they have with other occupations and health professional since the 1970s. If you have an associate’s degree in massage therapy for example, that can be another way to establish the massage therapy major.    AND—YOU CAN COMPLETE YOUR DEGREE ON LINE! The Bachelor of Applied Science Degree (BAS) is a career-oriented degree designed for professionals with allied health or technical training.  This degree is a BAS in Massage Therapy.  WOW.

This is a very exciting development for me because I have had a relationship with Sienna Height University for over 22 years for credit transfer from my massage theory school and now massage professional all over the country through the online program can take advantage of this career pathway. 

 For any additional information on Siena Heights University, please visit


This year an avenue for massage therapy education advancement within a university setting was proposed.

Ravensara Travillian  (find her on facebook)  brought forth the visionary proposal for professional massage therapy studies and advanced-practice certificate within a University setting.  One of the many advantages of this approach to higher massage therapy education is the ability to support massage related research which is so very important.  This proposal is very different than the college degree offered through Siena Heights University described above.  When implemented the courses will be onsite at a university where active research will be conducted.  Another very important aspect of Ravensara’s vision is the ability to target and serve vulnerable populations as part of the advanced course work. One of the target populations are veterans which is a population dear to my heart as well.   I hope the massage community supports this vision because it provides a pathway for necessary advancement of Massage Therapy in our future.


I am also hopeful that more and more massage therapists and massage educators will follow and monitor these important developments.  I enjoy staying involved and informed and providing information as well as my opinion and analysis---- but it is my hope that you will become more active and informed this coming year.


  1. I applaud Ravensara's vision: while I am Board Certified, and could feasibly pursue a BAS in massage therapy, it remains close to my heart to be able to get hands-on training. I can't think of a better way to get "advanced" training than working on more challenging populations; this coupled with the research element seems to me to be a win-win-win: students get the experience, those who need pain relief most get the benefit of bodywork, and the profession gets a controlled atmosphere where some real science can back our work. Hooray!

  2. Wow, the BA program is really exciting! I want to learn more about this. Kudos to all the people who put this together.