I have been a massage therapist for a really long time. It has been 35 years now. I have owned a. massage therapy school for 30 year and do a majority of the teaching these days. In retrospect I and others who have been in the trenches for years can finally see some progression in the massage therapy quest for unity and a move forward in professional development. Following are developments that allow me to check some things off my massage therapy wish list.
1. The umbrella of the Coalition of Massage Therapy Leadership Organizations. There is still cooperative work to be done especially related to duplication of efforts. The most blaring at this time is AMTA and ABMP persisting in offering school meetings. This really needs to stop and support put behind the Alliance. I will applaud the ABMP for not offering a school issues forum next year and instead putting support behind the Educational Congress co-sponsored by the Alliance and COMTA
2. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. This organization is essential for supporting quality massage therapy education. The organization does need to better serve massage therapy schools. This educational sector kind of got pushed to the side with the Teacher Standards Project but we have to remember that the Alliance is a volunteer organization. Those that want better representation for massage schools- especially the independent, massage- only schools, need to work better together within the Alliance.
3. Board Certification for Massage Therapy. I have always felt that licensing should come prior to Certification and pushed for a Model Practice Act to support licensing years ago. Well it didn’t happen that way and years of confusion resulted. Now that the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is supporting the MBLEX as the one licensing exam and putting all effort behind Board Certification, I am happy. The Federation of State Massage Boards and the rest of the massage organizations had better support the National Certification Board during this transition. Board Certification MUST be successful for the massage profession to continue to evolve.
4. One licensing exam- MBLEX. No more infighting. We need to monitor the Federation of State Massage Boards. This group wields a lot of power.
5. A Model Practice Act. It is true that I had a fit and rightly so over the mandated accreditation clause but I can live with the final draft that appears to support and movement toward programmatic approval.
6. A definition of massage. The Model Practice Act, the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge and the Entry Level Analysis Project defined massage and as typical for the profession all the definitions are different but they are really close. I like the Model Practice Act definition the best.
7. Recommendations for a standardized curriculum. The Entry Level Analysis Project -ELAP- provides a foundation for curriculum development. It is not perfect but it is close enough. Schools and teachers should be using this document.
8. A career pathway to a Bachelor’s of Applied Science degree. I have worked on this for over 22 years. My massage school, Health Enrichment Center had an articulation agreement with Siena Heights University over 20 years ago for transfer credit into their applied science degree. I accredited my massage therapy school with Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges to support the articulation. I lived the demise of the institutional accreditation process and finally let it go after 15 years. Very sad but--------My dream for a bachelor’s degree was reborn with the agreement between the National Certification Board and Siena Heights University to award college credit based on Board Certification. YES! 33 credits.
9. And—I love the Massage Therapy Foundation.
So what is left on my list?
1. The leadership coalition must support an independent biomechanics and ergonomics analysis for massage practice. There is no excuse for this not being done. It must be done outside the massage community. We as a group are too biased.
2. COMTA being able to provide a quality yet user-friendly and affordable programmatic approval for massage therapy schools that does not involve institutional accreditation or compliance with standards that burden schools that do not accept federal financial aid.
3. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education and the National Certification Board developing together a massage therapy educator specialty certification.
4. The massage community embracing the process of excellence and massage therapists becoming Board Certified. Let go of the past and seek the future. Once a critical mass of massage therapist are board certified, then I want the National Certification Board ,with support from the massage organizations, specifically the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education to develop and administer specialty certifications.
5. Massage entry level training and practice remaining in the vocational education sector. This level of education allows individuals to begin a massage career. However, those with entry level education at the 625 contact hours following ELAP standards must realize the limits of what can be taught in this time period and what are realistic income expectations based on that educational standard. I support employment for entry level massage based on an hourly wage of $15 per hour on site- not per massage. This means that an entry level massage salary would be $600 per week gross based on a 40 hour work week.
6. I want massage therapist with Board Certification to be paid more based on experience and commitment to excellence and ongoing increases in wages as experience and ongoing continuing education occur.
7. I want massage to be affordable to the general public outside the health care insurance system. I also want massage inside the health care system to be covered by insurance so that these organizations and corporations can hire massage therapists at a salary that reflects additional education, Board Certification and experience.
8. I want the infighting to stop. I want massage therapy to be seen as a compassionate, skilled, artful, intuitive service and career based on justifiable criteria based on realistic expectations for outcomes and not based on opinion, guru’s, gimmicks and goofy claims. I want massage to be therapeutic massage and not pushed to some sort of mini physical therapy or athletic training or psychology or counseling or spiritual practice. If you want to do all the physical therapy stuff then commit to the education to become a physical therapist. The same can be said for the rest. If you are going to be a massage therapist, then be an excellent massage therapist and respect and work together with other professionals.
We have come a long way. Let’s celebrate and continue to work together. Be proactive. Monitor and hold to task the leadership organizations. Remain informed and be encouraged. I am.