My Organization is Better Than Your Organization

The massage profession has a plethora of organizations these days.

AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) is a non-profit organization that has some executive staff at the top, a board elected by the members, and a hearty band of tireless volunteers that keep the wheels turning. AMTA has about 57,000 members.

ABMP (Associated Massage & Bodywork Professionals) is a for-profit concern, and frankly I’m just sick and tired of hearing that fact stated as a criticism. What is inherently wrong with making a profit? I want to make one in my massage therapy practice, don’t you? ABMP has around 77,000 members.

The NCBTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) , for 17 years, was virtually the exclusive provider of certification exams that were used for licensing in many states, and the approval body for continuing education providers. A few states had/have their own exam. About 90,000 massage therapists are nationally certified. The NCBTMB also has a board elected by their certificants.

Then along came the FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) with the MBLEx test as a route to licensure, which many of the 40 or so member states have adopted. The Federation also recently announced plans to get into the business of approving continuing education, and they are creating a model practice act. They also have a board, which their state delegates elect.

The new kid on the block is the AFMTE (Alliance for Massage Therapy Education), which aims to advance the quality of education and develop a model of teacher standards. The Alliance has announced that they would be collaborating with the FSMTB on the continuing education project. They still have their first board seated; that’s how new they are.

We’ve also got COMTA (Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation) in the business of giving accreditation to schools and programs who meet their standards of excellence. Getting COMTA approval is voluntary, expensive and time-consuming. There are only 100 or so that have earned it.

The majority of states now regulate massage, some by their own self-supporting massage board, some lumped in with nursing boards or other health boards. I am often asked by therapists what their state board does for them. Other than issuing their license and in some states licensing schools, the answer is not much. A public board serves the purpose of public protection. Some do a better job than others. State board members are appointed by politicians. The average board is usually composed of a few dedicated people, often includes one or two clueless slackers, and a rebel redneck like me. I’m sure my board is glad I’m at the end of my service. My blog makes them nervous.

I’m a member of both AMTA and ABMP. I’m a member of FSMTB by virtue of my seat on the North Carolina Board, which I will be vacating later this month after five years. I have been a past delegate to the Federation. I am a founding member of the AFMTE. I’ve been nationally certified for over ten years, and an approved CE provider under the NCBTMB as well. I am soon to go on my first site visit for COMTA. I attended their reviewer training after I wrote a few derogatory blogs about them and they invited me to attend. Positive change usually happens from within, doesn’t it?

I have a stake in all these organizations so I’ll pat them on the back when I think they deserve it, and I don’t mind calling them out when I think they deserve it. I have the same attitude with them that I have with other massage therapists who act competitive instead of collegial. This isn’t a contest. If one organization has to fail in order for another to succeed, that’s just a big shame as far as I’m concerned. When one organization slams another and presents half-truths and posturing, it starts to look like a playground fight–better call that a turf war, I guess–and it’s not attractive in the least.

None of these organizations would exist without their constituents–the massage therapists. And none of them can represent all of the people all of the time. They’ve all made moves that didn’t suit me at one time or another, and what ticked me off may have made other MTs perfectly happy, or vice versa. And the therapist who isn’t represented by any of them probably couldn’t care less what they do or how they act. In fact, many of their own members couldn’t care less what they do or how they act. When it comes to the professional associations, many therapists just join for the insurance and have no interest in the political fray at all–until something detrimental happens that affects their license or access to education.

If you don’t like a piece of proposed legislation, contact your legislators to tell them. And if you don’t like the direction your professional organization is taking, contact them to tell them. Get yourself in there as a board member or volunteer and change it from within. Cancel your membership, or switch organizations.  Money still talks. It’s akin to voting…if you don’t exercise that right, then don’t gripe about the outcome. Go to your state board’s meeting and sign up for public comment. You have a voice. It’s only effective if you use it.

21 Replies to “My Organization is Better Than Your Organization”

  1. Thanks Laura. I did not renew my school’s AMTA membership this year because I have disagreed with what I have seen over the past few years.

    An organization can no longer maintain a public face that is separate from the face it shows to its members. With social networks, email, and your blogging Laura, there is an immediacy of information that brings things to public light quickly and mobilizes people. Thank you for the excellent service you provide to the profession by bringing things to light.

  2. Great blog post! Have you seen the school enrollments trend survey just released by ABMP? I think market forces are knocking out small schools, and the expense of COMTA and other accreditors (direct and indirect, to the schools and the students) doesn’t help the situation. Many may disagree with me, but I think more choice in schools is a good thing.

  3. I very much agree that MT as a profession will rise better when we all work together.
    And we should beware that we may well ruin the profession by focusing on fighting each other.

    But even more, I am very happy to hear the call for people to participate in their group!

    These organizations can only become – or stay – ineffective and self-serving if the members let them!

  4. I talk to my students about this all the time. If they don’t pay attention things can change faster than they can blink their eyes.

  5. Thanks Laura,

    I always enjoy reading postings by you. I like the fact that you state your opinion in a straightforward manner but with fairness. You also put out a lot of great information for me to learn and grow with. Always much appreciated.

  6. Hi Laura,
    Great post reminding that our organizations are there for us and if there’s an issue it is our responsibility to stand up and say something, it’s too easy to sit on the sidelines and grumble. It is similar to our government, it’s there “for the people and by the people”. Folks seem to get so caught up in “we” vs. “them” but our organizations are there for the purpose of supporting us. That is why I do vote in the AMTA elections.

    To be honest, the only reason I’ve kept my AMTA and NCBTMB memberships for the past 12 years was because it was required by law, not for any other reason. Yet, if the time comes that I need it, such as litigation or damage to my office that is covered by AMTA, I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune. And, I am happy that there is a small voice for us in government being paid by our membership dues.

    Thanks for the post, it’s good that you do so much work to help keep massage therapist’s informed of what’s going on in the legislative world of massage.

  7. Problem Laura, PROBLEM. I recently posted a comment on your ‘Professional’ Pro making a buck website because I am a new blogger and looking to connect with Professional Therapists. But it seems that whoredom and filth, that I for one associate with the kind of guerrilla marketing massage spam that my blog site now receives daily in the form of fake comments. I do happen to have a social and political issue with what I consider to be whoredom and filth – courtsey of the ABMP and exemplified by the trash known as the quasi Marxist ‘Tea Party’. One of my favorite comments about politics is from former President Andrew Jackson ” Anyone who prattles about the Constitution should be marked out as a Traitor.” Best of Luck and keep your bullying to yourself.

  8. ” I have the same attitude with them that I have with other massage therapists who act competitive instead of collegial. This isn’t a contest. If one organization has to fail in order for another to succeed, that’s just a big shame as far as I’m concerned. When one organization slams another and presents half-truths and posturing, it starts to look like a playground fight–better call that a turf war, I guess–and it’s not attractive in the least.”

    I could not agree more Laura… Unfortunately it has always been more a domination by a bully than a competition or playground fight. The bully is now in a position to back off and actually look like a peacemaker/moderate but doesn’t seem to be taking that role as they have shown in IL The Amta is undermining the efforts of a group and going on their own to advance an even higher than their normal agenda.

    Your description of Amta is hardly sufficient in describing who and what they are and what they have done to this work.


  9. @AMH Carter, I assume you are referring to the website since you mentioned ABMP? It isn’t “my” website; I just participate in it along with thousands of other therapists. One does not have to belong to ABMP or any other organization to be on it. I neither own it nor control what goes on, and as for “whoredom and filth,” I hardly think that describes our profession. There are spammers everywhere. I personally get over 1000 spam comments on my blogs every week. It comes with the territory, so welcome to the world of blogging. I have never spammed you. I do not harvest email addresses on any of my websites, and you have to ask me to be put on my email list. I have never bought a list or put anyone on my list who didn’t directly ask me.

  10. What’s great about AMTA is if you don’t like what they are doing you can volunteer your time and really put forth effort to make a change in the organization. You can run for office and get elected on local, state, or a national level.

    I don’t see the same opportunity with ABMP. All I can do is make complaints, or take my business elsewhere. I was a member of ABMP at one point and I had an issue with them not supporting state licensure in California in the past. I still have issue with them creating the lower tier in California. It makes our Certification next to impossible to be recognized by other states. They do have great tools for educators, and they do support Massage Therapy Foundation, but they also support a lower education tier. If you insure them, you support them.

    Just remember the people that show up make the decisions. Who is showing up and deciding for you?

  11. Great Minds think alike!
    Thank you Laura. It’s so great whenever I read posts like yours, thoughtful, provocative, and empowering!
    The competitiveness is not tasteful at all but I have to say AMTA-NY has empowered me because of their Legislative Agenda. Its why I left ABMP in 2009. Many issues were at stake in the fall of 2008 here in NYState and I had no voice as an ABMP member. Both orgs have pros/cons but in the end I want to have a voice not just nice brochures and discounts.
    BTW – How do you deal with the spammers at your blog?

  12. I guess I’m fortunate that my state, Washington, has an active legislative group in the AMTA and a massage board that includes licensed massage practitioners on it. I’m also fortunate that I live in the state capital, so I get to rub elbows with the people who are on the massage board or in the AMTA’s lobbying group. Every year, we are advised as to new legislation that will affect our profession and are invited to participate or comment. Every year, the AMTA has a “Massage Awareness Day” at the state capital and provides chair massage to our state legislators and their staff. The participation rate, which I’m sure could be much higher, is still pretty impressive with LMPs coming from across the state to particpate.

    The result of all of this? We are allowed to bill insurance here, we are actively trying to make it more difficult for the unlicensed or prostitution fronts to do business here. Yes, things could be better, but overall, I’d say we are better than average and much of that is due to all the hard work of the volunteers who have served in the past.

    Thank you for being an active and vocal participant!

  13. I have been serving on our state board for five years, and I’m at the end of that this month. I am also very active in my AMTA chapter, and I am also a member of ABMP. I get something different from each of them.

    Re how I deal with spam, it gets caught in the WordPress spam blocker. I go through it every week to be sure no legitimate comments got caught. It’s unreal at how much gets caught there.

  14. Massage is a trade. There are plenty of self serving groups trying to take over massage. Good luck! Write your legislators and tell them to remove massage licensing because the only people who do make money in the massage area are not massage therapists.

    The FDA and AMA will have a field day with the self empowered groups who approved techniques that are not safe for the public. Be careful of what you ask for.

    If you massage to be all that then it has to jump through the hoops that all other professions have to be accepted. Like if massage therapy wants to be included in healthcare then prepare to only be able to work with a physician’s prescription like all other healthcare professions. Talk about the putting the horse before the cart.

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