A Betrayal of Trust

Any time one of the major organizations in the massage field tries to fire up a project that will “advance the profession”, I get awfully suspicious. When a group of them get together to do something on the big scale, I go on full nuclear alert. That’s the case right now with a dubious education standards project introduced by ABMP in September 2011 at the Leadership Summit in St. Louis, which I detailed in my previous post, Behind Closed Doors.

As the title of that blog suggests, 100% of the activity surrounding this project has taken place in secret, with no information about the project being released to the massage therapy community—and no opportunities for review or comment before time, money and human resources are thrown at solving a perceived problem.

AMTA and FSMTB have signed on to this project, which will involve gathering information from the Federation’s upcoming Job Task Analysis survey, to use in a process that will “identify the rudimentary knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to pass a licensing exam and provide basic, but safe, massage in an early massage career.”

That doesn’t sound like a such bad thing—in and of itself—but the group intends to use this data to create an “evidence-based minimum educational requirement” for state licensing. This would be used as a rationale for changing state laws, and would likely be used to drive the curriculum standards for entry-level massage programs—basically telling schools what to do.

Goodness knows, there is a lot of inconsistency in massage education and regulation, but there is no problem in our profession that justifies one or a group of our so-called “stakeholder organizations” seizing the ball and marching down the field without our input or permission. I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what if they claim to be doing this in our best interests; this power play is a gigantic betrayal of trust. And I might add that I am personally in favor of the evidence-based practice of massage, but I don’t think one tiny group of people should get to decide what that is.

I’ve not yet been able to confirm the status of NCBTMB, Massage Therapy Foundation, AFMTE or COMTA as it relates to this project (mum’s the word all around). These four organizations, along with ABMP, AMTA and FSMTB just gathered on May 1-2 for another Leadership Summit—this time in Chicago. I’m taking bets that they will issue another sanitized press release that gives us regular folks in the bleachers little substance about what really happened in this meeting that has the potential to alter the very nature of our profession.

The only other info I’ve been able to glean is that ABMP, AMTA and FSMTB hand-picked a new workgroup of massage educators and other “experts” in instructional design and curriculum development to start this project on May 3-4, right after the completion of the Summit. Are you kidding me? Where was the public notice of this opportunity to serve on a panel that will influence the future of massage therapy? Who gave these organizations the authority to do this on our behalf?

No one. They took it on themselves, and that’s what stinks to high heaven.

In stark contrast, the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge project had both fans and detractors, but it was carried out with a reasonable amount of transparency. The majority of the dissent on the project concerned the inclusion of energy work in the document and dissatisfaction with the way objections were handled—or not handled—in favor of evidence-based practices. The five organizations that comprised the MTBOK Stewards (ABMP, AMTA, FSMTB, MTF, NCBTMB) did a good job of not interfering with the project once it was launched.

Right now, we have a genuine crisis on our hands. The problem is that hardly anyone knows about it. This blog only goes so far. I never set myself up to be the New York Times of the massage field, but it seems like the major massage publications are afraid to get their teeth into the real breaking news that affects the practitioners, teachers, CE providers and schools that make this profession possible.

Friends, it’s up to YOU to let these organizations know that it’s not OK for them to act in your interest without your permission. As long as these “leaders” think they can get away with it, they will. Trust has been blown out of the water, and it will take a concerted effort to rebuild it.

A really good first step would be for ABMP, AMTA and FSMTB to release a full description of the project, including what they plan to do, how it will be done, who sits on the new workgroup, what the timelines are, and what money will be spent. And most importantly, we want to know what they intend to do with the “evidence”. When organizations that represent us are making major decisions that affect us, we deserve to be involved in the process.

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