Report from the FSMTA Meeting

Champ and I spent the weekend at the Florida State Massage Therapy Association meeting in ChampionsGate, FL. It was our first time attending this event, and we went there to work in the Soothing Touch booth with Gurukirn Khalsa and his family. The event was  held at the beautiful Omni Resort…a lush tropical setting and superior accommodations. It was hot as the devil–but it got up to 108 ° back here at home in NC while we were there, so I really can’t complain about it. The FSMTA meeting is huge. The organization has over 5000 members, and they had a great turnout.

In addition to working, we had plenty of socializing with friends old and new. I spent over an hour in conversation with Mike Williams, Executive Director of the NCBTMB and our interview will be appearing soon in a future blog. Our booth was right across from the NCBTMB booth so I spent a good bit of time chatting with Lori Ohlman and Donna Sarvello, and later Sue Toscano and Alexa Zaledonis. You may say whatever you like about the NCBTMB–it is staffed by great, dedicated people. Bruce Baltz of Bon Vital is also on the NCBTMB Board, and he gave me a great foot massage.

I spent some time with The Massage Nerd doing a few videos–I suspect they’ll be rolled out soon. Ryan Hoyme stayed busy doing videos for everyone present that wanted one. Since I was actually working, I had short visits with a lot of people instead of longer visits with a few people! Ruth Werner was there with her daughter Lily, as were Leslie Young Giase of Massage & Bodywork Magazine/ABMP and Paul Slomski, representing  the Massage Therapy Foundation. Pete Whitridge, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, and Iris Burman were there for the AFMTE; Kate Ivane Henri Zulaski and Cliff Korn were there for COMTA, and the FSMTB was represented…this is a big meeting, so all the major organizations were in attendance. Massage Today and Massage Magazine folks were there, too. Vivian Madison-Mahoney and her husband John, Leslie Lopez, Pat Donahue and her hubby Joe, Angie Patrick, Scott Dartnall, James Waslaski, Karen Kowal, David Kent, Anita Shannon, Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Michael McGillicuddy….too many people to name but it was like a reunion of some of the nicest and most dedicated people in massage, even when I only got to see them for a minute.

Champ and I attended the FB Meet and Greet…I always meet a few of my FB friends at those events, and it’s turned into such a popular thing that all the major conventions now have one.

Speaking of major conventions, the one glitch was the same that I have noticed at other conventions, and that’s vendors getting upset with the schedule and/or location. I’m not picking on FSMTA here, because something similar seems to happen wherever we go. The particular issue this time was that the vendor hall was slam full of people Thursday evening at 5 pm, and they shut down the vendors so the association could have a 2 hour business meeting. At other organization meetings I have attended, the hall was either so far removed from the mainstream that people practically had to walk a mile to get there, or the hours coincided with the times people are in class and not much over or above that. I encourage EVERY group who organizes a massage event, whether it’s small or large, to give these people a break! Booth space is usually expensive, especially at major events, and these folks go to a lot of expense and trouble to support your events. You need to support them. I’ve heard the suggestion several times that registration should be held IN the vendor hall so that attendees had to walk through it to register, and that’s not a bad idea. As I said, I’m not picking on FL. It is a problem at many places.

The FSMTA has been around since 1939 and has 15 chapters throughout the state. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. I was pleased to meet so many of their members. I had a great time at their meeting and plan to attend again.

8 Replies to “Report from the FSMTA Meeting”

  1. Thanks for the update, Laura. Each year I promise myself that I will make it to the FSMTA convention, but life and circumstance prevented it this year. I appreciate the time you take to keep us “in the know.”

    Did you happen to be present at the panel discussion in which NCTMB was asked whether or not a person would have to take the Board Certification exam if they were already Nationally certified? I understand that the Chair responded “No” and the Chair-Elect responded “Yes” at the same time? Then the “Interim” Executive Director confirmed “No?” If I understand correctly, they were both correct–in that during the first cycle you would NOT have to take the board exam, but would after renewing. Seems to be an incredible amount of confusion surrounding this initiative, both for therapists, and apparently at the NCB Board/Staff level as well. The reason, unless NCB has changed their position, was that there would no longer be a “National Certification” exam. I have personally heard Board members and staff members say this at the American Massage Conference, as well as hearing this from our colleagues during conferences, panel discussions, etc. I think there’s quite a lot of misinformation floating around and I’m starting to wonder if it is intentional, or if it is simply poor communication/poor planning from NCB.

    I’ve also learned, that despite the position of “no longer challenging massage licensing boards” regarding their choice of entry level licensure exams, as recently as last month they challenged the decision of the Tennessee Massage Licensing Board?

    I’ve always been a fan of certification, and have tried both internally and externally to assist NCB in developing and delivering a meaningful, tangible and logical programs, products and services for massage therapists. With the Affordable Healthcare Act recently deemed Constitutional by the US Supreme Court, and the specific impact that will have on Complementary and Alternative Healthcare Providers, it’s a shame to see NCB reverting to its old habits. They were really making some great progress…and now it seems that the path they are taking is more of the same….although I do agree with your statement above, they do have “dedicated” people on board. That said, there is only so much that their staff can accomplish if the direction provided isn’t clear, especially considering the fact that they’ve literally cleared out all of their senior level directors.

  2. Laura,
    I enjoyed reading about FSMTA- this was the first year in many I wasn’t a presenter and I really hated to miss this event. Having taught for so many years in Florida I always see lots of people I know, not to mention the good friends in the exhibit hall. I appreciate your comments about supporting exhibitors. It really is a big (and expensive) production to show up, especially for those of us who don’t have corporate sponsors. Those of us who’ve been around the block a time or two understand all sides of this issue. Organizers have a lot to juggle and a lot of people to please. It’s a great thing when the venue is perfect and the schedule allows for face-time with vendors. I love the idea of registration in the exhibit hall! One of the best I’ve experienced was the Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Organization conference. Those people who take care of dying people know how to have fun! They had themed parties in the exhibit hall. Once was an Austin Powers 60’s party and , ‘Wow, baby!” was it a smashing good time!

  3. I unfortunately was not present at the discussion. However, there is a statement about the already-certified people and the policy on the exam on the NCB website. It states:

    Current Nationally Certified Massage Therapists, to achieve Board Certification, will need to meet the new Board Certification eligibility criteria as of their next recertification date. Passing the Board Certification exam will not be required.

    Mike Williams, as far as I know, is no longer “interim” but intends to stay with the NCBTMB; at least that has been my impression from speaking with him. I haven’t seen an official announcement about it.

    I am curious, who are all the senior level directors that have been “cleared out?”

    I have passed all these concerns on to the powers that be at the NCB and hopefully one of them will respond here soon.

  4. As always, Laura, thank you for providing this update to the FSMTA Convention. It was great to be there, to answer questions and to support a great association.

    We do feel like we need to address comments made here. Yes, during the Educators Panel on Saturday the Chair-Elect did respond incorrectly to a question asked since she misunderstood the question. Everyone who was in attendance at this panel found it funny but more importantly it gave us an opportunity to fully explain what is happening and how it will affect schools and students. For anyone to imply that we are intentionally providing misinformation is just absurd. The bottom line, if you are currently Nationally Certified you will have to meet the new requirements for Board Certification by your renewal date and will not have to take the new exam. 

    And, in regards to questioning action taken by the TN Massage Licensing Board, why would we not stand up for our licensing exams and ask questions? They are quality exams that do test for entry-level knowledge, skills and abilities, have done so for 20 years and are accepted in close to 40 states. Why would we not support Certificants in this state or any of the other states who have chosen one of our exams as the route they “choose” to take? When did giving massage therapists an option on which path they want to take become a bad thing? We are not changing a position, just standing up and being heard, while being respectful of the process.

    We are very excited about the path we are on, the progress we are making and the programs that are getting ready to launch later this year into early next year. We are here to elevate the profession and to provide massage therapists with options as they grow in their careers. We encourage anyone who has questions to contact us either by phone (800.296.0664) or email ( while we continue to communicate to all stakeholders what we are doing and how it affects them. Not an easy task, when those who could dispel questions choose an alternate method.

    To all the FSMTA attendees and exhibitors, it was great spending the weekend with you. Congratulations on another great event!

  5. I thought I should provide a bit of clarification given the response to my post by Alexa. My statement “…I think there’s quite a bit of misinformation floating around and I’m starting to wonder if it’s intentional…” was not meant to be specific to NCB. There are quite a lot of individuals and organizations that are discussing the “new direction” being taken by NCB. Absurd or not, I do believe, and with good reason, that perhaps the direction, the effect that the direction will have on other entities, etc., would make spreading misinformation to the community a plausible tactic. We (MT’s) are used to organizations focusing on the development of their PPS’s without much consideration or regard for what the practicing MT’s truly need. I know that I’m not alone when I say that many MT’s are becoming apathetic when it comes to their involvement/support of the organizations that “serve” the needs of therapists. I do not question the dedication, or the desire of the NCB leadership or staff to do a good job. It is important, I believe, to remember that what got you here, won’t get you there….speaking of which….

    The communication piece is still an issue for me. I’m not sure that we are clear as to the path that NCB is on? It seems that by your statement above, as the spokesperson for NCB, that there is no plan to exit the entry level licensure exams? Am I mistaken?

    NCB should be a critical cog in the success of the professional massage therapist. The initiatives that we’ve heard about are exciting, however I’m not sure that a commuting CEO is capable to implement those initiatives. No disrespect or insinuation of a lack of skill to Mr. Williams intended. I’ve never met him, however I have looked into his past work, and see that he has achieved successes with clients, however I do understand that NCB is only one of his clients. Board members set the direction and vision, however it’s the responsibility of the professional staff members to implement. I can appreciate the difficulty in implementation–I’ve experienced it first hand, and let’s be honest….MT’s are not the easiest group to serve, particularly from a distance.

    I would ask that you explain your statement “..Not an easy task, when those who could dispel questions choose an alternate method.” I suspect that comment was directed toward me, and if there is any way that I could help to dispel questions, I would certainly be happy to do so. Obviously I would need to be clear on the intended outcome of the actions. I fiercely support initiatives that assist massage therapists, and are focused on their needs. I could care less what organization, business, person, etc., initiates them.

    From a personal standpoint, I was thrilled to learn that NCB was changing course and focusing on Board Certification as opposed to entry level licensure. So much attention, dollars, time, etc., is focused on the future MT’s through entry level educational standards, testing, etc., that the needs of the current therapists are largely being ignored. Aside from our fantastic CE providers, therapists who are currently looking to expand into other venues, deepen their knowledge base, etc., are largely left to their own devices, while the potential student/therapist are receiving the majority of the focus.

    The overlap with regard to organizational initiatives is staggering in the MT industry, and hopefully the massage therapists who serve in leadership positions will consider this as they meet. Looking to the future of any profession is important….just not at the expense of those who are already in the profession.

  6. Laura, thank you for reporting on the conferences.

    As far as NCB goes, perhaps it needs its own thread, but Angie is not alone in feeling that way. While we can call the NCB and ask questions, there has been a lot of change and I don’t know that the answers we get one-on-one are any good. I called two or three times the past twelve months and each time there was a new school outreach person with a new answer.

    We all want to be supportive of the new direction, but the burden falls on NCB to communicate quickly and clearly what it will do and back it up with results. First quarter of 2013 is just around the corner and we need to know how schools will be approved, what the 750 hr requirement will consist of, what the certification areas will be, how the new exams will be created.

    The misfires of the past, the diminishing revenues, the multitude of initiatives and the appearance that the organization is spread so thin that until recently it took it 2 months to do what FSMTB does in 2 days (NESL process flow is similar to MBLEx process flow as no background check/transcript is needed) are areas of concern. Until we know what NCB plans to do, how can schools, in good faith, recommend that students take the NCE?

  7. Just as follow-up to my last post, I should mention that Lori Ohlmann of the NCBTMB just reached out to me. Lori is the person with whom I had spoken a while back, and then the next person with whom I spoke told me she was no longer there. Well, she is still there and was able to articulate the direction of the organization and the new credential very well.

    Per Lori, there will be a communication going out to schools in the next couple days that explains how this will work.

    A key clarification that made a difference for me was the distinction between the terms “National Certification” and “Board Certification”. In the past I took the terms to be synonymous, as National Certification was a certification by the Board, but under the new direction the terms are truly different.

    National Certification is the current credential based on the 500-hour training requirement and the NCE; the notion of “National Certification” as supported by these exams and the 500-hour requirement will be phased out within 4 years (the exams will stay per Lori strictly as licensing exams).

    “Board Certification” will be based on a new exam, 750 hrs of training, and 250 hours hands-on. The 250 hours of hands-on means that a person who finished a 750 hour program cannot be immediately Board Certified, as they have to provide proof of 250 hours of hands-on work. Those who have the National Certification credential will be grandfathered into Board Certification without taking that exam as long as they can provide proof of 750 hours (can be a core program plus CEUs) and 250 hrs hands-on work. The last JTA had more than 8,000 responses and, as I understand it, the Board Certification exam will be based on that JTA.

    There is more, which will be in the communication, but the point is that I felt reassured and I can find at least one reason (being grandfathered into Board Certification) that I explain to our graduates why taking the NCE now can work to their benefit later.

    Personally, I would hope that once the new credential is in place that the NCE will go away and the focus of the organization will be Board Certification and specializations, but we will see.

    Many thanks to Lori for reaching out when she read this post.

    Many thanks to Laura Allen as well, for graciously providing this forum for questions, answers, and information exchange.

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