NCBTMB Elections: Massaging the Rules?

NCBTMB is holding their Board of Directors elections, and I must say, I think the Election Committee is massaging the bylaws of the organization. One of the open Board positions is for the public member.

According to the bylaws, a public member shall not be a certificant, or a practitioner of massage therapy and/or bodywork within three years of election, and shall have no material financial interest in the field of massage therapy and/or bodywork.

I am curious as to how the committee arrived at the choice of Stuart Watts as a candidate for public member. I don’t know Watts, personally. According to his bio, he is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, licensed in New Mexico and Hawaii. He is also the founder of five institutes of Asian medicine, co-founder of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), two entities that ultimately created the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) and the national testing organization, the National Commission for Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Among other things, he also has a background in accounting and for the past 16 years, has served as the treasurer of the American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA).

According to his bio, Watts also has extensive training in various forms of Asian bodywork therapy, among other things. He has in the past been a site reviewer for COMTA. In his status as someone who is currently licensed in two states, that would seem to shoot a hole in his eligibility as a candidate, at least from where I’m sitting.

Doctors of Oriental Medicine do indeed have substantial training in bodywork. That issue was brought up time and time again during my service on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy–the right of acupuncturists to practice and/or advertise massage. An investigation into that showed that a minimum of 750 hours of training in Asian forms of bodywork is a part of formal training in Oriental Medicine. That’s more than the 500 hours that is required for a massage license in our state. Personally I was of the opinion that they are at least as qualified as we are to practice massage. Our Board ruled that even though massage and bodywork is within their scope of practice, that in order to advertise themselves as massage therapists, they needed to have a massage license, a ruling I was personally in disagreement with.

If Watts had been retired and out of the business for at least three years at the time of the election, according to the bylaws, he would indeed be eligible. The fact that he has a current license in two states and is apparently still practicing his art is a deal-breaker for me.

A public member, on any board, is meant to be an individual who is able to represent the consumer from the consumer’s point of view, not an expert or current practitioner in the field in which he is to represent. Although Asian bodywork may not be the same thing as Western massage, there is too much overlap there for me to feel good about this decision. There are plenty of board seats available to practitioners–at least 8, and possibly 9, as there are 10 seats on the NCBTMB Board of Directors, and no more than two of them may be held by public members. As a practitioner of bodywork, Watts would have been more suited as a candidate for a therapist member, in my opinion.

I believe his selection as a candidate for public member by the Committee shows a blatant disregard for the bylaws. Again, I don’t personally know Watts or have anything against him. But this is just one more concern on my growing list of concerns about the NCBTMB.

I urge certificants to contact the NCBTMB to express an opinion on all this. Voting in the election is open to certificants until November 11. I am not just suggesting that you not vote for Watts. I am suggesting that it is totally inappropriate for him to be the public member candidate in the first place, and that the NCBTMB needs to quit massaging the bylaws and acknowledge that they have made an error in judgment by placing him on the slate for that position. It’s the right thing to do.


Gobsmacked

Gobsmacked: adjective: shocked, astounded, astonished.

Gobsmacked is my favorite word of late, and unfortunately, myself and many other people in the massage world have been gobsmacked recently, to learn that a colleague who was admired and trusted has let us down. I am addressing this because I have had a very public relationship with this person. I have appeared on a blog she owns for several months, which incidentally she refuses to remove my picture from, as well as the pictures of the other women on the blog who would also like to be removed from it. It’s a childish and petty game designed to continue the illusion of credibility by association. She has announced many times over the past couple of years that I am her mentor. I am also addressing this now because I have just now received a thick letter from the MN Attorney General’s Office suggesting additional avenues of complaint for those who have been affected.

The first inkling I had that anything was wrong was a couple of months ago. A therapist attending a class I taught stayed after class to discuss a problem. She had ordered a book (and received it). Months later, she noticed another charge on her credit card. When she questioned it, she was told it was for shipping for a book–one that she had not ordered. It took several emails and messages to get the money refunded. Still, since that was the first report I had personally heard of any problem, I viewed it as an isolated incident.

If only that were the case. About a month ago, I started receiving emails with similar–and in some cases much worse–stories from therapists reporting incidents of unauthorized charges as high as $850 appearing on credit card statements.

There have been reports of therapists waiting as long as six months for books that have been paid for to be shipped, which they have been told were backordered. The books are actually print-on-demand from Amazon’s publishing arm, Createspace. There is no such thing as a back order. You pay, they publish and ship immediately. I have published four books there myself. I order books, they arrive within two to three days. That’s how it works.

There have also been many reports of therapists paying $350 for websites she was offering to build during a promotion, many of which are reportedly sub-par, full of grammar mistakes, have non-functional features, and to the un-web savvy out there, many have not realized that they were not the owners of their own websites, but rather that ownership was retained by the contractor. I received an email from her stating that anyone could request to have their website returned to their ownership. I have also personally seen correspondence that was extremely rude and hostile to a person who had requested that. I have received reports that websites that were ordered (and paid for) months ago have still not been put online, but when the person tried to cancel, were told that they could not because work had already started on it.

Other complaints have included the inability to access webinars that have been promised at the rate of one per day, for a total of 260 webinars…most people have said that they were only to access 8 webinars and some were not able to access any at all. She was also making the offer to do social media marketing for massage therapists, and most were disappointed to find that the posts did not cover the subject matter they had asked for, were again full of typos and/or incorrect grammar, and were not made the frequency they had been promised.

To add fuel to the fire, a newspaper story of a 2010 arrest for swindling a Mankato, MN businessman started circulating on Facebook. Several resourceful massage therapists, including myself, started doing a lot of investigating. I personally called the man who had her arrested. I have also personally spoken with or emailed with numerous massage therapists who have lost money and received no goods or services.

I have also received reports of taxes prepared that were not signed and no PTIN number provided. If that has happened to you, here is the complaint form. If you paid ANY amount of money to have your taxes filled out, the preparer is obligated to sign and provide the PTIN on the return. You may also report that to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, 600 North Robert St, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

In the event that she represented herself to you as being a CPA, as she did to many, you may also complain to the Minnesota Board of Accountancy, 85 E. 7th Place, Suite 125, Saint paul, MN, 55101.

According to the letter I received from the MN Attorney General, those who have been affected should file a complaint with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Sheriff Matt Bostrom, 425 Grove St, Saint Paul, MN 55101, and with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Government Ceneter West, Suite 315, 50 West Kellogg Blvd, Saint Paul, MN 55102.

The Attorney General also suggests filing a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Unlicensed and Alternative Health Care Practice, POB 64882, Saint Paul, MN, 55164.

If you have transacted business over the Internet and you have not received the goods or services that you have paid for, you may report that here.

You may also file a complaint with the NCBTMB.

When you use the complaint form, you must quote the section of the Code or the Standards that have been violated, so I am going to provide that here:

Code of Ethics:
VII. Conduct their business and professional activities with honesty and integrity, and respect the inherent worth of all persons.

Standard IV covers Business Practices. In your complaint, you should quote Standard IV and then whichever of these applies to the transactions you had.

d. accurately and truthfully inform the public of services provided

e. honestly represent all professional qualifications and affiliations

j. not exploit the trust and dependency of others, including clients and employees/co-workers

The worst of these offenses is ignoring customers…the massage therapists who believed in her and sent her their hard-earned money. The same story prevails over and over–that therapists who have contacted her to ask where their goods and services are have been ignored, blocked from her FB pages and messages, been thrown out of groups that she had organized on the Internet because they dared to question her, and have been subjected to her failure to return emails and phone calls.

I spoke to the person these accusations have been leveled at on the phone after all of this blew up on FB, and she told me that she was going to contact all the people that she owed goods and services to and make it right. A later communication from her told me that in fairness that I should mention that many people have ordered things from her and received them, so I will. A still further communication from her stated that she has hired attorneys in five states and a PR firm.

Any company can have customer service problems. My company could have a customer service problem. However, I am the owner of the company, and the burden falls on me to do anything about it.The buck stops here.

This is not the kind of post I enjoy making. There is nothing fun about seeing dozens of massage therapists out their money and disheartened over someone they believed was going to help them. There is nothing fun about seeing a colleague who is creative and smart fall from grace. The sad thing is, if all this energy had been applied to delivering what people were promised, she’d be a millionaire by now. I urge you, if you have been affected by this, to take the time to report it to the proper authorities. Your failure to do so will just make it easier for others to be victimized in the future. I cringe to think that someone right out of massage school has had, or will have, this kind of introduction to professional massage.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe and I have recently collaborated on an article that is appearing in Massage Today about how to avoid being a victim of Internet and other scams: An Ounce of Prevention Can Save You a Lot of Heartache.

MOCC-ERY Redux

I have received the following from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. I personally think they are far off the mark on what they intend to do with continuing education, and with their refusal to consider any joint effort with the NCBTMB to organize and streamline the approval process for the good of all concerned. This is their MOCC-ERY plan redux, and it’s giving me a bad case of acid reflux. The first time this plan rolled around, the national office of AMTA responded by shooting 20 holes into it. Those holes are still there, and it is my fond hope that AMTA will reiterate its position.

This is nothing more than another ill-conceived ploy to put the NCBTMB out of business by taking CE out of their hands, making only what THEY want to be required–and furthermore, to require you to get it from them. To add insult to injury, the FSMTB proposes that THEY will choose the experts who will create the courses that YOU will be required to take from them on their website and occasional live classes. CE Providers might as well kiss your income goodbye. Give me a break. If this isn’t a naked power grab, I have never seen one. Here is the communication:

February 27, 2013
 
Dear Colleagues:
 
A White Paper circulating in professional and social media circles proposes the creation of a new organization to approve continuing education providers. FSMTB has not indicated support for such a move and would like to correct certain assumptions pertaining directly to the FSMTB that are made in the paper.
 
The most important reason for regulating the massage and bodywork profession is to ensure public protection and consumer confidence without unduly restricting the ability of licensed, professional therapists to make a living. To better address needs in the area of license renewal, the FSMTB was directed by a vote of its members (State boards and agencies that regulate massage and bodywork therapy) to develop and deliver a solution.
 
To do this, FSMTB looked at research and listened to experts, including consumers, educators, and the therapists themselves. Our recommendation was published in October 2012 in a paper called “Standardized Licensure Renewal Recommendation for Continuing Professional Competence“.  
   
Standardized Licensure Renewal Recommendation
Here’s what we believe is fair and reasonable to ensure competent licensed professionals and protection for the public they serve.
 
Licensed massage and bodywork therapists will be required to complete six (6) hours of license renewal requirements annually. At least three (3) of the six hours must meet the State-sponsored Ethics and Professional Practice course requirements that specifically address content pertaining to public safety. The remaining three (3) hours could be exchanged for certain Professional Development Activities, including but not limited to meeting accredited certification standards, community service, and research.
 
We further believe that it is preferable for all six hours of the license renewal requirements to be in the Ethics and Professional Practice areas, thus eliminating the need for therapists to engage in other activities or classes in order to renew their license. The rationale for limiting the licensing renewal requirements to the Ethics and Professional Practice areas is to ensure that therapists have standardized, current knowledge necessary for safe and competent practice. Additional activities and classes, though beneficial and encouraged, should not be required for re-licensure.
 
Recognizing that there will be a transition phase as the profession progresses, we will establish standards for acceptance of other Professional Development Activities for licensure renewal, such as attaining certifications and attending professional conferences. Again, these activities are to be encouraged but are beyond what should be required to maintain a license.
 
Our goal is to create easily accessible online courses each year on the topics that matter to the State boards, not just to address complaints or sub-standard practice, but to focus on issues such as ethical concerns and therapist safety. Our intent is not to compete with agencies already providing certifications or CE, but to ensure adequate attention to our area of emphasis, Ethics and Professional Practice.
 
For those without access to computers we are considering live classes at events where therapists already gather. We will select experts to work with our licensing boards to create the best courses and we encourage your participation.
 
For States that already have CE requirements, the FSMTB will establish Standards to assist States in determining Professional Development Activities that are acceptable during the transition. We are not proposing that we approve CE Providers, Instructors or Courses; instead, we are concentrating on an alternative solution to address the needs of the regulatory community and the therapists.
 
Considering licensure, we must keep in mind that a license does not reflect that a therapist is brilliant, enthusiastic, nice, or possesses a healing gift. Licensure demonstrates that a therapist has met basic professional standards and is entitled to legally practice.
 
Licensing boards:
-work for the public, not the profession.
-are created to regulate the profession, not elevate it.
-cannot require a double standard – education for experienced professionals that is different from that of entry level therapists.
-must provide the public with an avenue to address harm.
-ensure only that a licensed therapist meets standard competency levels to receive or renew a license.
 
In summary, our role and intent is to work with State boards to protect and to serve the public while at the same time offering a simplified, standardized and relevant solution for therapists.

All providers of continuing education need to contact dpersinger@fsmtb.org and jhuffman@fsmtb.org and let them know we do not want this plan shoved down our throats. Furthermore, providers and licensees can send a letter to your own state massage therapy board letting them know that you do not support this plan of the FSMTB to take over the CE business. Does a practitioner who has been in business 25 years really need to repeat the FSMTB-ordained ethics class for every renewal? Do not sit on your hands–send those emails right now and let the leadership of the FSMTB know you are against this plan.

Politics and Cliques

This week’s blog is about the elections at the upcoming Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards annual meeting in New Orleans on September 27-29. Who gets chosen to serve on the Board of Directors of this organization is important, because FSMTB controls the administration of the MBLEx– the primary licensing exam in our profession, and is in the process of trying to adopt new national standards for continuing education.

These upcoming elections are shaping up to be a joke, and a bad one at that. I reported last week on the bylaw changes that have resulted in handing over all the power that should belong to the Member Boards to a 3-person Nominating Committee, removed the Delegates’ rights to nominate anyone from the floor, took the power of choosing officers out of the hands of the Delegates and put it into the hands of the Board of Directors, and extended the total length of time a Board member can serve to three 3-year terms.

I don’t know who the Nominating Committee has chosen as their “slate” candidates, but I can tell you some of the people they have overlooked. Two of them are sitting members of the FSMTB Board of Directors: Phyllis Salyers of Tennessee and Billie Shea of Nevada. Both are eligible, and as far as I can tell, both are qualified. Shea was in fact just reelected as the Chair of the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists for the seventh time. Salyers has been off the Tennessee Board of Massage Licensure for about a year, but still acts as a consultant to the Board and under the Bylaws of the FSMTB is still eligible to serve two more terms. Since they were elected the first time, one assumes that they both still possess the skill sets necessary to the job. Since both have been faithful servants to the organization, you have to wonder why they have been passed over for another term.

Another person who didn’t make the cut is Mark Dixon, currently serving as Vice-Chair of the California Massage Therapy Council. Dixon has been a massage therapist for almost 25 years and his list of qualifications and past service to massage organizations would be another whole blog. He is genuine leadership material, yet he was not even granted the courtesy of an interview by the Nominating Committee.

I actually have the biggest issue, not with the candidates, but with the Bylaw change allowing the Board of Directors to serve three 3-year terms. Since Board members can continue to serve after their service to their state massage board is over, this could effectively result in the entire Board of Directors being composed of people who are no longer on their state boards. I don’t think that was the intent of this organization when it was started–and their very name indicates that.

The issue, to me, is that when you are no longer on a state board, you are no longer obligated to follow the agenda of that board, whatever it may be. In fact, as a non-board member, you are in all likelihood not even privy to the goings-on behind closed doors when there is an executive session.  You can have your own little agenda, and that’s what I find disturbing. Due to the various election schedules of the FSMTB Member Boards, I am not suggesting that anyone should be thrown off in the midst of their term, but I think serving out that term is the way to go–and then let another sitting board member have that position.

So, here we have no nominations from the floor; a 3-person committee deciding who is best for the job instead of all the delegates from 42 Member Boards getting to put forth someone they might like to nominate; two sitting members denied another term in spite of their service and qualifications and bylaws that currently allow them to serve; a well-qualified applicant denied; and bylaw changes that are totally contrary to what is in the best interests of the state boards.

Out here in the heartland of the massage therapy profession, we’re counting on our colleagues who do the usually thankless job of representing state boards to do the courageous thing here. I will make another plea for the Delegate Assembly to stand up at the annual meeting, say that this is not acceptable, and to propose amendments to the FSMTB Bylaws that restore an appropriate balance of power and authority.

 

Report from the World Massage Festival

I just returned from attending the World Massage Festival in Las Vegas, and what a blast! I’ve been attending this annual event for several years, and this was the best one yet. My husband, Champ, accompanied me, and we really had a fabulous time. This event is like a family reunion every year, so I really enjoyed seeing so many people I know and don’t get to see often. The Festival was held at the Tuscany Casino and Hotel, which turned out to be a wonderful place…I think my suite was as big as my house.

We arrived on Sunday and I spent the afternoon helping out at the registration desk with our fearless ringleader, Cindy Michaels. Cindy is Mike Hinkle’s better half; Mike cooks up all kinds of great ideas and Cindy puts them into action.  Jenny Ray and Janelle Lakman, the Sacred Stone Medicine ladies, were also working registration so we all had a big time visiting in between. Sunday night was the Hall of Fame ceremony, emceed by Judi Calvert, and it was very enjoyable. This year’s honorees are Cindy Ballis, Karina Braun, Eric Brown, James Charlesworth, Scott Dartnall, Robin Fann, Irene Gauthier, Sally Hacking, Ryan Hoyme, Andrea Kelly, David Kent, Mark Lamm, Paul Lewis, Rena Margulis, Karen Menehan, Angie Patrick, Donald Peterson, Sharon Puszko, Art Riggs, George Skaroulis, Kevin Snedden, Cherie Sohnen0Moe, Les Sweeney, and Ruth Werner.

Monday morning, I was honored to participate in a Student Day panel with Lynda Solien-Wolfe, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, David Kent, Joe Bob Smith, James Waslaski, David Otto, Ryan Hoyme, Michael McGillicuddy, and Angie Patrick. I hope I didn’t forget anyone! The students were so appreciative; all got a goody bag, there were lots of door prizes, and one lucky soul got a starter kit–massage table, massage chair, rolling stool, bolster, sheets, and all kinds of products.

Monday afternoon, I taught my Educated Heart ethics class, which was well-attended by a great bunch of therapists. Champ and I had dinner with Lynda Solien-Wolfe and Joe Bob Smith and we had a great time.

Most of the day Tuesday, I spent in the exhibit hall. I worked a little in the Sweet Serenity booth–speaking of which–I was determined to win the fabulous quilt so I bought 30 tickets. All the proceeds went to the Shriner’s Burn Center and over $1200 was raised, last time I got the count. Ryan Hoyme and I did a book signing of our new Manual for Massage Therapy Educators. I woke up with a crick in my neck, and James Waslaski and Bruce Baltz both worked on me. We had lunch with Bruce and Ryan and Yvette Hoyme. Tuesday night was the awards ceremony. David Kent was the keynote speaker and he did a fabulous job. David is an emotional speaker. Enid Whittaker jumped up on a massage table and did a Bonnie Prudden warmup and she was great! Vivian Madison-Mahoney received the Legislative Award. ABMP was honored as the Association of the Year (again!). The wonderful Michael McGillicuddy was named Teacher of the Year. I was personally surprised with receiving the Distinguished Service Award. After getting home at 1:30 this morning, I am going blank on the rest of the winners, but I’ll be sure to announce them on FB as my memory returns!

By Tuesday night I was feeling slightly under the weather. I slept in Wednesday morning, and Champ attended James Waslaski’s Pelvic class in my stead. He loved it. I ended up having a late breakfast with Judi Calvert, owner of Hands On Trade Association and the premier massage historian of the world. At noon, when all the classes broke for lunch, the drawings took place. One lucky winner received an Office Makeover package worth over $11,000–and I did indeed win the quilt! I was thrilled to death!

I would have to say that the highlight of my trip this year was meeting Mark Lamm of Bio Sync, and his beautiful wife Leah. Mark has been my FB buddy for several years, and I was shocked to find out that he is 84 years old. He looks at least 20 years younger than that and is just one of the most vibrant people on the planet. He did some work on my aching shoulder and it was amazing. HE is amazing. Leah and I snuck out to the restaurant for a little while and I felt as if I’d known her my whole life. They are both just beautiful people. Mark is committed to teaching at the Festival in 2015. I’ll be there!

Other highlights, and there are just too many to name, but I was glad to see my buds Scott Dartnall, Eric Brown, Christopher and Xerlan Deery, catch up with Lori Ohlman of the NCBTMB, Dari Lewis, Stephanie Beck, the totally awesome Judith Aston, and all the other folks I only get to see once or twice a year. The vendor hall was jumping this year…I got a few goodies myself! I also met a few of my FB buds: Andrea Lipomi, Bert Davich, Rob Flammia and saw some of my NC peeps, too, like Jake Flatt.

Wednesday night, I attended the Board meeting of the Massage Therapy Alliance of America. I’m not on the Board; I just take care of their website, but I love this group of dedicated people. They are stewards of the Hall of Fame and advocates for the rights of massage therapists. Then we had a late dinner with Mike and Cindy, Darcy Neibur and her husband Dennis, and Mike Hinkle’s parents, who are always helping at the Festival.

The World Massage Festival is come as you are. Leave your suit and tie behind and be casual. The instructors and class offerings are top notch, the price is as low as they can possibly keep it, and the atmosphere is all about family and friends. The 2013 Festival is being held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. I will definitely be there!

I’m in Pain

Yes, I’m in pain. Believe it or not, it pains me to write negatively about the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. I am personally acquainted with many of the people who work there, from the CEO, Mike Williams, on down, to Board members, staff members and volunteers. I count some of them among my friends. I know for a fact that they are dedicated and hard-working people.

I’ve been NCTMB since 2000 and an approved provider of CE since 2002. I’ve seen the ups and the downs of the organization: the days of great service, and the days of bad service. I’ve seen the leaders who had the best interests of the profession at  heart–and one or two who were on a personal mission to bring down the organization with their wild spending and lack of professional ethics. And I’ve seen–and even been a party to–some of their missteps. A couple of years ago when they announced an advanced certification exam, I signed right on. I even appeared in an advertising campaign for it, along with quite a few other well-known massage therapists, educators, and even some illustrious physicians. The failure of that project, I believe, was because it was a general thing, and not a specialty certification–which the profession has been requesting for quite some time.

CEO Mike Williams responded to my Wish List blog last week. I met Williams at the AFMTE meeting a couple of months ago and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours talking with him one-on-one. I hear (from other folks, he wasn’t bragging) that he has a proven track record of helping floundering organizations get back on track. He even joked to me that he had learned everything he needed to know about the NCB from reading my blog.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and I know that just from the comments I receive on this blog. However, distress at their latest action seems to be shared by more than a few people. The NCBTMB sent out an application for a new assigned school code to massage schools this week. Now, the organization has required a school code since the beginning; it’s just a number that students must include on their application to sit for one of the NCB exams, and it is supposed to demonstrate that the school is legitimate. That’s good in theory; and I think the original intent was to keep schools and/or individuals from falsifying diplomas and transcripts.

A number of school owners went up in arms this week when they received the application. True, it is just seven pages long, and that’s way less than what is required for a state board school approval or COMTA accreditation…but therein lines the issue: except for the schools in the few unregulated states, these schools have already been approved by their state boards, and in some cases, one or more accrediting bodies as well.

One school owner on my FB page said “We are opting out. The list of required paperwork is oppressive. Our school is now sending them all off to the Mblex. It’s moves like this that, in my opinion, will seal the deal of completely making the NCBTMB irrelevant. We had a school code with them, we maintain state approval which can be verified easily on the state website. The additional hassle which this organization seems to thrive on is over my tolerance level.”

Another sore point is the human trafficking angle. Now, I don’t think anyone is in favor of human trafficking except the people who are making a living off of it. As background, there has been legislation introduced in a few states requiring massage establishments to post notices about human trafficking–something that isn’t required in a convenience store (in other words, they’re picking on us again, supposedly because massage is a business in which it’s a big problem). On their 2010 990 filing, the NCB reported giving a $5000 donation to the Polaris Project, which fights human trafficking. They also started publishing brochures about human trafficking and selling them (at 2.50 for 25 of them, I don’t think they’re getting a big revenue stream off of that).

On the application that came out this week, school owners are being asked to sign a pledge about not participating in human trafficking, and doing whatever they can to stop human trafficking. I got calls from a few people that were upset about that; they stated to me that the NCBTMB was overstepping its boundaries and giving a false impression of having regulatory or law enforcement authority. Personally, I think any entity donating money to the Polaris Project and doing their part to fight human trafficking is admirable, but as someone on my FB page pointed out, is there really any school actually participating in such a thing that wouldn’t just sign the pledge anyway? It’s like asking people if they use illegal drugs on a job application. No one is going to write down that they have a cocaine habit, are they?

On the NCBTMB website, there are a couple of dozen schools listed as having their school code suspended, revoked, or denied. The reasons are not given, so one doesn’t know whether they were found to be participating in human trafficking, running a diploma mill, or what.

In his response on my blog, CEO Mike Williams talked about the forthcoming improvements from the NCB. Let me say, as much as it pains me: different singer, same song. I must make it clear that I have wanted this organization to survive, and thrive, but I am very concerned. And as Angela Palmier pointed out in her comments, people laughed when there was talk of another entity creating a licensing exam. In the meantime, the MBLEx has proceeded to saturate the market and it will just continue to get bigger and bigger–even if the NCBTMB steps in to challenge the states’ right to choose, like they did last week in Tennessee. They did actually prevail there, but at what cost? The Board members were upset, the GR rep from AMTA was upset, and in the end, the decision for the Board to acquiesce was based on their desire not to see their other impending legislation get scrapped in the crossfire.

In addition to the FSMTB sticking their toe in the water to test the profession’s reaction to their CE plan, I’ve recently been contacted by several people about starting (yet another) CE approval body. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but there’s no reason to think it can’t be done. For that matter, there is nothing to prohibit another entity from starting another certification agency….just like there are numerous accrediting agencies besides COMTA. It could happen.

I don’t doubt that the NCB has good intentions–but as we all know, good intentions are sometimes misguided. Placing an additional and very unnecessary burden on school  owners is misguided and the perception is that it’s one more example of duplicated efforts in this profession. Challenging state boards is misguided. The NCB needs all the public support they can get, and that isn’t winning them any friends. It is creating ill will, period. Hanging on to entry-level licensing instead of focusing on  becoming the one true certification agency is misguided. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

It’s All About Me

It’s all about me, so here’s my wishlist for the profession. It’s difficult to place these in order of importance, because some of them depend on each other, and in my little corner of massage, they’re all important. It’s election time–aren’t we all just about sick of hearing about it–candidates mudslinging and making campaign promises? If I was the President of Massage Land, here’s what I’d do:

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards would sit down at the table with the National Certification Boardand hammer out an agreement to a) help ease the NCBTMB out of the entry-level test market, b) contract with them to collaboratively administer continuing education instead of trying to take it over and c) forget their MOCC-ERY plan.

The NCBTMB would a) graciously accept that it’s time for them to get out of the entry-level test market, b) focus on cleaning up the CE approval program, and c) get it together with their new plan of raising standards of certification.

Both of these entities would cease and desist in sending out Job Task Analysis Surveys that are flawed from the get-go….they both supposedly pay psychometricians to help them out with these things, and still they are falling way short of the mark in ascertaining what they really need to ascertain. Stop worrying about how many times a week we give a massage, and stop ignoring the relaxation benefits of massage as if they don’t exist.

There will continue to be Leadership Summits. They will stick to the agreed-upon agenda at their meetings and not allow major surprises  to slide in from any of the organizations, and they will practice complete transparency and stop sending out press releases that contain no more information than an invitation to a baby shower.

Every one who is involved in massage therapy education will join the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education.

The profession will come to a consensus on what constitutes required core competencies for entry-level education, while still giving school owners the autonomy and individuality to rise over and above that.

All unregulated states will get state-wide regulation and all localities will honor those and not place ridiculous additional burdens on licensed therapists.

All massage schools will be required to teach research literacy to their students, and will only hire instructors who are capable of doing so.

The NCBTMB will stop approving woo-woo courses for CE credit, and all entry-level massage schools will stop teaching it. I don’t care if you study Interplanetary Voodoo with the Archangels, but you don’t deserve any credit for doing that.

Our professional associations will conduct annual surveys that have NOTHING to do with a Job Task Analysis–the sole purpose of it will be “Tell us what you think we are doing wrong and give us your suggestions for how we could do it better.”

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education will develop a program to offer instructor training to the masses that will be accessible and affordable–perhaps online.

Board members of all representing organizations will recognize their responsibility to not blindly follow the leader; to avoid not only conflicts of interest, but the appearance of conflicts of interest; will not put up with any cover-your-ass type behavior within their organizations; will hold their hired leadership accountable, and will have enough gumption to get rid of them if and when such behavior occurs.

All massage schools would seek COMTAapproval. If your school can’t afford that or doesn’t qualify because of not meeting the hour requirement, may I say that their standards are on their website for all the world to see for free, and you could still go about the self-study process and getting things up to snuff, even if you don’t formally seek the accreditation.

All school owners would be bound to have their school bonded, so that no school goes bankrupt and leaves students in the lurch in the middle of their program.

All schools would be required to post their pass rates on the licensing and certification exams on their websites and in their catalogs.

No school owner will be allowed to say to a potential student “Don’t worry, your criminal record won’t keep you from getting a license.” It should be mandatory for it to be disclosed that they may not receive a license. The state of Texas has a non-binding review, where for $50 a person seeking a career in any licensed profession can submit their criminal record for review prior to spending their time and money on pursuing education. Every state should do the same.

There should be a national exam for instructors to prove they are competent in teaching methodology and a subject matter expert in whatever area they intend to teach.

Each state should require a jurisprudence exam. Your licensees can’t adhere to the law unless they know what it is, and the percentage of applicants who actually read your practice act in its entirety is probably less than 5%–I’m basing that on asking that question in all the classes I teach. Hardly anyone reads them, but if they had to pass a test on it, they would.

The Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge would be about massage.If you want to have an energy work body of knowledge, create that.

Everyone involved in the profession would give financial support to the Massage Therapy Foundation. Give $100. Give $5. Give $1. Give whatever you can afford to give, just do it.

 

I could probably go on for days, but I have other chores to get to today. I invite my readers to add what they will. What’s on YOUR wishlist? What’s on mine that you object to, and why?

 

 

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.

Behind Closed Doors

From the title, you might think this blog is about The Client List, the trashy new show on the Lifetime Channel that gives massage therapy a black eye. No such luck; the event I am referring to is the upcoming Leadership Summit #2, set to take place next week in Chicago.

The first Leadership Summit (to clarify: there were summits in 2003-04 before AFMTE and FSMTB existed) took place last September in St. Louis, with the executive directors and chairs of ABMP, AFMTE, AMTA, the Massage Therapy Foundation, FSMTB, COMTA, and NCBTMB in attendance. It was a historic event in that it was the first time all seven of these organizations had come together in the best interests of the profession. The purpose, according to the press release announcing the meeting, “was to hold a beginning conversation about major structural issues and impediments to profession progress. The desire is to have candid exchange about core challenges, quality concerns, consumer expectations and organizational roles.”

Apparently, one of the hot topics at this week’s meeting is going to be the number of required entry-level education hours. Although this was not on the agreed-upon agenda at the first meeting, it was introduced anyway by ABMP Chairman Bob Benson, complete with a thorough proposal prepared by Anne Williams, Director of Education at ABMP. Basically, the proposal was for a task force to be formed immediately, and using Job Task Analyses that have been conducted by the NCBTMB and the FSMTB, to nail down a definite number of hours that should be required for entry-level education. This was contrary to the facilitator’s recommendation—and the group’s agreement— that they would spend the initial meeting identifying problems, and would address possible solutions for these problems at meetings to follow.

In the interest of the leaders being comfortable in speaking freely, these are closed meetings—no press and no other staff members in attendance—an executive session, so to speak. Certainly not without precedent; boards have executive sessions all the time—usually to discuss personnel matters or other things that would violate someone’s privacy if they were discussed in public.

That’s not exactly the case here; and while I am thrilled that our leaders—some of whom are from competing organizations—are sitting down at the table together, my concern is that a small group of people has the power to decide (or worse, just think they have the power to decide), what is best for the profession on the whole, without getting input from the people it affects—you and me. Practitioners, school owners, teachers, CE providers, the regulatory community, all have a vested interest in the future of our profession, and I don’t think that should be decided by an exclusive group behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, that is just what the ABMP proposal states in no uncertain terms. Verbatim, Williams’ proposal stated: There is no step in this proposal to obtain input from the broader massage profession or from other health-care or bodywork organizations during this project. The reason is simple—the work group is simply performing a work task in writing learning outcomes and objectives for job tasks defined by surveys already conducted by FSMTB and NCBTMB. It doesn’t matter what stakeholders, or other groups think should be taught or shouldn’t be taught. The work group would be responding to what therapists report they do, on a day-to-day basis, in their massage-related environments as part of their jobs.

The sentence that disturbs me there is “It doesn’t matter what stakeholders, or other groups think should be taught or shouldn’t be taught.” Any time you start to think it doesn’t matter what stakeholders think, there’s a problem, in my humble opinion, no matter what the issue. Stakeholders are the ones it will affect, and to think their opinion isn’t important is just beyond the pale.

At the recent ABMP School Issues Forum in Austin, Texas, Bob Benson stated to those in attendance that there was 100% consensus in support of this standards-setting proposal from the organizations that attended the Leadership Summit. That’s not exactly so. COMTA, FSMTB, and AFMTE all expressed concerns after the proposal was introduced in September; they are not petty concerns, and they do not appear in any way to be based on politics or turf wars.
This is bad business for two primary reasons: First, any project that has the potential to affect the entire massage therapy profession should not be designed, approved, and launched in secret. Changing the baseline numbers of entry-level education required for state licensure is a huge thing, as it will affect schools, regulators, and future students.

By contrast, the MTBOK project modeled appropriate transparency, and the massage community had adequate opportunities for input along the way.

Second, it is more important right now that our primary stakeholder organizations learn to work together in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation—than to plunge headlong into a major problem-solving project when consensus has NOT been reached. The end does not justify the means. Some of my own issues are that the MTBOK and the competency-based curriculum standards set forth by COMTA aren’t even being given consideration. This proposal also overlooks the fact that the AFMTE is currently working on a National Teacher Standards Education Project. A huge amount of work has gone into creating both the MTBOK and the COMTA standards; a huge amount of work from some of the best educators in the business is going into the AFMTE project, and for these to be cast aside when they have direct relevance to this proposal is irresponsible to say the least.

During our troublesome economy of the past few years—and it doesn’t appear to be over yet—school owners have been seriously affected already, and having a nation-wide upheaval based on an “official” number of required hours is not the be-all end-all solution to licensing portability. It will just serve to put an additional burden into the mix at the present time. The lack of portability may be an irritant to our field, but it is not causing harm to the public.

The AMTA Board of Directors voted last October to support the project in its present form. As ABMP and AMTA are the two largest professional membership associations, they carry a big stick. That doesn’t mean their agendas should be force-fed to the profession, and I hope that they will reconsider both the timeline, and the very valid concerns raised by the other organizations before barging ahead with this project. I am certainly not saying that it never needs to happen. I am just saying it doesn’t need to happen on speed-dial until all of these issues have been ironed out. I hate to see good intentions canceled out by unchecked enthusiasm for rushing something to market; I hate to see valid concerns from the other organizations swept under the carpet; and I hate to see the opinion that what the stakeholders think doesn’t matter.

When you’re meeting behind closed doors, it’s easy to forget who the stakeholders are. I’m one of them. I’m a member of both AMTA and ABMP, a founding member of the AFMTE, a past delegate to the FSMTB, a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist & Bodyworker, an Approved Provider under the NCBTMB, and a current site reviewer for COMTA, so I do indeed have a vested interest. I don’t appreciate our national organizations acting as if my opinion and that of the other thousands of massage therapists, school owners, and others who enable your very existence on this planet don’t matter.

At this week’s Summit, the representatives of these seven organizations have an opportunity to address this issue that has divided the group, and to get their process back on track. I hope that they also remember the responsibility that they have to their own members, and to the profession as a whole. To use ABMP’s own slogan here, we “Expect More” from our leaders.

CAMTC Responds to “Money Grab” Accusation from Massage Today

Last week, Massage Today President Donald Peterson published an article entitled The CAMTC Money Grab. It cast the CAMTC in a very unfavorable light; to make a long story short, it appeared to expose excessive financial wrongdoing at the organization by stating that the CAMTC was paying the expenses and per diem for no less than 14 board members to attend the American Massage Conference. The AMC is a moveable event that is held each year in a different location, and this year’s event was taking place in San Diego.

Peterson backed up his claims of financial excess with a table showing who voted to spend the money and who didn’t, and also stated that Massage Today Senior Associate Editor Kathryn Feather had actually been on the CAMTC conference call when the vote was taken about spending the money. The criticism was that although it was not unanimous, that for the most part the people who voted to spend it were the people who were going to receive it. In reality, that’s the way it goes on all boards; board members vote on things, and that includes where and when to attend events and how much money will be spent on it, so there’s really nothing unusual about that.

I shared this article on my Facebook page, and immediately started hearing from board members of the CAMTC that Peterson’s story was very biased and not telling all the facts. Since I initially shared it and contributed to giving a bad impression of the organization, I made the offer to them that I would give them equal time on my blog to present their side of the story. The fallout from this has been swift, not the least of which is the resignation of Keith Eric Grant from the magazine, which he has been contributing to since 2002. Grant is a CAMTC board member, and someone I  have admired as a writer, a scientist, and a person from afar. He has been blogging about the politics of massage way before I started. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him in person, but we have been FB friends for several years, and as I stated on my page, I would believe pigs would fly before I would believe that he would misrepresent the truth.

Grant’s response to the Massage Today article can be read in its entirety here.

I also immediately heard from Joe Bob Smith, another CAMTC board member, whom I have personally met several times. Joe Bob’s response to my sharing the article on FB was this:

Laura, sometimes your quick fingers get something going without hearing from the other side. As a CAMTC board member, I believe that Massage Today wrote a biased piece with missing and incorrect information. I’ll be happy to defend the actions of the board any day. The CAMTC is made up of 20 terrific volunteers, many working massage therapists themselves. They put a lot of their own time (and time is money) into this organization. Many will be losing money by volunteering at the AMC. They deserve to be reimbursed for out of pocket travel expenses when on board business. And the per diem limit is $211/day (standard government established rates) which includes hotel, not just food. The CAMTC has a very proactive, working board that has done a lot to curb prostitution and human trafficking in the two and a half years it’s been in existence. I do hope you’ll seek me out next time you hear of CAMTC news. While we all have differences of opinions, I would like to make sure the other side gets at least equal opportunity.

I also heard from Mark Dixon, Vice Chairman of the CAMTC. His response to my offer to tell the CAMTC side of the story is printed here verbatim, and was actually his response to Kathryn Feather’s questioning him as to why he voted to support the members being reimbursed, and what his duties would be:

The importance of attending this meeting and interfacing with those attending is reinforced by my continuous attendance at national and statewide conventions of this type since 1975. My comments are strictly related to the question asked, and are about my own participation. It’s not hard, though, to extrapolate that purpose to the other volunteers who will attend the AMC.

Regretfully, CAMTC’s CEO, Ahmos Netanel, has been asked to return his attention to more pressing issues affecting CAMTC, and is unable to reply to your offer.

My response to Kathryn:

As I stated during the debate, I’d agree with the two other entities in disagreement if the event were anywhere but in California. But in San Diego there will be roughly 2000 local massage therapists and affiliated bodyworkers in attendance who either provide or manage massage services. In addition, the venue provides a valuable opportunity to network with influential individuals from around the country who have expressed strong interest in California’s unique massage regulation; in short, a chance to learn, teach and network in a setting that rarely comes to our state.

My specific duties include but will not be limited to meeting with counterparts from other state boards and professional organizations, directing participants to the specific part of the CAMTC that is most helpful to them, assisting with coverage of our exhibit, and following up/developing contacts during the years to come. I expect to be on duty from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon and plan to take one three-hour class at my own expense.

As the first meeting of this type attended by the CAMTC, I believe the small investment is a sound one that will place experienced, knowledgeable professionals before an important audience. I’ve been working meetings of this type since 1975, and have learned that a highly concentrated group of individuals in a convention setting affords an excellent opportunity to save considerable expense of travel and lodging.

Even so, as a volunteer I stand to lose considerably more in income than the reimbursement. Moreover, I attended last month’s AMTA-CA Chapter Educational Conference, representing CAMTC in continuous meetings throughout the weekend. I received zero reimbursement.

Although as Dixon said, CAMTC Executive Director Ahmos Netanel was too busy to reply to my offer to personally tell the other side of the story, Massage Today did print an e-mail that he sent to Peterson in response to the article. It is quite lengthy and can be read in its entirety here.

In summary, Netanel accused Massage Today of misrepresenting the facts in a biased and inflammatory way, and withholding information that would have cleared up the accusations to begin with. By the looks of Netanel’s rebuttal, this article would probably have never gone to print–at least not in its present form–had his responses been considered before the magazine went to press.

Since I’ve been accused of being inflammatory myself–and rightly so, at times–and because I shared the Massage Today article on my FB page, I felt compelled to present the CAMTC side of the story. In fact, Keith Eric Grant and Joe Bob Smith have both occasionally called me on the carpet over something, and I don’t resent that. Although I certainly have my own opinions and biases, it is never my intention to be so biased that I can’t see both sides of the story, or at least give them equal consideration. And like a lot of things, there’s one side, there’s the other side, and somewhere in the middle is the actual truth.

I will also state, in the interest of self-disclosure, that during my five years on the North Carolina Board, I was sent to several conventions on their behalf, and they paid my way. Board members on any board generally give up their own time to volunteer when they could be making substantially more money than the per diems allowed by boards (and in fact some don’t pay a per diem at all), not to mention their time away from their own families, businesses and other activities in the interest of service to the organization. I’m the office manager/receptionist at my own office, and every time I attended a board meeting, I had to pay someone to take my place. My per diem ($100 per day) didn’t come close to covering that, or the inconvenience of driving almost five hours both ways to attend a meeting. While it’s true that there is always going to be some abuse taking place somewhere, I believe that’s the exception and not the rule, and I don’t think this particular incident was a case of abuse of board funds. Mark Dixon quoted the late great Paul Harvey, who always signed off by saying “and there you have the rest of the story.”

My blog is my own opinion, and should not ever be considered to be the opinion of anyone else.