Tag Archives: Approved Provider of Continuing Education

Calling All Massage Organizations: 911

I’ve seen some ups and downs since joining the massage profession about 15 years ago, but never, in all that time, have I been as disgusted and dismayed with one of our organizations as I am today. I feel as if I have a vested interest in all of them, so I have the right to complain—and to call on them for help.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork was the only path to licensing in many regulated states for a lot of years. Their exams are written into the statutes of about 40 states, as is the MBLEx, which has soared in popularity as the exam of choice in the past 5 years. The exam revenue at the NCBTMB has been steadily declining ever since the MBLEx debuted. The “National Certification Exams” as they formerly existed are the same exams being used for the NESL.

It used to be that taking one exam gave you the status of being Nationally Certified and being able to use that to get your license, but that’s no longer the case. There’s no attraction there anymore. The Federation has been in a position for several years to help solve this problem by buying out the NCBTMB’s entry-level exams; they certainly have the money and the infrastructure in place, but they have apparently preferred to stand by and watch the NCBTMB die a slow painful death rather than be in collaboration. Although I have favored the idea of such a deal in the past, at this point in time I am not going to blame the FSMTB for their refusal to play ball.

The majority of regulated states also have it written into their statutes that the continuing education required for maintaining licensure must be from a provider of CE that is approved by the NCBTMB.

As a provider of CE, I was not pleased when the Federation brought up their MOCC (Maintenance of Core Competencies) plan, which would have made all CE optional, with the exception of classes related to public protection, put forth online by them. My concern was that it would put a lot of CE providers, including me, out of business. In reality, based on some of the claptrap that is approved by the NCBTMB, there are a lot of CE providers that should be put out of business. The NCB’s response to my own repeated questioning of some of the things they have approved for CE has not been satisfactory to date.

According to FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger, they have let go of the MOCC plan, based on feedback from the profession and member boards. Instead, they have put forth a Standardized License Renewal Recommendation. In a nutshell, the language reads: 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.

Bear in mind, that has not been written into the law anywhere yet that I am aware of, and it is what it is—a recommendation.

In my conversation with Persinger this afternoon, she informed me that the online classes pertaining to public protection will roll out in 2014, and that states that require in-person classes will still be able to have that. She also stated that at the annual meeting of the FSMTB held earlier this month, the member states asked that the Federation form a new CE Task Force to look into the possibility of approving continuing education.

I can recall what I thought was the beginning of the downhill slide at the NCBTMB…and it was years ago. I’ve seen an egomaniac that was hell-bent on bankrupting the organization elected to the Chair position. I’ve seen lawsuits filed against them by two of their former executive directors that dragged on for years. I’ve seen the lawsuits they have filed against state boards for getting rid of their exams. Yes, they had the legal right to do that, but in the big picture, it didn’t win any friends for them. I’ve seen the ridiculous, totally un-credible, fantasy-land classes that they have approved for CE credit. I’ve seen the failed plan to turn into a membership organization, which cost them several years of being banished from AMTA conventions.

I’ve also seen the failed attempt at an “Advanced Certification,” and the morphing of that into “Board Certification.” The NCBTMB website states that those who are currently Nationally Certified must transition to Board Certification by their next renewal. Unfortunately, I have heard this past week from two prominent massage therapists, both of whom had let their national certification expire 6-7 years ago, that they received invitations to be grandfathered in on the new Board Certification. They declined for ethical reasons. Personally, that makes me feel as if my own certification is about as valuable as a used dinner napkin.

I’ve seen their attempts to present themselves to massage schools and certificants as if they are some sort of regulatory organization by using language that insinuated that. I’ve seen their attempts to replace lost exam income by gouging the hell out of CE providers. It was only when they were faced with a mass walk-out of prominent providers, who said they would give it up, rather than go along with the plan, that they had to back up and punt.

I’ve seen times when people could not get a phone call or e-mail to the organization answered, and times when it took months for certificates and approvals to arrive, if they arrived at all. I’ve seen an example, just yesterday as a matter of fact, of them blocking people, including me, from posting on their FB page because they had the nerve to complain—and that was after the new Chair encouraged people on my own FB page to make their comments there. I’ve seen well-respected, seasoned colleagues who are experts in massage organizations and government relations offer to help them and give them advice about how to pull themselves out of some of the messes they’ve made, and I’ve seen that help refused or ignored time and time again. I’ve seen their adamant refusals to own up to their mistakes. My distress with them is not new. It’s just been festering for a long time.

I think the NCBTMB has reached the tipping point. Some would even say they are long past it. I have, in the past, given them hell about some things, and I’ve also come to their defense many times, including some when they probably didn’t deserve it. I have stated many times that I wanted to see them survive and thrive, and I sincerely meant that.

I am sad to say I am no longer holding out that hope. I am sad to say that I think they have outlived their usefulness. I am sad to say that I think their credibility has been shot beyond repair. I am sad to say that although there are staff and volunteers there that I personally know and like, and believe have the best of intentions, things have gone too far. They’ve had years to turn this ship around, and it hasn’t happened.

Therefore, I am calling on AMTA, ABMP, AFMTE, and FSMTB to immediately pull out all the stops and use all their available resources to help get the NCBTMB out of all statutes and administrative rules, as it relates to approval of their exams and use of their Approved CE Provider program. There are only a handful of states that approve their own CE, and if the NCBTMB were to suddenly go out of business, confusion is going to reign in those states that still have the NCBTMB exams and CE provider requirements written into the law.

Removing them from all statutory language in the regulated states doesn’t necessarily mean the NCBTMB will go away. They may continue to limp along for a few more years. They may someday come to their senses and create some valid specialty certifications, and reestablish themselves as a viable entity, but at this point in time, I doubt if they have the financial resources to do so. They’ve wasted a whole lot of money on their previous missteps.

Lest anyone get the idea that I am happy about making this request of our other organizations, let me assure you, I am not. I am sad to see that one of our national organizations has fallen this far. It’s time for positive action, and since they’re obviously not going to take it, the other organizations are going to have to seize the moment. I would suggest orchestrating a hostile takeover, but one of my colleagues who knows much more about regulation than I do informs me that’s impossible due to their structure, so this is the next best thing.

The FSMTB is able to offer government relations support to their member states, and AMTA and ABMP can afford the lobbyists. As a young organization, they don’t have enough resources yet, but with financial aid from the other organizations, AFMTE could be a great alternative approval body for CE. COMTA could possibly step into that role as well, but again, they don’t have the financial resources that the other organizations have. I call on all of them to set it in motion immediately to get the NCBTMB out of all statutes. We all know how slow the government moves so it won’t happen overnight, but I believe it has to happen. The FSMTB has been working on a Model Practice Act, so the time is ripe.

I also suggest that anyone who is Certified, as I have been since 2000, examine what that really means to you. Personally, I will not be renewing mine. There was a time when I was proud to say I was Nationally Certified. That time has now come and gone.

Report from the AFMTE 2013 Annual Meeting

I just returned from attending the fourth annual meeting of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, held this year in St. Charles, MO. I’m a founding member of this organization, and once again, it was a fabulous event. I would have to say that this was the best one in the history of the organization. Kudos to Nancy Dail and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, who spent the last year organizing the event, along with the other board members–all volunteers, I might add. This is the kind of thing that can’t be pulled off by just one person. Many people worked behind the scenes to make it happen.

I arrived on Wednesday night in time to visit with Ryan Hoyme (aka the MassageNerd), Greg Hurd, Allissa Haines, and Ralph Stephens. The Embassy Suites puts on a heck of a nice free happy hour, as well as a nice breakfast, and their staff was very efficient and attentive to our group. The meeting kicked off Thursday morning, and the next two days were filled with informative keynote speakers, great classes for educators, and plenty of visiting with friends, old and new.

During the annual reports, President Pete Whitridge reported that the organization now has over 300 members. About half were in attendance, and the rest missed out on a great time! Treasurer Sue Bibik reported that the organization is debt-free, which is quite an accomplishment since the Alliance is less than five years old.

Whitney Lowe’s keynote, Developing the 21st Century Teacher, really hit the nail on the head with the need to utilize technology and advance our own skills as educators. He is always a dynamic speaker. I had a visit with Jan Schwartz, who along with Whitney is one of the educators behind Education Training Solutions. Thursday evening, I missed the opening reception in order to go speak to Bloom, a networking group of massage therapists in St. Louis. The founder, Sara Newberry, took me out to a fabulous dinner at a rustic Mexican restaurant before the meeting, which was attended by about a dozen MTs. I really enjoyed my time with them.

Friday morning, Dr. Janet Kahn presented Massage in the Age of Healthcare Transformation: Our Opportunities and Responsibilities. Kahn has the inside track on the Affordable Care Act and how that stands to affect integrative health practitioners. After Kahn’s presentation, I ran into AMTA President Winona Bontrager, who assured me that AMTA was indeed going to take some action to support massage therapists as participants in the ACA, a move that she had just a few moments to explain during a panel presentation from the leadership of all 7 national massage organizations. She stated that they would be unveiling that very soon. It was very gratifying to me to see Karen Armstrong, VP of the FSMTB,  Sue Toscano, President of the NCBTMB, Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP, Winona Bontrager, President of AMTA, Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation, and Kate Zulaski, Executive Director of COMTA, on the dais together. Later that afternoon, Kate and Dr. Tony Mirando of NACCAS, presented together on Coming to Agreement on Core Curriculum–another warm and fuzzy moment since these two organizations are competitors. It was a great presentation.

Friday was also the day for memorial tributes to our colleagues who have departed this life in the past year. One of the highlights of my trip was the tribute to Bob King, who just passed a couple of weeks ago. I joined David Lauterstein, one of the Educators of the Year and a primo guitarist, and Cherie Sohnen-Moe onstage to offer Bob a little musical tribute. Bob was a fan of “Blind Al” Wilson of Canned Heat, so I played a little harp and Cherie and I provided the backup vocals while David played and sang Canned Heat’s song, “On the Road Again.” I hope someone got a video of that!

Friday night, I attended the ELAP meeting facilitated by Anne Williams of ABMP and Cynthia Ribeiro, Immediate Past President of AMTA. Both of these ladies have a passion for education, and I acknowledge that wholeheartedly even though I have had plenty of concerns about the ELAP. About 20 or so of us piled into the room to hear about the ELAP and to get our questions answered. I was amused to see that their Power Point presentation referred to “angry bloggers,” and I assume that meant me and Sandy Fritz…we’ve both stirred the pot on that front, but in the end, I hope that some good information comes out of this. It was quite momentous in any case to hear that AMTA and ABMP, the two largest competing organizations in massage therapy, have shared some of their top-secret data with each other in the interest of the common good in order to facilitate this project.

Saturday, I attended the NCB CE Provider Update presented by Sue Toscano and Donna Sarvello of the NCBTMB. Their presentation was peppered with questions from the crowd regarding the new Board Certification and the (yet-again) revised version of the Approved Provider CE program. which they stated would be rolled out on November 1. I seized the opportunity to give them an earful about all the pseudo-science classes they have approved for CE, and also to inquire about how many people have earned the new Board Certification. The answer was over 1200, and that almost all of those have been grandfathered in from the ranks of those who were already Nationally Certified and met the new criteria. I gathered that it has been a very small number that have actually taken the new Board Certification exam. Toscano’s explanation was that due to the fact that the new exam just rolled out in January, and requires that people have 250 hours of work experience within six months (among other things), that newer graduates are just now starting to take it.

We also had our annual Author’s meet and greet organized by the lovely Nancy Dail–there were more than 20 textbook authors present.

Other highlights for me were having my blog and Sandy Fritz’s blog recognized for driving a lot of traffic to the AFMTE website, finally meeting longtime FB friend Emmanuel Bistas, and spending a few moments with Sandy Fritz, Bob Jantz, Gabriela Sonam, Benjamin McDonald, Sally Hacking, Allissa Haines and Greg Hurd, Stephanie and Brian Beck, and many more. Saturday morning I had breakfast with educator and author Elaine Stillerman, whom I had never met, and she is a ball of energy in spite of her recent back surgery. My plane was delayed both coming and going, and I visited with Linda Beach while we were waiting an inordinate amount of time to depart–actually got on the plane and then had to get back off an hour later. I had a little nap in the St Louis airport and woke up to find I was about to fall over on Dr. Janet Kahn–I hope I wasn’t snoring and drooling–and chatted with her for about an hour.

Every annual meeting of the AFMTE seems to get better and better. I urge all educators to join this organization and to PARTICIPATE. They have recently started a Human Energy Bank, so that those people who may not have time to take on a full-time volunteer position can volunteer to handle a specific task. There are many other benefits to belonging, which are detailed on the AFMTE website. As a founding member, I feel like I have definitely gotten my money’s worth every year. We are also looking for industry partners to join us. This is THE organization for schools, school educators, and CE providers. We’re doing more than just holding a meeting. The Alliance provides a comprehensive range of services to this community, and represents their interests in all domains. This advocacy comes into play in dealing with regulatory issues, accreditation, standard-setting initiatives such as the Alliance’s National Teacher Education Standards Project, as well as ongoing efforts to get massage therapy better recognized by and integrated into the health care delivery system. As Jan Schwartz said during one of our previous annual meetings, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Janet Kahn, during her presentation, said “you’re in the door, or in the dust.” Don’t be left out.

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.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Whether you prefer the Bob Dylan original version, or the popular treatment by Peter, Paul & Mary, we have our own version of Blowin’ in the Wind being sung by the leaders of FSMTB and NCBTMB.

My last blog (February 11) focused on problems with regulation of continuing education in the massage profession, and put the spotlight on a comprehensive white paper written by Rick Rosen that offers a innovative solution to a very confusing situation. There’s been a lot of activity around this issue, and from what I hear, a lot of CE providers have contacted FSMTB and NCB to express their displeasure with the programs each one has in the works. I believe that Rosen’s concept of a National Continuing Education Registry is the right tool for the job at this point in the massage therapy profession. It will require cooperation and collaboration from both organizations, and would utilize the talents and resources of both. To me that is a far superior state of affairs than the animosity and one-upmanship that has been the prevailing atmosphere between these two organizations for the past half-dozen years or so.

Over the past two weeks, information has come out of NCB that suggests they may be having second thoughts about their “upgraded” Board Approved CE Provider Program. Donna Sarvello, NCB’s CE manager, said, “Providers do not need to renew until their renewal date because while we are reviewing the new program we have reinstated the past program. I can’t give the exact details on the Organization status at this time because we are tweaking the details and then will put it out for public comment.”

If you look on the Continuing Education page on NCB’s website, there is no evidence of what Ms. Sarvello is talking about. The new Board Approved CE Provider Program is right there in all of its convoluted and excessive glory, with a demand that all providers have to renew with the new system by December 31 of this year. What are providers supposed to believe? I am personally choosing to believe Ms. Sarvello, and I advise the NCB to update the website immediately! Any time there is an update in information and/or policy, the stakeholders need to know that, and having incorrect information on the website for these past few weeks is just inexcusable. I am calling out the NCB to clear up this mass confusion right now by making DAILY updates if necessary. Even a message that says “Sorry, we haven’t decided what to do, so no action is expected of you at this time” would be superior to the incorrect instructions that are still posted.

The FSMTB is no clearer about their plans. Their President, Jaime Huffman, claims that FSMTB is not going to create a CE approval program. That just doesn’t jive with their Call for Participants to create three different volunteer workgroups as part of a new Licensure Renewal Committee. And their Standardized Licensure Renewal Recommendations adopted last year by the Board of Directors states that “FSMTB will establish standards for acceptance of professional development activities, including those offered by membership and voluntary certification organizations.” If that doesn’t sound like some kind of approval program, then what is it supposed to be?

The very latest word I’ve received is that the top two leaders from FSMTB and NCB have had “a conversation” about the continuing ed issue in the past week. That’s a positive development, but we don’t know a darn thing about what was discussed or what these two organizations might be willing to do. Whatever it is, it isn’t going to  happen overnight, but I am very pleased that they are finally at the point of having a discussion, something that Rick Rosen and I both have been calling for for a couple of years now.

In the meantime, keep those emails flowing in to Debra Persinger and Jaime Huffman at FSMTB, and Mike Williams and Sue Toscano at NCBTMB. Let ’em know that you expect them to work together to forge a unified solution for how CE should be handled, while easing the regulatory burden on CE providers. The contact information for these two organizations is on page 17 of Rosen’s white paper, which can be accessed from this short link: http://tinyurl.com/NCER-Proposal-FEB2013

It’s time we harnessed the hot air that’s been blowing from these two stakeholder organizations, and direct it towards a positive solution that gives the massage profession what it’s really needing.

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?

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed….

Try, try again. That’s what the regulatory board in my home state of North Carolina is recommending when it comes to getting the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards to do something about the confusing status of continuing education approvals.

Two years ago, the NC Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy introduced a resolution at the Annual Meeting of the FSMTB (which was held in Puerto Rico). This document instructed the Federation’s Board of Directors to “begin the process of developing a new national approval program for continuing education providers and courses.” The organization’s leadership responded positively to the resolution, and announced to the profession in the Spring of 2011 the launch of a comprehensive project to do just that. They also invited AFMTE, AMTA and ABMP to work with them to provide input that would help shape the project.

In spite of this clearly stated intention to develop a “centralized quality assurance process for all courses taken by massage and bodywork therapists for the renewal of State licensure or State certification” (quoted verbatim from the FSMTB press release dated 3/29/11), the outcome of this process missed the mark by a country mile. The MOCC Proposal, which stands for Maintenance of Core Competencies, failed to deliver what the state boards asked for, and what FSMTB promised.

To remind you, the MOCC Proposal was based on a new (and unproven) concept of separating continuing education that relates to “public protection” from all other CE that is taken for “professional development”. MOCC recommended that only CE related to “public protection” be required by state boards for renewal of licensure, and everything else be put into the voluntary category, to be regulated by… well, the proposal didn’t even mention NCBTMB. If this all weren’t bad enough, FSMTB would become the exclusive provider of coursework needed to maintain “core competency” in the subjects related to “public protection”.

For more background on the MOCC issue, refer to my blog posts of 3/14/12 and 4/15/12. It’s also illuminating to read the press release AMTA issued on 4/23/12 which contained a complete repudiation of the Federation’s proposal.

In a friendly game of golf, you can take a “mulligan” every now and again–a “do-over”. My colleagues at the NC Board are giving the FSMTB leadership an opportunity to take a mulligan on this vitally important CE approval issue. They have recently submitted another resolution to be discussed by Member Boards at the upcoming FSMTB Annual Meeting in New Orleans on September 27-29. This resolution is much like the original from two years ago, and its appearance at this point in time indicates that the need for a single-source national CE approval program has not gone away.

The primary rationale is contained in this statement from the new resolution:
“Reliance upon the NCB Approved Provider program has been problematic for state boards because (a) NCB is a private, non-profit corporation that lacks oversight from and accountability to state regulatory boards; (b) its program has not adequately evaluated the quality or relevance of CE courses; (c) administration of this program has had notable service delivery problems over an extended period of time.”

That’s all true, but the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. The NCBTMB has the infrastructure already in place–and this will be nothing more than another case of duplicated efforts if the Federation steps in and tries to take it away without consideration of the NCB’s position in that marketplace. I think a collaboration would be more appropriate; by contracting with the NCB to administer CE approvals, FSMTB could establish the accountability structure that state boards must have with NCB, and FSMTB wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. They could just improve upon it.

Yesterday, I conducted one of my Scientific Facebook Polls, and asked the questions: How many MTs REALLY care what is happening with our professional organizations and what they are doing? How many people care about the MTBOK, the ELAP, the MOCC (don’t y’all love all these acronyms) or even know what they really are? How many people care about the legislation and regulation of massage? How many people care that there are initiatives to raise standards for teachers of massage therapy and for massage education in general? Do you care about all those things, or would you rather just be left alone to do massage?

I got 75 replies in a 24-hour period, and one thing is apparent: to the average massage therapist trying to make a living, many perceive our organizations to be all about politics and all about money. To some extent, that’s true…the one with the most money wins. The perception is also that they all have their own agendas. Actually, recently some of them seem to have the same agenda, but they’ve wasted time and money in duplicating efforts, or opposing each other’s efforts, and scrapping over turf wars. In a recent blog I urged the NCBTMB to take themselves out of the entry-level exam market and suggested that the FSMTB assists them financially in return for their doing so. Earlier this week, in a piece published in Massage Today, Ralph Stephens called on AMTA and ABMP to offer “substantial and ongoing financial support” to COMTA and AFMTE, to further their important efforts to improve the quality of massage therapy education.

FSMTB and the NCB have recently conducted new Job Task Analysis surveys, both of them seriously flawed, in my humble opinion. These surveys show a strong bias towards the clinical/medical side of massage therapy, and contain virtually nothing about the KSA’s related to delivering massage therapy as a primary means of facilitating well-being and integration. From my perspective, the latter is of equal or greater importance.

In addition, the FSMTB survey has a special add-on section to gather data for the Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP). This dual-purpose survey does ask lots of questions about specific medical conditions, but it contains nothing about the client/therapist relationship. The word “relax” does not appear anywhere, and the word “relaxation” shows up just once.

There’s also an over-focus on the huge number of modalities that are marketed in this field. Many of these listed are obscure and little-understood. It’s wrong to ask a therapist to define themselves by a single named modality. Practitioners typically use a broad range of methods with clients. The modality is not the treatment — it’s the totality of what a practitioner brings to the session.

Finally, this Federation JTA is similar to the recent JTA from NCBTMB: another duplicated effort that still falls short of giving an accurate picture of what happens in the real world of massage therapy. You can count how many times a week we give a massage or take SOAP notes, but that’s not what it’s really about. It’s about our rapport with the client, and what kind of results we are able to produce, and what kind of trust we can inspire in our therapeutic relationships. The MTBOK generally missed the boat on this as well, although I have high hopes that the line-by-line analysis and re-mapping of the MTBOK that was conducted by AFMTE will give us a usable body of knowledge.

As a result of these large-scale projects, it’s likely that the kind of incomplete and disjointed training that is typical in our field will get further enshrined as the baseline for education. Skewed survey questions produce skewed data. Using that data to build a new standard for the entire field is not just wrong, it’s a crime against the lineage of massage therapy. Just look at what has happened to the other health care professions who have organized themselves around the mechanistic/reductionistic model. People are treated as parts, and no discipline ever looks at the whole person. Massage therapists still have the ability to treat holistically. Relaxation is being relegated to a lower-class status of therapeutic effect, when it’s one of the most valuable aspects we offer with this work.

This whole scenario illustrates one thing: the time has never been more ripe for getting our act together, and that isn’t going to happen while there’s all this push and pull and one-upmanship going on with the organizations. When the leaders of the seven primary stakeholder groups sat down at the table for the first time last September, the ELAP proposal appeared out of nowhere–it wasn’t even on the agenda and it got slid in anyway. I would like to see them sit down again, and take a serious look at these issues. Put ego and profit aside. Take a real look at the flaws in your information-gathering processes. If you want to see what massage therapists really think, sign on to my Facebook page and you might get a rude awakening at their opinions of you. You wouldn’t exist without us, and what we think does matter. A Job Task Analysis survey asks what we do--and frankly, it isn’t near as important as what we think. Consider that.

 

Massage: The Big Picture

I was just cruising through my social media sites, and it has reinforced for me something that I’ve known for quite some time about massage therapists: they’re a caring bunch. That’s not exactly a big surprise; after all, our job is helping people feel better. I’d say a certain amount of caring and compassion is a prerequisite for becoming a massage therapist. We all care about our clients…even when I see posts from people who may not be working in their ideal situation, that’s pretty consistent.

I’ve written over the years about why I think it’s important for massage therapists to care about The Big Picture–to be aware of and involved in what’s going on around them, and I want to expand on that on several fronts. It’s the 4th anniversary of my blog. Humor me, and I’ll tell you why I think it’s important.

I get a lot of “I’m busy running my business. I don’t have time to think about it,” in reply to something I’ve reported about massage regulation and legislation. If you’re in Alabama, why should you care about something happening in Michigan? Here’s the reality check: When something detrimental happens in the regulation of massage, it sets a precedent and makes it easier for it to happen somewhere else. That could be anything from the consistent referencing of our businesses as “massage parlors” in legislative language, something we’ve all wanted to get as far as possible away from, to crazy zoning laws requiring massage businesses to be located in seedy areas zoned for heavy industry, prohibitions on having a massage therapy business located in a shopping mall, or prohibiting massage being performed after 8 pm. Yes, indeed, those are all realities, but if they’re not affecting you personally, people don’t want to think about it. Based on my questioning therapists in the classes I teach, not even 10% have read the entire practice act in their own state. They don’t know the letter of the law even where they’re practicing. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I get questions all the time from therapists wanting to know “is it legal for me to do so-and-so?” and while I pride myself on being a fountain of information, it’s all right there on your board’s website. Read it.

Massage is suffering growing pains right now…I think of it as the evolution and revolution of massage. We’re stuck in that place in between being an industry and being a profession. Some don’t care which way it goes. I do. If something affects my right to practice massage, my license, my certification, my teaching of massage therapy, I want to be informed about it, and I want to be in a position to take action on it. I’m a provider of continuing education, approved by the NCBTMB, so I want to keep up with what they’re doing–and any other developments in the realm of teaching CE. At the current time, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards is working towards giving their own approval of continuing ed. I’m watching that like a hawk, because a) it could mean I have to fill out an application to get another approval from another entity–or even individual approval from each state I teach in b) it could end  up costing me more money for another approval, although that hasn’t been decided yet and c) if my class isn’t involved directly in public protection, it might not be approved at all. This initiative is still in the planning stages, and it serves me as a provider to stay informed and know what’s going on.

In the same vein of education, I am a member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and I encourage everyone else who has any involvement in education to join immediately. The Alliance is working on a project to define teaching standards on a national level…to spell out the knowledge, skills, and attributes that one needs to have in order to teach both entry level massage and CE. What if I don’t live up to those standards; will I be cast into the abyss? I don’t want to be clueless about what’s going on. I want to have some input into that project–and if you’re teaching, or aspiring to, you should want the same thing. This is going to happen; not overnight, but it is going to happen. I don’t intend to be the last to know. I’d rather make the effort to be involved in the process. I will never forget the statement made by Jan Schwartz at the last Alliance meeting: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” I don’t intend to be chopped liver.

Then we’ve got the massage therapy associations. A lot of people just sign up for membership because they want the insurance, and they don’t care about the leadership, or the government relations, the networking opportunities, or anything else. I personally do care who is running them–and what they’re actually doing. I personally do care what they’re doing on the front of government relations. State boards cannot lobby–that is the domain of AMTA and ABMP–and any special interest group who has the wherewithal to hire a lobbyist–like the chiropractic associations, for example, or PT associations who think we’re encroaching on their territory. And if I think one of my membership associations is doing something that doesn’t protect the rights of massage therapists, or serve the highest good on that front, I am perfectly capable of calling them up and giving them an earful–or taking my membership dollars right out of the coffers. Let me add that my legislators also hear from me, and if I don’t like what they’re doing, I let them know that, and I don’t vote for them the next time.

Related to education, to me anyway, is the state of evidence-based practice of massage and the need for research literacy. I support the Massage Therapy Foundation, and if you have a single dollar to spare, I suggest that you support it, too. Research literacy should be taught in every massage school. I’ll go further and say the teaching of that should be mandated by state boards who license schools. Frankly, any school who is not teaching their students how to be research literate is not worth their salt. That doesn’t mean you have to be a researcher. It means you have to know what constitutes valid research and how to find it…which in turn will lead to throwing out some of the long-standing “myths of massage” that are perpetuated. If you’re still teaching that massage is detoxifying the body and that drinking a lot of water after the massage will flush those toxins out, you’re in dire need of research literacy. I just completed my first peer review and site visit for COMTA, and I am happy to say that the teaching of research literacy is one of their required standards. I have a new appreciation for them after really delving into their standards and it would be a great thing for every school to seek that accreditation. Basically, for a school or massage program, it means “I’m doing more than the state requires me to do in the interest of higher standards.” Amen to that.

I think a major stride was made a couple of months ago when the leaders of the profession all came together for the Massage Therapy Leadership Summit. Ego and personal agendas had to be left at the door. The ABMP, AFMTE, AMTA, COMTA, FSMTB, MTF, and the NCBTMB came together for the first time to discuss common problems. They’ll be doing it again in 2012. This wasn’t a “my organization is better than your organization” meeting. This was about The Big Picture.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I can’t roll along just surviving and only caring about my own clients and my own business. It’s not just about me. It’s not just about you. It’s about The Big Picture and massage therapy on the whole.

A Matter of Opinion

Last week, the AFMTE released a position paper authored by Executive Director Rick Rosen, “Alliance Offers New Vision for National Certification.”

The AFMTE also recently announced that it is partnering with the FSMTB in their initiative to begin approving continuing education.

Both of these have attracted quite a bit of discussion on the various social media sites. And like any discussion, people agree, disagree, and agree to disagree.  I’m glad to say there hasn’t been any mudslinging of the nature that goes on at times in some of these venues. I think these discussions are useful and informative.  They sometimes bring to light a lot of misconceptions that people have about which entity does what, and how they do it.

I encourage everyone to read Rosen’s paper in its entirety, but to make a long story short, it is a plea to the NCBTMB to reorganize, and get out of the continuing education business and the entry-level exam business. The FSMTB has been stating the opinion since their founding 5 years ago that NCBTMB exams are inappropriate for licensing purposes, and encouraging the states to drop those exams and use the MBLEx exclusively. That hasn’t happened.  If the map on the FSMTB is current, 33 member boards are using the MBLEx. If the map on the NCBTMB website is current, 38 states are still accepting their exams, meaning the majority of states are accepting both, and offering their licensees a choice. The AFMTE is also supportive of the Federation’s stance, as is AMTA and ABMP. Still, the facts show that either the 38 states are doing the wrong thing, or else they are exercising their undeniable right to conduct their business the way they want to.

I haven’t been in this profession nearly as long as Rosen or some of the other players here. I became a massage therapist in 1999, and it seems like I joined at a time when everything was just really starting to swirl. I was in the first wave of licensees in North Carolina.  Mr. Rosen actually has license #00001…first person licensed in our state. He has seen and been instrumental in a lot of things happening. I would never try to minimize the contributions he has made to this field. I won’t criticize his career, his integrity, or his belief that he is suggesting something for the good of the profession on the whole.

My criticism is this, and it isn’t directed entirely at him; it’s directed at the concept of any organization trying to mandate to another organization how to run their affairs. We get enough of that from the feds, don’t we?

I believe that the FSMTB and their mission of public protection is a great thing. The member boards come together for the purpose of discussing common problems and looking for workable solutions. Anytime people sit at the table together to try to solve a problem, that’s wonderful to me. I also believe that the AFMTE was started with the noble intent of acting as the voice, advocate, and resource for massage schools and educators. What I don’t believe is that either one of them can unilaterally force the NCBTMB to change their way of conducting business, nor do I think they should have that right.

The FSMTB is developing a model practice act, in addition to developing a CE approval program. They can and do suggest to the member boards that their exam is the appropriate exam, their CE approval (will be) is the appropriate approval, their model practice act (will be) the premier example of an appropriate act, and so forth.  It’s part of the quest to streamline things  in a uniform fashion and promote portability.

However, suggestion is the key word. The member states aren’t bound by any legalities to do what the FSMTB offers in the way of suggestions. If they want to keep the NCBTMB exams, they can. If they want to keep their own practice act, they can. If they want to keep NCBTMB approved providers or continue to approve their own, they can. They all have the right to conduct their business as they see fit within the law.

There is certainly room for improvement, on the practice act front, in particular, when you see all the variance that’s out there between the states. Keith Eric Grant has summarized that. You can access it here.

The bottom line, to me, is that all of these entities, including the NCBTMB, also have the right to conduct their business as they see fit. Unless and until there is a federal law governing massage, the individual entities can continue to do whatever they do however they want to do it. The FSMTB and the AFMTE could spend days pointing out past shortcomings of the NCBTMB, but it wasn’t “the NCBTMB” as an entity that had the shortcomings. It was the human beings running the organization.

As the FSMTB is only 5 years old, and the AFMTE less than half that, neither of these organizations have been in business long enough to have been plagued with the personnel problems, inefficiency problems, financial problems and so forth that happened in the past at the NCBTMB. Board members come and go. Executive directors come and go. Priorities of boards and organization come and go. Even organizations come and go. Last week I learned from Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, CEO of the NCCAOM, that there was previously a Federation of State Acupuncture Boards that fell apart.

AMTA and ABMP have their own missions and their leadership has their own opinions. As do we all. And any organization, just like any individual, has the right to run their business as they please, as long as they are not breaking the law. The NCBTMB is not breaking any laws by continuing to conduct their business as they see fit. The other organizations are not breaking any laws by conducting their business as they see fit. They all have that right. You don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like it. One organization doesn’t have to like what the other organization is doing. But until the federal government steps in and says, “you must do this,” they can all do as they dang well please. If any of them don’t do well enough at whatever it is they choose to do, they won’t survive.

Everybody has their own opinion on what’s good (or not good) for this profession, what’s good for licensing, what’s good for certification, what’s good for teacher standards, what’s good for education, what’s good for continuing education. There are just as many opinions on all of that as there are opinions on what kind of massage oil you ought to use.  Everyone is entitled to that. And everyone is entitled to conduct their business the way they choose to, as long as it’s within the law.

The AFMTE posted on LinkedIn that they had posted Rosen’s position paper directly to the NCBTMB. I suggest that if the folks at the NCBTMB are interested in hearing more about it or discussing it that they will get in touch. And if they don’t, then I suggest that the AFMTE, and in fact all organizations, concentrate on being good at what they set out to do for their organization, and leave the NCBTMB to do as their board and their leadership sees fit. Their Board is elected by their certificants, and their ED serves at the pleasure of their board.  They may well thrive and survive by doing things their own way, or they may fail altogether.

Either way, I think the burden to make it or break it is on them, just like the burden that is on all the organizations, and on any of us as practitioners and business people. And any insinuation of the NCBTMB being “uncooperative” is an opinion, not a fact. I can tell you how to run your business, you can decline to take my advice, and I will not refer to you as uncooperative. I will assume that you are exercising your right to conduct your business in the manner that you see fit, whether it suits me or not.

That’s just my opinion.

Report from the NCBTMB Approved Provider/CE Meeting

I just got back from Chicago, where I participated in the Massage Approved Provider Panel convened by the NCBTMB. I have to say it was one of the best meetings I have ever attended. Everybody left their egos and their agendas at the door…not one single moment of tension or dissension occurred, in spite of the fact that competing entities were represented.

I spent the weekend sitting next to Bill Brown, Deputy Director of the AMTA. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Bill has wanted to strangle me a few times over my blog, and I’m glad he got the opportunity to know me a little better. I might have managed to convince him that I have a few redeeming qualities and I’m not just the crazy blogger he thought I was.

Cynthia Ribeiro, President-Elect of AMTA, was also present, and what a class act she is. I had supported Cynthia during the AMTA election, and there’s no doubt in my mind that was the right move. She is one fine lady who has made many contributions to our profession, and had a lot to contribute to the task at hand this week.

Bob Benson, Chairman of ABMP and Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP were there. Bob brought his considerable business acumen to the meeting. I’ve worked with Anne before and she’s just a go-getter who shares my philosophy of “make it happen.” She has a great sense of humor, too. There was a lot of laughing this week, which is always a great ice-breaker and good for the cohesiveness of the group.

The facilitator, Drew Lebby, provided exactly the right balance of keeping things moving, listening, and explaining. We had breakout groups and larger discussions and the whole meeting just had a great flow. Having been in meetings with some very boring facilitators in the past, I thought he was wonderful and I would highly recommend him to groups who are looking for a great facilitator. He has 35 years of experience at it and it shows.

I heartily applaud the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards for sending Kathy Jensen, VP of the FSMTB, and kudos to the NCBTMB for inviting the Federation to participate. Since the MBLEx has taken a huge chunk of the NCBTMB’s exam market share, and the Federation has also recently announced plans to jump into the CE approval arena, I can think of past administrations at the NCBTMB that would have spent the time sniping about the Federation as competition instead of inviting them to attend, all the more reason why I appreciate their willingness to play in the same sandbox. That theme was reiterated by Ribeiro and several others this week–this isn’t about your organization, or my organization, or who’s the biggest or the best–it’s about massage and increasing the quality of massage education.

COMTA was also represented by Commissioner Randy Swenson. Several state board members were in attendance, as were approved providers and a couple of nationally certified massage therapists.

The AFMTE was not represented, although they were invited to participate, and as a founding member of that organization I personally found their refusal to attend distressing. This meeting was about education, and in my opinion, they should have been there. I contacted Rick Rosen to give him the opportunity to explain their absence, and his response was that since the AFMTE has decided to partner with the FSMTB in developing their CE program, he felt it would blur the issue and divert their focus to attend.

Nice try, Rick, but since the Federation was invited, and in fact chose to participate in the meeting, I don’t buy it. The mere term “Alliance” suggests that you are representing education, and not just one faction of it. The Alliance could have made some great contributions to the meeting and you missed out on a good opportunity to do so. Rosen is of the opinion that the Federation should replace the NCBTMB and the individual states who do their own approvals as the only provider/CE approval entity. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that issue.

No one has been a more vocal critic of the NCBTMB than I have in the past, and I have defended the right of the FSMTB to offer their competing exam, as I don’t believe that any entity is entitled to a monopoly. I will go further and say that I don’t believe any entity is entitled to a monopoly in any arena, so I am not in support of the Federation having a monopoly on continuing education. They have the undeniable right to jump into the market if they choose, and the marketplace will decide. I am personally not going to be dictated to of which entity I have to throw my CE approval business to unless my state makes it a law that I have to choose one or the other. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

There are 42 member boards in the Federation and so far, although many states have voted to accept the MBLEx, and some have adopted it exclusively, many others have refused to throw out the NCB exams, and continue to give their licensees a choice in which exam to take. I believe the same thing will happen when it comes to continuing education. Some states will go with the FSMTB CE program, and others will continue to allow providers to make their own choice. It’s the American way. Furthermore, in many places legislative changes will be required in order to switch from one to another or add another approval entity, and we all know that legislation most often moves at the speed of molasses. That is also the American way.

There were a number of problems identified with the NCBTMB’s current system. For one thing, some providers have taken advantage of the fact that once they received approval, they could add on classes at will. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition on classes that are based on a product they sell. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition against classes based on religion and/or spiritual practices. Some have ignored the fact that they need to be genuinely qualified to teach in their subject area.

Bruce Baltz, an NCBTMB Board member, mentioned people who teach NMT techniques suddenly throwing in a class in lymphatic drainage needing to be looked at carefully…sorry, but your attendance at a weekend workshop does not qualify you to suddenly start teaching it yourself. The people who have been guilty of these offenses are going to have a little awakening when some of the changes to the program are implemented.

The suggestions for solutions were great and it was interesting to see that when we broke up into small groups to do problem solving, most of the groups were on the same page. Some of the suggestions included requiring providers to submit videos of their classes, a much stricter and more frequent auditing process, an improved evaluation process where students can go online anonymously and evaluate teachers and class content, a required online class for teachers themselves to improve instructor competence…lots of good ideas that the NCBTMB is going to consider and decide which ones to implement.

Every organization and individual at the meeting expressed a genuine interest in assisting the NCBTMB in this endeavor. Even better, they all agreed that all the organizations, not just a choice few, need to come together once or twice a year for the good of the profession. Bob Benson stepped up to the plate on that front and good for him for doing so…AMTA and ABMP can take a few swipes at each other, but in the final analysis, there is room in the sandbox and he knows it.

All in all, I thought it was a wonderful gathering of some of the best and brightest, with the intent of creating a positive outcome, and I was honored to have been included. Paul Lindamood and his team did a great job in organizing the gathering and assembling the best people they could get. And hey, any meeting that includes keeping chocolate on the table at all times does it for me.