Tag Archives: Les Sweeney

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!

MOCC-ERY

Last week, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards presented their long-awaited proposal for a new national continuing education approval program. They are calling it Maintenance of Core Competencies – or MOCC for short. As I indicated in my previous post, this proposal not only failed to deliver on the original promises made by FSMTB, it has turned the entire professional landscape on its ear by recommending that most continuing education should be voluntary, not mandatory for license renewal.

Under this “MOCC-ERY” of a plan, the only mandatory components of continuing education would be those FSMTB deems to be relevant to “public safety”. If that’s not bad enough, FSMTB is proposing to take control over the design and delivery of these courses. Except it isn’t continuing education … it’s proving that you still know the things you should have learned in entry-level massage training as it pertains to protection of the public.

As a licensed therapist, do you want to be taken back to subjects like Ethics 101, principles of hygiene and sanitation, and the naming of unsafe massage practices – EVERY TIME YOU HAVE TO RENEW YOUR LICENSE? I’ve been teaching professional ethics for 14 years, and frankly, I find this proposal to be an insult to my intelligence.

I was very gratified today to receive the press release from AMTA denouncing the plan. In part, important communication states:

“AMTA reviewed the proposal and has many concerns with the approach of the FSMTB, the proposal itself, its inconsistencies and the lack of support provided for their view. Some of our specific areas of concern are:

  • –Overall, the impact of this proposal is to lower standards for massage therapy practice. It would shift the focus of professional development from building on the entry level education massage therapists receive to that of maintaining very minimal requirements of public protection.
  • –The proposal contradicts its stated intent, previous FSMTB statements on the need for continuing professional education and the mission of FSMTB.
  • –The proposal would take away the freedom of choice of massage therapists to determine their own practice focus and to choose the continuing education providers they prefer to meet their own professional needs by creating a “one-size-fits-all” approach for license renewal.
  • –The proposal provides no empirical data to support the efficacy, efficiency or necessity for a transition to this model.”

AMTA goes on to list 20 objections in their press release.

Although ABMP as an organization has not yet made an official statement, ABMP President Les Sweeney came out in support of the MOCC Proposal in his recent blog. In addition to being a member of AMTA, I am also a member of ABMP. I think highly of Les and the rest of the management there, but this is one of those times when we’ll have to agree to disagree. Les does state that he supports the role of the NCBTMB in the arena of continuing education; but he personally thinks CE should be voluntary. That is a major policy statement coming from the top guy at the largest professional membership association in our field.

The thing that is most outrageous and unacceptable about the MOCC Proposal is not the “public protection” course material that could be mandatory for therapists. It is the fact that leaders of four of our major stakeholder organizations in the field came together behind closed doors and decided that the majority of continuing education should no longer be mandatory.

It looks like there may have been major flaws in the process that led to this consensus document. Was the work of the eight-member Task Force shared with the full leadership of AMTA, ABMP, AFMTE and FSMTB with sufficient time to review and comment on this plan before it was published? Something doesn’t line up when AMTA comes out with a total smackdown of the plan, while their Immediate Past President was part of the team that was responsible for its development. Does that seem odd to you?

What we do know is that the decision making process took place in a vacuum, and there was no opportunity for public comment. Yes, the disclaimer says that “The MOCC is just a proposal and we’re seeking your feedback”, but input should have been sought from a broad range of constituents in the field before such a proposal was even made.

Continuing education classes that actually teach you anything new, under their plan, will become optional. Only the classes from the Federation, which they plan to make available on their website, will be required for license renewal. My opinion is that instead of being satisfied that the MBLEx has taken most of the exam revenue away from the NCBTMB, they would now like to take the continuing education dollars away, too. This plan will not only take dollars away from the NCBTMB, but also away from continuing education providers. (Disclosure: I am an NCBTMB Approved Provider of Continuing Education.)

The Task Force intentionally excluded representatives from the NCBTMB, and that’s another point that disturbs me. The Federation should be working in collaboration with NCBTMB. I was present at the AFMTE 2011 Annual Conference during FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger’s initial presentation about the Federation’s intent to create a CE approval program. NCBTMB Chair Alexa Zaledonis was in the audience at this session, and she publicly stated that her organization was willing to cooperate with FSMTB. It’s a shame to me that in light of their 20 years of experience in administering CE provider approvals, they are being left out of this loop. I’m gratified to see they’re not waiting around for an invitation, but instead, have gotten on with the business of making their own improvements.

In May 2011, NCBTMB convened a meeting of the Massage Approved Provider Panel, which was intended to improve and enhance their current CE approval program. Most of the stakeholder organizations in the field were represented there, including FSMTB. Based on feedback from the participants, NCBTMB will begin reviewing and approving CE courses as well as CE providers this summer.

Personally, I did learn what I needed to know about protection of the public while I was in massage school. I am one of those people who enjoy attending continuing education courses. I don’t want it to be mandated to me that I have to take a no-fail test—which isn’t really a test if you can’t fail it, is it, of things that I already know—to meet my license renewal requirements. I don’t think that serves me, as a massage therapist, and I can’t see how it’s going to serve the public. The Federation seems to think this will wipe out complaints of unethical or unsafe behavior. I don’t believe that for one minute. Anyone who is going to act unethically is going to do it, no matter how many classes they take or whom they take them from. Unsafe behavior needs to be addressed in entry-level massage school. I would much prefer to see the FSMTB come up with a model program of public safety education for schools, instead of requiring therapists who have been practicing for years to take a ridiculous no-fail test.

Times are changing, as Les said in his blog, and our organizations are changing with them. It remains to be seen whether it’s for the better or the worse. I have supported the FSMTB in the past, because I believe the state boards coming together in an effort to solve common problems is a good thing. I still believe that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this is an example of the kind work they should be doing, or the way they should be doing it. You can let them know how you feel about it here.

If You’re Not Moving Forward, You’re Backing Up

There have been several developments in the regulation of massage in the past few weeks that I personally find distressing. Earlier this week, Florida Senate Bill 584 moved a step closer to passage. This piece of special-interest legislation would amend Florida’s massage therapy law to allow graduates of certain board-approved schools to obtain a temporary permit and practice for six months without a license, until such time as they fail the exam or become licensed, whichever comes first. Although the bill states that they must work under the supervision of a licensed therapist, the terms of that are not spelled out. Does that mean the supervising therapist is on the premises, in the treatment room, or giving an occasional phone call? This is where boards frequently get into trouble and spend a lot of time with something bogged down in a policy committee—when something has not been clearly defined—and in this case, “supervision” isn’t clearly defined.

New Hampshire is trying to abolish massage licensing altogether, as a cost-cutting, government-reducing move. That would of course mean back to square one, where anyone who knows absolutely nothing about contraindications for massage, endangerment sites, or professional ethics can feel free to call themselves a massage therapist.

Utah just amended their practice act to remove the key word “therapeutic” from the scope of practice definition and added in the word “recreational”, in what is in my opinion a misguided attempt to thwart sexual activity being conducted in the name of massage. Other than the fact that I think House Bill 243 is a big step back for our profession, I was just as shocked that the government relations folks in the Utah chapter of AMTA supported it to start with. I’m an active member of the North Carolina chapter, and I cannot imagine the leadership of our chapter supporting that.

I was gratified a few days ago to see Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, and a few days later Bob Benson, the Chairman of ABMP, weigh in with the same attitude I have about this legislation. Rick Rosen, who is a former Chair of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, former Executive Director for FSMTB, and currently the Executive Director of AFMTE, made a comment on Bob’s blog that I think nailed the important points of this issue:

The most critical component of the state law for any regulated profession is what’s known as its Scope of Practice definition. The list of prohibited acts in a law is important, but less so than the scope definition. If what you want to do in your massage therapy practice is not listed in the scope, you can’t legally do it.

The Utah action that removed the term “therapeutic” from the scope definition, and added the term “recreational massage” may have the effect of narrowing the scope of practice for massage therapists. At the very least, it takes massage therapy out of the realm of health care and into the murky world of “other business activities”, which includes adult entertainment.

Considerations around enforcement of a Practice Act should not take precedence over the scope itself, and it is not a sound justification for downgrading the law. That’s what has occurred in Utah, and the Licensed Massage Therapists of that state will have to deal with it.

Every single word in statues and rules that regulate the practice of massage therapy is important. What you think it says is not always what it means — or what it will produce in the daily administration of a regulatory program. That’s why we need experienced and competent government relations professionals representing our interests.

I report on the legislation of massage, and I have future aspirations of working in government relations. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years doing research on boards and practice acts, and while I’m certainly not as experienced or learned as Rosen, I think I’m at the point of recognizing a piece of bad legislation when I see it. The way I see it, if you’re not moving forward, you’re backing up.

IMA Insurance: Up in Smoke, Therapists Burned

The saga of the now-defunct IMA (International Massage Association) continues. Back in July, Will Green, owner/founder of IMA, basically admitted to sabotaging his own company by failing to turn over $600,000 in insurance premiums paid by massage therapists to the insurance company.

Markel, a respectable insurance company who had been underwriting IMA’s policies since Feb 1, 2008, discontinued writing policies for IMA on April 6, 2010 due to Green’s non-payment of premiums. However, contrary to some propaganda put out by AMC (American Massage Council), Markel is continuing to honor the policies they underwrote through the expiration date on the policy if it was purchased between Feb 1, 2008 and April 6, 2010, in spite of not receiving the premium payments from IMA.

Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, in a letter to former and renewing IMA members, personally spoke with a senior executive at Markel and confirmed Markel’s commitment not to leave therapists in the lurch. According to Sweeney’s letter, AMC’s announcement amounts to nothing more than a scare tactic, and one that is certainly not needed by the therapists who are already confused and scared that their insurance went up in smoke. ABMP, incidentally, has had the same insurance underwriter for more than ten years and does not need to resort to such tactics in order to attract new members.

Incredibly, Mr. Green is now trying to sell insurance through NAMT (National Association of Massage Therapists).

Let me put this in perspective. Let’s say that I, Laura Allen, take your hard-earned money and promise you an insurance policy. Then I take that money and blow it instead of paying the premiums to the underwriter like I am supposed to do. Should I then expect you to say, “that’s okay, Laura, and here’s some more of my hard-earned money and you can just sell me a new policy. I’m sure you really didn’t mean to cheat me out of that first money I paid you.” Duh.

According to a letter dated 09/10/2010 from the NAMT staff and Will Green, over 3,000 MTs have signed on with NAMT in the past 18 months. Since Green didn’t admit to his improprieties until July 2010, I truly wonder if any of that $600,000 he admitted to frittering away went in any way to pay bills at NAMT. I am purely speculating, but $600,000 is a lot of money. I personally think the therapists who had insurance with IMA at the time of Green’s announcement deserve a line-by-line accounting of exactly where that money went.

It is also totally scary to me that the website for IMA is still up, no mention of the insurance fiasco is on it, and in fact there is a video starring Will Green stating that he manages over 90 associations. He also talks about having spent $3 million on his organic farm. Maybe you can call him up and demand a bushel of turnips in exchange for the money you paid to IMA.

It has also been charged that Green is being investigated by the FBI, a charge that he categorically denies. There is no telling how much of the swirling rumors are true, but one thing is for certain: I would not give my money a second time to someone who has already done me wrong. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.