Tag Archives: NCBTMB

The Financial Health of Our Organizations: NCBTMB

Thank you for your interest in my annual reports on the financial status of the major non-profit organizations of the massage therapy profession. I am not an accountant or a financial expert. This information was taken directly from FORM 990, the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, which is published on Guidestar. This filing is for NCBTMB‘s fiscal year ending12-31-2012. Non-profits are on a different tax filing schedule than the rest of us.

This has not been a banner year for the NCBTMB. Revenues are down, no big surprise since they have been steadily declining every year since the MBLEx was introduced in 2007. During 2007, the revenue of the NCB was at an all-time high of $8,655,003. During 2012, the revenue was down to $4,616,227, a decline of over 4 million dollars in the past five years. If that isn’t the handwriting on the wall that it is past time for the NCBTMB to get out of the entry-level licensing exam business, I don’t know what is. AMTA, AFMTE, and ABMP have all supported the MBLEx as the licensing exam of choice. They just refuse to give it up.

In the past year alone, since my 2011 report, the examination revenue dropped over a million dollars. Recertification income actually went up by a little over $241K, but fees from the approved providers went down by almost $50K. Sales of their study guide for the exam is down by almost $33K as well. While sales of their mailing list remained stable at just over $40K, the revenue listed as “other” went down by $20K.

Executive compensation reflected then-CEO Mike Williams’ salary of $237,500, about $20K less than Paul Lindamood received on his best year. Board members at the NCB are compensated; the Chair during this period, Alexa Zaledonis, received $33,400. I won’t complain about that. In fact, I haven’t complained about any of the BOD compensation since the day Donna Feeley (now deceased) left office…during her two years at the helm, she got more than $100,000 a year. Legal fees were higher during Feeley’s term (2207-2008) than they have ever been before or since, hitting an all-time high of over $925K during her first term. That is attributable to a number of legal actions they brought against states who chose to use the MBLEx and to lawsuits from former staff members. During 2012, over $531K was spent on legal fees–my guess is for the same reasons.

Marketing and promotion, although it has gone down, seems to be disproportionately high to me, with $356K paid to their marketing firm, The Ohlman Group, and an additional $311K + spent on promotions and advertising. A little over $341K was spent on conferences and meetings.

The major expenditure is the exam administration fee paid to Pearson Vue, which is almost $900K. Another big expenditure is their rent, which is over $178,000–or almost $15K a month. I guess I am ignorant of real estate costs in the Chicago area, but it would have been smart a long time ago for the NCBTMB to purchase a property to house their offices; it may have been paid off by now or at least be building equity.

The net assets of the NCBTMB have declined by about $93K since last year, while their liabilities have increased by over $226K. The bottom line is, the NCBTMB has gone from showing a net of over $227K in 2011 to showing a loss of almost $174K in 2012.

I don’t think their losses are over. They have spent a lot of money during 2013 in rolling out the new Board Certification, which isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. I have heard the rumor that they appealed to the other massage organizations for financial aid at the recent Coalition meeting. As recently as a year or two ago, Rick Rosen and I were both calling on the FSMTB to offer the NCBMTB a financial incentive to get out of the entry-level exam business. It didn’t happen then, and it still has not happened. I doubt if the FSMTB is in any need of the NCBTMB’s test bank, and if they’re not, they really don’t have much to gain, if anything, by paying them off. Although the number of states that accept either the MBLEx or the Entry-Level State Licensing Exam from the NCBTMB are about the same in number, the public has spoken loud and clear about which exam is the exam of choice. The MBLEx is clearly at the head of the pack.

With net assets of a little over $2.5 million, the NCBTMB is not in immediate danger of closing the doors. Neither are they anywhere near being “in the money.”  Any organization needs cash reserves in order to survive–and they also need positive cash flow. If the NCB is going to survive at all, it’s just my opinion that they had better commence with the specialty certification exams and sooner rather than later. If they don’t get on the ball with that, someone may beat them to the punch. The problem is that it takes a lot of money to develop such things, and it looks like they may not have it. Time will tell.

Report from Seattle and Some Further Explanation

I was invited to Seattle by Dr. Ravensara Travillian to speak at a fund-raising dinner this past Monday night, to kick off her efforts to get a university-level certificate massage program started. Dr. Christopher Moyer was the other invited speaker, so I felt like I was, as we say in the South, “in high cotton.” I had a great time visiting with Ravensara and her husband Iain, and Christopher.

Most of our visit was spent discussing the project. Raven invited me on the basis of my knowledge of regulation and legislation, of what our massage organizations are up to, and the state of massage therapy education in the US. Prior to my going out there, I contacted some of our leaders to make sure I had up-to-date information on what’s going on with them. In fact, this week the Coalition (previously referred to as the Leadership Summit) is taking place in Florida…the CEOs/EDs and Chairs of the Boards of ABMP, AFMTE, AMTA, COMTA, FSMTB, NCBTMB, and the MTF are coming together to discuss the state of the union, so to speak.

I truly enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting some new ones that I had previously only met on FB, and some I didn’t know at all. I appreciate the fact that they came to hear more about this initiative. Good conversation was stimulated, good questions were asked. The speakers were videoed and that will be released in a day or two, so I’m not going to rehash everything that happened there; I’ll share the video when it comes out.

I particularly appreciated the presence of Bodhi Haraldsson, who is the Research Director at the Massage Therapists Association of British Columbia. Bodhi was appalled at my report on the financial status of MTs in the US, provided to me in the form of the Annual Report from the FSMTB. Their information was obtained by a survey of MTs in the member states, and compiled from surveys that were sent out by the AMTA and ABMP to their members, and the NCBTMB to their certificants. All in all, about 200,000 MTs were surveyed. The piece of news that shocked Bodhi was that 61% of MTs in the US say that they cannot support themselves/their families with their income from massage.  Only 2% of therapists surveyed stated that they make over $70,000. According to Bodhi, the five busiest therapists in his own clinic make more than that. Personally, I think that’s a direct reflection of the high standards of education and the devotion to research practiced by our neighbors in BC.

Ravensara’s plan to take massage education up another notch has been criticized by people who don’t understand what it’s about. No one is going to be forced into getting higher education. Since I said this was the report on Seattle and a little bit more, I’m going to seize the moment to repeat a little of what I said there and go a little in depth about the environment of massage. There seems to be a lot of confusion about many different things that are currently on the horizon. One of them is the Affordable Care Act, which contains the stipulation allowing massage therapists to direct bill insurance as long as they are licensed as health care providers in their state. I see the comments all the time that “I don’t want the government telling me what to do.” “I don’t want to get bogged down by the insurance companies.” The ACA does not mandate that anyone has to file insurance. If you want to run a cash practice, you can carry on as usual. Those who don’t want to participate in insurance billing should not interfere with those of us who do.

Another thing that seems to be confusing people is the ELAP (Entry Leval Analysis Project). As I have stated on my blog on several occasions, I had issues with the way that project was rolled out and the way it was presented. However, I do think it will turn out to provide valuable information, and we’ll all know on December 16, which Anne Williams of ABMP informed me will be the unveiling of the 776-page document.

I have seen school owners stating that they didn’t want more regulations telling them what to do and how to run their school. Again, this seems to be a point of confusion. The ELAP is a research project. Period. It is not regulatory in any way. No one will be forced to adopt whatever policy recommendations might come out of it, because they will be just that–recommendations.

AMTA, ABMP, and the AFMTE all have benefits and annual conferences for educators. They have projects going on to educate teachers in research literacy, as does the MTF. AMTA has teacher-track classes and research-track classes at the annual convention. ABMP has an upcoming class in teaching the teachers to write core curriculum. None of these organizations are regulatory. They can show you how to write your core curriculum, suggest what should be included in it, and show you how to teach research literacy. They can’t make you do it, or make you do it their way.

COMTA, which is a strictly voluntary accreditation body and the only one that was founded for the specific purpose of accrediting massage therapy, although they have now also taken in aesthetic accreditation, spells out standards for excellence in education. I hear from school owners that they don’t seek the accreditation because they don’t want anyone telling them how to run their school. The Standards are on COMTA’s website for anyone to see, and I think it would behoove any school owner to do their self-study report to see how you stack up. COMTA does not limit what you can teach to evidence-based modalities, which personally I find unfortunate, but if you’re using that for the argument against it, you’re wrong. If you are teaching belief-based energy work at your school, you’re free to carry on. They want to insure that you are teaching what you say you are teaching and that you are including the subject matter that matters to massage. They spell out standards for good record-keeping, good financial practices, insuring that teachers are competent to teach their subject matter, having and abiding by policies and procedures, and other such things, and they ask you to document it in writing. COMTA is not a regulatory organization. There are other accreditation bodies out there that take in massage therapy, among other things, and they are not regulatory, either. It’s a voluntary process that allows you to say “Here are the standards we have chosen to meet.”

Even the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards is not regulatory, in and of itself. They are an association of the boards in regulated states. They are soon to unveil a Model Practice Act that they have worked on for the past few years, and they would like for the states to adopt. Notice I said “they would like for the states to adopt.” The purpose of that is to make practice acts uniform and facilitate reciprocity. It could require legislative changes in every state that already has a practice act, should the member states chose to adopt it. I don’t look for that to completely happen in my lifetime. I do imagine it will be discussed this week by the Coalition, along with the ELAP and other issues they are considering.

A couple of months ago, I sent the leaders of all the organizations my blog urging them to pool resources to get the NCBTMB written out of the statutes in every state. I am hopeful that topic will be discussed as well. The NCBTMB is not a regulatory organization–but their exams are written into the statutes in many states. That represents an improper delegation of authority; there is no government oversight and no public accountability there. This is not a vendetta against the NCBTMB; it is an attempt to rectify something that has been wrong all along.

Now I’m down to the function of state boards. I constantly get complaints from people about how long it is taking them to get their exam scores or get their license. There is no true reciprocity in the United States. The fact that you have a license in one state does not include any kind of guarantee that you’ll get one in a different state, regardless of how long you may have been practicing. Most state boards have it stated on their websites that processing out of state requests takes longer. My own experience in serving our state board for five years was that many times, a license is held up because the applicant failed to provide a piece of documentation. Sometimes, the holdup is that they have to check out your transcript to make sure your education in the state your are coming from stacks up to the education required in the state you are moving to. If it doesn’t, you can be denied a license. If you are lacking the documentation, you can be denied a license. They cannot take anyone’s word for it that “I have this, I have that.” If you don’t have the required paper trail of evidence, you’re not going to get it, period.

State boards are the ONLY regulating bodies in massage. They are the ONLY ones who can tell us what to do. The other organizations can suggest. The other organizations can lobby legislators to get laws passed or changed–and state boards can’t. State boards exist for one purpose: public protection. They are not here to serve the interests of massage therapists. They are not here to cater to us or to cater to schools. They exist to license therapists, to spell out the requirements for getting a license, to spell out what they expect from schools, and to deal with complaints from consumers.

I hope that clears up a few things for people. I see misinformation spread around on social media all the time, and all that does is perpetuate misinformation. If you are a massage therapist, you are obligated to know the law in your state. If you are planning to move somewhere, you need to learn the law in that state, prior to packing up and going there. I’ll go further and say that a board member recently said to me “I don’t know the bylaws and rules the way you do.” If you’re going to serve a board, then it’s your business to know them up one side and down the other. Ignorance is not bliss and it’s not an excuse, either. You can’t uphold the rules if you don’t know what they are. The burden is on you.

NCBTMB: At Least They’re Consistent in Bending the Rules

I’ll say one thing for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: at least they’re consistent in bending the rules.

The NCBTMB has a new Government Relations Liason, Billie Shea of Nevada. Shea has been a massage therapist for 14 years. She has previously served as the chair of  the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapy, and has also served as a delegate and later as a board member on the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

I’ve pitched a few fits recently about the NCBTMB ignoring their own bylaws and breaking their own rules, and I feel compelled to pitch one more. The NCBTMB website announcement about Shea being hired as the new Government Relations Liason states that she has been Nationally Certified for 13 years. According to several of my sources, that is not true.

She was initially certified in 2000 and renewed one time before letting her certification lapse. I contacted Shea by email yesterday to ask her how she became Board Certified since she was not currently Nationally Certified, which is one of the requirements unless you are taking the new exam, and she responded to me that she had been contacted by the NCBTMB and offered the opportunity to become Board Certified early this summer. Her response stated that she forwarded my email to the NCBTMB so they could make a response, and they have not responded.

According to the NCBTMB’s website, there are two paths to Board Certification. One of them is to take the new exam and meet the other requirements, which include 750 hours of education, passing a background check, having 250 hours of work experience, and having a current CPR certification. The other path is to be CURRENTLY Nationally Certified under their old paradigm, and meet the new requirements.

Shea isn’t the only one who has been offered this deal; in my previous blogs about massaging the rules, I reported that two other nationally known massage therapists that I have known personally for years were both offered to be “grandfathered in” to the new Board Certification, in spite of the fact that their own National Certification lapsed about 7 years ago. They both felt it was an unethical offer since it violates the rules of the NCBTMB, and declined to do it.

So, bottom line, Shea has not been Nationally Certified for 13 years as it states on their website. That certainly doesn’t mean she will do any less of a job as their GR person, and since at this point in time I am of the mindset that my own Board Certification is worth about as much as a turd in a punchbowl, it’s no big deal to me. The big deal, to me, is the dishonesty about it. Why put a PR spin on something that is not true? Shea knows it, the NCB knows it, and why is it necessary to pad her resume? She has a long record of volunteer service and it wasn’t necessary at all. For the record, my own National Certification was current, and I did meet the other requirements for Board Certification. I was prepared to take the exam and actually somewhat disappointed that they decided to grandfather the current certificants into it instead of having us take it.
I would like to know why the NCBTMB approached well-known massage therapists who have been expired for years and offered them this “opportunity” to be grandfathered in on Board Certification, and why they feel that’s an ethical practice.

It doesn’t look good when an organization puts something out there, says “here are the requirements,” and then proceeds to blow those off in some self-serving interest. And it doesn’t look good when a therapist accepts that. In fairness, there are plenty of massage therapists who don’t keep up with the rules, including in their own state, much less at the NCB. However, I don’t think Shea falls into that category. She’s been involved in the governance of massage for many years, and if the NCBTMB hired her to be the GR liason, I’m sure they have confidence in her abilities. She ought to know better, and I’m sure she does.

If they are just going to grandfather anybody and everybody who has ever been Nationally Certified, then for crying out loud, just say that up front and be done with it.

Furthermore, I have the idea that there are board members at the NCB, and perhaps even Executive Director Steve Kirin, who do not even have any knowledge of all these surreptitious activities and who would not be in support of them. Whatever else I can say about them, I know for a fact that there are some ethical people there. Apparently there are also some who are not. I would hate to think it was a board decision to put forth requirements, and then throw in the caveat that “but we can ignore these rules for the choice few when it suits our purpose.” I’d rather believe that someone there took it on themselves to act in this manner, but the fact is, it has happened and someone needs to be accountable for it. I have to refer back to that pesky problem, once again, of Improper Delegation of Authority. This is the kind of thing that happens when there is no government oversight and no public accountability.

I will agree with one thing from the NCBTMB’s website: the statement that “a higher credential is needed in the industry.” I agree wholeheartedly, and they need to get it that this is the kind of thing that minimizes the value of the very thing they are trying to promote. Certification needs to mean something. Operating in this manner assures that it does not.

 

NCBTMB Seats New Board Members

The NCBTMB seated their new Board members last week. Bruce Baltz, who has served one term and was not even on the ballot for a second term, was tapped as the new Chair-Elect. Michael McGillicuddy, who was also not on the ballot, was appointed as a therapist member by the Board, and Teresa M. Matthews is filling the remaining therapist member seat. Dr. Stuart Watts has been named the public member.

I wish them all luck, and I feel that they’re going to need it.

To start with, it is my opinion that the NCBTMB is leaving themselves open to a legal challenge of any decision this board might make. I have maintained since his candidacy was announced that Dr. Watts was inappropriately put forth as a public member. I don’t personally know Dr. Watts, but as soon as I read his bio, my thought, and that of several other people who chimed in on my previous blogs about it, felt that he was suitably qualified to be a therapist member, and totally unsuitable to be the public member, based on the bylaws of the NCBTMB. He currently holds a license in two states, although the people trying to defend this decision have said he is retired, and he holds an office in another national organization, which is also against the by-laws, although I was told that he had agreed to quit that position if he was named to the NCBTMB. According to the current bylaws on the NCB website under 6.2 Qualifications. “No Director shall hold a national level office in another competing therapeutic massage and/or bodywork professional or trade organization” and further states………”A Director who is a public member shall not be a Certificant or a practitioner of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork within three (3) years of election, and shall have no material financial interest in the field of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork.” I honestly do not understand how the nominations task force thought he was an appropriate choice for the public member. To me, it’s a big “DUH!”

I also find it less than transparent that the press release did not say he was the public member, but rather put the spin on it that “he has worked for both practitioner rights and the rights of the public throughout his 40-year career.” On a regulatory board, the mandate is indeed to protect the safety of the public. However, this is not a regulatory board in spite of their numerous past attempts to appear as one, and a public member is supposed to represent the viewpoint of a consumer, not be an expert in the field. Watts appears to be an expert in the field with 40 years of experience. I don’t think he is representative of the average consumer and I defy anyone to dispute that. It sounds like splitting hairs, since I would have approved of him as a therapist member. My issue is that I don’t expect a therapist member and a public member to necessarily vote the same way. People have to remember that when you are serving a board, you are not supposed to just avoid a conflict of interest–you are also supposed to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

I have briefly met Matthews a couple of times when I attended the FSMTA convention. She has been a school owner and instructor for 18 years. Baltz and McGillicuddy are both people I know and I am a big fan of both of them. However, I also question the way their appointments came about. Neither were on the ballot sent to certificants. The sudden departure of the previous Chair, Sue Toscano left a therapist seat empty that needed to be filled, so I will assume that was part of the reason. However, I am aware of several other people who had thrown their name in the hat for the election, and I do question that none of them were tapped to fill the empty seat. I have asked both Steve Kirin and Leena Guptha questions in the past about the election process, and they have both replied to me that they are not privy to the goings-on of the nomination committee.

I’ve been nationally certified since 2000, and it seems that there has been controversy on their election process many times….including one time years ago when I threw my own name in the hat. I was interviewed on the phone, and later notified that I had been chosen as a candidate. I was told to write a candidate statement and that it had to be X amount of words; I forget the number. When the ballots came out, the first thing I saw was that my own candidate statement looked ridiculously short compared to the others. I called them on the phone and asked why I was singled out for a short statement. Initially the person on the other end of the phone argued with me that I had misunderstood the instructions. When I sent him the email I had received from them proving my point, he had to back up and apologize, and said that I had received the first draft of the letter by mistake. He said “there’s really nothing we can do about it now.” I was not surprised when I wasn’t elected, because my statement looked idiotic compared to the other candidates. My attitude now is that it was a blessing in disguise that I wasn’t chosen; that particular regime was fraught with management trouble, board trouble, and lawsuits.

I have referred back to my own blogs from past years that had links to the NCBTMB website for the press releases that were put out about some of their major mistakes, and they have all been removed.

The NCBTMB has been dysfunctional for a very long time. Their financial revenues have fallen greatly since the introduction of the MBLEx. Their 990 for 2012 was just posted on Guidestar a couple of days ago and will be the subject of my next blog.

Dr. Leena Guptha stepped into the Chair position about a month ago. Leena is a positive person, and refers to herself as an ambassador for the organization. She has previously served as the national president of AMTA, and I have no doubts that she has the best of intentions. I have no doubts that the new board members, and any of the other people there have the best of intentions. I actually have no doubts that the immediately previous board and management had good intentions…but that has not yet turned things around. Dr. Guptha has stated to me that since she has a three-year term, she will have time to make a real difference and positive changes at the NCBTMB. Time will tell.

I feel that the NCBTMB is on their last chance to get it right. They do not have the financial resources to keep making mistakes. The PR spin that has been put on the new Board Certification doesn’t fly. People want advanced certifications in specific areas, and that hasn’t happened. Developing such things requires a lot of money, and I don’t know that they have it. Leena Guptha is organizing a Think Tank to gather input about the CE Provider program, and I initially agreed to serve on it. However, I’ve taken so much criticism for that in the past few weeks I have decided to back up and punt. I have publicly announced many times that I would not serve an another board as long as I am writing this blog, and even though a committee is not the same as a board of directors, people seem to be concerned that my impartiality will fly out the window. I had even stated to Dr. Guptha that my presence on the CE committee would not prevent me from blogging about them, and she said she didn’t expect it to. It’s a moot point now; I have withdrawn. Even though I am not on the board–it was one of those appearances of a conflict of interest that I referred to above.

I have also served on a previous CE revamping project at the request of Paul Lindamood. About 30 educators came together to discuss it, and the resounding theme was “go back to vetting the individual classes.” That advice has so far been ignored. Ergo, there are a lot of classes approved for CE that are in blatant violation of their own bylaws and that are an embarrassment to the profession and that should be an embarrassment to a board that holds itself out as “defining and advancing the highest standards.” Approving classes in flower fairies and shapeshifting  just doesn’t hold up to that mission statement. There is no need to wait for a Think Tank to start taking care of that situation; the new board needs to start taking care of it immediately.

As I said, I wish the new members luck, and I feel sure they’re going to need it. As always, you’re free to disagree with me; this is my blog and my opinion.

An Interview with Dr. Leena Guptha, New Chair of the NCBTMB

From Laura Allen: I have skewered the NCBTMB in my blog several times over the years, including very recently. It has been a tradition with me for several years to interview the executives and chairs of the massage organizations as they come on board, so I am interviewing Dr. Leena Guptha. In fairness to her, I would like to state that she had only been the Chair for ten days when I went on my last and most serious rant about the organization, so I certainly do not hold her personally accountable for the things I have complained about. Here is the interview I conducted with her.

1. Dr. Guptha, please tell us about your background, work experience, and education.

Background: Daughter of a Scientist and a Philosopher, Wife of a Physician/Scientist, Mother of two Physicians, Grandmother of a two year old.

Work Experience: (Relating to Holistic Therapies and Lifelong Learning)

  1. Practicing: 23 years of manual therapy across three countries, with my primary interests in basic science, musculoskeletal alignment, ethics, research and business.
  2. Teaching: Science and Hands-On instructor at various Colleges including but not limited to Connecticut Center of Massage Therapy; University of Bridgeport; Chicago School of Massage Therapy; National University of Health Sciences; Pennsylvania Institute of Massage Therapy; Lehigh Valley College; and International College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  3. Administration: Held positions of Director of Education, Dean of Academic Affairs, Campus President in corporate schools.
  4. Research: The Ergonomics of Driving and Back Pain, teaching Research Literacy to graduate students, osteopathic dissertation supervisor.
  5. Volunteerism: NCBTMB, AMTA Chapter, AMTA National Board and the Massage Therapy Foundation.

Education; Massage Therapy (LMT), Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Naturopathic Medicine (ND), Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine (LAc), Complementary Medicine, Hypnotherapy (BCH) and Business (MBA Hons).

2. How did you first become interested in massage therapy?

When I was a child, my father had a hobby of tinkering with cars, (not that I recall any of them actually road worthy, sorry Dad), suddenly one day while under the bonnet (hood) as he lifted the battery and twisted—he suffered an acute low back pain. My three wise uncles advised painkillers, anti-inflammatory medication, and six weeks rest on a wooden door.

This acute phase passed and he was back to work six weeks later. The next time it happened there was no possibility of time off.  I saw him suffer in agonizing pain. I started feeling his back to see what actually hurt and what did not. As a child this lead me to develop a rudimentary sense of palpation and soft tissue.  Then I took my first massage therapy course at age 18 and have studied many modalities since. Interestingly, my father still has not needed the spinal surgery earlier recommended by my uncles and proposed more recently by his physician.

3. What led you to volunteer for service at the NCBTMB?

Through the development of a hospital based program and my own research, I felt strongly that therapists at the hospital should be nationally certified by NCBTMB. I took the exam too, later a newsletter with Cliff Korn on the front page came to our home in Madison, CT and this led me to become a volunteer.

Later, I moved to IL and visited the HQ of AMTA. During that tour, Liz Lucas said “you should become a member of the Association”.  At a similar time I visited the Indiana to present at their state conference and there I learned about volunteerism at the state level. I then discovered the  Illinois Chapter, who welcomed me with open arms, that led to various roles, including the passing of licensure during my Chapter Presidency. The Illinois Chapter encouraged me to meet the National AMTA Board, the first person I met at the meeting Laurel Freeman, encouraged me to run for the AMTA National Board.

A few years passed, and I was invited to be an appointed member of the NCBTMB Board of Directors by Alexa Zaledonis. Her zest for the massage profession and doing what is right was infectious and I was delighted to join the Board.

Today, seeking the Wisdom and the Pioneering Spirit of our founding educators, who turned a trade into a profession, with a solid grounding and deliverables, I volunteer as Chair of the Board. The historical path is inspiring. I volunteer today with Courage of my conviction that there is a rightful place for certification, specialized training, career path options, quality core education and approved providers of continuing education.

4. I know that you have read my most recent blog calling for the other massage organizations to make a concerted effort to get the NCBTMB removed from the statutory language and rules in the states. What is your response to that?

Each person’s opinion has to be respected and without the benefit of a detailed dialogue with you and a fuller grounding of the contextual relationships, I would be giving an inappropriate response. With that said, I can say that I am confused as to why you would call for the removal. Our licensing exams have been in existence for 20 years, have gone through the profession for vetting four times, and are psychometrically sound testing tools. Most of the states accept NCBTMB’s exams as an option for part of their licensing requirements as a tried and true validation of knowledge to enter the profession safely and competently.  What is wrong with giving therapists a choice in exams to take and a pathway to follow? While, admittedly, NCBTMB has not always done everything right, the value and quality of the NCBTMB exams have never been in question.

In regards to the CE Approved Provider Program, we recognized a few years back that we needed to strengthen the program and review it moving forward. Yes, we held meetings and came out with an advanced program that the profession felt was too restrictive and expensive. So, we went back to the drawing board, we talked to specific groups, held conference calls and put the program out for comment before our re-release last month. We totally understand that the profession is concerned about parts of it and we are more than happy to work through these concerns. This is not indicative of an organization that is not listening or is not responding to valid concerns raised. We are trying. We have to do better and we will.

I am deeply saddened to read disparaging remarks for an organization that was and will remain our alma mater, without whose credentials today, we would not have had the ability to re-invent and elevate ourselves as individuals and as a profession. However, I continue to welcome all critiques, and all constructive recommendations, and call on all serious members of our profession and our stakeholders to be part of the dialogue and solution.

5. What, if anything, does the NCBTMB plan to do about offering specialty certifications, and if they are going to do anything, is there a timeline for that happening?

The NCBTMB Sounding Board was surveyed on specialty certificates and the initial responses appear favorable and supportive. I encourage readers to join the Sounding Board as a mechanism to feed views and input directly to NCBTMB. (The Sounding Board is open to all certificants and can be found on the NCBTMB Facebook page). There appears to be an interest to develop specialties beyond the basic Board Certification, such that an individual could be Board Certified with a specialized concentration in for example Oncology, Sports, Orthopedics, Hospice or Mother and Baby.

Our plan was once the Board Certification credential was established we would continue the discussion and development of specialty certifications with the emerging think tank as well as our constituents.

As an educator myself, I see this as a viable tool for NCBTMB to provide massage therapists who want to grow their skills and abilities. 

6. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the NCBTMB?

Maintaining and building the confidence of all stakeholder groups despite damaging and disparaging remarks however true or false they may be. Asking the alumni of NCBTMB like you to help us transform with the changing needs of our profession, and join with us to become a leader ahead of the curve.

7. How many people have actually taken the new Board Certification exam, and how many people have been grandfathered in?

When we adopted the Board Certification credential, we understood that its success could only be judged over a period of years. Current certificants could transition into it at recertification time and do not need to take the exam; new graduates would strive to achieve the credential as they became successful in their careers.

The majority of our Certificants are still Nationally Certified and have the option to transition to Board Certification at their renewal time. Currently of those who meet the new standards approximately 3000 have become Board Certified. New graduates with entry level credentials will not be eligible until they have been in practice for at least six months, so we expect these numbers to rise through better communication, outreach and as therapists become eligible and choose to be certified. 

Since our webinar last week and this week, I have become aware of confusion in the profession regarding transition to Board Certification, as well as Board Certification requirements from licensure. We have to do a better job reaching out and communicating both the value and the requirements. Though, our team is working on a daily basis to assist certificants successfully through the transition process, I would like to take the opportunity to address this with the audience here.

The value of Board Certification:

  • Provides a credential higher than entry level licensure
  • It distinguishes the advanced therapist from an entry level therapist
  • Shows a commitment to the profession and to the consumer
  • The medical profession uses and recognizes the Board Certification credential
  • It creates a career pathway as in other healthcare professions.

Requirements to Transition into Board Certification from National Certification:

750 hours of education

Graduate from an NCBTMB assigned school.

·        Additional hours can be submitted from courses taken in continuing education or accredited college or university

·         250 hours of professional hands on work experience (25 hours will be accepted in volunteer work)

·         Current CPR Certification, copy of current identification, sign to oppose human trafficking, Agree to the NCBTMB Code of Conduct, and agree to a criminal background check

Requirements for those seeking Certification for the first time:

·         Passing the Board Certification exam

·         Submit the above transition requirements after six months in practice

 

 

8. Please also address how far back the offer to grandfather people was extended, because I have heard from several massage therapists who let their certification expire years ago that they received an offer to be grandfathered, which definitely minimizes the value of this credential.

Whilst, I am not aware that there ever was a true grandfathering period, we did announce that those who were Nationally Certified would have the opportunity to recertify, or transition, to the new program without taking the new exam. All other criteria would still need to be met. Based on that, the transition time period would end 12/31/2016, since all renewals under the old four year renewal cycle will have concluded.

On a case-by-case basis, those whose certification had expired with NCBTMB in the last year were reviewed once all of their information was submitted. If all other criteria were met they could transition to Board Certification because they did not have the new Board Certification available to them.

Throughout the review process, NCBTMB was sensitive to the following past issues:

1.      In 2013, the grace period was changed to 90 days.  Formerly the grace period was three years after expiration.  Therapists that fell into this category and were not aware of the change, were reviewed and could recertify if they met all requirements.

2.      Experienced massage therapist that were disgruntled with NCBTMB in the past and who allowed their certification to expire, welcomed the new changes and wanted to be reinstated.  These cases also were individually reviewed and, if warranted, they could recertify if they met all requirements.

All reviews that resulted in a successful transition to Board Certification were made in the best interest of the certificants, the profession, the community, and in acknowledgement of past mistakes by NCBTMB.

9. I have long been questioning some of the classes that have been approved for NCBTMB that I and many others feel hurts the credibility of the NCBTMB. There are evidence-based practitioners who will not apply to be a provider because of their embarrassment at being associated with some of the classes that have been approved here. Do you share the sentiment that classes that are based on things that have been scientifically disproven, classes that are based on religion, and classes that are based on products that people just want to sell to the public are inappropriate, and if so, what is the NCBTMB going to do about that and when can we look forward to that happening?

This is a good example of a critique that is thoughtful and constructive. We agree that only qualified Approved Providers should be acceptable and we are actively engaged in ensuring this. My Blog on the ncbtmb.org website calls for experienced educators to form a think tank and from that I envision a collective wisdom, with recommendations, to emerge. I am delighted that you have agreed to participate in the think tank to address such issues with CE classes.

I can add that classes based on selling products specifically are inappropriate and do not qualify for CE credit. Our current course criteria can be viewed by going to: http://www.ncbtmb.org/continuing-education-course-criteria
It is my vision that, based on the considerations from the think tank, these will be reviewed and recommendations will be forthcoming.

10. This is your opportunity to say whatever you would like to say as the new Chair of the NCBTMB. Is there a message you would like to give?

As I have just taken over as Chair, my first 90 days will be spent taking stock and gathering support of colleagues like you who are passionate about the educational system of our profession and have authored books for educators. I would like to tap into that positive and constructive energy, to build on the foundations of the alumni of all of our constituents to be by my side and develop a think tank to learn from old mistakes and ensure that we develop a progressive and meaningful organization that continues the advancement of the profession.  Internal “navel-gazing” as well “external assistance seeking”, behavioral modification and reaching out to all stakeholders to work with us in a positive dialogue to find our rightful place in the profession are all priorities. These are some vital initial steps.

As it is still only the first month of my position as Chair, my priority is more about “listening” than speaking. I am still learning, evaluating, and I am inviting collaboration. 

Moving forward, we acknowledge that every organization that aims to be effective and strives to pioneer inevitably takes some missteps.  We acknowledge our mistakes and should we ever forget, we can count on you to remind us! That means we count. We have a role, and we matter.  Let’s take that energy and focus forward. I want us to collaborate and move forward together with positive, constructive dialogue. Trust that we are able to—and want to—learn from old mistakes.  I invite you and all other productive and passionate stakeholders to help us.  

Now, to the “listening”…my questions are:

  1. In what form, format, and media would certificants like to receive information regarding Board Certification?
  1. What would Approved Providers like to see as the approval process and how can that be realistically implemented?
  1. As a school owner/administrator how can NCBTMB create strong sustainable relationships, what do you need and want from us?
  1. To the entire community and profession at large what specialty board certifications do you want to attain and how do you see that curriculum or requirements being integrated together, give examples of courses, activities or other professional models?
  1. We have made some mistakes. We have had our ups, we have had our downs. What do we need to do to build support and collaboration of our constituents and professional stakeholder groups?

In conclusion, I’d appreciate constructive strategies and comments.  We will listen carefully.

Finally a quote from my ultimate mentor “……pilot takes off an airplane against the wind, not with it.……….. and the naval aviator lands despite the pitch and roll………

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.

NCBTMB Elections: Massaging the Rules, Part II

The NCBTMB sent out the following press release just a few minutes ago, signed by new Chair Leena Guptha:

My fellow Certificants,

As the Chair of NCBTMB, I would like to thank those community members and friends who asked legitimate questions about the Board nominations process. NCBTMB expeditiously and seriously looked into the issues regarding recent election candidates for the public member Board seat. Two nominees had been proposed for the soon to be vacant public member position. The NCBTMB Bylaws state, in relevant part, that:

A Director who is a public member shall not be a Certificant or a practitioner of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork within three (3) years of election, and shall have no material financial interest in the field of therapeutic massage and/or bodywork.

In the case of Susan Landers, due to her closeness to the profession in her role as a Continuing Education Health Coordinator overseeing several programs including a 780-hour massage therapy program, it appeared that Ms. Landers may not fully meet the criteria for public member. Ms. Landers gracefully offered to withdraw her candidacy and NCBTMB accepted her withdrawal.

In the case of Dr. Stuart Watts, NCBTMB determined that
Dr. Watts:
a) does not hold a certification in massage therapy and bodywork
b) has not practiced in the field of massage therapy and bodywork for the past 10 years and remains retired from Oriental Bodywork
c) has no material financial interest in the field of therapeutic massage and or bodywork

As a result, NCBTMB confirms that Dr. Stuart Watts complies with NCBTMB’s Bylaws and therefore, remains as the only nominee for the public member Board seat.

Yours respectfully,
Dr. Leena Guptha
BCTMB

I’m calling BS on this one, people. As I said in last week’s post, I do not personally know Watts or have anything bad to say about him, other than my opinion that he is inappropriate as a candidate for public member (I do still maintain that he would be totally suitable if he were put forth as a candidate for therapist member). This response is just as inappropriate as his candidacy.

Watts is the current treasurer (and has served in that position for 16 years) of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia. My research shows that it is an unpaid volunteer position, so he personally is not receiving money to do that, but I would classify being a treasurer of a national organization as having a financial interest.

Although the NCBTMB is stating that he is not currently certified in massage therapy or bodywork, that’s a crock. According to the AOBTA website, he is currently certified as a practitioner and an instructor of Shiatsu, which is clearly a form of Asian bodywork. Although his massage license is expired in New Mexico, his Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine license was just renewed in June 2013. That does not seem to indicate retirement.

I know for a fact that the NCBTMB has received a number of communications about this, including some from their own former Board members who have voiced their concern.

According to the current NCBTMB By-Laws, as published on the NCBTMB website, a Public member is not to be a practitioner of Massage Therapy and/or Bodywork.  In the past, any practitioner of Bodywork, including Oriental medicine, would have prohibited Mr. Watts from serving on the Board in the role of Public member.Those bylaws have not changed. They are merely being ignored to suit the organization.

Susan Landers, the only other public member candidate, was in fact deemed to be inappropriate due to her status as a current CE coordinator in a massage program, and voluntarily removed herself from the ballot. I suggest that this entire election should be redone. I also suggest that if it isn’t, it’s a case of ignoring their own bylaws, and one more nail in the coffin they seem to be hellbent on building for themselves.

To the NCBTMB Board of Directors, including newly seated Chair Dr. Leena Guptha, the election committee, and Executive Director Steve Kirin, I am calling on you to make this right. There is nothing wrong in saying “we screwed up.” There is EVERYTHING wrong in denying that you have screwed up and letting a big mistake like this stand. Any decision by your Board, once he is seated, could be subject to challenge. I don’t think this organization can stand too many more challenges, quite frankly.

NCBTMB Elections: Massaging the Rules?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


An Interview with Steve Kirin, New CEO of NCBTMB

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kirin, the new CEO of the NCBTMB. This is the interview I did with him. 

1. You were just appointed CEO in May, but you’ve been on board for a year and a half. What do you see as the major challenges facing the NCBTMB at this time?

·        I believe there are several key challenges.

o   I feel the primary challenge that we continue to face at NCBTMB is defining and communicating the importance of certification.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with hundreds of dedicated therapists during the past year and a half, and believe the profession deserves and needs a credential that symbolizes a commitment to the highest standard of education and practice within the profession of massage therapy.

o   We have rolled out an entirely new suite of products and services over the past 18 months; ensuring that our constituents understand those products and find them valuable in advancing their own professional credentials is essential as well.

o   NCBTMB means different things—good and bad—to different people.  I am committed to defining NCBTMB in a singular way—as the organization committed to providing a pathway for those who value excellence.  Our new programs—which were rolled out and not just promised—are designed to do just that.

·        We are fortunate to not have significant directional challenges as are sometimes evident in CEO transitions.  Fortunately, Mike and I worked closely together in crafting our direction and our programs.  Our customers and those with whom we do business should expect a consistent direction from NCBTMB.

2. What kind of progress have you seen since coming into the organization?

·        “Listening to the Profession” is without question the one progressive change in philosophy that I am most proud of since joining NCBTMB.  Through the development of our social media platform, Quarterly CEO Webinar (coming soon) just to mention a few of the new initiatives, we will continue to demonstrate our desire to listen to the profession.

·        There was a great deal of market confusion between licensing and certification.  By separating our certification product, we have put real value behind the certification credential.  Further, we have had the opportunity to totally recraft every point of interaction between the profession and NCBTMB.  Now our programs not only raise the standard across the profession but give our certificants a means to differentiate themselves to their customers.  I am thrilled with this change in programs and look forward to rolling out further enhancements over the next year.

3. What do you have to say about the mass protest that happened over the revised CE/AP rules?

·        I personally would never refer to it as a mass protest.  I call it feedback. When you make a commitment to listen to the profession and ask for honest feedback, you need to embrace the feedback you receive.  AP/CE was a great example of how we listened and adjusted the program based on the feedback.

4. I notice that the AP/CE page has not had an update since February. Has any progress been made towards another revision of that program?

·        The board approved the final draft of the program at our June Board meeting and we will begin to rollout the program shortly.  The applications are being finalized and as soon as that process is complete we will add all of the information to the website. Before we launch the new program, November 1, 2013, NCB will send eBlast to all of the CE Providers across the country explaining the changes and guidelines of the new process.

5. I’d like to state that the NCB’s policy of approving classes as long as they can show “lineage” is a huge cause of distress to science-based and evidence-informed practitioners. When the classes that are being approved directly contradict the laws of physics and are based on claims that are totally false, why are those classes still being approved?   

·        We are not approving classes as long as they can show lineage but rather we are asking for a historical perspective as to the origin of the modality.  Courses that can be found within the lineage of massage refer to information that has been passed forward through history.  We are here to do a detailed review but we have no right to say that something is or is not “real” in the holistic profession. Regulations and information gathering in this profession is in its infancy and as anyone who has done research about different modalities within the holistic profession has found, there is much room for research in the future. This is where getting public feedback will play an integral part as to whether a class is successful and useful to a practitioner and their clients.

·         Philosophy and Medicine are very similar in that there are theories and practices that work and it is not known why but they are still part of the practice of medicine.  Trying to get all of massage CE around evidence based studies would do no justice to the profession.

6.  How is the new Board Certification going? How many people have earned it so far? How many have actually had to take the exam and how many have been “grandfathered”?

·        I am very pleased with the progress of our board certification. Since the initial rollout of the new credential, our current Nationally Certified Therapists have been affected the most.  I am proud to say that, through the relentless effort of our Customer Service team, every conversion to Board Certification was successfully handled on a case by case basis.  The overall success of the program cannot be measured over months but rather over the next few years.  A major part of the success will come from the continued effort to communicate the importance of certification.

7. What would you say to convince massage therapists that they should seek the new Certification?

·        NCBTMB is committed to developing a platform and a series of programs for those who strive to differentiate themselves in this profession.  From our school programs to our continuing education and exam programs and our ethics and standards reviews, NCBTMB is committed to excellence at every point of interaction with the profession. The profession needs a higher credential comparable to other professions and industries.  The foundation of any certification comes from self-pride.  Wanting to be the best.   And we intend to roll out further enhancements to our offerings that will further allow our certificants the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.  I look forward to our certificants realizing the value of their credential that our direction will allow.

8. Why did the NCBTMB drop the Ethics requirement from renewals?

·        There were several factors involved in the decision to drop the Ethics requirement.

o   First there was the reduction from a 4 year recertification (48 CE Hours) to a 2 year recertification (24 CE Hours).   If 3 of the 24 hours are required for ethics and an additional 3 were now required for research, it would only allow 18 hours for professional development.

o   Additionally, since the States currently uphold an ethics requirement, we did not want to duplicate efforts.  Based on these reason and others, it was decided to drop the Ethics requirement.

·        Based on feedback from the profession,  I am happy to say that our Board has decided to add two topics to the agenda for discussion and eventual vote at the Board meeting this Monday, July 22nd:

o   Reinstatement of the Ethics requirements (Note from Laura: it was reported by Sue Toscano, NCBTMB President, at the AFMTE meeting that it has been reinstanted.)

o   The elimination of the recertification restriction on courses that contain less than 2 CE hours

9. Have you studied the past history of the NCB and familiarized yourself with some of the previous mistakes that have happened there—in the interest of not repeating any of them?

·        It is always easy to judge people’s success from the outside; each of our CEOs has had unique challenges to address during their tenure.  I will say that I am committed to continuing to develop programs that raise the standards of the profession and give interested therapists, instructors and schools ways to differentiate themselves from those not seeking higher credentials.

10. What do you want to say to people who have experienced long wait times for a response, conflicting information from staff members, lack of returning phone calls etc? Is it a priority of yours to improve the customer service at the NCB?

·        This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  My background has always placed a high importance on Customer Service.  In regards to the challenges that surrounded the announcement of all the changes to NCB, no one was happy with the long wait times and confusing information that followed.  We reacted quickly to the high volumes and instructed the staff that every single caller must receive the highest level of customer service possible.  I was very proud of our customer service team.  The volumes have since subsided and Customer Service will continue to be a top priority for me moving forward.

11. Are you personally a consumer of massage?

·        I am very proud to say that “Yes” I am a consumer of massage.  Throughout my life, I have grown to appreciate the medicinal benefits of massage through my many years of participation in high level competitive sports.

Anything else you’d like to say?

·        I am thrilled to be in this position and to have the opportunity to continue the path of excellence that we have blazed over the past eighteen months.  I had significant involvement in developing our current direction and intend to continue on that path as we move forward.

·        At NCBTMB we are striving to improve our credential and provide a more meaningful career path for all therapists.  It is important to us to make it known to the public that there is a higher credential and what it stands for within the massage therapy profession.  I know that, currently, therapists do not always feel the credential is necessary, after all it is voluntary.   I look at it in a completely different way.  The Board Certification credential is truly how you can set yourself apart from others who choose not to hold the certification.  As I mentioned earlier, the foundation of any certification is built on self-pride.  Challenging yourself to achieve the highest credential available within your profession, gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you hold yourself up to the highest standards possible.   I look forward to continuing to grow NCB, WITH the profession and I look forward to our new offerings that will further allow our certificants to differentiate themselves.

ELAP First Draft and Call for Comments Released

The first draft of the ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project) has finally been released. It’s been more than a year since I first blogged about it.

This research project proposal was introduced by ABMP and has come full circle from the first statements put out about it, which put me out quite a bit. The initial proposal stated: There is no step in this proposal to obtain input from the broader massage profession or from other health-care or bodywork organizations during this project. The reason is simple—the work group is simply performing a work task in writing learning outcomes and objectives for job tasks defined by surveys already conducted by FSMTB and NCBTMB. It doesn’t matter what stakeholders, or other groups think should be taught or shouldn’t be taught. The work group would be responding to what therapists report they do, on a day-to-day basis, in their massage-related environments as part of their jobs.

They had to back up and punt on that. The ELAP website now contains the following statements clarifying the purpose and scope of the project:

The Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP) is a research project that defines the minimum number of training hours necessary to acquire knowledge and skills essential for safe and competent practice as an entry-level massage therapist. The project was initiated through conversations between the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, American Massage Therapy Association, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the Massage Therapy Foundation, and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

ELAP aims to obtain and use research data and analysis of findings from other massage profession projects to inform the creation of an entry-level curriculum map. The map will define the essential elements of an entry-level curriculum necessary for safe and competent practice in a massage career, as well as the number of hours deemed necessary to teach these learning objectives and outcomes. The project outputs will be used to inform the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) Model Practice Act designed to promote interstate portability of credentials in the massage profession. The recommendations of the ELAP project will be available to the massage profession as a resource to enhance consistency of entry-level curricula in massage and bodywork training programs.

The ELAP website now contains five webinars explaining the various facets of the project, and numerous surveys to complete. You do not have to complete all of them; the option is to pick and choose those areas that interest you the most.

I urge everyone to give feedback. It happens too often in our field that there is either no opportunity to give feedback, or the opportunity is presented and ignored….the MTBOK (Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge) was a prime example of that. Only a smattering of people responded to that, and then it came under all kinds of criticism when it was released. If you don’t take the opportunity to express your opinion, then don’t gripe when it comes out and you don’t like it. Visit the website and take advantage of your opportunity to participate.