NCBTMB Revokes/Suspends Diploma Mills

For over a year now, the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork has been working quietly behind the scenes to eradicate massage schools—or rather, diploma mills—that have been handing out fraudulent transcripts and diplomas, lacking any operating authority, and committing a host of other ethics violations. Since June of 2009, 11 schools have had their school code suspended, three have been revoked, and one school voluntarily withdrew their code after being notified that they were suspended.

To clarify the meaning of these actions, a school must have an assigned code in order for their students to sit for an examination offered by the NCBTMB. 39 states currently accept those exams, and they are often utilized by therapists in unregulated states who want to set themselves apart as professionals. No school code means no students from those schools will be able to take the NCB exams. California, where this investigation was concentrated, currently has voluntary registration for massage therapists, and is in fact in the middle of further turmoil because of AB 1822, a proposed massage bill that treats therapists little better than prostitutes. Even though the investigation and subsequently revoked and suspended schools are located in California, the implications are far-reaching, including my state of North Carolina.

Our Board noticed months ago that a high number of applicants for licensure were coming out of two schools in particular, one in California (the East-West School, which has had their code suspended pending further investigation) and one in New York. The applicants first attracted attention because they have all had the same address. In one instance in North Carolina, an applicant from one of the suspect schools was denied a license based on his criminal record. When he appeared to appeal that decision, we discovered he could speak no English. His daughter translated for him, and stated that they had immigrated to America based on the promise that they could go to massage school, get out quickly, and start making a lot of money. I actually feel sorry for these people, because the unscrupulous schools are just taking advantage of people who don’t know any better. It’s a sad situation for the students who paid money in good faith that they were going to get a real education in massage therapy.

While the NCBTMB has in the past revoked certification of individuals found guilty of ethics violations, this is their first widespread effort to put a stop to schools operating in an unethical manner.

Paul Lindamood, CEO of the NCB, gave me the following statement about the NCBTMB’s school compliance program:

NCBTMB is in a unique position with its vantage point on massage in America. Because we monitor, approve or exchange critical data at many touch points of the profession, we are at the nexus of a great deal of information flowing to and from our certification specialists. This gives us the ability to get an overall snapshot of the profession in specific areas relevant to schools, students, educational methods, curriculum, test dynamics, metrics, practitioner activity, etc.

About a year ago, members of our school outreach, compliance, eligibility and ethics departments identified the emergence of some alarming developments when overlaying and studying school data. Specifically, we began to spot ways in which individual schools were giving the appearance of impropriety through inconsistent and unreliable data, irregularities or shortfalls in curriculum standards, falsification of application information and the appearance of fraudulent activities sufficient to cast doubt on the legitimacy of these schools or institutions.

With this knowledge, NCBTMB board and staff recognized the need to immediately create a standardized, legally sound process that would allow us to identify, investigate, sanction or revoke suspected schools that could not pass muster, and thereby prohibit them from being able to have their graduates test via National Certification Exams. The program was developed and received board approval at the beginning of this year. Since then, school investigations have been ongoing via our compliance and ethics departments, and sanctions and revocations have been issued and communicated to the schools, state boards and pertinent law enforcement.

In addition, in the states and surrounding regions where these schools exist, we have made authorities aware of school code suspensions as well. This includes local law enforcement, regulatory agencies, state massage boards and attorneys general. Currently, we are working closely with law enforcement officials and state board representatives on investigations in several states, sharing both intelligence and resources.

As an important adjunct, NCBTMB is also supporting the Polaris Project, one of the largest organizations combating human trafficking in the United States and Japan. The non-profit group also works with
victims, providing outreach, social services and transitional housing.

How all massage professionals can help

NCBTMB would like everyone in the massage therapy community to join together with the goal of identifying schools, organizations or individuals that endanger the safety of the public and the reputation of our profession. If you observe or are aware of any suspicious activities or unethical behavior connected to the profession of massage therapy, please contact your state board or other applicable agency. Or you may contact Lauren Dziuban, NCBTMB Director of Ethics & Discipline, at (630) 652-0469 or or Paul Lindamood, CEO, at (630) 652-0456 or We will provide guidance or convey information to the proper authorities. In cases that affect NCBTMB and its programs, we will authenticate reports of impropriety and investigate as appropriate, whether school, institution, approved provider or certificant related.

This important initiative on the part of the NCBTMB is for the highest good of the profession. Not only has it cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to investigate these schools, it also impacts the National Board in lost revenue from the people who would have taken their exams. It’s obvious that they have decided to put ethics ahead of income, and I applaud that.
No one has been a more vocal critic of the NCBTMB in the past than I have, and I  told their leadership long ago that when there was any good news to report, I would report it. I’m very pleased to see this organization getting their act back together, and once again, I am proud to say I’m Nationally Certified, just like I was when I first started out in the massage profession. Kudos to them for recognizing the things that had gone wrong, and making an effort to correct them.

15 thoughts on “NCBTMB Revokes/Suspends Diploma Mills

  1. Pingback: NCBTMB Revokes/Suspends Diploma Mills | WIBB

  2. Gloria Coppola

    Thanks Laura for reporting!

    Yeah NCBTMB for taking action !

    It is awful to think people actually do things like this. I had no idea. I guess I don’t think unethically.

    Thanks for the update!

    It is wonderful to know they are watching out for these types of problems. Our industry has suffered enough problems with credability – we don’t need more.

  3. Rosemarie Rotenberger

    Thank you Laura and the NCTMB.

    This does bring certain other realities in the (entry level) massage education, though. Having recently resigned from such a position where instructor education rarely, if ever, matches the subject matter taught.

    There is little doubt where my feelings on continuing education stand. Educators absent the proper ed and exp with any subject matter, in my opinion, are stealing thousands of dollars from ligitimate massage therapy students. Education for profit is rampent; a student in the classroom = $ in a pocket mentality, a numbers game that not only steals from students, but the profession as a whole.

    The NCB is in such a position to set instructor criteria for the approved schools, therefore remedy several issues in one effort. Honestly, the faculty of an approved schoool do not even need to be Nat’l Cert’d.

    I know, time and money….but also food for thought.

  4. Cheryl Baisley

    I’m just wondering why the State Boards weren’t getting involved in this prior to the NCBTMB bringing it to their attention? I find it hard to believe that none of these so-called “schools” were reported to the Boards. I guess we’ll find out more information as time goes on.

  5. Joy Ariana

    It’s about time. I was beginning to lose hope in regards to the ethical standards of the regulating boards practicing the ethics that they themselves require of the profession.

  6. Laura Allen

    Here is the list:

    Acupuncture and Massage Institute of America, 3 locations (LA, Arcadia and Hacienda Heights/Rosemead) all suspended.

    American International Vocational College, Monterey Park, suspended.

    America’s Institute of Traditional Medicine, Rosemead, suspended.

    Andrew Health, Pasadena, suspended.

    East-West Institute of Hand Therapy, El Monte, suspended.

    Oriental Medicine Institute of America, San Gabriel, suspended.

    Royal Irvin College, Monterey Park, revoked.

    Select Therapy Institute, Rosemead, revoked.

    Tammy Beauty Academy, Stanton, suspended.

    UBC El Monte, El Monte, revoked–voluntarily withdrew their code after learning they were suspended.

    United States Alternative College, Santa Ana, suspended.

    Yunique Wellness, El Monte, suspended.

    And in New York, Wall Street Institute, revoked.

  7. Tom Benson

    After looking at the list of schools that have been sited ,I must say that one of the problems is that California is still not a statewide licensure state. If this issue can be addressed and a minimum education requirement of successful NCE passing /or proof of proper education that pre-dates the NCE( for folks such as me that predate the NCBTMB)

    On a second note there must be accomodation for those who have been successfully teaching subjects at or above minimum standards for years to be able to continue doing so.
    Keeping the standards high is the very minimum we as a profession can do.

  8. Karen Zaharatos

    Anyone who lives in a state that massage is licensed and attends massage board meetings knows that licensing is not the answer but a cash cow for the state. Certification is the way to go to police our own profession and the NCBTMB has gone through all possible growing pains in the last ten years. They are finally on track to keep the massage profession legit and professional. I look forward to the next step in the advanced massage certification program to protect our own profession.

    By giving state boards the authority does nothing for the profession because they have nothing vested in the massage profession but all the money to gain and a heck of allot of good paying state jobs. (Find out how much money the Dept. of Health took from the Florida massage budget last renewal period legislated by law.) By having the NCBTMB in central control would be able to communicate nationally instead of being fractionated by state’s authority. I think the Federated organization took much time, money and energy away from the profession because they just offer a test and give nothing back to the profession at the present time. It was through deal making with state boards. What is the Federated organization doing with all the money?

    I love my profession and want massage therapists to be able to learn a viable income with benefits. The NCBTMB is in a great position to not only protect the public but to educate the public and protect the massage profession as well.

  9. Lisa Mertz, PhD, LMT

    I was taken aback to find a school in NY on this list b/c the NCB has no jurisdiction in this state in the first place so where do they get off revoking a school that’s operating illegally? Why did they give this school any recognition or certification that needs to be revoked? The NCB seems like they’re being self-congratulatory about policing these schools, but who’s overseeing the NCB to keep them out of schools/states where they have no business? I’m frankly appalled that the NCB would be so uninformed about NY State education law.

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  11. Thomas Jefferson

    >”When he appeared to appeal that decision, we discovered he could speak no English.”<

    What exactly does that have to do with his massage skills, or lack thereof?
    They were practicing massage in China 5000 years before the English language was created. Suddenly, after centuries of ridiculing it, English speakers discover the benefits of massage therapy, and 20 – 30 years later they act like they invented it, patented it, and assume authority over who (what race) can practice it. It's likely that immigrant could teach all of you a thing or two about massage therapy.

    As an American citizen, I object to an unelected, private organization (even one that doesn't have a historical record of incompetence) dictating their edicts to the people of this country.

    As a knowledgeable consumer of massage services worldwide, I want to tell you all that your certifications mean less than nothing to me. I've been to several "establishment" (white) massage providers in the US, and they all suck by comparison to Asian practitioners. You are a bad imitation of a healing method that's been around 5,000 years. A method your foolish ancestors considered witchcraft. The McDonald's & Burger King's of massage. They are the real deal. That's how I see it, and that's how they see it in most of the world.

    This isn't about protecting the public. It's about a profit driven trade organization setting up legislative barriers to prevent competition. The simple truth is that you cant compete on a level playing field. You rely on the stupidity of the American public. Most will never know that in the massage industry, "unqualified" does not mean incapable. It simply means unable to overcome discriminatory, bureaucratic barriers that have nothing to do with massage, and everything to do with control.

    As an American citizen, I reject you tyrants with your unelected organization attempting to govern over these people's life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.


  12. Administrator Post author

    The issue, Thomas Jefferson, is that because he could speak no English, he could not conduct an intake interview to ascertain whether or not a person had contraindications for massage. When he was asked to demonstrate how he would interview a new client, he stated “60 minutes, 60 dollars.” That doesn’t work for me, nor should it work for the safety of the public.

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