My Organization is Better Than Your Organization

The massage profession has a plethora of organizations these days.

AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) is a non-profit organization that has some executive staff at the top, a board elected by the members, and a hearty band of tireless volunteers that keep the wheels turning. AMTA has about 57,000 members.

ABMP (Associated Massage & Bodywork Professionals) is a for-profit concern, and frankly I’m just sick and tired of hearing that fact stated as a criticism. What is inherently wrong with making a profit? I want to make one in my massage therapy practice, don’t you? ABMP has around 77,000 members.

The NCBTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) , for 17 years, was virtually the exclusive provider of certification exams that were used for licensing in many states, and the approval body for continuing education providers. A few states had/have their own exam. About 90,000 massage therapists are nationally certified. The NCBTMB also has a board elected by their certificants.

Then along came the FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) with the MBLEx test as a route to licensure, which many of the 40 or so member states have adopted. The Federation also recently announced plans to get into the business of approving continuing education, and they are creating a model practice act. They also have a board, which their state delegates elect.

The new kid on the block is the AFMTE (Alliance for Massage Therapy Education), which aims to advance the quality of education and develop a model of teacher standards. The Alliance has announced that they would be collaborating with the FSMTB on the continuing education project. They still have their first board seated; that’s how new they are.

We’ve also got COMTA (Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation) in the business of giving accreditation to schools and programs who meet their standards of excellence. Getting COMTA approval is voluntary, expensive and time-consuming. There are only 100 or so that have earned it.

The majority of states now regulate massage, some by their own self-supporting massage board, some lumped in with nursing boards or other health boards. I am often asked by therapists what their state board does for them. Other than issuing their license and in some states licensing schools, the answer is not much. A public board serves the purpose of public protection. Some do a better job than others. State board members are appointed by politicians. The average board is usually composed of a few dedicated people, often includes one or two clueless slackers, and a rebel redneck like me. I’m sure my board is glad I’m at the end of my service. My blog makes them nervous.

I’m a member of both AMTA and ABMP. I’m a member of FSMTB by virtue of my seat on the North Carolina Board, which I will be vacating later this month after five years. I have been a past delegate to the Federation. I am a founding member of the AFMTE. I’ve been nationally certified for over ten years, and an approved CE provider under the NCBTMB as well. I am soon to go on my first site visit for COMTA. I attended their reviewer training after I wrote a few derogatory blogs about them and they invited me to attend. Positive change usually happens from within, doesn’t it?

I have a stake in all these organizations so I’ll pat them on the back when I think they deserve it, and I don’t mind calling them out when I think they deserve it. I have the same attitude with them that I have with other massage therapists who act competitive instead of collegial. This isn’t a contest. If one organization has to fail in order for another to succeed, that’s just a big shame as far as I’m concerned. When one organization slams another and presents half-truths and posturing, it starts to look like a playground fight–better call that a turf war, I guess–and it’s not attractive in the least.

None of these organizations would exist without their constituents–the massage therapists. And none of them can represent all of the people all of the time. They’ve all made moves that didn’t suit me at one time or another, and what ticked me off may have made other MTs perfectly happy, or vice versa. And the therapist who isn’t represented by any of them probably couldn’t care less what they do or how they act. In fact, many of their own members couldn’t care less what they do or how they act. When it comes to the professional associations, many therapists just join for the insurance and have no interest in the political fray at all–until something detrimental happens that affects their license or access to education.

If you don’t like a piece of proposed legislation, contact your legislators to tell them. And if you don’t like the direction your professional organization is taking, contact them to tell them. Get yourself in there as a board member or volunteer and change it from within. Cancel your membership, or switch organizations.  Money still talks. It’s akin to voting…if you don’t exercise that right, then don’t gripe about the outcome. Go to your state board’s meeting and sign up for public comment. You have a voice. It’s only effective if you use it.

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