I just got home from doing a site review from COMTA. It was my third trip as a peer reviewer, and once again, an enlightening experience. COMTA is the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation. Gaining accreditation is a strictly voluntary process. It’s estimated that there are about 1500 massage schools/programs in the US, and less than 100 of them possess the accreditation. Obtaining COMTA accreditation for a massage school is not cheap, and it’s a lot of hard work, so you might wonder why a school would do it. After getting acquainted with all the ins and outs of it, the answer, to me, is that it’s a hallmark of excellence. It’s a way to say “We’re going beyond what the state requires to prove that we have a superior school.”
Part of the accreditation process is a very thorough self-study report. Schools must review their policies, their procedures, the way they conduct business, the education they provide. If it’s not documented, it doesn’t exist. As a peer reviewer, my job is to study their documentation before getting to the site, and then doing an actual visit to the school. Every syllabus, every lesson plan, every piece of documentation related to their educational process and their business proceedings is reviewed. The curriculum needs to fall in line with the mission statement. The education offered must match the learning objectives that are stated. When the reviewers show up for the site visit, we basically review every piece of documentation they claim to have, to make sure it actually exists and to make sure it does what it claims to be doing.
The accreditation doesn’t just earn a nice label for the school. It provides a measure of protection to the student, as well. It assures that the school has definite policies on qualifications for insuring the competency of instructors, absenteeism, grading, following a carefully thought-out lesson plan, and much more. It assures that financial aid is being administered correctly and that student finances are carefully documented. It assures that their are policies on sexual harassment, and that instructors have to continually improve themselves with technical training and continuing education.
A COMTA school can’t rest on their laurels. It’s an ongoing process of maintaining the standards, and regular review. A school that is poorly managed isn’t going to cut the mustard. It’s safe to say there aren’t any diploma mills or haphazardly run schools among the ranks.
COMTA standards are on the organization’s website. Anyone can access them. I challenge every single school owner in the country to review them one at a time, and see how your school stacks up. Take the leap and apply for accreditation. When we review your documentation and show up for a site visit, we’re not there to thump you on the head for any shortcomings; we’re there to help you come into compliance with the highest standards in the massage profession.
COMTA is also always seeking competent peer reviewers. The training to be a reviewer is also available on the website. Visit www.comta.org, and come to COMTA.