Report from the AFMTE 2013 Annual Meeting

I just returned from attending the fourth annual meeting of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, held this year in St. Charles, MO. I’m a founding member of this organization, and once again, it was a fabulous event. I would have to say that this was the best one in the history of the organization. Kudos to Nancy Dail and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, who spent the last year organizing the event, along with the other board members–all volunteers, I might add. This is the kind of thing that can’t be pulled off by just one person. Many people worked behind the scenes to make it happen.

I arrived on Wednesday night in time to visit with Ryan Hoyme (aka the MassageNerd), Greg Hurd, Allissa Haines, and Ralph Stephens. The Embassy Suites puts on a heck of a nice free happy hour, as well as a nice breakfast, and their staff was very efficient and attentive to our group. The meeting kicked off Thursday morning, and the next two days were filled with informative keynote speakers, great classes for educators, and plenty of visiting with friends, old and new.

During the annual reports, President Pete Whitridge reported that the organization now has over 300 members. About half were in attendance, and the rest missed out on a great time! Treasurer Sue Bibik reported that the organization is debt-free, which is quite an accomplishment since the Alliance is less than five years old.

Whitney Lowe’s keynote, Developing the 21st Century Teacher, really hit the nail on the head with the need to utilize technology and advance our own skills as educators. He is always a dynamic speaker. I had a visit with Jan Schwartz, who along with Whitney is one of the educators behind Education Training Solutions. Thursday evening, I missed the opening reception in order to go speak to Bloom, a networking group of massage therapists in St. Louis. The founder, Sara Newberry, took me out to a fabulous dinner at a rustic Mexican restaurant before the meeting, which was attended by about a dozen MTs. I really enjoyed my time with them.

Friday morning, Dr. Janet Kahn presented Massage in the Age of Healthcare Transformation: Our Opportunities and Responsibilities. Kahn has the inside track on the Affordable Care Act and how that stands to affect integrative health practitioners. After Kahn’s presentation, I ran into AMTA President Winona Bontrager, who assured me that AMTA was indeed going to take some action to support massage therapists as participants in the ACA, a move that she had just a few moments to explain during a panel presentation from the leadership of all 7 national massage organizations. She stated that they would be unveiling that very soon. It was very gratifying to me to see Karen Armstrong, VP of the FSMTB,  Sue Toscano, President of the NCBTMB, Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP, Winona Bontrager, President of AMTA, Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation, and Kate Zulaski, Executive Director of COMTA, on the dais together. Later that afternoon, Kate and Dr. Tony Mirando of NACCAS, presented together on Coming to Agreement on Core Curriculum–another warm and fuzzy moment since these two organizations are competitors. It was a great presentation.

Friday was also the day for memorial tributes to our colleagues who have departed this life in the past year. One of the highlights of my trip was the tribute to Bob King, who just passed a couple of weeks ago. I joined David Lauterstein, one of the Educators of the Year and a primo guitarist, and Cherie Sohnen-Moe onstage to offer Bob a little musical tribute. Bob was a fan of “Blind Al” Wilson of Canned Heat, so I played a little harp and Cherie and I provided the backup vocals while David played and sang Canned Heat’s song, “On the Road Again.” I hope someone got a video of that!

Friday night, I attended the ELAP meeting facilitated by Anne Williams of ABMP and Cynthia Ribeiro, Immediate Past President of AMTA. Both of these ladies have a passion for education, and I acknowledge that wholeheartedly even though I have had plenty of concerns about the ELAP. About 20 or so of us piled into the room to hear about the ELAP and to get our questions answered. I was amused to see that their Power Point presentation referred to “angry bloggers,” and I assume that meant me and Sandy Fritz…we’ve both stirred the pot on that front, but in the end, I hope that some good information comes out of this. It was quite momentous in any case to hear that AMTA and ABMP, the two largest competing organizations in massage therapy, have shared some of their top-secret data with each other in the interest of the common good in order to facilitate this project.

Saturday, I attended the NCB CE Provider Update presented by Sue Toscano and Donna Sarvello of the NCBTMB. Their presentation was peppered with questions from the crowd regarding the new Board Certification and the (yet-again) revised version of the Approved Provider CE program. which they stated would be rolled out on November 1. I seized the opportunity to give them an earful about all the pseudo-science classes they have approved for CE, and also to inquire about how many people have earned the new Board Certification. The answer was over 1200, and that almost all of those have been grandfathered in from the ranks of those who were already Nationally Certified and met the new criteria. I gathered that it has been a very small number that have actually taken the new Board Certification exam. Toscano’s explanation was that due to the fact that the new exam just rolled out in January, and requires that people have 250 hours of work experience within six months (among other things), that newer graduates are just now starting to take it.

We also had our annual Author’s meet and greet organized by the lovely Nancy Dail–there were more than 20 textbook authors present.

Other highlights for me were having my blog and Sandy Fritz’s blog recognized for driving a lot of traffic to the AFMTE website, finally meeting longtime FB friend Emmanuel Bistas, and spending a few moments with Sandy Fritz, Bob Jantz, Gabriela Sonam, Benjamin McDonald, Sally Hacking, Allissa Haines and Greg Hurd, Stephanie and Brian Beck, and many more. Saturday morning I had breakfast with educator and author Elaine Stillerman, whom I had never met, and she is a ball of energy in spite of her recent back surgery. My plane was delayed both coming and going, and I visited with Linda Beach while we were waiting an inordinate amount of time to depart–actually got on the plane and then had to get back off an hour later. I had a little nap in the St Louis airport and woke up to find I was about to fall over on Dr. Janet Kahn–I hope I wasn’t snoring and drooling–and chatted with her for about an hour.

Every annual meeting of the AFMTE seems to get better and better. I urge all educators to join this organization and to PARTICIPATE. They have recently started a Human Energy Bank, so that those people who may not have time to take on a full-time volunteer position can volunteer to handle a specific task. There are many other benefits to belonging, which are detailed on the AFMTE website. As a founding member, I feel like I have definitely gotten my money’s worth every year. We are also looking for industry partners to join us. This is THE organization for schools, school educators, and CE providers. We’re doing more than just holding a meeting. The Alliance provides a comprehensive range of services to this community, and represents their interests in all domains. This advocacy comes into play in dealing with regulatory issues, accreditation, standard-setting initiatives such as the Alliance’s National Teacher Education Standards Project, as well as ongoing efforts to get massage therapy better recognized by and integrated into the health care delivery system. As Jan Schwartz said during one of our previous annual meetings, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Janet Kahn, during her presentation, said “you’re in the door, or in the dust.” Don’t be left out.

14 Replies to “Report from the AFMTE 2013 Annual Meeting”

  1. Thanks for your summary of a fantastic event so soon after returning home! It was my first AFMTE conference and it certainly won’t be my last! I was so impressed by the quality of speakers, classes, attendees & of course, food. Thanks also for hanging out with me at the airport on our long delay!

  2. I also thank the other conference committee members: Mark Beck, Deb Luhrs, Gloria Lawrence and Emily Nelson. Emily was unable to join us this year. I will send her the link to your post.

  3. The biggest highlight for me was the panel discussion with all the major organizations present talking, in part, about how they are working together to advance the profession. It dawned on me that there are a heck of a lot of people working very hard to advance the profession, and there are a heck of a lot more benefiting from their hard work. Oh, and loved all the signing 🙂

  4. What exactly are we advancing massage therapy towards? What about those that do not wish to be considered health care providers or contribute to unnecessary legislation? All this does is make sure that only those who can afford to are granted the “privilege” of being massage therapists. There is no evidence that more hours equals a better teacher or therapist. Stop perpetuating disinformation and ruining massage by trying to make it something it is not!
    We are not doctors. And lord help us if we need to start dealing with insurance companies that will further the demise of our profession.

  5. Hi Katie,
    Dr. Janet Kahn gave a great presentation at the AFMTE conference. One of her key points was:

    Walking through the doorways of opportunity in order to take advantage of the rapidly approaching changes in health care will necessitate that massage therapists link arms and move forward together, Kahn said, which could be a challenge to the profession.

    “We get in each others’ way as a profession,” she said. For example, “There are people really concerned [about working in the health care system], they don’t want to take insurance and have someone 20 miles away … tell them how many sessions they can do [on a client], and so they’re going to say we shouldn’t go there.

    “I want to say, you shouldn’t go there if you don’t want to deal with those problems—[but] if you don’t want to do that, let’s figure out a way you don’t have to and I still can,” she added.

    Great point. Our profession is vast and has many levels of interest. I believe we each have a place and many gifts to offer. I would hope that we could support each other as a profession and not feel threatened by others wanting to take a different path.

  6. Katie, the fact that you personally do not agree with those who want to advance massage into mainstream health care, or those who want to raise standards for education, does not make what I have shared “disinformation.” No one is going to be forced to accept insurance or to participate in ACA that doesn’t want to. AMTA has surveyed their members and found that opinion is split 50/50 between therapists who want participate in insurance filing and those that don’t.

  7. I am a 17 year MT. While I applaud the efforts of the industry to maintain and hopefully, elevate us to a more solid professional level, I look at the reality of education in 2013.

    I feel I have a alot to offer based upon my experience, skill, and knowledge. I looked into becoming an instructor at local massage therapy schools in my city. I found that most require a minimum of 3 years experience and the average pay of $20 per hour. Talking to an MT friend who applied for one of these positions was told that the per hour rate only applied to classroom hours only. Uh, no thanks.

    I work in a large, high volume spa part time, and I have private work part time.
    I earn more money per hour in both situations. Why would I want to put in all that time, effort and energy for crap pay? Seriously? With the amount of tuition for a current 500 hour program rising, it is insulting to senior therapists to lower their pay THAT MUCH to share their expertise.

    Furthermore, the 3 YEAR minimum is just mind blowing. I work with 3 year therapists, and I can tell you that they do not have what it takes to be an authority to new students. Heck, at the 3 year mark, I didn’t have a clue.
    I probably didn’t have a serious clue until year 5.

    There’s something very wrong with this picture, and until the educational standard for instructors are mandatory, our future graduates are a reflection of the inexperienced instructors they are given.

    The greed needs to stop. Standards elevated, and pay more in line with tuition.

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