Who Has OUR Backs?

Who is really looking out for the interests of massage therapists? Among all the entities we give our hard-earned money to, it would seem that when we’re in a pinch, we can’t drum up much support for ourselves.

I’m incensed at the Ethics Committee of the NCBTMB for selectively choosing which parts of the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics they are going to honor, and which parts they are going to cast aside.

Many therapists have received a letter from the NCBTMB, detailing their refusal to give any consideration to the complaints they received about Steph Lasch and her behavior towards fellow massage therapists. They have cited the Preamble to the Standards, which states that “NCBTMB requires certificants and applicants for certification to conduct themselves in a highly professional and dignified manner. NCBTMB will not consider and/or adjudicate complaints against certificants and applicants for certification that are based solely on consumer related issues or are based on competitive marketplace issues.” I have been told that they refused to even look at the complaints and supporting documentation.

They seem to have the idea that this is all about money. It is not just all about money. It is about a person who gets to claim National Certification status, who has systematically behaved unethically towards fellow massage therapists, most of whom were either new to the profession and/or already struggling in their businesses, and looking for help in order to do better. It is about the numerous people that she blocked from all contact whenever they questioned her about their missing goods or services that they had paid and contracted for. It is about the numerous people who suffered not only a loss of money, but a violation of trust from a colleague who had vowed to uphold the Code and Standards.

The NCBTMB has decided to take the stance that since the people who were taken advantage of are massage therapists, and not massage clients, that these complaints don’t matter. I beg to disagree. If you are going to treat your own colleagues in an unethical manner, my thought is you wouldn’t have any problem doing the same to clients.

First of all, let’s look at II) of the Code of Ethics:  “Represent their qualifications honestly….”  Lasch held herself out to be a CPA, a status that she does not have.That claim assisted her in obtaining the social security and employer identification numbers of numerous massage therapists that she filled out taxes for, while failing to provide them with her signature or preparer identification number.

Then there’s VII) “Conduct their business and professional activities with honesty and integrity…”  Really? Ask any of the dozens of people who have been affected what they have to say about that.

Finally, there’s XV) Avoid any interest, activity or influence which might be in conflict with the practitioner’s obligation to act in the best interests of the client or the profession.”

The inclusion of the word “profession” there clearly demonstrates a responsibility to those who make up this profession. It’s my opinion that they’re ignoring their own Code of Ethics and passing the buck.

AMTA has not removed Lasch from the membership rolls, either, and realistically, it wouldn’t do much good if they did. If anyone there thinks they think they are being investigated, they just cancel their membership, go to another organization to get insurance, and don’t miss a beat.

Among all the law enforcement that has been contacted over this matter, I’m unaware of anyone getting a response to their complaints, with the exception of several complainants who have received packets from the Attorney General of MN, advising them of other entities to complain to, and many have. However, in the general scheme of murder, mayhem, and meth labs, a massage therapist bilking people is probably not a high priority for the law, either.

There’s no state massage board in MN, although there is a quasi-governmental agency that “oversees” unlicensed health care providers, including MTs. State boards are all about public protection. They would take a license away if a client persuaded the board of wrong-doing on the part of a massage therapist, but like the NCBTMB, they might refuse to view a massage therapist as a client, although this entire hoopla has indeed revolved around massage.

NCBTMB Chair Sue Toscano resigned yesterday, citing personal reasons. Leena Guptha, a former President of National AMTA, was the Chair-Elect and has moved into the job. Leena is a goodwill ambassador wherever she goes, but she definitely has her work cut out for her. Lori Ohlmann, who often represented the NCB as their government relations person at state board meetings, has also resigned. She was a credit to the organization.

I also have to wonder about the elections at the NCBTMB. When people like Dr. Christopher A. Moyer and Glenath Moyle get passed over, I have to wonder about the common sense and/or biases of the committee. Dr. Moyer is one of the most respected researchers in the field of massage therapy. He has been vocal on social media about criticizing some of the claptrap that has been approved for CE credit. Glen Moyle is a past president of National AMTA and has been serving the profession for decades, including during a period of time when the organization had a few issues with the NCBTMB. God forbid they should get anybody there who might actually rock the boat.

So really, who has OUR backs? There were a few of us who tried to spread the information about where and how to file your complaints. There were dozens that did in fact complain. And yet, I feel relatively certain Lasch is sitting back and counting her money, happy as a clam, secure in the knowledge that our organizations aren’t doing anything to protect others from being victimized or giving any consideration to the ones that have already been victimized.

I can virtually guarantee that every certificant who received that letter from the NCBTMB will NOT renew their certification. So, NCBTMB, you can keep the one who has violated the Code, while you will be losing a number who have been proud to uphold it. Good move.

19 Replies to “Who Has OUR Backs?”

  1. Laura, In an interesting way, NCBTMB’s response to the Steph Lasch issue AFFIRMS the fact that it is not an enforcement agency. NCB has attempted to position itself as a standard-setter and super cop for the entire profession, but it has not worked. It is just a private, non-profit certification organization, which by nature has a limited scope of authority.

    A few years ago, NCB tried to become the home of the national disciplinary database for all state massage boards — but those agencies rejected NCB’s gambit unanimously. NCB also attempted to expand a simple process of assigning code numbers to each massage school into an entire school approval program. Many institutions have refused to participate.

    Likewise, NCB tried to jack up the profile of its Approved CE Provider Program, and were prepared to subject providers to insulting and costly new approval requirements — all under the impossible promise of quality assurance and public protection. Fortunately, NCB’s leaders were actually listening for a change, and the most recent iteration of this AP Program has been revised to incorporate a more reasonable set of requirements and deliverables. A sigh of relief for a change.

    I for one would not count on NCB to “have my back”. It’s an organization that has lost relevance, alienated most of its market, and no longer has a certification product that therapists want. That’s not a prescription for a bright future. With apologies to ABMP, here’s a suggestion for a new slogan for NCBTMB: “Expect Less”.

  2. The massage therapists were clients of business services as opposed to bodywork. Clients nonetheless. Ethical business practices are required under the code of ethics. Period.

  3. don’t kid yourselves. NOBODY has our backs.

    in the words of the grateful dead,

    “So the kids they dance they shake their bones
    Cause its all too clear we’re on our own”

  4. Laura, earlier this year you asked NCBTMB and got the number of new board certifications. The number was very low. I wonder what enrollment is 10 months on. If someone planned to destroy the NCB brand, they could not do a better job.

    The “old” National was very, achingly, slow. But they would have crashing down with an ethics violation. I never thought I’d say it but I miss them.

  5. I think you and a few other folks who have stepped up to inform and guide those who were effected by all this made it clear. We have each other’s backs. For now at least, that’s the only thing we can really say for certain, and thank you.

  6. It is very easy to pass personal opinions or judgement. But it should be reserved to those that have all the information. As much as I respect everything that Mrs Allen has done and continues to do for this profession, I have a big problem with a few things in this blog. First of all Mrs Allen does not hold a position with the Ethics Committee and does not have information from inside Committee, the hours and hours that are slaved over cases, the reports, the interviews and the discussions that follow. Mrs Allen has not contacted anyone one the Committee to ask any questions, only to insert her opinion. We are all allowed to have our own opinion, but state it as such. Dont hold it out as fact. She states ” I have been told that they refused to even look at the complaints and supporting documentation.” However this is not FACT. Every single complaint is read and considered by the entire committee. Mrs Allen also states as fact “The NCBTMB has decided…… that these complaints don’t matter.” This is absolutely not the truth! I serve on the Ethics Committee and I personally give up hours and hours every month, for free I might add, to protect the profession that I love. The profession that I have given 18 years of my life to. I serve at the state level and national level completely out of concern for the Massage Field. And for opinions to be made as fact, is a personal slap in the face to myself and all those that volunteer their free time in order to help our profession. There are legal matters that havent been discussed in this blog that no one is aware of. “Legally defensible” is a term that is used by NCB’s legal team. The Ethics Committee does not haphazardly make decisions and “pick and chose” the standards they follow. We have attorneys that advise on what can and CANNOT be done as regards to complaints. This specific case she was NOT acting as a nationally approved massage therapist.She was acting as a CPA. This does not meet the requirements for sanction, if she was their massage therapist and CPA thats is a different story. Laws are laws, whether we like it or not. Facts are important when we are set on forming an opinion. Missing a few key points can change everything.

  7. Here! Here! Craig! I 100% agree with you. It must be easy to pass judgement when you only have one side of the story. Trouble is there are many layers and things to consider on any committee. Maybe you should sign up for one and put your money where your mouth is. I’m curious why you didn’t apply for the board position yourself either?

  8. The Ethics liason that I spoke to, I believe Ann was her name, at the NCBTMB is the one who told ME personally where to have people send their complaints. The whole sordid story was explained to her first. I would not have wasted my time, nor passed the word for other people to bother to waste theirs, sending in complaints that would not be considered because you think it is all about money, and again, I disagree with that opinion. It appears that as the official liason, she might have known that you would not consider it, due to the nature of the response that was given.

    I have stated publicly many times that after my 5 years of service on the NC Board ended that I would not serve another board as long as I am writing this blog. I have also in the past volunteered for my AMTA chapter as a Unit Administrator and Delegate, and I currently serve my Chamber of Commerce, a massage school advisory board, and volunteer for several charities that have nothing to do with massage. You don’t know anything about what I do, so while you are busy pointing the finger at me for jumping to conclusions, you had better take a good look at yourself.

    As for not talking to the Ethics Committee, WHERE on the NCBTMB website is it stated who the committee members are and any way to get in touch with them? Is there an email for any of them, or their names listed anywhere that I overlooked? It is not on the volunteer page. It is not on the Code of Ethics page, or the BOD page, or any other page that I see. Are we supposed to contact you through the atmosphere or what?

    The answer that you gave that she was acting as a CPA indicates that you somehow only extracted that from the complaints. That was only a minor part of it. She held herself out to be a CPA for the purpose of doing people’s taxes. She was holding herself out as a master massage therapist(her own words) and expert in the field, an owner of numerous massage locations (not true, when you follow the trail most of them say “opening soon” or “coming in 2014”), an employer of numerous massage therapists–several of whom have contacted me to say they had to take legal action against her to get paid, a massage business consultant, an author of massage business books, creator of massage websites and marketing materials, and basically everything but a doctor, a lawyer, and an Indian chief. Oh wait, she was holding herself out as someone who is about to be a lawyer, too. She had also announced the intent to become an Approved Provider. Just the kind of instructor we need bearing the banner for the NCBTMB.

    I will stand by my OPINION that you have acted as if this does not matter. I have defended this organization for the very last time.

    I will spit on my certification before I renew it again.

  9. Oh I’m well aware of your accomplishments. It’s nice to know though that you would rather spend your time complaining about problems than trying to fix it. Good for you. For those of you reading this who would like to create some positive change in the industry please feel free to look up the volunteer options on the NCBTMB website or as Laura stated at your local or state chapters.

    Spitting on your certificate? Pretty mature but you can do whatever you’d like with it, that’s your choice.

  10. Oh my goodness. KB, are you serious? Laura’s the *last* person anyone can accuse of preferring to complain rather than fix. She’s been a staunch and loyal defender of the NCB, far past when they deserved any defense. Laura, I empathize with your emotional response.

  11. How can volunteering fix anything, when the NCB denies there is even a problem?

    I wonder why the Chair resigned.

  12. K. B. I would truly welcome a more thorough explanation as to the decision the Ethics committee made regarding the Lasch situation. While I more than understand volunteer hours outside your normal compensated duties can feel undervalued and appreciated, the way the Ethics decision was handled in this matter demonstrates a rather hurried decision rather than a well reviewed and considered decision. I can say that because many of us sent in material less than 10 days before your committee meeting. How did all of you have time to read through all that information and then still have enough time to consult with lawyers and then have a reasoned debate on the matter? I have sat on many public/political meetings. I have worked for lawyers. I have worked with lawyers within a large private university in Chicago. I know the meat grinding process involved in decisions like these. I was absolutely surprised you could even MAKE a formal decision with all the material that was sent to you so close to your meeting. Your decision would have “appeared” better considered if perhaps a decision was handed down at the next Ethics Committee meeting. I am a current national association member. I am insulted that I received what amounts to a form letter from the Ethics committee on this matter. We ARE individual cases. Not that your committee showed any sort of recognition to that fact. As a paying member, I should be privy to the legal matters attached to the charge. I understand legal arguments. If I had those arguments as written in a letter to me with the Ethics committee decision, I may have been better able to make sense of what appeared to be a hurried and less than well considered Ethics decision. It is on YOUR committee’s shoulders to FULLY explain the facts behind the decisions you render. Accusing us for not understanding all the facts when none were well provided is not our fault. It is your Committee. I could be further insulted and read that the lack of better explanation is because the committee doesn’t think the average member can understand legal terminology and defense. What was presented to the committee bore better consideration. When I am paying dues to keep my national certification, I expect transparency in my dealings with NCBTMB. It is clear from this incidence that NCBTMB deems that transparency is not necessary. Therefore, I will not be renewing my certification.

  13. With the states’ using their own tests for licensing, just what purpose does the NCBTMB anyway? I can understand belonging to the AMTA of the ABMP, they offer good reasons to belong. I have to admit, having 15 years as a Massage Therapist, I don’t see the need for the NCBTMB.

  14. Interesting post Laura. In spite of the governing bodies we have in place, it is us, each other, who we have to look out for one another. The bodies, though exist, don’t do so in complete cohesive manner. There are conflicting priorities. More so, the industry, relatively speaking, is in its infancy and thus the supporting pillars. Until and unless they become as strong as we would like, practitioners will have to advocate for each other and stand for what is right.

  15. Thanks Laura for being the ONLY national voice that bothered to warn people about this predator on massage professionals that had the sense to listen, read and investigate what was happening rather than just run behind a legal team to save your reputation. That takes guts which is far more than this committee whose only interest is preserving an organization itself that has lost any sense of service to anyone. She is the only voice for removing this person that NCB has allowed to make a joke out of their code of ethics, if not in fact, but in spirit. Just think, she’s out there today, on one of her many websites, using that credential and any others she invents to continue her schemes. The credential has been made meaningless since it has in part been used to defraud massage therapists.

  16. Thank you so much for the kind words, RAD, but all the therapists who came forward to complain are the ones who deserve kudos as well. We also owe thanks to Ryan Hoyme, aka the MassageNerd, Gloria Coppola, Irene Diamond, Rachel McEntyre, Julie Onofrio, Allissa Haines (even though Allissa and I disagree about whether or not the NCB should take any action on this matter) and quite a few others who shared this with their networks and tried to get the word out.

    I personally find it funny, and pathetic at the same time, that the NCBTMB Ethics Committee is falling back on their bylaws as their reason for not taking any action, while if you read my most recent blog above this one, “NCBTMB Elections: Massaging the Rules,” you will see how the Election Committee has blatantly disregarded their own bylaws. I suggest that the Ethics Committee needs to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the Election Committee. You don’t get to have it both ways.

  17. Laura, thank you for speaking up. One doesn’t always get applause because others don’t want to rock the boat. I am on that boat with you and have submitted documentation and complaints about Steph Lasch everywhere I can think of that will stop her. I used to work for her.

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