NCBTMB: At Least They’re Consistent in Bending the Rules

I’ll say one thing for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: at least they’re consistent in bending the rules.

The NCBTMB has a new Government Relations Liason, Billie Shea of Nevada. Shea has been a massage therapist for 14 years. She has previously served as the chair of  the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapy, and has also served as a delegate and later as a board member on the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

I’ve pitched a few fits recently about the NCBTMB ignoring their own bylaws and breaking their own rules, and I feel compelled to pitch one more. The NCBTMB website announcement about Shea being hired as the new Government Relations Liason states that she has been Nationally Certified for 13 years. According to several of my sources, that is not true.

She was initially certified in 2000 and renewed one time before letting her certification lapse. I contacted Shea by email yesterday to ask her how she became Board Certified since she was not currently Nationally Certified, which is one of the requirements unless you are taking the new exam, and she responded to me that she had been contacted by the NCBTMB and offered the opportunity to become Board Certified early this summer. Her response stated that she forwarded my email to the NCBTMB so they could make a response, and they have not responded.

According to the NCBTMB’s website, there are two paths to Board Certification. One of them is to take the new exam and meet the other requirements, which include 750 hours of education, passing a background check, having 250 hours of work experience, and having a current CPR certification. The other path is to be CURRENTLY Nationally Certified under their old paradigm, and meet the new requirements.

Shea isn’t the only one who has been offered this deal; in my previous blogs about massaging the rules, I reported that two other nationally known massage therapists that I have known personally for years were both offered to be “grandfathered in” to the new Board Certification, in spite of the fact that their own National Certification lapsed about 7 years ago. They both felt it was an unethical offer since it violates the rules of the NCBTMB, and declined to do it.

So, bottom line, Shea has not been Nationally Certified for 13 years as it states on their website. That certainly doesn’t mean she will do any less of a job as their GR person, and since at this point in time I am of the mindset that my own Board Certification is worth about as much as a turd in a punchbowl, it’s no big deal to me. The big deal, to me, is the dishonesty about it. Why put a PR spin on something that is not true? Shea knows it, the NCB knows it, and why is it necessary to pad her resume? She has a long record of volunteer service and it wasn’t necessary at all. For the record, my own National Certification was current, and I did meet the other requirements for Board Certification. I was prepared to take the exam and actually somewhat disappointed that they decided to grandfather the current certificants into it instead of having us take it.
I would like to know why the NCBTMB approached well-known massage therapists who have been expired for years and offered them this “opportunity” to be grandfathered in on Board Certification, and why they feel that’s an ethical practice.

It doesn’t look good when an organization puts something out there, says “here are the requirements,” and then proceeds to blow those off in some self-serving interest. And it doesn’t look good when a therapist accepts that. In fairness, there are plenty of massage therapists who don’t keep up with the rules, including in their own state, much less at the NCB. However, I don’t think Shea falls into that category. She’s been involved in the governance of massage for many years, and if the NCBTMB hired her to be the GR liason, I’m sure they have confidence in her abilities. She ought to know better, and I’m sure she does.

If they are just going to grandfather anybody and everybody who has ever been Nationally Certified, then for crying out loud, just say that up front and be done with it.

Furthermore, I have the idea that there are board members at the NCB, and perhaps even Executive Director Steve Kirin, who do not even have any knowledge of all these surreptitious activities and who would not be in support of them. Whatever else I can say about them, I know for a fact that there are some ethical people there. Apparently there are also some who are not. I would hate to think it was a board decision to put forth requirements, and then throw in the caveat that “but we can ignore these rules for the choice few when it suits our purpose.” I’d rather believe that someone there took it on themselves to act in this manner, but the fact is, it has happened and someone needs to be accountable for it. I have to refer back to that pesky problem, once again, of Improper Delegation of Authority. This is the kind of thing that happens when there is no government oversight and no public accountability.

I will agree with one thing from the NCBTMB’s website: the statement that “a higher credential is needed in the industry.” I agree wholeheartedly, and they need to get it that this is the kind of thing that minimizes the value of the very thing they are trying to promote. Certification needs to mean something. Operating in this manner assures that it does not.


12 Replies to “NCBTMB: At Least They’re Consistent in Bending the Rules”

  1. Laura… After reading your blog, I’m going to avoid the punch bowl at this season’s run of holiday parties 😉

    I greatly respect the service that Ms. Shea has rendered to the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists and the FSMTB Board of Directors, but I don’t envy the GR position she’s stepped into with NCBTMB. Their press release announcing her appointment states, “In this role, Billie will represent and advocate on NCB’s behalf to the state boards regarding licensure within the massage therapy profession, and in particular, the importance of NCB’s licensure exams to be recognized by the states.”

    In this case, she will be advocating for a cause which is indefensible. It is only through spin, subterfuge and outright threats to various state agencies that NCB has managed to keep its *CERTIFICATION* exams in use by state boards for licensure purposes. What they are now calling “licensure” exams are merely reshuffled, rebranded and downsized versions of their certification tests (cleverly priced at $10 less than the MBLEx). I believe it’s only a matter of time until this aberration is removed from state statues and rules.

    This December 19 will mark the eighth anniversary of the publication of the Memorandum on Improper Delegation of Authority by Dale Atkinson, legal counsel for FSMTB and the Executive Director of the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards. Mr. Atkinson is a national authority on state occupational licensure. In the introduction to this memo, Mr. Atkinson puts the issue right on the table:

    “Legislative reliance on the private sector through the enactment of statutes which specifically name examinations and/or accrediting entities over which there is no governmental oversight or public accountability undermines the foundation of the regulatory process. In addition, such delegation of authority for determinations of mandatory criteria in a licensure process is fraught with legal and practical implications.”

    The field of massage therapy cannot progress towards full status as a profession as long as state boards continue to rely upon NCB as a test provider, and as an approval agency for continuing education. As we continue to see, NCB is a rogue entity — accountable only to itself — with a track record that does not demonstrate integrity or trustworthiness.

    It’s time for FSMTB to officially declare the relationship between state boards and NCBTMB to be unacceptable and contrary to the public interest. The Federation, with the assistance of AMTA and ABMP must take all available measures to assist state boards in amending statues and rules as needed to clean up this problem once and for all.

  2. This may explain why Nevada Licensing Board has stopped accepting the MBLEx. I have students who come to our program from Nevada, and have heard nothing but complaints about the length of time it takes to get their license.

  3. It’s about money, there sole purpose was to get their test into all 50 states and make money. From the new Chairs mouth they are a credentialing agency. They don’t have our backs and they have a precise agenda & I had such high hopes from this organization as a whole but advocacy is not their first priority. The bending of the rules, not taking complaints seriously is seemingly ongoing. I respect what they want to accomplish in terms of higher credentialing and standards but don’t respect many of their actions. I agree 100% with Mr. Atkinson on these matters. I would like to know they full scope of the position of Government Relations Liason as well if anyone can point me in the proper direction.

  4. Hey Rick. I have to ask? Are you a NV LMT? Have you followed the dismal track record of the Nevada Board?

    From where I sit, (on the outskirts of the Las Vegas valley) The Board has done nothing but crawl up the butt of individual MT’s while the prostitutes and unlicensed run wild and the establishments are left to their own profit driven, unregulated disregard for the actual laws and rules. And adding insult to injury,
    the “reflexology studios’, who by-the-way are EXEMPT from a massage establishment licence, offer full body clothed massage for $20 (see yelp)
    while the board busts newly graduated students for chair massage at conventions. And Clark County Commissioners respond in May, “We’ll do a business impact study and get back with you.” (see LV SUN May 2013 article on reflexology)

    Meanwhile, the NCTMB are a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.

    Congrats Billie!!! You’re an official hypocrite too!!!!!!


  5. I see a huge scary chasm between the politics of massage and the organizations that thrive on those politics, and actual massage therapists. Just yesterday I was with a group of colleagues, and massage politics was not mentioned once. Talk was of gratitude and appreciation for all that we do individually in the practice of our profession. It’s quite sad to see the current state of affairs.

  6. Laura, thank you for providing the information. It is a shame that it appears the larger organizations that are suppose to be advocating for massage therapy and supporting the therapists appear to be creating more problems for us than solutions, NCBTMB is not alone.
    From reviewing past blogs and personal experience over the past 15 years it is apparent the boards that regulate us are glad to take our fees (yet often do not uphold the laws they create “lack of funding or staff”).
    Our associations have well paid staff creating fabulous volunteer (unpaid) opportunities for massage therapists to carve time out of their already busy days.
    Massage therapists continue to debate what is better the science of massage or the art of massage, instead of creating opportunities for collaboration of the artist creating and the scientist discovering and visa versa!
    We are throwing a lot of money at these organizations for false security and feeling of community, unfortunately they continue to isolate us and continue the infighting (limiting factual information) that makes us look unorganized and unprofessional.
    We have an amazing window of opportunity if we stop the infighting and encourage accountability at the grassroots level. We can work together to educate and empower one another for a positive change.
    Thanks again Laura, for providing the venue for education on what is going on in our organizations.
    I hope it empowers people from the ground up to hold the executive directors of our organizations (well paid, suppose to be experts in running organizations) to bring massage therapy together, encouraging collaboration. Bottom up/top down!
    Keep up the great work

  7. Today was the first time in several days I have checked the NCBTMB’s website, but their press release has now been modified to remove the part about Billie having been Nationally Certified for 13 years.

    I received an email last week from Steve Kirin stating that he would take responsibility for not getting back to me sooner, and that he was waiting to discuss the matter with Chair Leena Guptha. I suggested to him that they remove the false statement and come clean. Glad to see that they have removed it.

  8. When I got my AZ massage license back in 2005, massage licensing/regulations had only recently become a state run agency (city/municipality prior). The state decided to require all new applicants to have NCBTMB certification to achieve state certification. I took the test and passed. Before my first license renewal in 2007 the state since changed requirements and I let my national certification lapse with no regrets. I support some oversight committees in maintaining standards of practice, ethics, and public relations but not the inefficient and blatantly obsolete bureaucracies like the NCBTMB. Even the NCBTMB knows they are rather irrelevant in the industry.

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