Californication 911

The plot in California just keeps getting thicker. At this point in time, it’s practically sludge, straight from the sewer.

Proponents of CA AB 1822, and specifically President of the California Police Chiefs Association Susan E. Manheimer, have put forth the ridiculous claim that 57% of the applicants approved by CAMTC are known prostitutes, 32% were of questionable character, and only 11% legitimate massage therapists.

Massage Today editor Christine Bondurant has sent a letter to Susan E. Manheimer, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, demanding the proof of the data to support this. I will bet my last dollar it will turn out to be non-existent.

Speaking of dollars, one of my mentors suggested to me that when an action like this is taking place, it’s usually because someone stands to make money on it. Who would that be? If AB 1822 passes, control of massage therapists is going back to the localities. Do the police departments really make that much money on massage regulation? Is it their priority? I doubt it. In my neck of the woods, the police are too busy worrying about murderers and meth labs to pay any attention to massage therapists. Oh, once a year there will be a roundup of the prostitutes operating their “massage parlors” but it certainly isn’t at the top of the radar.

So who does stand to profit from this? Do the police chiefs put the money they collect from massage regulation into their private poker fund? Is Ms. Manheimer getting a cut? Is Arnold thinking it’s going to bail out the financially distressed government in the state of CA?

I think CA, and in fact all states, ought to create some revenue for themselves by legalizing prostitution. Get these people a board and a practice act, and let them buy a license and pay taxes like the rest of us. Legalize all drugs and sell them in the liquor store next to the tequila. The war on drugs certainly hasn’t accomplished anything.

In the meantime, every massage therapist in the state of CA needs to contact Manheimer and reiterate the request for proof the way Massage Today has. That ought to be a public document, if it even exists, which I doubt. Flood her office with polite requests asking to see the data. The address is Susan E. Manheimer, President, California Police Chiefs Association, POB 255745, Sacramento CA, 95865.

You can also visit the legislative webpage and follow the link at the top to make a comment. While it seems like a convenient thing to send an e-mail, the actual and visual impact of having a huge pile of paper arrive in her office will get more attention. It will take five minutes and a stamp.

Just Do It!

Laura Allen

CAMTC: California Dreamin’, or a Nightmare?

The CAMTC (CA Massage Therapy Council) is under duress, as the saga of AB 1822 continues. In a letter dated May 10, to CA State Assemblyman Jerry Hill,  Beverly May, the Chair of CAMTC, states that the lawmakers are operating on false information.

In answer to rumors that the CAMTC has a backlog of 35,000 applicants, May states that is false and that the Council is completely up to date with applications. Furthermore, states May, a lobbyist is responsible for spreading the baseless rumor that a study had shown that the CAMTC has approved a huge number of applicants that should have been denied, a charge that she dismisses. In fact, May’s letter indicates that the CAMTC has denied over 3,200 applicants that were previously approved by local governments under the old way of doing things.

The CAMTC is trying to move massage therapy forward in a place with no previous statewide practice act and it’s an uphill battle, without even counting the lobbyist spreading false information.

Every massage therapist in CA should be protesting this bill. It is referred to as an “anti-prostitution bill,” but it should be referred to as anti-massage. At best it is a misguided attempt to stop prostitution and human trafficking.  If enough massage therapists just sit by and remain silent, it’s going to be ratified, and you can line up at your local police station to be treated like a common criminal.

You can go to this link to see the latest action on the bill and use the link at the top of the page to make a comment.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

One of Life’s Little Lessons

Yesterday I notified COMTA that I have withdrawn my name from the ballot to be a commissioner.

The blog I wrote earlier this week, where I reported on some of the recent developments there and offered my opinions about them, didn’t sit well with the folks there, to the point where they were trying to figure out how to get rid of me before I ever got there.

I felt compelled to expose that, so I put up another blog about that.

After some heart-felt discussions with a few of my mentors, I have reached the conclusion that I don’t need to serve on any boards for the present time, other than completing the term I am currently serving on the North Carolina Board. I’m on my last year there. Our Board usually isn’t too controversial, and there aren’t many big doings there that would interest the rest of the world for the most part. We try to practice transparency there, and even though I’m a sitting member, I wouldn’t hesitate to call them out on something if I felt there was a need.

The fact is, I enjoy reporting on legislation and the happenings at all the professional associations of massage therapy…I have the freedom to report on comings and goings, expose activities be they mundane or shocking, and express my opinion whether it’s popular or not. If I’m working for an organization, my ability to report on them goes out the door. And I certainly don’t want my ability to speak my truth affected in any way.

I used to volunteer for AMTA, and I enjoyed that. I’ve enjoyed my time on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy. It’s been very enlightening, although stressful at times. I like volunteering; I give 100% whenever I’m devoted to a task, and I would have done the same if I had been elected at COMTA. However, I think it serves the higher good if I’m free to expose what needs to be exposed, and comment on it,  no matter what entity is involved.

I’m still a member of AMTA, also a member of ABMP, a member of the Federation, a member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and an NCBTMB certificant and provider. I have a vested interest in what these organizations do, the ethical or unethical behavior of their leadership, and the transparency with which they conduct their business. And none of them are safe from my pen! Of course, it’s not all negative. I do give pats on the back when I think they deserve it.

I simply cannot give up my freedom of speech just so I can say I’m in some position somewhere, so no more “positions” for me. My chosen position is blogger, and I’m going to stick to that for the time being.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

COMTA: A Contradiction?

COMTA (Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation) is in dire need of volunteers, so why did they just get rid of a good one? I’m referring to John Goss, who has served COMTA for 10 years in several capacities, including a stint as Interim Executive Director. Last week, during a meeting he was unable to attend, Dr. Goss was unceremoniously dismissed from the Commission.

I contacted Kate Henrioulle, Executive Director, and Melissa Wade, the Chair, and they both gave me the same answer: “COMTA thanks John Goss for his past service and wishes him well in the future.”

A COMTA volunteer who spoke on condition of anonymity said “John was known for asking hard questions. They didn’t like that. He was accused of “impeding the work of the Commission.” That’s too bad. Board members who ask hard questions are usually the ones who demand transparency, who hold other members accountable, and who get a lot of work done. Dr. Goss has, in the words of my source, “given a ton to COMTA over the years.”

Another COMTA insider said “The Commission is not articulating a vision or speaking with any authority or inspiration; it’s all about doing “stuff” and getting more income from higher fees.  What about the stakeholders’ returns on investments (financial or temporal)?”  The same person stated that the staff communications at COMTA are an embarrassment, replete with typos, poor grammar, and inappropriate language. “If I were on the receiving end of one of those reports, I’d be wondering what business these folks have telling me what I should be doing,” stated the source.

I’m in service on the North Carolina Board, and I ask hard questions, just like John Goss. I’m all for transparency and accountability, and I don’t believe in compromising if it’s at the expense of the stakeholders. You can ask the folks at the top of AMTA, ABMP, the NCBTMB, and the Federation. Open and direct communication is the way I roll, and I will be a thorn in their side when I don’t get an answer. And when they give me some party line, I call it like I see it.

It does seem to me that COMTA has been stuck in neutral for awhile. 8 years into their existence as an accrediting body, and they have accredited less than 100 schools. And they are in need, indeed, of volunteers. Henrioulle asked me to pass along this link

http://www.comta.org/about_volunteers.php and encourage those who would be interested in acting as peer reviewers to get in touch.

Disclosure: I am currently a candidate for Commissioner for the upcoming COMTA election.

Laura Allen

AMTA-MA Chapter Sets the Bar High

This past weekend I was fortunate to be invited to teach at the 50th anniversary celebration of the MA Chapter of AMTA. Let me tell you, these people know how to throw a party!

To begin with, in honor of hitting the 50-year mark, the members got to attend this magnanimous occasion for the paltry sum of 50 bucks–and that included their education and meals. The food and service at the Crowne Plaza in Worcester was excellent. The folks in this chapter are excellent.

The Chapter made a $10,000 donation to the Massage Therapy Foundation. MTF President Ruth Werner and IPP Diana Thompson were both in attendance and said it was the biggest chapter donation in the history of the organization. They also raised another $800 by raffling off a quilt made by Ruth Werner, that was matched by the NCBTMB for a total of $1600, that was also donated to the MTF.

The vendors were great, lots of giveaways, and Massage Today and Massage Warehouse went a little crazy giving away all kinds of goodies, including a massage table and several chairs.

The NCBTMB was one of the sponsors of the event and I spent time with their CEO, Paul Lindamood and the Director of Exam Development, Elizabeth Langston chatting about the forthcoming Advanced Certification Exam. Even the BOD Chair, Neal Delaporta, was very gracious to me, which is nice since I’ve been quite nasty to him in my blog over the years.

I shared a shuttle to the airport with Diana Thompson. She’s not old enough for me to refer to her as one of the grandmothers of massage, but I found out massage has been her one and only career since the age of 19. After rising to the position of leading the Massage Therapy Foundation, and is now the IPP, she still does 10-15 massages every week. I think that’s amazing.

Mary White, Richard Wedegartner, Allissa Haines, Lisa Curran Parenteau, Sister Pat and all the rest of the chapter members bent over backwards to make me feel welcome. The people who attended my classes in Using Research to Market Your Practice were great.

The theme of this gathering was promoting research in massage therapy, and I don’t think it could have been any better. I also enjoyed seeing so many friends and FB friends–met quite a few people who have been on my FB page and that’s always fun. I also had dinner with Chris Alvarado and Angie Palmier, who were there teaching “Research Rocks.”

I encourage every AMTA chapter in the world to shamelessly steal this theme for an upcoming meeting. We need to educate therapists about research so they can go out and educate the rest of the world.

Thanks so much to the fine massage therapists of MA!

Laura Allen

The NCBTMB: Time to Back up and Punt

This past weekend, ABMP convened the 14th annual School Issues Forum in Alexandria, VA. I was teaching at the NC Chapter of AMTA‘s Spring Conference and couldn’t attend, and apparently, I missed a little firestorm by not being there.

Neal Delaporta, Chairman of the Board of the NCBTMB, gave a presentation on the progress of the Advanced Certification Exam, that for the past 48 hours has caused my inbox to be flooded with criticisms of the path that was taking. The resignation of Task Force member Rosemarie Rotenberger was also passed along to me by an anonymous source.  The BOD of the NCBTMB, according to Rotenberger, chose to eliminate the CE requirement from the eligibility criteria of sitting for the new ACE; she offered that as the reason for her resignation, stating that the action had been taken “against the strong and repeated recommendation of the Task Force.”

One industry leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated “I am disgusted to learn that he (Delaporta) was touting NCB’s mission to define and advance the highest standards in the profession while knowing full well that the CE requirement–one of the only meaningful criteria to qualify a practitioner for any kind of post-graduate credential–had already been removed by his BOD.” A number of others who were present at the meeting also gave me an earful about the ACE; the general attitude was that by doing away with any CE requirements that the NCB was removing any shred of credibility from the exam.

As I believe in going straight to the source, I contacted the NCB to give them a chance to respond. Without divulging any names I shared some of the criticisms that were piling up, and here is part of the response I received from Paul Lindamood, CEO of the NCBTMB (shortened for space considerations):

“….Based on feedback from Task Force members, it has become clear that the rationale supported by the Board is not entirely in alignment with the recommendations of the Task Force. Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Board has determined that further communication and deliberation regarding one element of the criteria, specifically the continued education requirement, are needed to achieve consensus and move forward to the next phase of the project. A meeting will be convened between the Board and Task Force Sub-Committee members in order to better define the quantifiable threshold for the CE requirement, one that everyone in aggregate can embrace….When one considers that the framing of the ACE is intended to measure critical thinking skills and ability allowing massage therapists to function in more complex situations requiring the ability to respond and adapt massage treatment plans based on expected outcomes, it is unconscionable that CE would not play an appropriate role….”

In other words, they’re going to back up and punt. I’m glad to hear it. The pesky thing about any task force is that they’re not worth a hill of beans if you don’t take their advice. They were put in that position because of their experience and expertise. The fact that the Board of Directors failed to follow their advice speaks volumes.

I’d like to know exactly where to lay the blame, but short of polling the Board members,  who probably wouldn’t tell me anyway, I can’t figure that one out. As someone who is on a state board myself, I can tell you that it’s pretty rare for us all to be in agreement. We disagree all the time, and we argue until a majority reaches a consensus. If a majority of the NCB’s BOD reached a consensus that continuing education is not important, as they obviously did, I’d like to know what they were thinking.

My own thought is that a person who graduated from a 1000-hour program, or longer, might be ready to step up and take the advanced exam without having had any CE, but that is not the standard in this country. Very few of our states require that much education in order to get a massage license, and our neighbors in some of the Canadian provinces can even laugh at that. We need to raise the standards, but that’s another blog. And regardless of entry-level education, critical thinking is developed by the commitment to continue one’s education, as well as by gaining practical experience.

When the leadership of an organization fails to act in a responsible manner, the other Board members need to let it be known loud and clear that they dissent. I certainly do. I’d no more go along with the Chair just because he’s the Chair than I would cut off my nose to spite my face. You can ask him. I’ll be the last one hollering. I’m not going to be anybody’s blind sheep.

I am very relieved to hear that the BOD of the NCB has decided to cave to the Task Force recommendations, and to the popular demand of the leaders of this profession, that CE requirements be reconsidered as a part of the criteria for sitting for the new exam. I urge the Board of Directors, and Neal Delaporta in particular, to pay attention to the recommendations made by the people you asked to do this job! To do otherwise is irresponsible on your part at best, and despotic at worst. We don’t need any more egomaniacs running the National Certification Board, we’ve already had one, thank you, and we didn’t like her, either.

I’ve tried to be more positive in my reporting about the NCB in the past few months, because I have in fact seen an improvement in service there, and I know that at least some of the people there are people who genuinely do care and want to make a positive difference.

I suggest to Mr. Delaporta and the rest of the present Board of Directors that you were on a sinking ship, that has bobbed to the surface and shown some good signs of righting itself, and it isn’t on anybody’s head but yours if you cause it to go down again. This is a reality check, and you need to realize it. For the sake of the NCB, listen to the Task Force members, whose help you asked for, and do as they suggest. Put the budget on the back burner, and leave your ego at the door.  You just remember that it takes a majority vote and vote for the CE requirement. If you want the Advanced Certification Exam to be a hallmark of excellence that it ought to be, and not an industry joke, then do the right thing.

Laura Allen

Professional Associations: Do You Belong?

Do you belong to a professional association? I do, and I find it is well worth the money. Liability insurance  is of course a benefit, but there is so much more.

This weekend I’m hanging out with the AMTA folks from North Carolina. We always have a blast at our conferences. Good classes, a social on Friday night, meals together, vendors….one of the usual vendors sells beautiful handmade jewelry, so twice a year at our meetings I treat myself to a pair of her earrings. I haven’t missed a national convention in years. There is something totally awesome about being with a couple of thousand other people who do what you do.

I also belong to ABMP. Their client newsletter alone is worth the money. They also have cheap online classes, and numerous marketing aids that are yours at no cost if you’re a member.

I blog a lot about the politics of massage, and I want to point out that these two professional associations have government relations representatives, and they pay lobbyists to look out for the interests of massage therapists. I keep saying that many therapists aren’t involved, and I also hope to change that. By belonging to one or both of these organizations, your annual dues money is going to help finance the cost of their assistance in legislation that stands to affect massage therapists.

These organizations also make large annual contributions to the Massage Therapy Foundation, so your membership dollars go to support that, too.

I know a lot of therapists who say they have let their membership go because of the recession, and that it is just one more thing they have to pay for. Just a reminder: if you are operating without any liability insurance, you are taking a huge risk.

According to my research, about 6% of massage therapists have been sued. I am sure it’s actually more, because my figures are just a compilation of those from AMTA and ABMP, and don’t include any therapists who aren’t members. That may not sound like many, but you don’t want to be one of them. If you have that insurance, you’re good to go. If you don’t, and someone sues you, they could get a lien against your property, wipe out your children’s college fund, get your retirement money…you get the picture, and it ain’t pretty! Don’t let that happen to you.

I get a lot out of my memberships. Free listings on their websites, trade magazines, networking opportunities, education opportunities, volunteer opportunities, teaching opportunities…sounds like they’re the place to go for opportunities, doesn’t it? Membership in AMTA and ABMP, along with your insurance and all the rest, amounts to less than a dollar a day. It’s one of the best values around.

If you are a school owner, massage school instructor or administrator, or provider of continuing education, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is there for you. This young organization is holding their first annual membership meeting this June in Park City, UT, and I plan to be there. The AFMTE will act as an advocate for education, and some of the great minds of massage are lined up to speak, including Tom Myers, Carey Smith, and Cherie Sohnen-Moe. Membership is an investment in the future of education. Join us!

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

Male Massage Therapists: Survival of the Fittest

According to surveys by our professional associations, males account for less than 20% of massage therapists. From the personal experiences I’ve had with teaching male students, having male therapists in my own practice, and serving on a state board, I’ve made a few observations. I think males definitely have a harder row to hoe when it comes to making a living in massage therapy.

I’ve employed a couple of male therapists over the years who practiced advanced modalities. I’ve had a therapist who practices Structural Integration traveling from out of town to work at my place for six years. I’ve also in times gone by employed a male who did orthopedic massage. Both of them had a much easier time getting new clients than did the male therapist who didn’t have a specialty.

I live in a small town, and have found that many women don’t feel comfortable getting massage from a male; many women wouldn’t mind getting massaged by a male, but their spouse doesn’t want them to, and a whole lot of homophobic males won’t get a massage from a male.

As for male therapists getting in trouble with the board, in the past four years that I have served our state board, only one woman that I can recall has been brought in for a hearing on an ethics charge, but there are males having disciplinary hearings at nearly every meeting.

There have been several times when I didn’t think a male therapist who had been accused of something was guilty, but I was voted down by other board members. When it’s a sexual offense, I believe there is a tendency to err on the side of caution, and the standard of proof is not what it is in a regular court of law. I also believe there are plenty of women out there who are violating the code of ethics, but a lot of men won’t complain about being offered sex along with their massage.

All that being said, I look at some of the people who are at the top in this profession, and many of them are men. Erik Dalton,Whitney Lowe, James Waslaski, Tom Myers, Benny Vaughan, John Barnes, John Upledger…the list goes on, and if you stack up the women who have that same kind of name recognition, it’s probably about equal–amazing since over 80% of the profession is comprised of women. Maybe there’s a glass ceiling in massage. If you look at their class schedules, a lot of those esteemed fellows are on the road more than they’re at home. We women tend to nest a little more. Somebody has to keep the home fires burning!

I wonder about the percentage of males who leave the profession because they can’t make a living as opposed to the number of females who do that. I feel for them. The males I’m acquainted with who are successful have had a lot of perseverance. I recently had a black gentleman in one of my classes who has been practicing more than 40. I told him I bet he was the first one in North Carolina. I was thrilled he came to my class. After 40 years, you’d think our state board could lighten up on the continuing ed requirement!

To all the male therapists who are trying to contribute to this profession, I salute you. If you really want to do this, I believe you can make your way. Professionalism will eventually overcome outdated perceptions.  Don’t give up too soon.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

Massage Legislation: Who’s Helping Us?

Some of us in the rank and file of massage therapy are beginning to feel like we’re fighting a war, with all the unfavorable regulation that is coming down the pike here lately.

In California, AB 1822 is threatening to undo all the work that’s been accomplished there in the past year or so. In Florida, HB 633 is singling massage therapists out in the interest of preventing “human trafficking.”  Although it’s no surprise that Florida has a lot of illegal immigrants, and I can understand requiring any employer to show proof that employees are legal, I don’t see the need to lump “lewdness, assignation, and prostitution” in the same sentence as “massage”. Contractors and farmers use a lot of immigrant labor. Are they being held accountable for the same thing?

When legislation is afoot that stands to crush our rights, who is helping us?

Some massage therapists have the mistaken idea that our state boards are supposed to exist for the benefit of practitioners, but that’s not true. Public boards exist to safeguard the public, and that doesn’t include us. They can’t lobby for therapist rights.

AMTA and ABMP both have government relations representatives, as does the FSMTB and the NCBTMB. I’m acquainted with most of those folks, and they are all good people who want the best for the profession. However, we can hardly expect one or two association representatives to be everywhere at once, to contact every legislator, or to stop something detrimental to us in its tracks.

The fact is, if we don’t help ourselves, we’re not going to get the respect we deserve as professional massage therapists. If the AMTA, ABMP, FSMTB, and NCBTMB send all their GR representatives to Florida to talk to the legislators, that’s a handful of people who will all fit comfortably at my dinner table. They can stand there and say “I represent X number of massage therapists.” I sincerely appreciate their efforts, and sometimes it works, but it just can’t be counted on to have that much impact.

On the other hand, if the 80,000 + therapists in Florida would contact their legislators, that’s enough people to get their attention.  If even a tenth of the therapists in California showed up at a legislative session, that would be a loud voice.

Massage legislation, like any other legislation in America, is often hidden inside some pork-barrel bill that doesn’t have squat to do with massage. If the Federation, AMTA and ABMP didn’t keep on top of legislative actions and disperse that information, most of it would probably go unnoticed until it was a done deal, except by the small number of us who make it a point to keep up with it. That’s a scary thought.

I’m at a loss on what to do. We can’t institute a mandatory draft, to institute interest in the politics of the profession. If we could, I would. We might have come a long way, but in the year 2010, to still have language about prostitution mentioned in the same breath with massage therapy in regulatory bills is a serious sign of how far we still have to go.

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen

A New Day, A New Blog

Welcome to my new blog site! For the past couple of years, I’ve been blogging about the politics of massage on the Massage Magazine website. More recently, I’ve also been contributing to the WIBB (Women in Bodywork Business) blog on the Massage Today website. I finally decided it’s time to put up my own blog, on my own site.

I’m always opinionated, and sometimes controversial. I like to keep up with what’s going on in the political arena of massage, report that, and offer my opinions on it. The issue with that in the past has been that the magazines that host my other blogs accept advertising from the entities I sometimes report on, and it makes them a little uncomfortable when I slam a big advertiser. Of course, the big advertiser doesn’t like it, either.

Having my own blog site will take care of that problem. Now I can be just as offensive as I dang well please, and the magazines can relax, secure in the knowledge that I am not upsetting their advertisers on their playground. And I won’t worry about being censored or being asked to tone down my opinion to make an advertiser happy.

I support freedom of speech, and I don’t mind when people disagree with my opinions. It would be a pretty boring world if we all thought alike. All comments will be welcomed.

There’s also an “About” page here, and a page with my schedule of classes. Thank you for reading my blog!

Peace & Prosperity,

Laura Allen