Continuing Education Providers: Sink or Swim

Every time I turn around, it seems that something is on the horizon that affects CE providers–and the therapists who are obligated to get CE in order to maintain their license.  The latest salvo has been fired from the state of Maryland, where legislation is afoot with big changes in the CE environment. According to the Maryland Chapter of AMTA, the proposed regulations mean that NCBTMB-Approved Providers can no longer offer classes in Maryland unless they have been pre-approved by the Maryland Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners at least 90 days in advance; CE offered by community colleges and online classes will be subject to the same rules, and providers will have to pay $25 per course unit for approval. CE hours earned at AMTA conferences won’t fly unless they have been pre-approved and the fees paid. This is going to be voted on this coming week and the MD Chapter has been making a big effort to drum up enough support to kill the changes. If you haven’t weighed in yet, you’ve got until the 18th of January to call your legislators and protest. Every time something like this happens, I get a lot of email from people asking me what they can do about it. The short answer is do it right now–don’t wait until the bill is passed to complain. You can send your comments and questions to

As a provider myself, there are certain states I’ve never visited because of the hoops you have to jump through. New York, as I reported last year, requires a fat fee of $900 to be a provider, and a New York-licensed massage therapist has to perform the hands-on portion of any CE training. I don’t pretend to hold myself in the same class as Erik Dalton or Ben Benjamin, but it does seem strange to me that someone with a PhD can’t perform the hands-on portion of their own class unless they have gotten themselves licensed in NY.

If you want to be a provider in the state of Texas, you must get yourself pre-approved, reapply and pay a $200 fee every two years. I just looked at their list and there are 549 providers currently approved there. That’s a tidy chunk of change for their board.

Florida also has their own process. I got their approval last year, and while it didn’t cost me any money, I did find their process a little confusing to go through. I actually sent them $250 because I thought I had to after muddling through their directions for applying. My money was refunded.

The Chair and Vice Chair of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy reported upon their return from attending the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting in 2010 that the Federation was investigating the possibility of approving continuing education. Recently, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education has also been making noises about national teacher standards as well. Alexa Zaledonis, the new Chair of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, has also put up a statement on the NCB website that they are about to undertake new initiatives in the CE provider program.

The opportunity for continuing education here in North Carolina is so competitive, it’s almost overwhelming. We have about 8000 active licensees, and 145  CE providers who live in the state…that doesn’t count the folks who are traveling in from elsewhere to teach. If you only count the ones who actually live here, that breaks down to 55 students per provider per renewal period, so if you’re wondering why it seems to get tougher to attract students, basically it’s because there’s a CE provider on every corner. While some students will seek you out because of what you teach or who you are, there are hundreds of others who are just looking for the closest class so they don’t have to travel, or the cheapest class they can get due to their finances, or they’ve procrastinated so that they just take the first thing that comes along when it’s time (or past time) to renew.

I love teaching. It isn’t my primary source of income, but it’s important to me to get that interaction. I feel energized after I’ve spent the day in a class with a bunch of people who actually care about learning something.

The CE river is rolling along, the water is getting pretty muddy, and we’re all going to have to sink or swim.

ADDENDUM: After I finished this blog, MK Brennan brought to my attention the following post from the MD Board:At its General Session Meeting of 1/13/2011, the Board of Chiropractic & Massage Therapy Examiners announced that it would forthwith withdraw from the rulemaking proposal Chapter 16 (Recordkeeping) and Chapter 20 (Continuing Education) pending further review and study. Both of these chapters were contested in comments received to date. This means that Chapters 16 and 20 will not be processed further in the current rulemaking proposal.

When further review and study of Chapters 16 and 20 is scheduled, details shall be posted on this website and in the Maryland Register.

That is the best demonstration of what can happen when MTs rise up and take ACTION! Legislators are forced to LISTEN! Kudos to Maryland Chapter of AMTA and all the MTs who protested this move!

Here, There, and Everywhere

One of the greatest things about this profession to me is all the regional and national conventions and meetings.

I belong to AMTA and I am very active in my state chapter. I’m usually fortunate enough to get asked to teach a class at our meetings, but I’m going to be there either way. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I also attend the National Convention every year, and it’s just a blast. Being around a thousand or more people who do what you do is something you should experience, if you haven’t already.

This past year I attended the World Massage Festival in Kentucky and I participated in the awesome World Massage Conference, which is a totally virtual event…both events were highlights of my year. I also went to the inaugural meeting of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. I skipped the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards meeting last year due to some conflicts, but I’m hoping to hit that one this year, too. I just got back from attending the Massage School Makeover event in Miami. In 2011 I am also looking forward to the American Massage Conference in Atlanta, the World Massage Festival in Cullowhee, Vivian Madison-Mahoney’s Take it to the Top Summit in Gatlinburg, the AMTA National Convention in Portland, another World Massage Conference, and who knows what else is going to materialize! They are all great events, and they all have one thing in common: massage therapists!

I have in the past borrowed a favorite phrase from my friend and colleague Felicia Brown: collaborative competition. Normally I use that in the context of therapists themselves.  This time, I’m speaking of all these meetings. Many times at these meetings, I run into a lot of the same folks. It’s actually one of the nicest things about attending–besides seeing old friends, there’s also the added benefit of making new friends and potentially advantageous business contacts.

When it comes to these events, I take the same attitude that I do with massage in general, and that is there’s enough to go around. I’ve complained before about meetings that don’t welcome certain organizations to their events, and I will continue to do so.  I am not shy about expressing my opinion. Feel free to disagree with me if you want to. I’m not insulted by that. I wouldn’t be writing these blogs if I didn’t have a thick skin. I don’t like professional jealousy–I actually think of it as un-professional jealousy–when it comes to massage therapists, and I don’t like it any better when it comes to conventions and meetings. I think there’s enough to go around.

I think ALL events that are about massage therapy are a great thing. Each is unique in its own way.  Some cost more than others…some are geared at different purposes. I guess it’s the American way of marketing to claim that one is better than another. That’s not how I roll. To me, they are all great networking opportunities. Just like my opinion that no one organization is entitled to a monopoly, I’m happy that there’s more than one meeting. ABMP, which I am also a member of, doesn’t put on a national convention (although they do have a national school summit meeting every year.) One of the things I look forward to at AMTA National is seeing my friends from ABMP who attend.  Even though AMTA doesn’t allow them to have a booth in the exhibit hall, as they are a competing membership organization, lots of my ABMP friends are there. It’s not about them; it’s about massage. Networking, continuing education, product education, legislation and other information…it’s all valuable.

Sometimes at one meeting, I get invited to, or at least informed of, another meeting. Don’t forget attendance at these events is tax deductible, folks! I can’t afford to attend every single thing that comes around, but if I could, I’d be at all of them. So if you have something going on I don’t know about, post it in the comments. I like to be here, there, and everywhere, and maybe I’ll see you there!

The Financial Health of Our Organizations: FSMTB

This is my second year of doing an annual report on the financial status of the major non-profit organizations of the massage therapy profession. I am not an accountant or a financial expert. This information was taken directly from FORM 990, the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, which is published on Guidestar.

If there’s such a thing as a poster child for good finances in these economic times, it’s the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

It was reported at last month’s annual meeting that the Federation had paid off their $700,000 start-up loan 27 months early.

The 990 shows an increase in total revenues of over $1.2 million from the previous year, a decrease in liabilities, and an increase in assets. Of course expenses increased, but when revenues take that big a jump, so do the expenses related to generating those revenues, particularly the money paid to the exam administration company. That amount increased about $600K, due to the rapid increase in the number of students taking the exam. The Federation’s revenues come from the MBLEx and from the annual dues paid by the member boards, currently numbering 40.

Executive Director Debra Persinger received an annual raise of $38,500. The FSMTB also moved into more spacious offices in Overland Park, KS this year and as announced at the 2009 meeting, added another staff member. Persinger had previously been the sole employee since the inception of the Federation.

One noteworthy point is that the Board members of the FSMTB are not compensated at all, other than their travel expenses to and from meetings and expenses directly related to Board business. According to the filing, Board members spend 10-15 hours per week on FSMTB business. As a state Board member myself, I can relate to that.  Serving on any Board is time-consuming. The FSMTB Board members deserve recognition for serving without any per diem.

Congratulations to the FSMTB for doing such an impressive job in the middle of a recession.

Taking the Long Way Home

It’s been over two weeks since my last blog post. I’m usually more prolific, but sometimes the rest of my life has to take precedence over my blog. I’ve been on the road a lot the last two weeks, and when I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to catch up…I don’t know that I can ever really catch up. I can be like that Energizer bunny for long periods of time, and then eventually, I’m going to crash. This has been one of those times.

I attended the meeting of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy yesterday. I’m a member of that Board, and it was a 10-hour meeting, somewhat emotional for me…and it dragged on until 8 pm last night. This morning at 9, I was back at the Board office bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a License Standards Committee meeting. Thank goodness, that one only lasted three hours. I walked out into the sunshine, retrieved my car from the parking garage, and headed west on 1-40.

As is usually the case in the Triangle, traffic was crazy. People are either going 90 miles an hour–no joke–and even if you are, somebody will be on your rear-end acting like you should go faster in order to get out of their way–or it’s at a standstill due to some wreck or construction or both. After going about 20 miles, I decided to take the long way home. I hit the Lake Jordan exit and in just a couple of minutes I was on a country road, passing rolling farmland, fruit stands with pumpkins displayed, rolled hay in the fields ready to be put up. I rolled down the window and took a few deep breaths. I crossed the lake, not a boat in sight. When I made it to the Uwharrie National Forest, I pulled over for a few minutes and got out of the car. I wasn’t dressed for hiking, but it was tempting just to disappear into the woods.

This has been a busy month for me personally, and I’ve been remiss in not reporting some of the things that have gone on in the massage world. Here’s a short recap:

For the first time in history, AMTA decided to let candidates for the election have more access to the members than the short statements that have traditionally been the only thing they were allowed to have. Most of them have a Facebook page…one caveat is that they all have a disclaimer that the candidate has the right to remove statements from their wall if they are deemed inappropriate, and apparently a few of them think that means anything negative. I’ve heard some complaints from members who asked a question or made a comment and got deleted. There wasn’t any profanity, racial slurs, or anything else inappropriate, just a question or two that warranted an honest answer that the candidate wasn’t apparently ready to answer. Still, it’s a good thing that they’re interacting with people and having more of a chance to let the membership get to know them before the vote, which starts next month. I have a blog on my picks for the seats.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards held their annual meeting in San Juan, PR. I didn’t attend that meeting this year but apparently it was busy and productive. Kevin Snedden (MO), Kathy Jensen (IO), Susan Beam (NC), and Phyliss Salyers (TN) were all reelected to BOD seats. Scott Miller declined to serve another term, and his seat went to Billie Shea of NV. The good news of the meeting was that the start-up loan was paid off in full 27 months early.

I received a lot of emails this month from therapists in NY complaining about new CE requirements; most weren’t complaining about the prospect of learning something new, just the cost. I got a lot of “what can we do about this?” -type questions, and the short answer is, nothing. Action has to be taken before something becomes a law, not after the fact.

I have also heard from some folks in PA, where regulation is brand-new and in fact is still in process. It is expected that the initial rules will be finalized in December. Applications are already available on their website. Apparently the OT board, the PT board, and the insurance commission are objecting to the terminology “therapeutic massage” being used in the Practice Act. I hope that objection doesn’t go anywhere, and I urge PA therapists to contact your legislators and stand up for yourself. We all know that massage is therapeutic and I don’t believe in standing idly by while a turf war goes on. Why wouldn’t they want the word “therapeutic” used in conjunction with massage? Maybe the insurance commission is afraid they might have to pay for a massage if it’s deemed to be therapeutic, God forbid. Do not sit on your hands.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork elections are open until Nov 1. I have a blog about my picks for the seats. This is a crucial time for the NCBTMB. Alex Zaledonis will be stepping into the Chair on January 1. The N-CAP, the new advanced certification exam, is in progress and will be the beginning of a new era for the NCB. It’s vitally important for certificants to vote.

We should never forget that in any people-driven organization, no matter which one it is, that one or two egomaniacs can manage to get themselves at the top and cause a lot of damage. Whether you are a certificant of the NCBTMB, a member of AMTA, a member of your state board, or any other membership organization, you have a right, and I would go so far as to say a responsibility, to take part in the election process. When detrimental legislation is on the horizon, and you don’t take any action, I think we’ve all seen what happens when complacency and disinterest set in.

I’m sure there’s a lot more going on that I just haven’t caught up with yet. In the past month, in addition to attending the AMTA national convention, meeting my family at the Outer Banks two days later for our annual reunion which this year included a monsoon the whole time, coming home from that and attending another family reunion the very next day, hosting my dear friends from Ireland, going to Atlanta to teach a class one day and Charlotte to teach the next, proofing the galleys for my new book, running my office, running my household, making time for dates with my husband, teaching at my own facility, trying to get next year’s CE schedule set, attending the board meeting and the committee meeting, and trying to squeeze time for playing a little music in between, sometimes it just catches up with me instead of me catching up with it. Sometimes, it’s just time to take the long way home.

Report from AMTA National Convention

I attended the AMTA National Convention in Minneapolis this week and had a great time, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and running all over the place. Minneapolis is a beautiful city; very clean and I felt safe on the street at night, and the people were very hospitable. Here are some of the high points:

Tuesday I attended the Board of Directors meeting. It was business as usual, until Ruth Werner took her place at the table to talk about the Massage Therapy Foundation. Since I’m known for being plain-spoken myself, I appreciate it whenever anyone lays it on the line, and that’s exactly what Ruth did. She stated that while the AMTA and the MTF are bound together in perpetuity, that in order to survive and thrive, the Foundation must seek additional partners for support. She also said that the rumblings about the MTF being ungrateful to AMTA are entirely false, and I agree. AMTA may be the biggest donor to the MTF (this year the donation exceed $500,000), but they’re not the only ones, and we need to be thankful to ABMP, the NCBTMB, Massage Warehouse, and all the other entities and individuals that step up to the plate. I’ve said before that the MTF transcends politics, and it certainly ought to. I personally think it’s the safest and best strategy to have many smaller donors; if there’s only one big one, and finances don’t allow for the usual donation, it could really hurt the Foundation. My own words–not Ruth’s–all the whiny people need to shut up, and that goes double if you’re not putting your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday night I attended the annual Lippincott author’s dinner. It was hosted by Kelley Squazzo, Shauna Kelly, and Linda Francis, my editor whom I hold in high regard. Present were Ralph Stephens, Pat Archer, Ruth Werner, Mary Beth Braun, Diana Thompson, Tracy Walton, Leslie Young Giase, Carole Osborne, and Les Sweeney. I hope I didn’t miss anybody. I’m always a little star-struck and very grateful to be a member of such an illustrious group of people. Lippincott has so many talented massage therapists in their stable of authors. These aren’t just people who decided to write a book. They are working massage therapists and educators and the cream of the crop. The restaurant, 112 Eatery, had an eclectic menu including house-made charcuterie. Leslie asked the waiter to describe the gruyere et mortadella sandwich, to which he replied “cheese and baloney.” HA! You can dress up anything if you list it in a foreign language. It was all good.

President Kathleen Miller-Read gave an opening speech about balance, the theme of this year’s meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was Dr. Loyd Frank Jarrell, a chiropractor, who carried on with the theme. While Jarrell didn’t say anything offensive, he was not what I would call a dynamic speaker, and I personally would have preferred to see a massage therapist doing the keynote speech. Some of our past keynote presenters have rocked the auditorium–Judith Aston comes to mind–and Jarrell was more of a big yawn. I also heard a little sniping about Miller-Read giving the President’s Award to her sister, Maureen Moon. To that I can just say boo-hoo; the President has the right to give it to anyone she chooses, and like Miller-Read, Moon has had almost 30 years of service to AMTA.

I attended a great class from the Research Track, Steps Toward Massage Therapy Guidelines: A First Report to the Profession. While it was a good class and well-presented, I personally signed up for it because Ravensara Travillian was listed as one of the teachers, and she wasn’t there. She was probably out digging up some invertebrates or something of that nature–she’s a very busy and multi-talented woman–but I was still disappointed that the class didn’t include her.

I also attended the COMTA training session for peer evaluators. Some of you may recall that I had a little snarkfest with COMTA earlier this year on my blog, and Kate Henrouille, the Executive Director, had personally invited me to attend the COMTA meeting, so I did. It was a good session and I’m glad I went.

The convention was Party Central this year, too. I attended the President’s Reception with Sally and Ed Hacking. Sally is the undisputed Queen of Government Relations in this profession and currently works with the FSMTB. I’m hoping for some of her knowledge to rub off on me.

I went to several chapter socials, but one of the biggest bangs was the Facebook Friends gathering at Brit’s Pub Thursday night. About 300 of us converged on the Pub and I don’t think they believed the organizers who had warned them that a big crowd was going to show up. The place was packed and I stood at the bar about 15 minutes waiting for a beer. It was a blast.

Friday night, I attended the Massage Envy party, the Massage Therapy Foundation reception, and the Massage Today party. All three were great fun. The highlight was Angie Patrick receiving the Bob and Kathy King Humanitarian Award at the Foundation event. Angie works tirelessly for this profession and it’s great that she was recognized for it.

I didn’t get the count on how many therapists attended this year. I think the economy probably kept it from being as well-attended as last year’s meeting. There were also less exhibitors in the vendor hall. Notably absent was the NCBTMB and the AFMTE. AMTA made the decision to deny both of those organizations a booth, which I personally think was a very poor choice and one that I hope is rescinded by next year’s meeting. I have stated that on this blog and I also wrote a letter of complaint about it to the recently-departed Executive Director, Liz Lucas, just before she left the organization a mere three weeks before the convention. Lucas’ service to AMTA was mentioned by Miller-Read during her opening speech, and also by acting Interim Director, Shelly Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, I had several opportunities to talk to her this week, and I have decided to throw my support to her for the Executive Director position. No word yet on who else is in the running, but that’s irrelevant to me. Johnson has years of experience as the deputy in that position, and I think she deserves her shot. I hope the BOD will give it to her.

I also attended the Teacher’s Networking Luncheon on Friday and witnessed Melissa Wheeler being honored as the Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year. I later had the opportunity to speak with her. She was a good choice for the honor.

As is usually the case when I go to National, the high point for me was connecting with people. I was glad to see so many friends there, including a lot of our NC Posse, meet a lot of my FB friends and blog supporters in person, and as always, there’s something magical and awesome about being with over a thousand people who do what we do. Next year’s meeting will be in Portland, OR. I hope to see you there!

You can see all the pictures I took at the meeting here.

It Takes a Village

This past weekend, I witnessed Mike Hinkle, Cindy Michaels, and just a few volunteers pull off the World Massage Festival, undoubtedly the best massage event I’ve ever attended.  Next year is going to be even bigger and better, and before this weekend was over, there were more volunteers signing up for next year. That’s a good thing.

While it’s true that the people at the top of AMTA get paid, that organization would never survive without the volunteers who serve on the boards of state chapters, or serve as delegates, unit coordinators, and/or committee members.

State boards are usually composed of volunteers. While it’s true that in my state our travel expenses to and from meetings is reimbursed and we get a per diem of 50. for a half-day/100 for a whole day, no one is getting rich off of that. It takes me over four hours to travel to a meeting and I have to pay someone to run my office while I’m gone. We’re limited to paying 62. a night for a hotel.  I’m not exactly living it up at the Ritz when I’m on board business. There is no per diem for the countless hours between meetings that we’re reading minutes and agendas, doing research on issues we are considering, or drafting committee reports.

The board members of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, as well as the delegates, and the numerous volunteers on all the committees of the NCBTMB, and the board members for the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education also get their travel covered, but until you’ve served an organization like this, you don’t realize how time-consuming it can be.

Every day, somewhere, massage therapists are out giving their time to Hospice, veterans, cancer patients, premature babies, benefits for cancer and other worthy causes.

All these people have a life, a job, families and pets to take care of, school and church and civic and social obligations, but somehow they make it work.

It really does take a village.

Peace and Prosperity,

Laura Allen

Legislation: A Hard Row to Hoe

The majority of states have now passed massage therapy legislation; there are only five remaining states without any regulation: Alaska, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Idaho and Minnesota both have Freedom of Access laws in effect. 35 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have joined the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. I hope the rest of the regulated states will follow suit and join this great collaboration.

This past weekend, I was in the beautiful state of Kansas teaching a class for the AMTA Chapter there. I listened to Chapter President Marla Heiger give an update on their legislative process, which actually started ten years ago. It will be revisited in July.  Getting massage regulation in place is a hard row to hoe, as anyone who has ever been in on the process can attest.

Back in the day when massage legislation first came to North Carolina, I was employed by a massage school; the owner of that was on the first board here. In my capacity as her administrator, I sent around to neighboring states that already had legislation, and helped her summarize their rules. She was on the rules committee at the time, and had a hand in drafting the initial rules. It’s never a simple process.

One of the main hurdles, for a lot of states, has been in educating legislators, and convincing them that regulation is needed and that it benefits the public as well as the profession.

I’m not just a massage therapist, I’m a marketer. One of the main rules of marketing is that people want to know how something will benefit them. And one of the main rules of politics, as we all know, is that legislators often have to be forced into paying attention to important issues.  Involvement on the part of massage therapists is crucial.  Last week in Kansas, for example, the chapter president handed out blank petitions and encouraged the therapists who were present to ask all their clients to sign them…they need a certain number of petitioners before the legislature will even put the issue back on their agenda.

Getting legislation in place depends largely on the efforts of AMTA. ABMP also has a government relations representative. The FSMTB is here to help member boards in any way they can. In the final analysis, massage therapists have to care. They have to want the credibility that goes along with licensure. They have to want to put a stop to unethical practices associated with massage. One of the therapists in my class this weekend said that in spite of the fact that there is no licensure there, when their new phone book came out recently, there were six listings of people claiming to be “licensed massage therapists. ” That’s bad, because in the eyes of the public who may be looking for a therapist and doesn’t know anything about the law,  it makes the dishonest advertisers look superior to the therapists who are listings themselves honestly without that designation. All the more reason to get some rules in place.

I wish Kansas well with their legislative efforts, and I hope that the few other holdout states will follow suit. It’s important to our evolution as a profession.

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 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

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