The year is winding down; all the award shows have been on television lately, and I’d like to give out a few of my own, along with a thump or two on the head of those who need it. Call me a critic! These are my opinions only and should not be construed as the opinion of anyone else.
Kudos to Rick Rosen for starting the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and to the organization for putting on one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended earlier this year, and for taking the initiative to set some standards for teaching massage. If you are involved in massage education and you haven’t joined yet, I suggest you quit procrastinating.
Kudos to the Massage Therapy Foundation for all the work they do in promoting research in the field, and in particular for offering classes in Teaching Research Literacy. And to Ruth Werner for being such a fabulous ambassador for the organization.
Kudos to Paul Lindamood, former CEO of the NCBTMB, for doing such a great job in putting that organization’s finances back in order. I was very sorry to see him go.
Kudos to AMTA, in particular the Oregon Chapter, and Glenath Moyle, National President, for putting on one of the best conventions in my memory. Kudos also the the thousands of AMTA members who volunteer at their chapters and the national level.
Kudos to Facebook. Not only are they my favorite place to hang out online, they are also spending millions of dollars building their new data center in my hometown, and providing much-needed employment in a very economically depressed area.
Kudos to Jan Schwartz, Whitney Lowe, and Judith McDaniel of Education Training and Solutions. They don’t toot their own horn enough about some of the excellent work they have done for the Massage Therapy Foundation, the World Skin Project, and in general advancing excellence in online education.
Kudos to Angie Patrick of Massage Warehouse for her tireless work in the Sanctuary and raising money through massage for the Massage Therapy Foundation, the Liddle Kidz Foundation, and other worthy causes.
Kudos to all the massage therapists in the trenches, who give of their time in performing community service and their income to support deserving populations and those who can’t afford massage. I know hundreds of them so I just can’t list them all here, but every day, someone is out there donating the awesome power of touch in hospices, abused women’s shelters, the VA hospitals, homeless shelters, and hospitals. Bless them all.
Kudos to all those teachers out there who have what I refer to as “a higher calling.” Those who are teaching hospice massage, cancer massage, pediatric massage…There are too many to name, but they are led to work with the sick, the dying, the special-needs. Bless them all, and those they teach.
Kudos to any massage school and/or instructor who is teaching their students to be research literate.
And now, a few thumps on the head. The names have been omitted so as not to put the magazines who publish my blog in danger of a lawsuit, but you know who you are:
A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I’m better than any doctor or chiropractor. I will heal you when they can’t.”
A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I don’t refer out to anybody. No one is as good as I am.”
A thump on the head to the therapists who say to their clients “You really need this (expensive water filter, nutritional supplements, foot patches, juice by so-and-so) etc that I am selling.”
A thump on the head to the therapists who say “I don’t need continuing education. I already know everything there is to know.”
A thump on the head to the therapists who impose energy work on every client who gets on their table, as if it is some God-given right, when the client hasn’t asked for it, doesn’t want it or believe in it, and it hasn’t been discussed.
A thump on the head to the therapists who are telling their clients that massage is detoxifying them and that they need to drink a lot of water to flush out their toxins.
A thump on the head to the therapists on massage forums who can’t behave and can’t have civil discourse, and instead resort to name-calling and personal attacks.
A thump on the head to the therapists on Facebook who are identifying themselves as MTs and posting pictures of themselves that look like they belong in the centerfold of Hustler.
I could thump all day–and give kudos all day–but I’ll save some for a future blog.
Last week, the leaders of all the major organizations representing the massage therapy profession came together in St. Louis for a Massage Therapy Leadership Summit.
I have personally prayed for this to happen for a long time, and was thrilled that it took place. Rick Rosen, Executive Director of the AFMTE, shared this photo on my Facebook page. I of course spread it through my networks, and it prompted a question from Julie Onofrio: “Are these people massage therapists, and have they ever been in practice?” I’ll try to answer that to the best of my ability. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all these folks, and I know some of them better than others. In the event I get any of the facts wrong here, I’m sure someone can straighten me out!
I will say up front that as for the most part these are organizations that have many members, huge budgets, and myriad issues and details to take care of, I don’t believe that being a massage therapist is a prerequisite for being a CEO or an ED. That is a position that generally requires a college education, and enough expertise to run a multi-million dollar concern. The AFMTE is only two years old–they don’t quite fall into that category yet, but they will someday. Leadership of such an organization doesn’t necessarily require one to be a massage therapist, although it would certainly require an interest in massage. Here’s my scoop on the leaders:
Rick Rosen, the founder and Executive Director of the AFMTE is indeed a licensed massage therapist. In fact, he is the proud owner of the first massage therapy license issued in the state of North Carolina. He is the co-founder, along with his wife Carey Smith, of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC, which they started in 1983. It is one of only two COMTA-approved schools in the state. He was the founding chairman and a past member of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and was the first Executive Director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, a national organization for massage schools, teachers and continuing education providers. Rick is a 2010 inductee into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, and was named as one of the Top 10 People in Integrative Medicine/Integrative Health Care in 2010. He also has a degree in advertising from the University of Florida, a master’s in humanistic psychology from West Georgia College, is certified by the Hakomi Institute body-centered psychology, is certified in structural integration, and is a graduate of the Florida School of Massage.
Pete Whitridge, the President of the AFMTE, has been a massage therapist since 1987 and has been an instructor at the Florida School of Massage since 1989. He has served AMTA on the Council of Schools, served 5 years on the Florida Board of Massage including being the Chair, served COMTA as a reviewer, has also served on the faculty of the Spacecoast Health Institute for 14 years, and Indian River Community College for 7 years. He is also on the Education Committee of the Massage Therapy Foundation. Pete also has a BA in History and Political Science.
Shelly Johnson, Executive Director of AMTA, served as the Deputy Director for 8 years before being named ED in 2010 after the departure of Elizabeth Lucas. Shelly is not a massage therapist, but she has worked with associations for 22 years, including the American Society for Quality. She also was previously Executive Director for the American Society of Neuroscience Nurses, the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing, the Neuroscience Nursing Foundation and the American Society for Healthcare Materials Management of the American Hospital Association. Johnson has a BA in Political Science and Communication from Augsburg College.
Glenath Moyle, President of AMTA, gets the longevity award in this crowd! Glenath has been doing massage for more than 50 years. In her first career, she was a geriatric nurse, and massaging patients was a regular part of her routine. She attended massage school in Portland OR and started practicing in earnest in 1987. Prior to becoming the President of the national organization, Moyle was a tireless volunteer in her state chapter. Needless to say, she’s very excited that the national convention is coming to her hometown this year.
Bob Benson, the Chair of ABMP, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Prior to coming to ABMP, Benson worked in public policy in Washington, DC, and spent 19 years as President of two public companies. The membership of ABMP has grown by more than 10 times over since Benson came on the scene. He was the catalyst for the creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, notably funding that organization to get it off the ground, and he worked for nine years to get statewide regulation in California, where he now serves on the board of the California Massage Therapy Council.
Les is More! Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, joined the organization in 1994 after learning about association management at the Club Managers Association of America. He served as VP from 1999-2006. Sweeney has an MBA from the University of Colorado. In 2006, Les decided to step up to the plate and get an education in massage! He graduated from the Holistic Learning Center in Evergreen and became Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage. Les has expressed to me personally that he just wanted to know more about massage and get the “real feel” for what ABMP members do. Good for him for taking the plunge and investing in that.
Kate Zulaski is the Executive Director of COMTA. She has a BA in Geology, and attended the Institute for Psycho-Structural Balancing in CA, and went on to become the Dean of Education at the school before joining COMTA in 2009.
Kate has in-depth experience both as a massage therapy practitioner as well as an educator, having most recently served as Dean of Education from 2006 to 2009 for the International Professional School of Bodywork (IPSB) in San Diego, California. Prior to being named Dean of Education, Zulaski also served as an IPSB Massage Instructor and Clinic Supervisor. Zulaski has also studied a variety of bodywork modalities through the California Naturopathic College; Society of Ortho-Bionomy International; the Natural Healing Institute; and the International Professional School of Bodywork. She has been active in volunteer work for the AMTA Teacher of the Year Awards Committee and the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education Standards Committee, and is a long-time member of the ABMP.
Randy Swenson, a COMTA Commissioner who was also present, is a chiropractor. Dr. Swenson is currently a tenured professor and Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). He developed the Massage Therapy Program in 1999 and continues to manage the day-to-day operations of the program. He is also responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree completion and professional pre-requisite programs. He was previously the Academic Dean and the Dean of Curriculum Development for the chiropractic program at NUHS. He holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from NUHS and a Master of Health Professions Education from the Department of Medical Education of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has led NUHS Steering Committees for Higher Learning Commission Self-Study Reports (SSR) and Commission on Chiropractic Education SSR’s. He has led and written COMTA SSR’s for the NUHS massage program. Dr. Swenson has been a site-team member, site-team leader and off-site peer reviewer with COMTA since 2006.
Ruth Werner, fearless leader of the Massage Therapy Foundation, is the author of the Guide to Pathology for Massage Therapists and the Disease Handbook for Massage Therapists, both published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Werner is a graduate of the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle in 1985, and completed the Advanced Training Program and Teacher Training Program with the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge, MA in 1991. I’ve attended a couple of classes (a definite privilege!) taught by Ruth, where she honestly shared with the class that she feels her real talent is sharing research about massage rather than actually doing massage. We’d all be a lot worse off if that wasn’t so. Her pathology book has been my go-to source from the moment I entered massage school. She has taught curriculum at 4 massage schools and continuing education classes all over the world.
Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, has a PhD in human services from Kansas State University. Dr. Persinger, a native of New Zealand, joined the National Certifying Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in 1996. Before accepting the position of interim CEO, she served as the commission’s executive director of operations, and was originally hired to be its director of examination development. Persinger is also co-author of Sand to Sky: Conversations with Teachers of Asian Medicine (iUniverse, 2008).
Paul Lindamood, current CEO of the NCBTMB, has more than 20 years of executive-level experience. Lindamood has devoted his career to positioning, directing and promoting associations, professional firms, healthcare organizations, businesses and non-profits. In fact, it was in this capacity that he first began working with NCBTMB, directing the organization’s communications, public relations, media and re-branding strategies. He has worked with a wide-range of healthcare and non-profit organizations and led successful branding, fundraising, recruitment and consumer awareness initiatives for American Red Cross, United Way, International Association of Business Communicators, Jobs for Graduates, Leukemia Society of America, March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, City of Hope, Hospice, Junior Achievement, Small Business Administration, and many others.
Alexa Zaledonis, Chair of the NCBTMB, is the owner/operator of Even Keel Wellness Spa, a therapeutic massage and skin care center in Annapolis, Maryland. A graduate of the Baltimore School of Massage, she passed the NCE in 2002 and has spent the past seven years building her practice in the community. Zaledonis is a certified Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength Professionals Association. Zaledonis currently is completing her Yoga Teacher Training (RYT200). She also teaches Thai Massage seminars at Even Keel Institute for Continuing Education and is an NCBTMB-approved provider.
A former Certified Public Accountant, Zaledonis specialized in healthcare and nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. I spoke to Zaledonis earlier today, and she told me that in addition to working 40 hours a week on behalf of the NCBTMB, she also personally does an average of 17 massages a week. A fellow workaholic!
Well, folks, there you have it. So yes, many of these folks do have actual massage experience. And those that don’t have been around this business long enough to appreciate those of us who do. They have all, in my opinion, served the massage profession with the best of intentions and keeping their eyes on the fact that it is the massage therapists in the trenches that they are working for. May they all enjoy peace and prosperity.
There were keynote speakers throughout the weekend, daily opportunities for those present to give input into the initiative on teacher standards the Alliance is undertaking, informative continuing education classes, group sessions, a comfortable setting, and plenty of socializing with friends and colleagues.
The first keynote address, “Creating a Culture of Teacher Excellence,” was given by Tracy A Ortelli, an education director from the nursing field who has vast experience in implementing standards of teaching excellence in that profession. She was a good choice since the same difficulties basically face any licensed profession when their educational objectives are evolving with no way to go but up. She was very engaging and had a lot of expert advice to share…including what personally jumped out at me: “Do not assume that people learn to be teachers through on-the-job-training, or ‘trial by fire’, rather than through planned, deliberate preparation.” Timely advice for all those last year’s students who are this year’s teachers, and those who place them in those positions.
Executive Director Rick Rosen gave a report on the state of the Alliance, including the good news that attendance at this year’s meeting was up 50% from last year’s inaugural session. Rosen also shared the details of the simplified dues structure and the many new and improved benefits that are a part of Alliance membership.
Becky Blessing gave presentations on the Alliance Code of Ethics and the National Teacher Education Standards Project, and Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. I attended all three. Ben Benjamin spoke about the dynamics of effective communications. I attended a presentation on government relations led by Sally Hacking, the Queen of Government Relations (she’s actually the GR rep for the FSMTB, but she’s been doing this for 40 years for a number of entities so she’s the Queen to me) and Pete Whitridge, President of the BOD of the AFMTE.
I also attended a session on the proposed new CE approval program of the Federation led by Debra Persinger, and their new CE project coordinator Lorena Haynes, with Sally occasionally making clarifications. Among the attendees at that meeting were Alexa Zaledonis, Chair of the NCBTMB and Sue Toscano, Chair-Elect. They were a class act in that meeting and expressed their willingness to cooperate and collaborate with the FSMTB, an attitude that would do well for all concerned to adopt. It was a lively discussion. Jan Schwartz also gave a great presentation, “The Role of Massage in Complimentary Health Care.” Other topics for massage schools, instructors, and CE providers, including instructional design, financial aid participation for schools, increasing enrollment, and ethics in education were covered by Iris Burman and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, massage school marketing strategist Lex Filipowski, Anne Williams, Dr. Tony Mirando and Demara Stamler, and Nancy Dail.
In between all this great education, I had dinner with Sally and Ed Hacking and Jan Schwartz, enjoyed a fabulous dinner another night with Lynda Solien-Wolfe and ten other friends, and got to chat with Anne Williams and Les Sweeney, Winona Bontrager, Sandy Fritz, Ariana Vincent, Sharon Puszko, Cherie Sohnen-Moe and lots of other folks. Ruth Werner pointed out to me that she had counted nine textbook authors present. Incidentally, Ed Hacking is also 350 pages in to a book he is writing. He let me read the first chapter. I hope I’m still able to write a book when I’m 94! Ed is one smart fellow. I also taped an interview with Ryan Hoyme, the Massage Nerd, and afterward we spontaneously decided to tape a promo for the Alliance, which ended up getting shown at the meeting. That was my first effort as a volunteer for the membership committee. Lynda Solien-Wolfe also gathered me, Bruce Baltz, Cherie, Ralph Stephens, Linda Beach, Anita Shannon and others for a roundtable interview for Performance Health and BioFreeze.
So much happened, I feel like I haven’t covered half of it, and I could go on and on about the wonderful gathering of educators and the work and camaraderie that took place, but I’m going to cut to the chase: every educator needs to join the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. Whether you are a school owner, program director, CE provider, or industry support partner, the Alliance is going to accomplish great things for the advancement of massage therapy education. This is an opportunity to have a voice and a partnership in many resources for that, and I encourage you not to pass it by. Jan Schwartz closed her presentation with a line I’m going to steal: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Come to the table. Visit the Alliance website at www.afmte.org and join today.
Civil discourse, according to Wikipedia, is engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding.
I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to that. The good took place recently at the MAAP meeting I attended with the folks at the NCBTMB. It was a great meeting of intelligent people who were all invited to participate in a discussion about continuing education, and not an ugly word was spoken.
The good was exemplified again this past week in the comments on my previous blog post, and on the AFMTE LinkedIn page in response to Rick Rosen’s position paper “Vision for the Optimal Role of National Certification.”
Some very bright minds have weighed in on that. Some of them support Rosen’s position; some disagree; some like parts of it. And somehow, the conversation has managed to take place without name-calling, insulting anybody’s mama, or the questioning of people’s ethics and/or credentials in a rude manner. People have been free to express their opinion and have done it in a polite manner.
That is completely contrary to what has been happening on a couple of the other discussion forums that I participate in. A few weeks ago I made a post on the massageprofessionals.com website, entitled “Stop the Insanity.” It was a plea for people to engage in civil discourse and leave behind the bad behavior. I’m sad to say that it hasn’t happened; the mudslinging has continued, and several people who really have a lot to contribute to intelligent discussions have left entirely on account of it. It happened again this week on another website when the owner sent out a notice to everyone on the site making an accusation against a fellow therapist. He later admitted his error in judgment as an emotional response to something he was passionate about and apologized publicly, and I’m glad.
Participating in a conversation on an Internet forum comes with a few inherent flaws. You cannot hear the tone of anyone’s voice, nor see their body language. What you perceive as sarcasm may in fact just be passion for the subject at hand, that would come off sounding entirely different to you if you could hear and see the person saying it.
There’s a song that says “free your mind, and the rest will follow.” Some people would do well to take heed of that. The close-minded set who think their way is the only way, and who refuse to remotely consider that someone else might have a valid point, cause the conversation to deteriorate into a combination of the bad and the ugly. I have been embarrassed to see otherwise professional people calling each other names, making wild accusations about people’s credentials, refusing to address a legitimate question directed at them, but instead turning around and replying with a snarky comment or answering it with another question and evading the issue altogether.
If I was a member of the massage-seeking public, and I had witnessed the behavior of some of these people on some of these discussion boards, there’s no way in hell I would allow such an angry, bitter, and closed-minded individual to place their hands on me. I would reach the conclusion that anyone carrying around such an angry and superior attitude couldn’t possibly bring any peace and well-being to me.
I happen not to agree with Rick Rosen; it’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with him and if we both live long enough it probably won’t be the last. In fact some of his own board members at the AFMTE have expressed their concern in response to the comments that have come in on LinkedIn. It was done civilly and without any wild accusations and bad behavior. When I run into him at a meeting, I’ll still sit down and have a drink and a chat with him, or anyone else who disagrees with me. It’s called civil discourse.
The AFMTE also recently announced that it is partnering with the FSMTB in their initiative to begin approving continuing education.
Both of these have attracted quite a bit of discussion on the various social media sites. And like any discussion, people agree, disagree, and agree to disagree. I’m glad to say there hasn’t been any mudslinging of the nature that goes on at times in some of these venues. I think these discussions are useful and informative. They sometimes bring to light a lot of misconceptions that people have about which entity does what, and how they do it.
I encourage everyone to read Rosen’s paper in its entirety, but to make a long story short, it is a plea to the NCBTMB to reorganize, and get out of the continuing education business and the entry-level exam business. The FSMTB has been stating the opinion since their founding 5 years ago that NCBTMB exams are inappropriate for licensing purposes, and encouraging the states to drop those exams and use the MBLEx exclusively. That hasn’t happened. If the map on the FSMTB is current, 33 member boards are using the MBLEx. If the map on the NCBTMB website is current, 38 states are still accepting their exams, meaning the majority of states are accepting both, and offering their licensees a choice. The AFMTE is also supportive of the Federation’s stance, as is AMTA and ABMP. Still, the facts show that either the 38 states are doing the wrong thing, or else they are exercising their undeniable right to conduct their business the way they want to.
I haven’t been in this profession nearly as long as Rosen or some of the other players here. I became a massage therapist in 1999, and it seems like I joined at a time when everything was just really starting to swirl. I was in the first wave of licensees in North Carolina. Mr. Rosen actually has license #00001…first person licensed in our state. He has seen and been instrumental in a lot of things happening. I would never try to minimize the contributions he has made to this field. I won’t criticize his career, his integrity, or his belief that he is suggesting something for the good of the profession on the whole.
My criticism is this, and it isn’t directed entirely at him; it’s directed at the concept of any organization trying to mandate to another organization how to run their affairs. We get enough of that from the feds, don’t we?
I believe that the FSMTB and their mission of public protection is a great thing. The member boards come together for the purpose of discussing common problems and looking for workable solutions. Anytime people sit at the table together to try to solve a problem, that’s wonderful to me. I also believe that the AFMTE was started with the noble intent of acting as the voice, advocate, and resource for massage schools and educators. What I don’t believe is that either one of them can unilaterally force the NCBTMB to change their way of conducting business, nor do I think they should have that right.
The FSMTB is developing a model practice act, in addition to developing a CE approval program. They can and do suggest to the member boards that their exam is the appropriate exam, their CE approval (will be) is the appropriate approval, their model practice act (will be) the premier example of an appropriate act, and so forth. It’s part of the quest to streamline things in a uniform fashion and promote portability.
However, suggestion is the key word. The member states aren’t bound by any legalities to do what the FSMTB offers in the way of suggestions. If they want to keep the NCBTMB exams, they can. If they want to keep their own practice act, they can. If they want to keep NCBTMB approved providers or continue to approve their own, they can. They all have the right to conduct their business as they see fit within the law.
There is certainly room for improvement, on the practice act front, in particular, when you see all the variance that’s out there between the states. Keith Eric Grant has summarized that. You can access it here.
The bottom line, to me, is that all of these entities, including the NCBTMB, also have the right to conduct their business as they see fit. Unless and until there is a federal law governing massage, the individual entities can continue to do whatever they do however they want to do it. The FSMTB and the AFMTE could spend days pointing out past shortcomings of the NCBTMB, but it wasn’t “the NCBTMB” as an entity that had the shortcomings. It was the human beings running the organization.
As the FSMTB is only 5 years old, and the AFMTE less than half that, neither of these organizations have been in business long enough to have been plagued with the personnel problems, inefficiency problems, financial problems and so forth that happened in the past at the NCBTMB. Board members come and go. Executive directors come and go. Priorities of boards and organization come and go. Even organizations come and go. Last week I learned from Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, CEO of the NCCAOM, that there was previously a Federation of State Acupuncture Boards that fell apart.
AMTA and ABMP have their own missions and their leadership has their own opinions. As do we all. And any organization, just like any individual, has the right to run their business as they please, as long as they are not breaking the law. The NCBTMB is not breaking any laws by continuing to conduct their business as they see fit. The other organizations are not breaking any laws by conducting their business as they see fit. They all have that right. You don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like it. One organization doesn’t have to like what the other organization is doing. But until the federal government steps in and says, “you must do this,” they can all do as they dang well please. If any of them don’t do well enough at whatever it is they choose to do, they won’t survive.
Everybody has their own opinion on what’s good (or not good) for this profession, what’s good for licensing, what’s good for certification, what’s good for teacher standards, what’s good for education, what’s good for continuing education. There are just as many opinions on all of that as there are opinions on what kind of massage oil you ought to use. Everyone is entitled to that. And everyone is entitled to conduct their business the way they choose to, as long as it’s within the law.
The AFMTE posted on LinkedIn that they had posted Rosen’s position paper directly to the NCBTMB. I suggest that if the folks at the NCBTMB are interested in hearing more about it or discussing it that they will get in touch. And if they don’t, then I suggest that the AFMTE, and in fact all organizations, concentrate on being good at what they set out to do for their organization, and leave the NCBTMB to do as their board and their leadership sees fit. Their Board is elected by their certificants, and their ED serves at the pleasure of their board. They may well thrive and survive by doing things their own way, or they may fail altogether.
Either way, I think the burden to make it or break it is on them, just like the burden that is on all the organizations, and on any of us as practitioners and business people. And any insinuation of the NCBTMB being “uncooperative” is an opinion, not a fact. I can tell you how to run your business, you can decline to take my advice, and I will not refer to you as uncooperative. I will assume that you are exercising your right to conduct your business in the manner that you see fit, whether it suits me or not.
I just got back from Chicago, where I participated in the Massage Approved Provider Panel convened by the NCBTMB. I have to say it was one of the best meetings I have ever attended. Everybody left their egos and their agendas at the door…not one single moment of tension or dissension occurred, in spite of the fact that competing entities were represented.
I spent the weekend sitting next to Bill Brown, Deputy Director of the AMTA. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Bill has wanted to strangle me a few times over my blog, and I’m glad he got the opportunity to know me a little better. I might have managed to convince him that I have a few redeeming qualities and I’m not just the crazy blogger he thought I was.
Cynthia Ribeiro, President-Elect of AMTA, was also present, and what a class act she is. I had supported Cynthia during the AMTA election, and there’s no doubt in my mind that was the right move. She is one fine lady who has made many contributions to our profession, and had a lot to contribute to the task at hand this week.
Bob Benson, Chairman of ABMP and Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP were there. Bob brought his considerable business acumen to the meeting. I’ve worked with Anne before and she’s just a go-getter who shares my philosophy of “make it happen.” She has a great sense of humor, too. There was a lot of laughing this week, which is always a great ice-breaker and good for the cohesiveness of the group.
The facilitator, Drew Lebby, provided exactly the right balance of keeping things moving, listening, and explaining. We had breakout groups and larger discussions and the whole meeting just had a great flow. Having been in meetings with some very boring facilitators in the past, I thought he was wonderful and I would highly recommend him to groups who are looking for a great facilitator. He has 35 years of experience at it and it shows.
I heartily applaud the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards for sending Kathy Jensen, VP of the FSMTB, and kudos to the NCBTMB for inviting the Federation to participate. Since the MBLEx has taken a huge chunk of the NCBTMB’s exam market share, and the Federation has also recently announced plans to jump into the CE approval arena, I can think of past administrations at the NCBTMB that would have spent the time sniping about the Federation as competition instead of inviting them to attend, all the more reason why I appreciate their willingness to play in the same sandbox. That theme was reiterated by Ribeiro and several others this week–this isn’t about your organization, or my organization, or who’s the biggest or the best–it’s about massage and increasing the quality of massage education.
COMTA was also represented by Commissioner Randy Swenson. Several state board members were in attendance, as were approved providers and a couple of nationally certified massage therapists.
The AFMTE was not represented, although they were invited to participate, and as a founding member of that organization I personally found their refusal to attend distressing. This meeting was about education, and in my opinion, they should have been there. I contacted Rick Rosen to give him the opportunity to explain their absence, and his response was that since the AFMTE has decided to partner with the FSMTB in developing their CE program, he felt it would blur the issue and divert their focus to attend.
Nice try, Rick, but since the Federation was invited, and in fact chose to participate in the meeting, I don’t buy it. The mere term “Alliance” suggests that you are representing education, and not just one faction of it. The Alliance could have made some great contributions to the meeting and you missed out on a good opportunity to do so. Rosen is of the opinion that the Federation should replace the NCBTMB and the individual states who do their own approvals as the only provider/CE approval entity. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that issue.
No one has been a more vocal critic of the NCBTMB than I have in the past, and I have defended the right of the FSMTB to offer their competing exam, as I don’t believe that any entity is entitled to a monopoly. I will go further and say that I don’t believe any entity is entitled to a monopoly in any arena, so I am not in support of the Federation having a monopoly on continuing education. They have the undeniable right to jump into the market if they choose, and the marketplace will decide. I am personally not going to be dictated to of which entity I have to throw my CE approval business to unless my state makes it a law that I have to choose one or the other. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
There are 42 member boards in the Federation and so far, although many states have voted to accept the MBLEx, and some have adopted it exclusively, many others have refused to throw out the NCB exams, and continue to give their licensees a choice in which exam to take. I believe the same thing will happen when it comes to continuing education. Some states will go with the FSMTB CE program, and others will continue to allow providers to make their own choice. It’s the American way. Furthermore, in many places legislative changes will be required in order to switch from one to another or add another approval entity, and we all know that legislation most often moves at the speed of molasses. That is also the American way.
There were a number of problems identified with the NCBTMB’s current system. For one thing, some providers have taken advantage of the fact that once they received approval, they could add on classes at will. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition on classes that are based on a product they sell. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition against classes based on religion and/or spiritual practices. Some have ignored the fact that they need to be genuinely qualified to teach in their subject area.
Bruce Baltz, an NCBTMB Board member, mentioned people who teach NMT techniques suddenly throwing in a class in lymphatic drainage needing to be looked at carefully…sorry, but your attendance at a weekend workshop does not qualify you to suddenly start teaching it yourself. The people who have been guilty of these offenses are going to have a little awakening when some of the changes to the program are implemented.
The suggestions for solutions were great and it was interesting to see that when we broke up into small groups to do problem solving, most of the groups were on the same page. Some of the suggestions included requiring providers to submit videos of their classes, a much stricter and more frequent auditing process, an improved evaluation process where students can go online anonymously and evaluate teachers and class content, a required online class for teachers themselves to improve instructor competence…lots of good ideas that the NCBTMB is going to consider and decide which ones to implement.
Every organization and individual at the meeting expressed a genuine interest in assisting the NCBTMB in this endeavor. Even better, they all agreed that all the organizations, not just a choice few, need to come together once or twice a year for the good of the profession. Bob Benson stepped up to the plate on that front and good for him for doing so…AMTA and ABMP can take a few swipes at each other, but in the final analysis, there is room in the sandbox and he knows it.
All in all, I thought it was a wonderful gathering of some of the best and brightest, with the intent of creating a positive outcome, and I was honored to have been included. Paul Lindamood and his team did a great job in organizing the gathering and assembling the best people they could get. And hey, any meeting that includes keeping chocolate on the table at all times does it for me.
There have been several developments in the regulation of massage in the past few weeks that I personally find distressing. Earlier this week, Florida Senate Bill 584 moved a step closer to passage. This piece of special-interest legislation would amend Florida’s massage therapy law to allow graduates of certain board-approved schools to obtain a temporary permit and practice for six months without a license, until such time as they fail the exam or become licensed, whichever comes first. Although the bill states that they must work under the supervision of a licensed therapist, the terms of that are not spelled out. Does that mean the supervising therapist is on the premises, in the treatment room, or giving an occasional phone call? This is where boards frequently get into trouble and spend a lot of time with something bogged down in a policy committee—when something has not been clearly defined—and in this case, “supervision” isn’t clearly defined.
New Hampshire is trying to abolish massage licensing altogether, as a cost-cutting, government-reducing move. That would of course mean back to square one, where anyone who knows absolutely nothing about contraindications for massage, endangerment sites, or professional ethics can feel free to call themselves a massage therapist.
Utah just amended their practice act to remove the key word “therapeutic” from the scope of practice definition and added in the word “recreational”, in what is in my opinion a misguided attempt to thwart sexual activity being conducted in the name of massage. Other than the fact that I think House Bill 243 is a big step back for our profession, I was just as shocked that the government relations folks in the Utah chapter of AMTA supported it to start with. I’m an active member of the North Carolina chapter, and I cannot imagine the leadership of our chapter supporting that.
I was gratified a few days ago to see Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, and a few days later Bob Benson, the Chairman of ABMP, weigh in with the same attitude I have about this legislation. Rick Rosen, who is a former Chair of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, former Executive Director for FSMTB, and currently the Executive Director of AFMTE, made a comment on Bob’s blog that I think nailed the important points of this issue:
The most critical component of the state law for any regulated profession is what’s known as its Scope of Practice definition. The list of prohibited acts in a law is important, but less so than the scope definition. If what you want to do in your massage therapy practice is not listed in the scope, you can’t legally do it.
The Utah action that removed the term “therapeutic” from the scope definition, and added the term “recreational massage” may have the effect of narrowing the scope of practice for massage therapists. At the very least, it takes massage therapy out of the realm of health care and into the murky world of “other business activities”, which includes adult entertainment.
Considerations around enforcement of a Practice Act should not take precedence over the scope itself, and it is not a sound justification for downgrading the law. That’s what hasoccurred in Utah, and the Licensed Massage Therapists of that state will have to deal with it.
Every single word in statues and rules that regulate the practice of massage therapy is important. What you think it says is not always what it means — or what it will produce in the daily administration of a regulatory program. That’s why we need experienced and competent government relations professionals representing our interests.
I report on the legislation of massage, and I have future aspirations of working in government relations. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years doing research on boards and practice acts, and while I’m certainly not as experienced or learned as Rosen, I think I’m at the point of recognizing a piece of bad legislation when I see it. The way I see it, if you’re not moving forward, you’re backing up.
Rick Rosen is Executive Director of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), and has been one of the driving forces in the massage profession for almost three decades. He is also co-owner of Body Therapy Institute (BTI) in Siler City, North Carolina, along with his wife Carey Smith. The couple announced this week that they are retiring from the massage school business. They are putting BTI up for sale and will be moving to the Big Island of Hawaii within the next 12-18 months.
Rosen has covered a lot of territory during his service to our profession. Inducted this year into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, he was the founding Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and was one of the first Presidents of the North Carolina Chapter of AMTA. He was also a co-founder and the first Executive Director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. Rosen’s commitment as Executive Director of AFMTE runs through the end of this year, and he has offered to extend that if needed. “I may be completing this phase of my career as a massage school director, but I’m open to further exploration of how I may continue to be of service to the massage therapy profession at large” said Rosen, in a letter announcing his transition plans.
Carey Smith was the 2009 recipient of AMTA’s Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award, and has pioneered teacher training for massage educators. She and her husband have co-directed the Body Therapy Institute for 17 years. Founded by Rosen in 1983, BTI was the first school of massage therapy in the Carolinas, and has become one of the most respected massage schools in the nation. Located on a beautiful 156-acre property known as South Wind Farm. BTI is one of only two COMTA-approved schools in NC. During the past year, 100% of the school’s graduates passed the NCE and MBLEx on their first try. The school has long been known as a center of excellence, thanks to these two leaders and their dedicated faculty.
While expressing that they will miss the farm, the school and their staff, the couple is looking forward to the next chapter of their lives so they can have more time for creative endeavors. Rosen noted, “We invite prospective students all the time to come to massage school to pursue their goals and dreams. Now it’s time for our next great adventure.”