From the Editor's Desk

Filed under general

In her first month in office, Leena Guptha, D.O., B.C.T.M.B., new chair of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) has already identified the need to involve the massage therapy community in the future of her organization.

“I think that in order for NCBTMB to really find a rightful place in the profession, we have to know what the profession would like us to be, in order to serve the community,” she told me today.

I spoke with Dr. Guptha on topics ranging from the new board credential to specialty certifications, to a nascent think tank and education approval. From what she says, it seems a new day has dawned at the NCBTMB, and the organization has opened its door to robust, two-way communication with members of the massage profession.

Evidence of this is found in webinars Guptha conducted on Nov. 5, 12 and 21, with NCBTMB CEO Steven Kirin and former Chair Susan Toscano lending support on the final installment. The webinars are available in both audio and transcript forms on the NCBTMB’s website (

Guptha is also in the process of overseeing the creation of a survey that will gauge knowledge of the new board certification credential launched this year—which is replacing national certification—in part, she said, because this month’s webinars showcased the confusion many therapists have about the new credential. (To achieve board certification, an individual needs to have 750 hours of massage education, 250 hours of professional experience, complete an exam, pass a background check, obtain CPR certification, commit to the NCBTMB standards of practice and code of ethics, and commit to opposing human trafficking.)

“I’ve come to realize people don’t really understand what the board certification is about, and this is due to our lack of effective communication,” Guptha told me. She said many therapists are eligible for board certification, but they don’t understand how to transition from national certification or that they may take the board certification exam. “This is one area that needs a great deal of focus,” she added.

I was surprised to learn today there is not any concerted effort on the part of NCBTMB to move forward with specialty certifications at this time—surprised, because various meetings and conversations with NCBTMB personnel over the past year or so had led me to conclude specialty certifications were underway; however, Guptha reiterated the NCBTMB needs to remain focused on communicating with the massage field about board certification at this time.

Any movement toward specialty certifications—which I imagine could be in areas including pregnancy massage, sports massage, infant massage and medical massage—will begin only after a comprehensive evaluation of both what massage therapists desire from such certifications and the benefits specialty certifications could confer, including employment opportunities and rate increases, has been completed.

But, again, that evaluation will not be undertaken in the foreseeable future, Guptha said.

Another important project is beginning to roll out, however: The creation of a think tank to make recommendations regarding developing guidelines to review continuing education classes. It’s not a secret some classes approved by the NCBTMB for CEUs could be considered somewhat questionable, in terms of appropriateness to a massage career. Some classes focused on religion and counseling seem to have been approved despite NCBTMB’s stipulation that classes focused either of those topics shall not be approved, as examples.

A process to weed out certain classes “should have been in place since day one,” Guptha told me. “Twenty years has passed by, and I don’t know if anybody has really looked at these issues,” she added. “We have to radically improve in [this area].”

Guptha said she doesn’t have all the answers, but is seeking to understand the issues and problems, and is asking for help with solutions.

“Over the past 20 years of NCB, there have been some good times and some not-so-good times, and there have been some good decisions and some not-so-good decisions,” she said. “There is definitely an opportunity for change, there is an opportunity for re-evaluation, there is an opportunity for brainstorming for the future—all we need is people to come forward and say, ‘We’re with you.’”

If you are interested in being part of the NCBTMB education think tank or the volunteer group that will implement the think tank’s guidelines, send an email to with “CE THINK TANK” in the subject line.

Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Filed under general

People—connecting with them, helping them, and bringing solace where there was pain or suffering—are what life is really all about. This was the message of yesterday’s keynote by Doc Hendley  at the American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Annual National Convention. It’s a message understood by massage professionals,  Doc said.

Doc is the founder of Wine to Water, a nonprofit that helps people in developing countries set up or repair water drills, establish water-filter factories, and other activities that contribute to a clean water supply.

An inspiring keynote presentation is, for me, always a highlight of attending any massage conference, and Doc’s keynote at the AMTA convention in Fort Worth, Texas, in which he recounted his journey—from the life of a near-dropout to the founder of an organization working to ensure people in the developing world have clean drinking water—was both uplifting and daunting to me.

Uplifting, because he shared with the audience the transformation of his belief about himself—that he would never measure up, especially compared with the high achievers in his family, and that he was “a nobody with nothing to offer the world”—into the realization that any individual with passion who is living for something larger than him- or herself can contribute to changing life for the better. Daunting, because of the encounters with violence he and his team are faced with as they do good work.

A former bartender and musician who was content pouring drinks and playing occasional gigs, he awoke one morning in his North Carolina home to the phrase “wine to water … wine to water…” repeating in his mind, so clearly that he felt someone was speaking to him. He got up from bed and Googled phrases related to water, and realized that of the 7 billion people on Earth, 1 billion have access only to dirty water that makes the residents of their towns and villages—especially children and babies—sickened, to the point of death.

“What filled that screen changed my life,” he said.

Doc decided to have a fundraiser in a local bar, and then another, and another—and Wine to Water was born. He originally planned to have just wine-related fundraisers, with proceeds benefiting water efforts.

It became much bigger than that.

In the nine years since that first fundraiser, Doc has traveled to countries including  Darfur, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Haiti and Uganda, where he has connected with, helped and brought solace to the thirsty.

“Wine to Water has helped 250,000 people in 16 countries get access to clean water,” he said.

He emphasized he is not doing charity work; instead, Doc’s focus is on finding out what people need, and helping them get the supplies and training required to take care of their own water needs, now and into the future.

“Sure enough, the first time I saw that, I saw the empowerment it gave a community to be able to fix their own problems,” he said, recalling how he helped a village source local materials and labor, and repair their own water well.

His work is not without challenges. He was about to help install a water well in a refugee camp in Darfur, for example, when the camp was bombed and then janjaweed, government-supported forces, rode in on horses and camels to kill any survivors. Doc has been threatened, road-blocked, shot at. A member of his crew was executed.

Still, Doc’s work continues—bolstered in part by his belief that “someone is looking out” for him, and his Christian beliefs.  “Wine To Water’s goal is to allow Jesus to turn His miracle around for the needy people of this world, reads a statement on Wine to Water’s website. “It is our prayer that Jesus Christ will use those of us who have plenty to help provide someone who is less fortunate with the gift of clean water.”

In spite of religious and cultural differences, challenges, threats and acts of violence, what it all comes back to for Doc the basic connection he has with people.

“The people is why I love what I do,” he said. “I think in a strange way, we’ve been able to help and give people something like clean water, but in the end they have given me infinitely more than I could give them, and taught me more about life than I could teach them.”

And like, him, he said, massage therapists have figured this out as well, that life is about people. When he meets people who are in pain and suffering, he said, he can give them clean water and a smile.

“That’s kind of like massage,” he added, “Massage therapists can take pain and suffering and turn it into a smile.”

To get involve with Wine to Water by donating or hosting an event, visit



Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Friday, September 27th, 2013

Filed under general

Lots of massage schools and businesses are offering massage students a hand up with scholarships and grants. Here is a selection of the latest grants and scholarships:

BIOTONE and Biofreeze have partnered to create The Helping Hands Gifts for Growth Grant Program. Students of massage can apply through Nov. 1 for one of four $1,000 grants. Each winner’s school will also receive a $1,000 grant.

Massage Envy Spa has donated $30,000 to the Beauty Changes Lives Foundation, a nonprofit foundation created by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools to build awareness of career opportunities in the beauty-and-wellness industry while awarding scholarships to students pursuing careers in hair, skin, nails, barbering and massage therapy.

• MASSAGE Magazine has partnered with Massage Warehouse, Sombra Professional Therapy Products and Massage Magazine Insurance Plus to launch its Student Scholarship Giveaway. One student will be awarded the first-place award of $1,000 plus a Massage Magazine Insurance Plus liability insurance policy. A second-place scholarship of a Massage Business Starter Package plus a one-year subscription to MASSAGE Magazine, and third-place scholarship of a Massage Lubricant Starter Package plus a one-year subscription to MASSAGE Magazine will be awarded to two additional massage students.

Massage Without Borders offers two scholarships to massage therapy students: One for $1,000 and one for $500.

The American Massage Therapy Association presents one $5,000 scholarship annually.;

The International Spa Association offers the Mary Tabacchi Scholarship annually, to individuals seeking a spa-related degree.

The American College of Healthcare Sciences in Portland, Oregon, has partnered with Imagine America as a participating institution in the national Imagine America-sponsored Military Award Program. The scholarship offers veterans with expired military benefits and spouses of active duty servicemembers a one-time scholarship of $1,000 toward tuition.



Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Filed under general

I spent three days last week at the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) conference, in St. Charles, Missouri. This was an interesting and inspiring conference for me, because it was heavily attended by decision makers and educators who were focused on discussing challenges to both the present and future of massage education and practice.

Several developments discussed at this conference could mean big changes in the area of continuing education.

One of the most discussed topics at the conference was the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ (FSMTB) development of an online module that will provide three of the six continuing education units (CEUs) the FSMTB will require for maintaining licensure in states that utilize the FSMTB’s Massage and Bodywork Licensure Examination.

This means states that currently require eight or 10 or 12 CEUs to maintain licensure will drop down to six CEUs—and three of those may be obtained each year directly from the FSMTB’s public safety/ethics education module. (The states will be in choice as to whether or not they use the FSMTB’s module; but, in reality, the state boards are the entities that asked for the module’s development, so I think it’s pretty clear they will adopt it.)

The FSMTB announced it was transitioning “from broad continuing education requirements to maintenance of core competence” back in 2012—but the fact that it would also create an online module where massage therapists can earn half their required CEUs seemed to be news to many at the AFMTE conference.

However, I don’t believe the FSMTB’s module nor its changes to the number of CEUs required to maintain licensure is a death knell for CEU providers, because two additional developments discussed at the AFMTE conference could herald the birth of two new educational marketplaces.

First, the AFMTE conference was greatly focused on educational standards for massage therapy educators (see the core competencies that came out of its Teacher Education Standards Project)—so I imagine that CEU providers could develop classes that teach the educators of the future how to help mold the massage students of tomorrow. Someone who teaches a CEU class on ethics for massage therapists, for example, could tailor their coursework to educators instead.

Those students of tomorrow—and, really, many of the students enrolled in massage schools today—grew up with technology, take classes online, want hybrid education and move at a faster pace than ever before, according to Whitney Lowe, who presented “Developing the 21st Century Teacher” in a keynote address. (Read my blog about Whitney’s presentation here.) As a side note, the current issue of Scientific American has a special report, “Learning in the Digital Age,” on these types of changes to education, which is worth reading for more information on this topic.

These demands mean online education will only become a larger share of the massage education marketplace.

Second, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork‘s (NCBTMB) executive director, Susan Toscano, and vice president of education support, Donna Sarvello, presented an update on the NCBTMB’s development of specialty certifications—a development that I imagine could be a positive one for CEU providers, since they could have the opportunity to tailor courses to the new specialties.

During The NCBTMB presentation, several people expressed concern about NCBTMB’s looking solely to the massage field for CEU providers, when medical schools and universities could be utilized to provide higher-level education.

During the presentation, Janet Kahn, Ph.D., and Ruth Werner, Ph.D.—both of them researchers connected with the medical community—each offered to help the NCBTMB with its approved CEU-provider program, the latest version of which will go live Nov. 1, specifically in regard to networking with medical schools and universities. Educator, massage therapist (and MASSAGE Magazine blogger) Laura Allen asked when the NCB would remove the “things with no basis in reality,” religious- and spiritually-based bodywork and “claptrap” courses “that are all about using some product” from its approved provider database. Toscano said she would take the input from Kahn, Werner and Allen back to the board.

Sarvello told the audience that CEU approval is an ongoing process, and that, until now, “we really had no bar, and we can’t take it from here and jump way up here.

“We need to take baby steps to move the whole profession,” she said. “NCB is here to elevate the profession, but we’re also here to support this profession—we’re going to bring [people] together and raise them up together.”





Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Filed under general

When you take a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, you get access to university content taught by professors, are able to take the course on your laptop at home or your local coffee shop, can oftentimes complete the course at your own pace – and you don’t have to pay for it, because it’s free.

The MOOC model is one of the movements changing the way education is presented and consumed, according to Whitney Lowe, who just gave a keynote address at the  Alliance for Massage Therapy Education‘s annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri. According to Whitney, massage educators need to wake up from what he calls their “Rip Van Winkle nap” and create a model of education that better serves the needs of today’s students. Whitney is an educator, writer and clinician, and  offers orthopedic massage continuing education through his institute, OMERI.

Whitney envisions a world where massage education consists of hybrid classes (some in person, some online); social networking; “flipped” classrooms, where students learn information at their own pace outside of class, while time in class is spent applying that knowledge to real-life situations; and digital badges – credentials awarded class-by-class that, when clicked on, tell the viewer all about the work that went into completing a class.

Gone are the days when a massage instructor can get away with making an unsubstantiated claim, said Whitney.

Also gone, he said, are the days when touch therapists can claim to be part of an unquestionable lineage, practicing a technique handed down through the ages by  “some figurehead who is the ‘great creator’ or inventor” of a technique that allows all kinds of factual inaccuracies to filter down from one generation to the next.

“If I say something in class, I better be damn sure I can back that up, because somebody’s going to Google it while I’m talking to see if it’s true or not,” he added.

Many of the students of today – and all the students of tomorrow, said Whitney, will have grown up with what some of us (read: over age 35) consider “new technology.” But for those students, that technology isn’t new. Just as those of us who Whitney graciously called “more chronologically experienced” don’t think of the telephone as new technology, neither, for most students, are MOOCs.


Comments (1) Posted by Karen Menehan on Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Filed under general

Continue reading…

Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Filed under general

Driving to my office this morning, I heard a report on National Public Radio about the work being done by a nonprofit called Enroll America. With big changes coming to the U.S. health care arena along with the 2014 implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there is a lot to learn—both as a health professional and a health care consumer.

As a small-business owners, all massage therapists need liability coverage to protect their practices, but how many of you carry health insurance to protect yourself should you get in an accident or receive a diagnosis? Today, many massage therapists do not have health care coverage; but come 2014, that will have to change.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that U.S. citizens purchase health insurance or pay a penalty—which is a simplification of the law. You can read the law in its entirety here.

Even though I’ve been reporting on how the Affordable Care Act could alter opportunities for massage professionals (see “State-by-State Campaign Launched to Support Complementary Health Care’s Coverage by Health Insurance, as Mandated by the Affordable Care Act”), for awhile now, there are still some aspects of the law that I haven’t been completely clear on.

Cut to Enroll America, and I feel more clear. The group’s website ( features articles, videos, and links to the most-important sources of information to bring consumers up to date on the Affordable Care Act.

With implementation just months away now, don’t wait to figure this out. Get covered!


Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Friday, June 21st, 2013

Filed under general

I have covered, in reporting for MASSAGE Magazine, countless stories of massage therapists who have reached out to help people who have been affected by disaster. It seems nothing—including flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane or terrorist attack—will keep massage therapists away from providing healing touch to survivors and rescue personnel. In fact, it is in the most challenging of times that massage professionals rally, proving to be superheroes of health and healing.

So, I feel deeply touched to witness how the massage profession has begun to reach out to its own. More and more, fundraising and organized giving is being coordinated to assist massage professionals facing health challenges and the effects of disasters like Hurricane Sandy.

Now, in the immediate aftermath of the deadly tornado in Oklahoma, which killed 24 people, caused $2.2 billion in damage and devastated homes and businesses, at least two organizations are collecting funds to help massage-and-spa professionals impacted by the storm.

Get Well OK was launched a couple of days ago by Sacred Fig private-labeling company.  “The funds raised …  will be used to help wellness, spa and salon providers meet their basic needs by providing emergency aid for food, housing and support,” a statement on the website reads.

Massage Without Borders is collecting donations to help massage therapists in the area. “Oklahoma was devastated by a tornado. Many lost their homes. MWB is working with our colleagues to see how we can best serve,” states the organization’s homepage at

MASSAGE Magazine has contributed to Massage Without Borders, and we’ll continue to bring you information about the good work being done by this organization and others that are working to strengthen the massage community and raise up the colleagues who need our help.

I encourage you to donate to the groups that are directly helping your massage colleagues. Simply click on one, or both, of the links above and make a donation today.

Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Friday, May 24th, 2013

Filed under general

Whenever we’ve run articles about animal massage—be it for horses, dogs, cats or hippos—the response from our readers has been positive. After all, animals have muscles too, right? And don’t our beloved pets and ponies deserve to be relieved of pain?

They do; I also believe non-human animals deserve to live with dignity, and that torturing and killing beagles, mice and monkeys for most laboratory testing is unethical, particularly when that testing is for things like laundry detergent and mascara. (Of course, I do understand, yet with sadness, how lab testing leads to breakthroughs in drugs needed to fight diseases and conditions.)

In March, the European Union banned both the sale and import of any cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals, a move that animal-loving people worldwide rejoiced in.

We can all choose to vote with all our dollars, refraining from buying any products, including cleaning products, cosmetics and body-care products, that have been tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. (As a dog owner myself, it distresses me that beagles are used most often in lab experiments, because they are so trusting and compliant.)

Companies that don’t test products on animals are those that tend toward natural and organic ingredients, which makes their products that much better for our own health, the environment and the creatures we share this planet with.

ZuZu, the makeup I have used for years, for example, is cruelty-free, vegan AND has improved the appearance of my skin. The product lasts much longer than conventional makeup does, and if I accidently get a bit in my eye, it doesn’t burn in a nasty way like Maybelline does. Plus, I can rest in the knowledge that no beagle died for my beauty routine.

Here are some good sources for more information:

• Go Cruelty Free

• The Coalition for Consumer Education on Cosmetics

• Peta



Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Monday, May 6th, 2013

Filed under general

I feel so depressed and disbelieving right now. I just posted a news article to MASSAGE Magazine‘s home page, “Massage Therapists Report from the Boston Tragedy.” Yesterday, as we all know all, two bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 170.

Before the news out of Boston yesterday, I was excited about the Boston Marathon and the money that Team Massage Therapy Foundation Running for Research would raise for the Massage Therapy Foundation. Now, the joy of this event has been replaced for so many people, myself included, with shock, anger, fear—and grief.

I cannot understand how anyone could possibly conceive of placing a bomb anywhere, knowing innocent people would be killed and maimed. But I also feel confusion and sadness when the response to events of this type of horror are met by so many people with the refrain of “We will hunt down the perpetrator and enact vengeance. We will bring pain and death to you.”

I want to see greater peace in this world, in my lifetime. And I don’t believe we will ever create peace if we operate from a mindset of an eye for an eye. Yes, find who did this. Of course, put that person in jail. And please, put attention and resources on peaceful solutions to conflict. They do exist. The xenophobia and racism that run rampant after an event such as this will not help create lasting safety in our world. As the great teacher Mahatma Ghandi said, “Hatred ever kills, love never dies—such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.”

Comments (0) Posted by Karen Menehan on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013