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The Politics of Massage

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Filed under Education, Ethics, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation, Politics of Massage

In my last blog, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I reported that the only good thing that came out of the recent FSMTB Annual Meeting was the announcement that NCBTMB and FSMTB had reached an agreement on licensing exams, which promised to spell the end of the long “exam wars”. FSMTB trumpeted this news in their October 3rd press release, which stated:

“FSMTB and the NCBTMB have worked cooperatively to reach an agreement that the NCBTMB will no longer provide examinations for licensure purposes and will now focus exclusively on delivering quality certification programs. This supports the common goal of the FSMTB, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) to be utilized as the sole licensure exam for the profession, thus facilitating licensure portability for therapists.”

Too bad that we really can’t celebrate this news because the so-called “agreement” did not include the Approved Continuing Education Provider Program operated by NCBTMB (which 27 state massage boards use in one way or another). Like rubbing salt in the wound, the FSMTB turned right around and passed a resolution to create their very own CE approval program–as if NCBTMB didn’t exist. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Monday, October 27th, 2014

Filed under Education, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, I’m using the title of his classic Western to talk about three major announcements from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and what they mean to the rest of the profession. This all came down at the recent FSMTB Annual Meeting, held in Tucson on October 3-4.

The Good: FSMTB and NCBTMB reach an agreement on licensing exams.
Woo hoo! Praise the Lord and pass me the MBLEx! After six years of costly and damaging “exam wars” between the two organizations, NCB was unable to keep its market share of the entry-level testing business. As FSMTB’s exam revenue grew each year, NCB’s declined. NCB finally saw the handwriting on the wall and agreed to stop offering its national certification exams for state licensure as of November 1, 2014 – in exchange for an unspecified amount of money.

This is a huge benefit for the profession, as we can finally move towards having a single licensing exam that is under the direct oversight of state massage boards. (Only Hawaii and New York are still hanging on to their own state exams.) It means less confusion for students and massage schools, and a boon to portability of licensure in the future. This has been a long and painful struggle between FSMTB and NCB, and I for one am thrilled to see it come to a peaceful end.

The Bad: FSMTB adopts CE standards and license renewal recommendations.
Two years ago, FSMTB proposed a radical shift to the continuing education landscape, as outlined in their Maintenance of Core Competency proposal. The MOCC was slammed by organizations, schools, CE providers and individual therapists alike – and yet, the worst of it has made its way into FSMTB’s new continuing education and license renewal standards. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Monday, October 20th, 2014

Filed under Education, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation, Politics of Massage

The Model Practice Act was released in its final draft this week, after more than three years of work on it and two periods of public comment. The introduction does state that it will be an evolving document as changing times and circumstances dictate, but as of now, it still has many of the school owners on my social media pages up in arms.

The language requiring accreditation from previous drafts (Section 103(B) ) was modified to say “Approved Massage Therapy Education Program means a school or educational program that meets the criteria established in rule by the Board, at a minimum includes 625 Clock Hours, and is both authorized in the jurisdiction in which it is located and that reflects a curriculum acceptable to an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education…” While the requirement has been downgraded to a suggestion, the comment section makes it clear that the eventual goal is required accreditation for one and all.

Personally, I have some mixed feelings on this. Accreditation is a process of quality control–to a point. (Disclosure: I am a peer reviewer for COMTA). Obtaining accreditation is not cheap, it’s rigorous and it’s time-consuming. It sends the message that you have voluntarily gone over and above what the state requires. Other health care professions require it. And therein lies the clincher. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Friday, October 10th, 2014

Filed under Business, Education, Massage

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks because I’ve been ill. On August 17, I wasn’t feeling too well, not really full-blown sick, but on the puny side, and I told my husband Champ I wanted him to cover our office the next day and let me stay home. I felt a little worse on Tuesday, and stayed home again. I had terrible diarrhea all night and was constantly thirsty. On Wednesday morning, I woke up in a state of extreme illness and confusion. Champ asked me if I knew the signs of a stroke. Of course I do, but I looked at him blankly and said “no.” He asked if I knew who he was. That was another “no.” He asked if I knew who I was. When I answered “no” to that, he took me to the ER.

After a few blood tests, x-rays and the like, a doctor came in and informed me I was being admitted with a severe urinary tract infection, which I had not had any of the usual symptoms of, and that it had gone systemic. I also had pneumonia in both lungs–something I just went though in March of 2013. They admitted me to the hospital and started pumping me full of antibiotics. The diarrhea lasted four more days to the point where I was reduced to wearing a diaper in the hospital. That’s a rather humbling experience. A friend of ours who is a pharmacist told Champ that another day or two without the antibiotics and IV fluids, and I would have died.

I was released after a week in the hospital, which included two days in the ICU. My mom came to take care of me. She is 75 and I could never in a million years have had a better mother than what she has been to me. I turned 55 while I was sick. She was wiping my butt just like I was baby, so was Champ, and for all intents and purposes, I was one. She made me some homemade soup the day after I came home. I ate a half a bowl (it was delicious vegetable soup). About an hour later, my stomach got very bloated and hard. I was vomiting, and the next morning, I told Champ I thought I had better go to the ER. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Friday, September 12th, 2014

Filed under Education, General, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation, Politics of Massage

Disclosure: I am a peer reviewer for COMTA.

I have complained a lot about massage therapists sitting on their hands, not having any interest or involvement in governance, and not caring or being informed about what is going on until it’s too late to do anything about it. I can’t make that complaint about massage school owners in the past couple of weeks. I’ve never seen such a hue and cry over any other issue.

The Model Practice Act is on its second period of public comments, and I’m pretty sure they’re hearing from a lot of upset people. I had a few issues with the first draft, and I hear it got about 1300 comments. I’m willing to bet this one will get twice that, caused by a one-word change in the following definition, found in Section 103(B):

Approved Massage Therapy Education Program means a school or educational program that meets the criteria established in rule by the Board, at a minimum includes 625 clock hours and is both authorized in the jurisdiction in which it is located and is accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the US Department of Education. Education received outside of the United States must be substantially equivalent to the criteria of this Act and must be recognized by the jurisdiction in which it is located….READ MORE

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Filed under Education, General, Massage, Meetings and Conventions

Champ and I spent last week in Las Vegas at the World Massage Festival. This was our fifth year there, and the biggest and best one yet. Almost 700 people at this one…9 years ago when Mike Hinkle started the Festival, 20 people were in attendance.There were people from every state and 7 or 8 foreign countries. A whole contingent came from Trinidad.

The World Massage Festival is a unique event. Mike and Cindy bend over backwards to make the Festival affordable to everyone. Instead of a $189 hotel, we were in the Tuscany, an all-suite hotel, for the magnificent price of $59. And they are nice rooms! The staff at the Tuscany was very nice and helpful, the food was good, and in general it was just a good experience to stay there.

Over $50,000 in door prizes and scholarships were given away. I got to do a lot of the name-drawing and I had some real fun helping make people’s day with cash prizes, diamond jewelry, and other goodies.

On opening night, I was the keynote speaker. It was a humbling experience to look out at the room and see so many dedicated colleagues, many of whom have been doing massage for many more years than I have. During the awards ceremony, Irene Smith was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. I have to confess that I was not familiar with her work until Sunday night. She started the first project in the US to massage AIDS patients and has been doing Hospice work since the 1970s. Her entire career has been based on selfless giving. She is an example of the finest massage has to offer. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Filed under Education, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation, Politics of Massage

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards released the Model Practice Act a few days ago, just after the third anniversary of the announcement they had formed a Task Force of 8 state board members to work on it. I just had the time to read it in its entirety today, and as a former state board member and former delegate to the Federation myself, I appreciate the huge amount of time and effort that went into it.

I didn’t find much that surprised me. Last week when this was first released, I saw some rumblings from educators and school owners about the requirement for massage therapy programs to be 625 hours. As the publication says, it is consistent with the 625-hour recommendation of the recently-released ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project) that was a collaborative effort supported by all of the national massage organizations. Since there are currently more than two dozen states that still have 500 hours as their entry-level requirement, that’s going to require some major changes. Many smaller schools would probably go out of business rather than comply with the change.

The document does not state the name of the NCBTMB or any other entity’s exam in the context of eliminating them, but the definition of “examination” is given as a standardized test or examination of entry-level massage and bodywork knowledge, skills, and abilities that is developed and administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. That means the MBLEx, period. About 40 states are currently accepting both the MBLEx and the NCB’s licensing exams. There are also a couple of states that have their own exam–and require much more than 625 hours. I don’t see that those states will want to back up and adopt this. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Friday, May 9th, 2014

Filed under Education, Ethics, General, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation

I just came from a wonderful weekend teaching at the MA Chapter of AMTA. What a great group of people. I was there four years ago for their 50th anniversary, and personally know many of the members there. It was fun to see them and meet some new ones.

A few weeks ago I was at the IL Chapter. In between, I attended the annual meeting of my own chapter in NC. At all three of these conferences, I attended the business meeting and heard the treasurer’s report.

This weekend in MA, National President-Elect Jeff Smoot, who was there to speak at the meeting, was put on the hot-seat by a member who questioned National’s move to make Chapter fees voluntary. The member actually asked outgoing Chapter President Mary White, and she deferred the question to Smoot. Smoot replied that good things were happening that would be announced in September, and that it had been a unanimous decision of the Board of Directors. He also stated that the chapter fees had originally been intended to help with legislation, and that now that 45 states are licensing, there was not the need for it that there once was. I am personally begging them to reconsider. Any practice act can come under the gun at any time. Our chapters need lobbyists and attorneys to protect our interests. We need our own local people that are familiar with the laws and known to the legislators in our own states.

AMTA is SUPPOSED TO BE a member-driven organization. I’ve been a member for more than 10 years. I love my state chapter. I have been impressed with every chapter I’ve ever been to. Every one of them is filled with enthusiastic people with a passion for massage and volunteerism.

What really ticks me off is that the members were not consulted on this decision, which was apparently made last year during the BOD meeting at the National Convention in DFW, behind closed doors. I had questioned the ethics of this decision earlier as being conducted in a manner that was less than transparent, and was told that AMTA’s attorneys sanctioned the secrecy because competitors were present in the open meeting. The Chapters were not immediately informed, either. Budgets that had already been prepared for the coming year had to be redone. And yes, it is having an impact, in spite of National’s claim that they are making this up to the chapters in other ways. READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Filed under Education, Massage, Massage Associations

The Wizard of Oz, that is. AMTA announced a few days ago that Dr. Mehmet Oz, the undisputed king of daytime television, will be the keynote speaker for this year’s national convention, coming up in Denver in September.

Personally, I am not a fan of Dr. Oz. He touts all kinds of pseudoscience, to the point where he has admitted that his own father has asked him when he was going to quit messing around and get back to real medicine. He has been widely criticized by colleagues, who will say to the end that he is a brilliant surgeon and inventor, and wonder why he has seemingly gone off the deep end of effusively embracing, and recommending to his audience, all kinds of unproven and disputed treatments.

In just perusing his website a moment ago, I found the following juicy tidbits….first, if you’re constipated, then you need to get your root chakra unblocked. If you will just get a face reading, you’ll be much better informed about all your health problems. Communicating with the angels can help you heal. We also have Dr. Oz’s Homeopathic Starter Kit and amazing Crystal Sonic Therapy. When I typed in “psychics on show” in the search box on his website, 25 pages worth of links come up.

In all fairness to the Great and Mysterious Oz, he’s not a total flake; he has dispensed a lot of good information over the years as well; he credits the colonoscopy he got on his show with saving his life and caused a mad rush on colonoscopies. There’s no doubt he is well-educated and accomplished. He is a professor in the Department of Surgery at Columbia University. He is the Director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He has authored over 400 research papers and numerous books and won numerous awards, including 5 Daytime Emmys. He has also won the Truly Terrible Television Award, given by the Independent Investigations Group, for “for extraordinary contributions to America’s scientific illiteracy and pervasive fear mongering,” and is the only person to win the Pigasus Award two times from the James Randi Educational Foundation for promoting “nonsense” and “quack medical practices.” READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Filed under Education, General, Massage, Massage Associations, Massage Legislation, Politics of Massage

I spent most of my spare time during the past week reading the Final Report and the Entry-Level Education Blueprint of the ELAP. Again, I will offer my appreciation for the collaboration of the Coalition and the team that actually performed the work on this. It was a big project and obviously, people took time away from their own pursuits to participate in it.

Now that I have read the whole thing in its entirety, I have a few observations on it. I quote from the Coalition statement:

We aspire to have this report influence several profession audiences:

• the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, which can use The Core as it builds guidelines for a model practice act;

My comment on that: The press release announcing that the FSMTB was going to create a Model Practice Act first appeared on April 1, 2011. In a letter I received dated Jan.31, 2014, FSMTB Executive Director Debra Persinger stated that the Task Force is currently completing the final revisions before releasing it for public comment, so the ELAP will be a last-minute inclusion, if it does in fact get included. And, since the MBLEx is a 500-hour entry level exam, this would necessitate some major changes on that, as well.

• state licensing boards, which can use The Core in setting education requirements for licensees;

My comment on that: What is the Model Practice Act doing, if not that? It seems very possible that this is a duplication of efforts. While there are of course other things included in a practice act, one of them is spelling out the hours of required education. I don’t know any state board that goes much beyond setting the total number of required hours, and how that should be broken down in a general list of required subject matter. Not to mention changing a practice act requires legislative action.

the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, which can refer to The Core in creating teacher training standards and curricula;

My comment on that: Aha! And therein lies the clincher and the biggest issue I have with it. Since I couldn’t say it any better myself, I am going to share the comment that Rick Rosen left on my FB page: READ MORE…

Comments (0) Posted by Laura Allen on Sunday, February 16th, 2014