I was able to attend the AMTA Convention as a Board member of my local AMTA-WA chapter. This was my first national convention in all of my 35 years of being a massage therapist. I have to say the very best part was attending the National Board of Massage Meeting the day before the convention began. I also attended the Chapter Volunteer Program 3 days before the convention actually started which is exclusively for AMTA Chapter Board Members, Delegates and Committee Chairs. Each chapter selects board members who will attend. Some states sent volunteers who were not official board members too. The agenda for the 2 day event was jam packed with training sessions and networking time . To me the networking time was the most enlightening and important. Getting to talk to the local chapter leaders and hear their stories and hear about their work was both encouraging and discouraging. I talked to as many people as I could from various chapters.
What’s NCBTMB up to?
One of the most interesting things I learned is that AMTA is providing financial support for the NCBTMB which they created in the first place. It started many years ago after the MBLEx came on the scene, because it significantly reduced the income of the NCBTMB which offered the NCE which was the main state licensing exam since it’s inception. This in my view is a major statement by AMTA that they believe in Board Certification. They are doing a major upgrade to their database which will allow applications to be processed faster and it will be a storage center for CE certificates. I asked at the NCBTMB booth about the future of increasing the hours to something like it used to be – 750 hours to make it more of a higher standard and they are considering once they get more financially sound. I also asked about whether they are considering specialty certifications like sports massage or clinical massage and it was the same answer – possibly when they get financially sound. But that will probably many years ahead and it will take many years to implement. I have seen Facebook posts from NCBTMB where they are explaining the importance of being Board Certified better than they ever have. Many people complain saying that it isn’t necessary because employers don’t require it and there is no need for it and no one knows what it means anyway but they are slowly changing the narrative on that. The long struggling history of the National Certification Board
There were presentations from other organizations that AMTA support like the Massage Therapy Foundation and the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).
I didn’t hear anything about what they plan on doing with Massage Today which they also own.
One of my main concerns about the Massage Compact was the idea that CE classes could be used to make up the required 625 hours of education to apply for a compact license. I had a chance to chat with Debra Persinger, ED of the Federation of Massage State boards and ask about that. She said that the supposed plan would be to set up the CE requirements to only allow CE classes that are taken with NCBTMB providers and the Federation’s Reach Program classes along with AMTA and ABMP classes. (All AMTA chapter and national convention classes are required to be NCBTMB approved courses.) The first 7 states to pass bills that will allow them to join the Massage Compact will create the rules. So far only Nevada has passed the bill with the specific help of the AMTA-NV chapter. Here is the newsletter that explains what they did and how they got it passed. They wrote a letter of recommendation to legislators. A few states introduced the bill but it didn’t pass. You can track the progress of the Massage Compact at www.massagecompact.org and see previous blog posts on the matter on my other site www.massagepracticebuilder.com
Should you attend a National Convention?
Yes – most definitely. At least once in your career, even if you are not an AMTA member. Attend the National Board Meeting that is held before the actual convention. It was eye-opening to see just what a machine AMTA is – They work for you whether you are a member or not, whether you like them or not. I sometimes say they are the best kept secret,
Yes they are a powerful machine, but they do have a few gears missing…which I would have thought they would have in place with 80 years of being around. But that can be changed if you dare. If you don’t like what is happening in your state, in your chapter, in your city, I really encourage you to become a board member and work to make the changes that are needed. Yes it will be challenging, frustrating at times, but also can be rewarding. We have a lot of work to do.
My overall impression was that these conventions are not for the general population of massage therapists. They are quite expensive with travel, hotel, food ($6.00 for a small bottle of water in a 108 degree climate), and then the actual cost of the convention is quite high in my view, so they are meant for local area people and AMTA Volunteers. Your state chapter should be holding gatherings and also passing on information that is shared at the National Convention with the state members ( in my opinion—and that is what I plan to do for WA State)
What exactly? The Future of the Massage Profession
I have been doing a lot of research in the last year on the issues surrounding the profession and have been working on a website – www.lookbeforeyoubookamassage.com. I have written an ebook that I did give out to some chapters at National Convention. I talk about many different legislative things and awareness campaigns that could help change the narrative about the massage profession.
After attending convention, talking to many and thinking about this for quite some time, I think it could actually be consolidated into one answer :
Update or create a new model practice act.
We have one that is from 2014 (PDF) on the FSMTB website. We need to be more consistent in education requirements, attending approved schools, unlicensed practice language that will help untangle us from sexually oriented businesses (SOBs). Education and CE requirements are all over the place. Draping laws and hygiene laws are all over the place. Ethics requirements, diversity training, health equity training is all over the place. If we could just come up with something that could be implemented that would make us look similar across the US. ( No small task! Actually an almost impossible task but as one speaker said:
We also have been struggling with license portability forever and the latest effort is the Massage Compact. This is one possibility but better yet would be a model practice act that would help get every state closer together in their licensing requirements making transferring to other states easier.
We have been working on getting massage therapy covered by health insurance and Medicare but the first thing that needs to be done is to make sure each state is licensed as a healthcare provider. WA State has been able to bill health insurance for over 23 years so why are the other states so far behind?