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Does "AMTA" stand for "Arrogant Massage Therapy Association?"

AMTA sent out the following email to Illinois members bashing ABMP:


Friday, April 15, 2011

Urgent Call to Action

Call Your Illinois House Representatives TODAY!

Ask Them to Support SB 153

SB 153 (Extends the Massage Licensing Act, or ?MLA?) passed in the Senate (55-0) on Friday, April 8th, 2011. On Tuesday, April 12th, the bill was assigned to the House Healthcare Licensing Committee and is sponsored by Rep. Angelo ?Skip? Saviano.

To get to this point, The Massage Licensing Board (MLB) met on February 28th for a regularly scheduled open board meeting. All stakeholders in the profession are highly encouraged to attend and the AMTA always has representation at these meetings. Here, the MLB voted unanimously to increase the minimum education requirement for licensure to 750 hours effective January 1, 2016. This does not affect current massage therapy licensees and is only applicable to those entering the profession on January 1, 2016 or later. 

There is now opposition from the Association for Bodyworkers and Massage Professionals (ABMP). ABMP will oppose Senate Amendment #2 which allows for the increase in the minimum hours of education. There was a last-minute effort to oppose SB 153 in the Senate, which failed. Therefore, the ABMP has hired a high-profile and well recognized lobbyist to oppose the bill. 
Please consider that: 

? The MLB and the AMTA Illinois Chapter supports an increase in education as this is the National trend. Currently 14 states exceed the 500 hour requirement. 
? As Illinois licensees, we should respect the mindful deliberation and decision of the MLB as they are the governing body of our profession and, as massage therapists, are best equipped to determine the needs of public protection. 
? The AMTA is a not-for-profit organization with a state chapter structure. The AMTA Illinois chapter fights to protect the rights of the licensed massage therapist, fair practice rights and the profession. Our chapter, and it?s volunteers, has a distinguished history of being invested and engaged in the profession and guiding it forward. The ABMP is a for-profit organization located in Colorado that, until now, has not participated in this state legislative process or other issues impacting your profession. It is ABMP staff that has inserted their voice into the governance of Illinois practitioners. 

The AMTA Illinois Chapter supports SB 153 as written in its entirety, which includes the recommendation of the Massage Licensing Board to increase the number of educational hours and which passed the Senate unanimously by the Illinois Senate. 

Therefore, we urge you to take these steps: 



Basically, Illinois licensees have to shut up and just go with what AMTA and the licensing board say, and ABMP, although it is the largest association in the country, should not be involved because they are from Colorado?


Is this the height of arrogance or what?  Who wrote this letter?  Is this for real?  Can someone from AMTA come out and say this is a fake??  



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Comment by Gordon J. Wallis on April 18, 2011 at 2:14pm
Less is more if you ask me..The whole system needs to be revamped.  These state boards and National certifications and hours...These exams have gotten so difficult that the schools now are just set up to teach you how to pass all these exams...And that has not helped.  The average career span for a massage therapist is only 7 years...And mostly because of repetitive stress injuries..Carpal Tunnel and so on...When you consider that the best possible therapy for repetitive stress injuries is massage therapy ..Well you begin to wonder what they are teaching?  I gave a brief lecture to a near by school a while back..All the students were very intelligent and all able to pass the National Certification.  But when I asked the question...CAN ANYBODY IN HERE TELL ME WHAT A KNOT IN A MUSCLE IS.   HOW ITS FORMED.  AND HOW MASSAGE ADDRESSES  A KNOT IN A MUSCLE...I GOT ONLY BLANK STARES FOR MY ANSWER.. When I turned to the instructor(masters degree in teaching) and asked her the same question...She shook her head and said NO.   I also watched them massage each other...My goodness, it was like I was in a kung-fu class or something...Everybody in these weird supposedly ergonomic stances?  Its just gotten to intellectual and less real or something? Im always studying, and thats important. But real learning is not just memorizing things for ever more challenging written exams.  Give me a break.. Gosh if I was to teach someone from scratch how to be a massage therapist...It would be much much different, they would learn real instead of intellectual.  The hours would be less....Their career spans would last way longer then seven years...Of course there would be a certain standard to graduate.. Advanced learning would be in continuing educational requirements to maintain a license.  No tier levels . Just a minimum requirement for continuing education every year.  Hmm, no matter what subject I comment on...I pretty much keep saying the same oh well.
Comment by Rick Rosen on April 18, 2011 at 9:16am

It seems that most everyone wants to advance the massage therapy "profession", but it's unwise to build a dream home on an unstable foundation.

I suggest to the members of the Illinois Massage Licensing Board, and the AMTA Board of Directors, that it's time for a reality check: There is no data that shows increasing the minimum number of instructional hours will result in a more competent entry-level massage therapy practitioner.  This is an unsupported claim that must not be used as a rationale for changing state laws. Let's take a look back, so that (painful) history doesn't have to repeat itself:

In 2003, the Florida Board of Massage Therapy (FBMT) attempted to do exactly what the Illinois Board is now doing -- increasing the standard from 500 to 750 hours. This action was driven by a few FBMT members who were concerned about the low pass rates on the NCE, and the apparent lack of skills of students coming out of massage programs. Click here for an archived story from Massage Today on the issue.)

A group of 16 massage schools joined together and sued the FBMT for making an unjustified change to the educational standards. The matter was resolved out of court; as part of the settlement agreement, the FBMT agreed to withdraw its proposed rule, and appointed a Massage Therapy Competencies Task Force comprised of reps from all facets of the industry. This group was directed to:

Assess the work of massage therapists and examine: the required competencies for the safe practice of massage therapy; the development of curriculum to teach those competencies; whether additional hours of training are necessary over 500 hours; and recommendations for changes to rules and statutes governing the massage therapy profession. To the extent available, input must include studies, task analyses and other available information from reputable organizations. The task force shall not recommend an increase in the hours of training unless it is determined the required competency cannot be taught in an existing 500-hour massage therapy program.

The recommendations from this comprehensive study affirmed the 500-hour standard as sufficient to prepare a massage therapist to work at an entry-level of competency. Right here in my own state of North Carolina, our Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy recently confronted the same issue. Several Board members pushed for an increase to the hours; in this case, the Board did its own in-house review of the data before moving forward with any change to the regs. The NC Board reached the same conclusion of the earlier Florida panel -- that the data did not support an increased number of hours. Therefore, no change to the regs was pursued!

AMTA is not supporting the advancement of the field by trying to force an increase in the number of hours in the State of Illinois. There one is only sure way to improve the quality of education -- and therefore the quality of massage therapy practice:

1) Improve the quality of instruction given in entry-level massage training programs. Only a tiny percentage of instructors in our field have received formal training in the theory and methodology of teaching. This is a different skiil set from what is required to be a massage therapist. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education has embarked upon a National Teacher Education Standards Project to address this compelling need. We are in Phase 1 of this multi-year project, which shall determine the Core Comptencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. A draft version will be released for public comment within the next six weeks.

2) Improve the quality of curricula in massage training programs. There needs to be greater clarity on the scope of what constitutes "entry level". Many schools are attempting to include too many hands-on modalities and areas of specialized treatment in basic programs, and are not giving their students a solid grounding in the fundamentals. Employers bemoan the lack of good communication skills in their new hires, and regulators could fill volumes with stories about the ethical misdeeds of licensees who did not learn enough about boundaries and how to manage the client/therapist relationship. Add to this the shocking rate of injury and premature exit from the field by new therapists who did not learn proper body mechanics in their training, and you can see that we have a lot of work to do to bring our collective education system up to an acceptable baseline level. The Alliance will be addressing this area in the future.

Once we are successful in training up our core of teachers (in all schools across the country) to a level of competency, and once we have a consistent template for entry-level massage education, then -- and only then -- would it be appropriate to take up the question of increasing the minimum number of instructional hours needed to enter the field.

Because we don't have the entry level properly defined yet, it's premature to be building any kind of advanced credentialing (such as the program currently being developed by NCBTMB). What the field really needs is a series of specialty certification examinations in well-defined areas of practice beyond the entry level. The post-graduate training and experience needed to earn such a credential is meaningful and would put massage therapy on par with other health care fields with similar structures. Rather than tiered licensing, or increasing the baseline number of entry-level hours, this is a proven way to build a profession.

Finally, I would suggest that ABMP has as much right as AMTA to be active in the arena of Government Relations. The non-profit vs. for-profit argument is irrelevant. If anything, ABMP has a greater claim to take action for the greater good, since they represent more than 77,000 massage therapists and students, versus AMTA's current membership of around 57,000.

It's time for the major stakeholder organizations in our field to work together, so that we build a strong and consistent foundation so that we may become a profession in the future. This is not just a matter of semantics.

And by the way, I encourage all my colleagues in the education community to become members of the Alliance and take an active role in these exciting projects!

Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT
Executive Director, Alliance for Massage Therapy Education

Comment by Robin Doerr on April 16, 2011 at 2:41pm

Thanks all for educating me regarding your viewpoints! I respect that small school owners have a lot to say here and that quantity of hours does not always meet quality. I am glad you posted the ABMP response also. The discussions and involvement of all LMT's is needed in IL to move forward with a vision we can all buy into.



Comment by Alexei Levine on April 16, 2011 at 7:57am
@Valerie, despite the fact that the AMTA is a "non-profit", their director makes about $300,000 annually!  This from an organization that is run on the backs of an army of volunteers.
Comment by Valerie Hood on April 16, 2011 at 7:51am
AMTA's defense that it is a non-profit is simply a smoke screen in my opinion.  Like the accrediting and testing bodies, their mission is not to make profit, but to lend credibility and respectability to the profit-making of the big corporate schools, where the big money is (via federal financial aid.)  It should come as no surprise to discover that the big corporate schools are big financial supporters of AMTA.
Comment by Daniel Cohen on April 16, 2011 at 6:54am

Alexei thank you for your comment from a school (which sounds not so small) perspective. In California we have had to fight changes in the regulations which would have forced increased costs on schools to remain approved. This would have forced closure of the two schools I work at, as well as many others. With increased school requirements (cost related) and the hours regulated for licensing an agenda of moving massage into state colleges for revenue seems apparent to me. Thank you for bringing up federal loans (there are also legislative financing issues involved in this from the state legislatures.


Comment by Emmanuel Bistas on April 16, 2011 at 6:54am

Robin, your question "why would a professional association NOT want higher educational standards for our profession?" implies that more hours means higher educational standards.  When you look around and compare hours you will see that more hours does not always equal better education. 


Having belonged to both organizations I can tell you that ABMP has done much about educational standards. From webinars and 'instructor on the front lines" classes, a book written specifically for educators, support of the AFMTE, and even with its current position ABMP has really put its focus on educational standards by focusing on quality of instruction vs. quantity of hours. 


Based on ABMP's post, AMTA and the MLB have not provided any justification as to why the increase was important.  The economic impact of mandating more hours is huge.  It has an impact on prospective students who are asked to go to school longer and pay more money, but also on the tax payers who foot the bill for much of the financial aid, to therapists from other states such as Indiana and Wisconsin who work in Illinois and others who want to move here.  It also creates artificial barriers to entry and monopolistic tendencies in the labor market since mobility becomes more difficult due to barriers in reciprocity.  This would impact employers, consumers, and eventually quality of services. 


Per your post you get only 10% attendance at AMTA meetings.  AMTA has about 3,600 members in Illinois, out of 9,000 licensees.  So, 360 licensees out of 9,000 decided the future of the profession in Illinois? And everyone is being asked to go along with no justification?  You are correct that most people are too busy to be involved, this does not mean that you try to sneak in something like 50% increase in training while nobody is watching.


My post should not be used to reflect poorly on the life-long contributions that Mike Hovi, Pat Benjamin (president of the MLB), and other magnificent souls such as Angela Palmier and Chris Alvarado who are AMTA advocates, have made to the profession.  AMTA has done some great things, such as the support of MTs in the cases that you mentioned.  It has also failed at other causes such as the zoning that passed last May in the city of Chicago.  But when it comes to an issue that impacts everyone and even initiatives in other parts of the country, consensus is needed.  Excluding that largest massage association in the country from the conversation does not work.  Sure ABMP could had been in the MLB meetings, but also the MLB could had reached out and asked the largest association of therapists to avoid this predicament.  A question such as "this is what we are planning to do, what do you think?" would had been prudent.


You said I am bitching.. I am raising an important issue and sometimes it has to be done in a confrontational way to be noticed.  The issue that I am raising with my post is not even related to the number of hours (which I would support under certain circumstances), but really with the tone of the communication from AMTA.


Protecting the profession does not have anything to do whether someone is for-profit or non-profit, whether they are in Colorado or Illinois, or whether they have a lobbyist at the beginning of the process or the end of the process.  The statement "It is ABMP staff that has inserted their voice into the governance of Illinois practitioners." is the height of arrogance.  If you can't see that I can't help you, I hope others will.  ABMP *is* Illinois practitioners just as much as AMTA.


No matter how great the people who thought of Amendment B, they could be wrong.  This needs to be a much larger conversation and the conversation should be in the open.  Where is the transparency? There is not even a reference on IDFPR's website about the 750 hour mandate, not even in the list of proposed amendments (which lists AMTA as an approved CE provider, that's another strange one).  


The conversation should start with the MLB joining the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (it used to be a member but then fell off) and participating in the model practice act discussions to ensure reciprocity and acceptance.












Comment by Alexei Levine on April 16, 2011 at 6:16am

I agree with Daniel and Emmanuel, more is not always better.  500 hours is perfectly adequate to prepare people as entry level massage therapists.  I am the director of 2 massage schools, and we are very selective about who we admit.  In a program that only admits students with above average aptitude for massage therapy, as at the 2 schools I direct, my experience leads me to believe it can be done in much less time than 500 hours.  I believe that this push for ever more hours, or standards creep, comes from people at the top of the food chain of for-profit education who stand to make a lot of money from higher hour programs.  (Most important factoid- 500 hour programs are not eligible for federal funding.  This means that in states that allow for 500 hour programs, the large corporate schools which depend on their students taking out huge non-defaultable loans have to compete with small inexpensive schools.  They don't like that :))  They prey upon peoples insecurities and desperation for respect as a "health care provider".  There is also peoples fear of competition and desire to limit the number of people entering the profession.  And then of course there is peoples ultimate view of massage therapy as either a wellness based practice or a rehabilitative practice.

By the way, we run an 800 hour program at my school.  This is due to a rigidly defined curriculum enforced by the Massachusetts Board of Massage, which forbids the teaching of non-western techniques like Shiatsu, Thai, and even Reflexology within the core curriculum.  We had to add all that stuff above and beyond the 650 hour core curriculum.

Comment by Daniel Cohen on April 16, 2011 at 5:09am

The trend of increasing hours for licensing seems to be never ending. Years ago local districts required no hours of education or often only a 100 hour course. Today state boards are increasing hours which transforms the profession. But where is the value to this increase? The ones that should benefit are the consumer and the Therapist. I do not see benefit to either at levels above 500 hours and even less when that 500 does not include internships or non school practical experience of at least 120 of those hours. The greatest transformation increased hours creates is increased time and expense of entry to the field. This makes it less attractive as part time work and preparation for income in retirement. One result I see is more people doing unlicensed massage (why can they advertise unlicensed business which is unlawful?) another being the growth of unregulated areas which vary from state to state.

Hands on experience is critical in this profession. We need more of this and better CEUs which allow growth as we work. Taking continuing units to learn has the advantage of being able to offer new techniques and stay up on trends rather than depending on getting it all in one course. CEUs give an opportunity for more variety as the student is exposed to different schools and teachers. It also means at least once a year Therapists refresh their ideas and mix with other Therapists beyond their place of work. I think this has more value over a career than a lengthy entry requirement.

Unfortunately once people get into a mind set it is hard to stop or change. It is kind of like a temporary tax that never goes away. We keep adding hours beyond an entry need. I do believe in education, the key to this is what is an entry level of education?

I think the most good to all is an entry education of 500 hours inclusive of a minimum 120 hours non class practicum with 12 hours per year CEUs. Simply my observation since taking my first massage class in 1973 and having my first massage in 1971. I went full time with my own business just 5 months ago following 11 years of part time.

viva la diversité

Be well and enjoy!

Comment by Robin Doerr on April 16, 2011 at 12:50am
Excuse me, why would a professional association NOT want higher educational standards for our profession? before licensing my school program was 720 hours and I feel that it has served me well. AMTA IL is a group of volunteers who works damn hard for no money to represent their members who by and large do not respond in large numbers to calls for action via email, facebook, and many other means. Illinois licensees whether AMTA or not are welcomed and invited to any and all of our classes and meetings. Typically we get less than 10% attendance at these functions. Our chapter president Mike Hovi has done an outstanding job of reaching out to IL massage therapists in all organizations both as an educator and board member. Have you bothered to check out our site? Have you been to any board meetings? How about a meetup? Does ABMP offer mentorship to its members? What did you do to personally help any of the LMT's singled out for city ordinance violations? Did ABMP? Our chapter leaders did just that. Many people still have their doors open today because of work that AMTA IL is doing. AMTA is invested here because we live and work here - that's why. So you don't have to shut up. Get involved. If you have time to bitch about AMTA,  then you have time to do something productive. If the MLA does not pass, we go back to local municipalities running our businesses, and local whims of politicians shutting us down like they tried to do in Chicago, Rolling Meadows, Lisle and other towns. Stating factual information is not arrogance. Where has ABMP been in this whole process? Nowhere to be found. Have they even issued any kind of statement? Please do follow up with that info, as I would love to hear it.

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