Winds of Change Blowing: Professional Association & State Boards Support New Benchmarking Tool – the MBLEx

Wouldn’t you just love to be able to walk into a state board – ANY state board – and hand them [your state’s license] credentials, including the passing of one test recognized by all states, and they say “No problem! Here you go,– now: go out and do massage.”

Although that scene could have been difficult to imagine 5 or 10 years ago, that seems to be where the massage therapy industry, where regulation is concerned, is heading.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), a leading professional association operated for and by more than 58,000 massage therapists, announced last week its support for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), the newest American massage therapy professional exam on the block. The AMTA has supported the industry- & jurisdictionally-recognized National Certification Exam (NCE) and  finds that the newest licensing exam, developed & administered by the FSMTB (whose membership is primarily composed of state massage boards) is the next evolutionary step and “the best choice” in national credentialing for massage therapists in America.

It seems that the AMTA (a major influence in the areas of professionalism, professional representation to other fields of healthcare, and largest representation by mere numbers of a massage-therapist-only organization) is also supporting the entity of choice of the state boards that are moving to a more unified and portable licensing situation, which I can say has been and is a dream for our industry.

mblex-2-110x110Just to recap:

· The MBLEx is the test given by the FSMTB

· The NCE is the test given by the NCBTMB – two versions are NCETM (Therapeutic Massage) & NCETMB (Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork)

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) administers the MBLEx, which is comparable to the NCETM/B, administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Although the NCBTMB uses massage instructors, allied professionals (like chiropractors and physical therapists), the public and federal jurisdictions in developing the NCE, the development of another non-credential-bearing version of the NCB’s ‘stamp of approval’ for passers of the NCE, the NESL, has come a little late in the development of the reigning Certifiers of professionals in the massage therapy industry.

It seems that the NCBTMB does not include State Boards of Massage Therapy in the development of the benchmark testing of their NCE, and that there is not a like mind shared by all State Boards of Massage Therapy that agrees on the applicability of the NCE in each of the State Boards’ jurisdictions.

The MBLEx and the FSMTB is fast becoming state massage therapy boards’ preference for a professional benchmark to determine whether an MT is competent enough to practice massage therapy in the specific Board’s state.

Last year, the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists (NSBMT) became a member of the Federation of State Boards of Massage Therapy (FSMTB), joining the fast-growing numbers of state boards of massage therapy in the US.

Stats:

o 42: States Massage-Regulated in the U.S.

o 32: States Massage-Regulated in the U.S. and using the NCE

o 25: State Massage Boards also FSMTB members

What does this mean to [Nevada] Massage Therapists?

In my opinion, immediately, it will mean that in the next few years, the exam taken for applying for Nevada’s massage therapist professional license will be changing. Ultimately, it will mean interstate portability for a massage therapy license. And in the big scheme of things, a national professional license. And in the universal application of the implications, the universal (intra- and inter-national) ability to practice massage professionally with the same credentials. Now EVEN BIGGER that Universal implications could be BUSINESS LICENSEs are Universal, too – but I think that’s pushing it…just a bit.

Most of us have “grown up” with either the local business license office or state board requiring the NCTM/B credential: taking the NCE and getting the certificate to take copies to their offices. It does not mean (at least to the AMTA) that the NCE is not a valid exams: the AMTA clearly stated in their email (dated Jan 26th, 2009) to its members:

The national certification credential needs to be an important part of any grandfathering process.”


Will the MBLEx replace the NCE?

Who knows for sure? It is an Act in a Play that we are seeing for the first time – and we/ve read no reviews! The happenings in our field are new and changing, like a road on a trip that you’ve never taken before – destination: Unity.

The process of new licensing in Nevada may be changing slightly. A note: Change is inevitable…and it is also very slow in our industry, where regulation is associated; it doesn’t happen overnight.

The State of Nevada’s NSBMT is a member of the FSMTB, but they are not using the MBLEx as a benchmark at this time for regular application, but have stated that they will consider applicants that are relying on having taken the MBLEx for their NVMT application in individual review. I project the notice of complete change of requirement from the NCE to the MBLEx will come when the Nevada Legislation is passed, changing the requirements for exam to be taken by applicants for massage therapy license. Please refer to the posted NSBMT record of minutes in the October 24th, 2008 meeting.

One way to know where the test requirement is in the process is to keep up to date with the NSBMT by attending their meetings open to the Public or reviewing the approved minutes for each NSBMT meeting, available online here.

Viability of the MBLEx

I have no idea how the tests compare – without actually taking the MBLEx after taking the NCETMB, I have no springboard to base any opinion on which one is more credible, researched, relevant, or easy. Although…I am VERY tempted just to take the MBLEx to see how I do – It’s been so long since I’ve studied for an exam!mblex-3-110x110

Learn more about the MBLEx here

Learn more about the FSMTB here

The Choice of a Premier Professional Association

Through the AMTA invention, convention, direction, and redistribution of volunteer time and non-profit funds paid for by members and vested partners, they have established themselves as a motivator and leading performer in the massage therapy and professional association industries.

In my opinion, this is a fundamental commitment on behalf of the AMTA. Which means, if, in the estimation of more than 58,000 massage therapists, more state boards are being formed all the time, the state’s MT Boards opt to become member of the FSMTB, and the MBLEx is the test of choice because of unification of regulation and legislation factors, then endorsing the MBLEx and educating all its members and making information about the MBLEx available to the public and the association’s members is a good choice.

Distance Education: Pro or Con?

In the field of Massage Therapy, and in Nevada to be more specific, the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists require 12 Continuing Education (CE) hours in our field (approved by the Board) in order to remain licensed as a Massage Therapist. This coincides with the 4-year goal of the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork’s (NCBTMB) requirement of 48 CE hours for recertification. On November 16th, 2007, the NCBTMB began accepting Distance Education (DE) courses as a viable component of the professional training required to be an NCBTMB Certificant (Nationally Certified). Face-to-Face (F2F) courses have been the mainstay in the field of Massage Therapy and the frequency and availability of DE courses is steadily rising. F2F & DE courses make CE hours (credits) available to NCBTMB Certificant when the certificant completes the number of hours of training required for each course category: F2F courses offer live instruction with hands-on opportunities for training, practice, and evaluation; DE courses can be only by long distance (never interacting with the instructor, mostly internet-based) or a combination of long distance and face-to-face instruction (mostly in the testing phase of completion).
I speak from a practicing MT, educator, and MT educator’s point of view: I think in the long run that DE (Distance Education) courses do a disservice to the industry. The quality of the nature of massage therapy declines as DE courses are more and more the choice of practitioners that do not make the time to fulfill a standard of service: hands on learning.
I think making time to “be” a professional is critical in delivering the service that our clients expect from a certificant. “Hands On” is the nature of our profession. Just as we do not expect surgeons (a “hands on” profession) to learn by distance and then practice on their patients, we also cannot expect our instructors or MTs to not have hands on experience when teaching us a modality over distance or performing a massage – we expect the best and most value for our money and the credentialing agency that establishes their expertise should also. Do our clients expect us to never have practiced on a body (for taking DE courses) when we charge the rates we charge? I think one answer is they expect us to be proficient – hands on learning facilitates that key element in claiming we are practicing within our scope and have been critiqued and guided by our live instructor(s).
On the other hand, without some DE opportunities, many MTs would not otherwise be able to get the education they need to keep the credentials they need in this industry or want and have decided are the best fit for advertising and affiliating their professional image with excellence. I understand the need for convenience, inexpensive, and accessible CE opportunities.
Right now, a certificant can submit all DE credits for renewal of their NCTM or NCTMB accreditation. I believe that a percentage of DE credits of the whole 48 should be accepted as viable learning and practice tools for recertification purposes. MTs need to establish a commitment to the “best” care for our clients by integrating hands-on training in our careers. Our professional relationship with the NCB is a choice in many cases, sometimes it is a requirement of the local jurisdiction – some state licensing boards require CEs (of any approved type, DE or F2F) and the level of proficiency of their licensees is the state board’s responsibility. I think the NCB sets a standard for the industry and would hope that states and local jurisdictions would follow suit.

What does LMT mean? and other bodyworker titles…

Signs of Service

 

In today’s world of massage therapy, one sometimes has great difficulty determining who to choose to be his or her massage therapist.  There is one thing that we all want as clients when it comes to receiving bodywork:  trust.  We know that the internet and the phone book are great tools for finding that therapist that will be the one to give us specialized bodywork or cater to our needs in massage therapy.  But, there are some additional “clues” that tell us which massage therapist will be the better choice.

 

Whether we are new to the area, want to start a bodywork regimen, or have been receiving bodywork for a long time, there are some benchmarks that help us make a better choice in making our dollar go further and our relationship with that potential bodyworker more meaningful and productive.  The service marks that accompany a therapist’s name will be an indication that they adhere to a strict municipal code, code of ethics and standard of practice.  Also, title will be very important in choosing the therapist that is right for us.  Here are a few descriptions of service marks that will designate a legitimate, specialized, or practicing therapist:

  Licensing Considerations 

, LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) – or similar business-related association is required to practice in virtually every part of the United States, whether it is a State, County, or City license: it is the law, written to protect you and the massage therapist.  To practice massage outside of the training environment, all massage therapists need LMT title, even if their business is non- or not-for-profit.  Look for this title (including the license number and with which municipality it is registered) when choosing your therapist.

 A Note About Licensing:  Having a title does not necessarily mean that the therapist is qualified to operate a business.  The municipality decides, through issuing a license to a therapist, whether the therapist can conduct business within the municipality issuing the license.  License is a privilege.  Like any other type of formal permission, licensing is not permanent, unless the therapist renews it.  For your protection, make sure you use a licensed massage therapist.  Be aware of therapists who are non-compliant (expired license, certification, or membership).  If you are concerned, check with City/County/State records for licensing and association records for memberships – all available to the public online or by phone. Professional Considerations 

, NCTMB (Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) – the most-used method of determining whether a CMT is competent is a test called the National Certification Exam (NCE).  Passing the NCE not only means that a therapist has graduated from a (minimum) 500-hour training program, but that s/he also abides by a specific and industry-centered Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice in practicing as a Nationally Certified massage therapist.  Most municipalities that license massage therapists require the therapist be a NCTMB.  Look for this title when booking your appointment in a spa or finding a private practitioner.

 

Member of [AMTA, ABMP, IMA, etc]” – Being a member in good standing of any professional organization (like the American Massage Therapy Association, the American Bodyworkers and Massage Practitioners, and the International Massage Association) is a sign that the therapist is in tune with the normal and optimal operation of their massage therapy business.  These professional organizations often regulate through audit their members to make sure they are complying with local laws and industry standards of conduct and codes of ethics.  They also provide continuing education experiences and networking events that put them in touch with today’s massage industry to optimize their professional knowledge and accountability.

 

, Title [CMT, MMP, etc] – these additional titles to a practicing massage therapist are important for us to know in which modalities the therapist specializes.  For example, if I were looking for a Cranial Sacral Therapy therapist, I would be looking for a CST (Cranial Sacral Therapist).  Not all titles are as simple to derive just by the name of the modality.    Each title represents a completion and competency level achieved, issued by the governing body that accredited the therapist with the title.  

 

  • Know that the modality you never heard of may be a ruse for what most other therapists in the industry already practice – read the description of the service/modality before you decide it is the one that provides you what you need.
  • Get the opinion of more than one therapist.  You may find that in your research that the one you “click” with is the therapist you talk to second or third in your line of questioning.  Also, visit with the therapist, when it is convenient for both of you, to establish a relationship of trust and awareness – allow the therapist to work for you by educating you about the profession and their particular part in the profession regarding their business.

 

To find out more about how to locate a qualified therapist in your area, please use these real world or virtual resources to fit your special needs:

 

NCBTMB:      (800) 296-0664           or         http://www.ncbtmb.com

AMTA:           (877) 905-2700           or         http://www.amtamassage.org

ABMP:            (800) 458-2267           or         http://www.abmp.com

IMA:               (540) 351-0800           or         http://www.imagroup.com

 

Choosing the perfect therapist may be a difficult task, but using these benchmarks will certainly ensure that you make the best choice for your bodywork needs.

 

Author:  David J Otto, LMT NCTMB

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