ABMP Becomes Largest Massage Membership Association
The ABMP membership roster of currently active massage therapist members reached 80,000, after steady
growth over 21 years. It is the nation's largest association serving the massage therapy
Keys to ABMP membership growth are a liability insurance program characterized by broad coverage
and knowledgeable; timely support when a claim arises; advice and support on building and
sustaining a practice; publications that contribute to member continuing education, as well
as updates on developments in the profession; and news and representation on state-level
legislative developments. Just as important to our growth is an inclusive view of the massage
and bodywork profession, a perspective that embraces both broadly diverse views and chosen forms
ABMP is clearly on the side of supporting and sustaining this rich diversity. We care about
advancing the underlying science that promotes understanding of the benefits of massage and
bodywork. We support choices some ABMP members make to become accepted partners within the
broader healthcare world. ABMP equally cares about preserving the 'art and heart' of massage.
Members who place greater emphasis on these qualities deserve an equivalent full measure of
respect for their choices.
ABMP is foremost about service — to our members and to the profession. We work hard at
building a staff culture around the idea of responding warmly, knowledgeably and in a
timely manner to voiced special requests for assistance.
We don a political hat only when member choice, flexibility and freedom to practice
without undue interference become threatened. Our senior officers meet with counterparts
in other large massage and bodywork institutions to understand each other's views and to
seek causes we can together support. We offer and receive professional respect in those
settings, but that does not prevent ABMP from speaking out whenever one of the other
participating organizations adopts policies that appear to restrict access to the profession
or to suggest that work performed by some segment of the profession is somehow less valid. On
those occasions, ABMP seeks to provide a constructive counterweight to such narrowing views.
Bringing it back to members, ABMP also cares a lot about conserving investments. Human
investments. Specifically the investment members have made in completing massage or
bodywork training. We remain concerned about the high attrition rate among those
entering massage practice. We strive to develop and provide resources that improve
practice-building odds for members.
Our "expect more" credo means ABMP staff may not be able to solve every problem, but
members have our continuing commitment to try, and to communicate back to them.
Professional Membership Patterns
Approximately 40 percent of practicing massage therapists belong to one of two full-service
professional membership associations serving the field. Including student members, more than
80,000 belong to ABMP and more than 58,000 to American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
AMTA, founded in 1943, has for the past 13 years focused on the recognition of massage
therapy by the medical profession, opening the door to respect for practitioners and
eligibility for reimbursement by health insurance companies. AMTA has worked steadily
at promoting the profession and building a massage research infrastructure.
ABMP was formed in 1987 and has surpassed AMTA's membership despite being in operation
less than one-third the time AMTA has existed. What AMTA appears to have underestimated
over the past two decades is the breadth of interests, career choices and practice
parameters chosen by the burgeoning number of massage graduates. Therapists' diverse
practice choices called for responsive professional association support on basic
services, with special attention to practice-building help. Early ABMP growth was
also partially attributable to a welcoming attitude expressed toward a broad array of
massage, bodywork and somatic modalities.
Additionally, a need was felt among a substantial portion of the massage community
practicing part-time to have its concerns addressed. For many years, AMTA tried to keep
focused on practitioners occupied full time in their field, believing that full-time
image was important to gaining acceptance in the medical profession, even though most
practicing massage therapists did not fit that full-time profile. (The majority of U.S.
practitioners — and even of AMTA members —devote fewer than 20 hours a week to hands-on massage. Many have other
part-time work, creating a unique set of needs in promoting and conducting their
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