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Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards Created

In 2005, ABMP served as a catalyst for the formation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). Other health professions already enjoy the benefits of such umbrella federations.

The new massage organization should improve communication between states and may develop an improved entry-level test. Long-term, FSMTB offers prospects for enhanced licensing reciprocity.

Twenty-three state boards that regulated the practice of massage therapy at the time the federation was formed, and 12 leading massage therapy educators and authors from around the country came together to work to ensure that the practice of massage therapy is provided to the public in a safe and effective manner. The formation of FSMTB offers the promise for networking among state licensing boards to:
  • Share the common issues that each agency deals with on a regular basis.
  • Identify best practices to improve the effectiveness of their operations.
  • Provide education, services and guidance to member boards that help them fulfill their statutory and ethical obligations.
  • Take an active role in advocating for efforts to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage therapists, in order to facilitate professional mobility and to simplify and standardize the licensing process.
  • Seek to improve the standards of massage therapy, education, licensure and practice through cooperation with other entities.
This model has worked well for other regulated professions such as physical therapy, chiropractic and social work, and these organizations were studied and interviewed for "best practices" prior to forming the massage federation.

Note: Following are two 2005 commentaries by massage profession leaders on the formation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards in 2005.

Most Significant Massage News in Decade?
New Organization Formed to Benefit Massage Therapy
By Cliff Korn, Editor, Massage Today

Note: This article first appeared in the July 2005 issue of Massage Today,, before the federation was formed.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) hosted a meeting, May 11–12, 2005, in Denver, Colo., to initiate conversation that is potentially the most significant massage news of the decade, and will certainly be of interest to the majority of massage therapists in the U.S.

Initiated by ABMP President Bob Benson and Executive Vice President Les Sweeney, the meeting had two main objectives: 1) to discuss the potential formation of an alliance or federation of state massage therapy boards, and 2) to discuss the potential development of a new entry-level examination for prospective massage licensees. The purpose of the two-day meeting was not to seek definitive answers about these two issues, but rather to explore whether there exists the need for a consortium of state boards and a new entry-level examination. It was postulated up front that if those needs were deemed vital, a logical next step might be to hold a meeting in the fall involving a broad cross-section of representatives of state massage licensing bodies.

Discussions focused on how participants could help massage boards maximize their potential and advance individual qualifications to practice in a cost-effective and timely manner. Ultimately, the group determined that the profession could potentially benefit from progress in those arenas in terms of alternative exam choices and increased consistency among licensing requirements in different states, which would result in improved reciprocity and portability.

Meeting participants included current and past members of state massage boards and massage therapy educators. Three attendees were directly involved in a previous (now defunct) organization, the National Alliance of State Massage Therapy Boards and agreed to provide the groundwork for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the new coalition of state massage boards that the group unanimously consented to move forward with.

The group also reached a consensus to invite the massage licensing bodies in the 35 regulated states and the District of Columbia (Note: Most current information on state regulation) to participate in the newly formed Federation. Further group consensus determined that the Federation was the appropriate group to develop the parameters for the development and implementation of a new licensing examination.

An interim board of directors was chosen until a meeting of the broad base of massage therapy boards can be convened. Serving on the interim board are Arnold Askew (Alabama Board of Massage Therapy); Kathleen Egenes (New Mexico Massage Therapy Board); Patty Glenn (Oregon Board of Massage Therapists); Kathy Jensen (Iowa Massage Therapy Board); Michael Jordan (Oregon Board of Massage Therapists); Christine Kiely (New Hampshire Advisory Board of Massage Therapy); Daisy Millett (North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy); Dave Quiring (Florida Board of Massage Therapy); and Rick Rosen (Body Therapy Institute, NC). Rosen and Glenn were selected to fill the respective roles of interim Chair and interim Vice-Chair.

Federation Formation Begins a Sea Change
The Shoe's On the Other Foot Now
By Ralph R. Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Note: This article (excerpt) first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Massage Today,, (just after the federation was formed).

What a wonderful week it was, Sept. 19–24, in Albuquerque, N.M. A lot of the major players in our profession were there at the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Convention. It was their largest attendance ever and, in my opinion, the best overall convention in recent history. From education, to exhibits, to entertainment, it was a great meeting. My hat is off to the AMTA convention staff and volunteers who put on a first-class event.

The ABMP also was there, sponsoring the birth of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. The AMTA and the ABMP were at the same place at the same time. What an interesting week it was. The ABMP was supporting regulation and the AMTA was warning against it. What a switch. The same arguments used against the AMTA and National Certification such as, "this is happening too fast," and "not all the stakeholders are being included," as well as," "only part of the truth is being told" were suddenly coming from the AMTA and National Certification. How about that?

The shoe is on the other foot now. This is a huge sea change in our profession. It's going to be fascinating to watch as it unfolds. It will affect us all, for better or for worse. Because every silver lining has its cloud, the Federation could become a savior or a monster, so it needs to be watched carefully. However, I have a great deal of optimism about the formation of this regulatory forum. I hope the profession as a whole supports the Federation of State Regulatory Boards and allows them to bring about more standardization, portability and accountability in the regulation of massage therapy.

The homework has been done. Most other regulated professions, such as physical therapy, chiropractic, social work, etc., have such federations for their state boards to communicate through. In organizing this entity for massage boards, other similar organizations were closely studied. Several were visited, observed and interviewed. The best features of most other federations were taken and a consultant/lawyer for several other federations was retained as an advisor. Therefore, the creation of the massage Federation quickly was achieved, built from a solid foundation, based on what has worked for others, skillfully and carefully adapted to best benefit our uniqueness. This organization is off to a great start with enthusiastic, skilled and dedicated people at the helm. It needs and deserves the support of the entire profession for it to reach its positive potential. It's my hope that all the stakeholders will come together and support the Federation for the good of the profession. Sadly, however, the "good of the profession" usually is based on the cash flow of the affected. Time will tell.

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