Three of the massage field’s most influential organizations are spearheading the creation of a body of knowledge, or compendium that represents the collective skills and knowledge necessary to practice massage therapy.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork have organized the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge Consortium, according to a mid-May consortium press release. However, the nation’s largest professional massage association, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), is not involved in the initiative.

The group has invited massage, bodywork and movement membership organizations, representative groups for massage therapy schools, other credentialing organizations and research entities to meet in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The purpose of that meeting is to discuss a common definition for a body of knowledge, as well as to determine the organizations interested in moving forward in defining that body of knowledge.

“The articulation of the [body of knowledge] is intended to create an agreed-upon ‘well’ of information that is openly shared and assists in creating a mutual understanding within the profession, an understanding that creates consistent quality of care,” stated the consortium press release.

In a statement provided to MASSAGE Magazine by the AMTA, consortium members stated: “This [body of knowledge] could have a variety of uses, including assisting schools when developing curricula, and be instrumental in creating more consistent training. In turn, more evenly trained therapists can assist the profession in delivering consistent quality care to the consumer.

It could also assist the profession in defining future research needs of the field,” the statement added. “More scientific research can translate to solid evidence-informed practice for the massage therapist.” The statement added that whether the group’s definition of the body of knowledge could affect education hours required for licensure or certification was still to be determined.

According to ABMP President Les Sweeney, ABMP was not originally invited to participate in and is not currently involved with the consortium, but has communicated to the AMTA regarding the project, “specifically to register concerns about both the insular fashion in which the project was started and proposed plans and timeframes for structuring the future process.

“We feel a meeting of organizational representatives seated at a table advocating for their respective organization’s interests and perspectives is not particularly helpful,” Sweeney continued. “ABMP believes a more productive approach would be to establish an independent commission, populated by individuals broadly respected both for their knowledge and their integrity, leaving their institutional affiliations at the door and working toward a solution benefiting the entire profession.”

The consortium’s statement said that it intends to involve other voices of the profession, “such as practitioners and educators, besides those representing the participating organizations.”

—Karen Menehan