A group of massage organizations is creating a body of knowledge, or compendium that represents the collective skills and knowledge necessary to practice massage therapy.

The group held its second meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 5-7; a report on that meeting was provided to MASSAGE Magazine on Nov. 14:

Report from the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge Meeting

(Kansas City, Missouri, November 5-7, 2008) Representatives from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, AMTA Council of Schools, Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, Massage Therapy Foundation, National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork gathered in Kansas City to continue the planning work begun at the July 13-15 meeting in Milwaukee for development of a Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK). This was the next step in the collaborative effort to advance the profession.

In addition to these stakeholder representatives, four additional individuals with a commitment to and knowledge of the profession, who have exhibited strong collaborative and leadership skills, were in attendance.

The meeting took place with the intention that the group could come to agreement on the definition, scope and approach to the actual work of establishing a common MTBOK, to be done by subject matter experts in the field-practitioners, educators and researchers. The group fulfilled this mission through the following agreements:

Definition and Scope of the MTBOK:
It was agreed the body of knowledge for the massage therapy profession should be defined as follows:

The Body of Knowledge for the massage therapy profession is a living resource of competencies, standards and values that inform and guide the domains of practice, licensure, certification, education, accreditation and research.

• Competencies refer to the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) that enable massage therapists to perform their work in a safe and effective manner. Knowledge is the technical information, theory and research that support the practice; Skills are the psychomotor capabilities a massage therapist utilizes; and Abilities are demonstrable behaviors—both innate and learned—that result in an observable outcome in the treatment setting. (KSAs will be defined for both the entry level of practice, as well as for areas of specialized and advanced practice.)

• Standards are the established and documented norms or requirements for the profession. They include such components as a Scope of Practice definition, Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, Nomenclature, Taxonomy, Education Standards (including Curriculum Standards, Teacher Qualifications and Institutional Requirements), and Workplace Standards (including Ergonomic Factors, Facility Requirements and Practitioner Capacities).

• Values are the unique attributes, qualities and principles that are embodied by individual massage therapists as well as the institutions and organizations that comprise the profession.

The attendees determined the foundational elements of the MTBOK shall consist of:

• Definition of massage therapy (scope of practice, terminology,
describing the field); and

• Definition of the competencies of an entry-level massage
therapist, in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities.

Additional elements, which will be built upon the foundational elements and further, define the norms, requirements, language, and accepted practices for the profession, include outputs such as Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, Taxonomy, Education Standards, and Workplace Standards. Competencies for specialized and advanced areas of practice will also be defined.

Approach to the MTBOK:
It was agreed that the initial phase of the project would be to define the foundational elements as listed above. The meeting participants agreed that the work should be conducted by a taskforce independent from the control or undue influence of any stakeholder group or other professional entity.

This taskforce will be comprised of professionals held in high regard and acknowledged as experts in the subject areas being defined. In addition, it is likely that a staff person unaffiliated with any massage profession organization would be hired to manage and support the activities of the taskforce. It was discussed that as part of its independence, the taskforce would share its results with the profession broadly, and would not seek “approval” or “ratification” from any stakeholder group. However, the participants agreed that the taskforce should establish a process to circulate its findings for comment.

In the best interest of the profession, the participating organizations agreed their role in this project should be one of stewardship. This means they would not control the project but due to the importance of the work and its impact on the profession, they would be accountable for its success. The group also looked at the resources needed for this project, criteria for taskforce members, an estimated timetable, and financial costs of the work.

The stewardship group will be comprised of representatives from the American Massage Therapy Association, AMTA Council of Schools, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, Massage Therapy Foundation, and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. The stewardship group will confirm details of the MTBOK plan over the next several months through conference calls and a potential face-to-face meeting.

The meeting concluded with the group reflecting on the collegial spirit of the gathering where everyone worked together for the common goal of advancing the profession. Each attendee expressed their continued commitment and support for this unifying and collaborative MTBOK effort.