On Dec. 6, 2012, the leadership of seven national massage therapy organizations gathered in Englewood, Colorado, for their third face-to-face meeting in the past 15 months. Several participating organizations note that they serve diverse bodywork practitioners and institutions, but as massage therapy is the common thread for all seven organizations, we use that term, in its broadest context, in the comments below.

Part of the agenda of that meeting was to define reasons for convening, both as a point of reference for future work together, and to inform the public of their intentions.

The coalition seeks a thriving massage therapy profession that enhances the health and well-being of clients throughout the U.S. In an environment of cooperation between these groups, we see the potential to advance the massage therapy profession as a whole. Although some parties are professional competitors and will remain so, we recognize that in some circumstances our combined effort may be more effective than the influence of any organization operating individually. Also, the work we do collaboratively can serve to make each organization stronger and more successful.

We believe that a safe, candid forum in which we can identify challenges and opportunities in the wide field of massage therapy, identify organizational roles, examine and (if possible) defuse conflicts, and set priorities for common action, is of value to the entire massage therapy profession.

The seven participating organizations do not possess equal power or financial resources. But when they meet together, each organization and its two chosen representatives participate on an equal footing, in an atmosphere of mutual participation and respect. Group meeting expenses are shared equally, although particular projects embraced may not be funded equally by all organizations.

Participating organizations include:

  • Alliance for Massage Therapy Education
  • American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
  • Massage Therapy Foundation
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

After much discussion, we (the organizations) have decided to call ourselves a coalition of national massage therapy organizations (“the coalition”). No plans exist to formally incorporate the group, or to imbue it with any legal status.

Education for massage therapists is an issue where the missions of every organization overlap. In our first meeting over a year ago, we identified that inconsistent standards and outcomes in massage education was a keystone for several goals that the organizations have, including improved portability for massage licensure, a model practice act, more consistent accreditation standards for schools, and better support and training for massage therapy educators. The ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project) is the first project supported by the seven organizations to address these educational concerns.

The ELAP is funded primarily by ABMP, AMTA, and FSMTB. The other organizations support the project in principle, and offer consultative help as necessary; COMTA specifically has become actively engaged in helping present project findings. It is a groundbreaking cooperative effort between sometimes competitors to serve the entire massage therapy profession.

ELAP work group members are educational subject matter experts recruited from all over the country to map out a realistic, evidence-informed and quantified description of content and skill qualifications for an entry-level education in massage therapy.

Their initial findings are anticipated to be made available for public comment in April 2013.