by Bob McAtee

The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is a U.S. Department of Education-recognized entity that accredits massage schools. Here, COMTA’s Executive Director Kate Henrioulle shares her perspectives on the future of massage school accreditation.

Q. Why should massage therapists care about COMTA?

A. Some states require massage therapists graduate from an accredited program before they can be licensed. When choosing a school, students should inquire about the school’s approvals and accreditation, as well as the licensure requirements in the states where they might want to work.

Accreditation is a voluntary, peer-reviewed process. To ensure our effectiveness in evaluating schools, COMTA needs massage practitioners, educators, school administrators and the general public to serve as reviewers and on the commission.

Q. How many massage training programs are COMTA accredited compared to the total number of massage training programs in the U.S.?

A. There are about 1,600 state-approved schools in the U.S., and 300 have some form of accreditation. Of these 300, COMTA accredits 100. We have seen an increase in new applicants: 10 during 2009 and about 16 anticipated for 2010.

This increase in applications is due in part to the recent credit problems in the U.S. Many independent massage schools, which have been able to operate by offering their students private loans through systems such as Sallie Mae, have seen most of these private loans disappear, leading many schools to consider federal funding through Title IV approval.

Q. Why did COMTA decide to expand its scope of accreditation?

A. In 2008, responding to requests from our schools, COMTA decided an expansion into aesthetics would be an appropriate complement to massage therapy, since many massage practitioners are also aestheticians, several schools that offer massage programs also offer aesthetics and, in the workplace, the two modalities are often found together.

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—Bob McAtee, N.C.T.M.B., C.S.C.S., C.-P.T., is a veteran sports massage therapist and contributor to MASSAGE Magazine. He owns Pro-Active Sports Massage in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is the co-author of Facilitated Stretching.