The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education’s executive director, Rick Rosen, recently authored a white paper titled “The Optimal Role of National Certification in the Massage Therapy Field, in which he suggests a “dramatically different” operational model for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

“Now that we have licensure in most states, entry-level certification has been rendered unnecessary and redundant as a first credentialing step for those coming into the field,” Rosen said in an AFMTE press release. “NCBTMB now has an excellent opportunity to upgrade and reposition its existing national certification program to a graduate-level credential.

“This would take the place of its forthcoming National Certification in Advanced Practice, and would provide a solid foundation for future development of a series of specialty certification programs,” Rosen continued. “Certification in specialized areas of practice is a major missing component that the field of massage therapy must have to become a full-fledged profession.”

The NCBTMB’s National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB) is used as a licensing exam many states that require the credential of its massage therapists; however, since its founding in 2005, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) has been increasingly adopted by states and is offered side by side with, or in some cases has replaced, the NCETMB in many states.

According to the AFMTE’s press release, Rosen’s paper provides a historical perspective on how national certification for massage therapists came into existence as a voluntary credential in the early 1990s; how its use shifted when the NCETMB was adopted by many states as a mandatory test for licensure; and how that landscape has radically changed now that more than 80 percent of massage school graduates are taking the MBLEx.

In response to the white paper, NCBTMB CEO Paul Lindamood sent the following statement to MASSAGE Magazine:

“NCBTMB has read AFMTE’s position paper and it is clear that a great deal of thought went into the document. It reminded us, however, that people sometimes forget our mission is to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession. One way we do that is through our exam programs, which have provided the profession and those who regulate it with psychometrically sound means of testing for entry-level competency for 19 years.

“But there are many other ways that NCB[TMB] strives to advance—and protect—the profession. There is our school compliance initiative, which helps to fight prostitution and human trafficking in the massage community. Our ethics program, which investigates and sanctions practitioners who do not uphold NCB[TMB]’s strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. And the Advanced Practice Credential, which is being developed by volunteer subject matter experts, with direction provided by the profession.

“NCB[TMB] understands it is critical to solicit input from the profession on major initiatives and issues. Most recently, we did this by inviting thought leaders from across the country to participate in the Massage Approved Provider Panel–including representatives from [Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, American Massage Therapy Association, Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine], as well as state board members, approved providers, school administrators and certificants.

“As a group, these individuals came together in a spirit of unity with the goal of helping redefine the national AP/CE program to benefit the profession. We are pleased to say the meeting was a great success. We will be incorporating the collaborative efforts into the new model of this program and look forward to sharing it with all stakeholders in the near future.

“Similarly, the advanced practice exam (NCAP) reflects input from across the massage community. The needs assessment survey showed that an advanced credential should not focus on specific modalities or practice settings, but should represent mastery of a higher level of knowledge and skills. The next step for NCB[TMB] is the development of specialty certifications.

“Nothing is more important to the profession than free and open dialogue–on these issues and all others. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us directly at or Alexa Zaledonis at”

The AFMTE ( is a voice, advocate and resource for the community of massage therapy schools and educators.