Education concept: computer keyboard with word Continuing Education, selected focus on enter button background, 3d render

As a profession rooted within the health-and-wellness continuum, nothing remains constant.

Years of evolving research has and will continue to strengthen our profession. Continuing education is one of the vehicles utilized to ensure that relevant, credible information and research are shared throughout the profession.

is one of the vehicles utilized to ensure that relevant, credible information and research are shared throughout the profession.

As such, educational leaders and qualified instructors are vital to this process as massage therapists seek courses, training programs, conferences and other continuing education opportunities on a routine basis.

The demand for massage continues to increase as the health care community embraces our work and, similarly, clients seek new alternatives to pain management; it is important therapists continue to elevate and advance their education as current and future members of integrative health care teams.

If you have ever contemplated becoming a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)-Approved Provider of Continuing Education, now is the time to answer the demand.

As current approved providers report, the recognition alone opens a world of opportunity to connect with your peers and increase your income, and challenges you in ways you might not otherwise be challenged.

MASSAGE Magazine recently caught up with several NCBTMB-Approved Providers of Continuing Education to learn more about the process, its benefits and tips on how to apply.

What is an Approved Provider?

An NCBTMB-Approved Provider is a continuing education instructor who has exhibited quality instruction of the highest standards throughout the massage therapy and bodywork profession.

Approved providers come from all backgrounds — medical facilities, spas, independent contractors and sports facilities, to name a few — and are masters of their subject matter. All approved providers share a desire to communicate their knowledge with others to further elevate the profession.

 “I became an [approved provider] because I wanted to work directly with my peers to share the practices I have found to be helpful in assessing my clients, and the applications which have made me more effective as a practitioner,” said Cindy Connolly, LMT, BCTMB.

Benefits of becoming an NCBTMB Approved Provider

With an exception of a few states, most accept NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses for licensure renewal; many therapists rely on NCBTMB, its website, and its network of Approved Providers to find courses per renewal cycle.

Board Certificants are also required to complete continuing education through NCBTMB-Approved Providers every two years. Such requirements may result in immediate opportunities to increase your income while positively benefitting fellow licensees and Board Certificants nationwide.

Beyond the possible financial impact, approved providers also cite the importance of the community and name recognition. Being an approved provider can create opportunities to meet and network with practitioners and educators from all over the country — or the world.

“Teaching has provided me with tremendous opportunities to meet others in our field,” said NCBTMB-Approved Provider Felicia Brown, LMT, BCTMB. “Though I have really enjoyed getting to know many students in my classes, my life has been incredibly enriched by connecting with other educators and CE providers.”

Similarly, Brown added, teaching continuing education for massage and spa professionals has taken her places she might never have visited otherwise. “In addition to many places in the U.S., I’ve also taught CE classes on two international cruises, in Canada and Poland so far, and my online classes have introduced me to students all over the world.”

Where to Begin

All NCBTMB-Approved Providers must go through a review and approval process prior to offering continuing education to participants. During this process, outlined instructor qualifications must be met, as well as appropriate course information, such as course descriptions, outlines, and learning objectives and outcomes.

All course content is reviewed to ensure it is within NCBTMB’s acceptable course guidelines and, ultimately, strengthens therapists’ knowledge. Before beginning your approved provider application, you should teach your course at least one time to a group of five or more participants.

As NCBTMB routinely updates its acceptable and unacceptable content, it is important to ensure the course(s) you wish to design and teach align with such policies.

For example, NCBTMB no longer accepts energy work not inclusive of “hands-on therapeutic massage” throughout the course, eliminating crystal healing, qi gong, and other subject matter considered outside the Massage Therapy Scope of Practice in many states. If this is the sole basis of your proposed courses, becoming an approved provider is not for you.

If you are a new instructor or feel you would benefit from additional training, there are various teacher training programs (online and in-person) available through approved providers nationwide. As current approved providers have shared, it’s important to not only understand the content being taught but also to be able to disseminate the information to class participants.

Typical Challenges

As this program evolves, approved providers are challenged to create and submit advanced course content to ensure it aligns with NCBTMB’s mission and the objectives of the Approved Provider Program.

Applicants have applied and been rejected for various reasons, such as course content being not strong or advanced enough; course content being considered unacceptable; and applicants proposing a course without the required qualifications to teach the material.

Connolly, an approved provider and Approved Provider Specialist at NCBTMB, expressed the challenges outside of creating an acceptable course:

“As an [approved provider] myself, I can honestly say teaching CE to my peers has challenged me to become a better communicator and made me more aware of what other massage therapists face working in different environments.”

First Steps to Applying for Approved Provider status

After you complete the recommended initial three steps outlined above, it is time to collect all necessary documents required to begin your Approved Provider Application on NCBTMB’s website. A full list of the required documentation can be found on NCBTMB’s FAQ resource, along with several other helpful tips for first-time applicants and sample items you can review and utilize.

Get started on your journey today by visiting and clicking on “Approved Providers” to review the necessary information and, if ready, begin the application process.

Like many other massage therapists who have stepped up to become NCBTMB-Approved Providers, you might, like NCBTMB-Approved Provider Susan Salvo, EdD, LMT, BCTMB, find it’s a valuable next step on your professional journey.

“I like to teach because I like to learn,” Salvo said. “The entire process of education is, by nature, transformative. I enjoy diving into a topic, the feelings of awe and wonder from reading research, applying the findings to professional practice, sharing the journey with others, and using their questions to dive into a different topic.”

She added, “I believe teaching has made me a better practitioner through improving my knowledge and expertise.”

About the Author

Donna Sarvello, VP Educational Support, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

Donna Sarvello, LMT, BCTMB,is a graduate of the Chicago School of Massage. Her career as a licensed and board certified massage therapist has spanned various settings, including chiropractic offices, physical therapy clinics and holistic therapy centers. Sarvello is also an experienced educator, having taught and managed a massage therapy program for Everest. She is the Vice President of Educational Support at the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

7 Steps to Writing Effective Objectives for Your CE Course

By Cindy Connolly, BCTMB, LMT

Are you interested in becoming an NCBTMB Approved Provider? Perhaps you have a course idea in mind but are unsure where to start.

Below, we provide several starting points and helpful examples to equip you with the right tools to write effective learning outcomes and objectives for your proposed NCBTMB-Approved CE course.

1. Definitions

Prior to writing effective content, you must first understand the differentiation between a learning outcome and a learning objective. Simply stated:

A learning outcome is a broader, more general accomplishment or take-a-way each participant can do as a result of mastering each of the smaller, more specific learned tasks.

Example learning outcome: Perform a lymphatic massage.

A learning objective is a specific, measurable, and achievable take-a-way or proof of learning that each participant will be able to demonstrate understanding at the conclusion of a portion of the course. Objectives are not items participants will learn, but rather things they can do as a result of having learned something new. Think in terms of action related to demonstrations of knowledge.

Example learning objective: List the structures of the lymphatic system.

2. Getting Started

When you are ready to begin the course writing process, I encourage you to begin with the end in mind. Rather than simply stating what each attendee will learn, it is often more effective to ask yourself, “What should each attendee be able to do as a result of attending class?” This minor change of perspective will help ensure the learning experience is participant-centered and, in turn, will provide more purposeful results.

3. Best Practices for Writing Learning Outcomes

Once you have asked yourself the above question, it’s time to get specific about your learning objectives and outcomes. Try to think of objectives and outcomes as the proof of learning or take-a-ways each participant will leave with at the conclusion of class. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that all objectives and outcomes are ideally S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).

Specific to learning outcomes, there is typically only one to a few per course. The final number depends on several factors, including content, length and format. When you are ready to formalize your outcomes, begin by asking yourself a simple question: What is the overall goal or take-a-way for each attendee?

Write down your answers to the above exercise. You may find you rewrite them a time or two to ensure they are S.M.A.R.T. This process will help you better identify your learning outcome(s), and, ultimately, help to naturally write your learning objectives.

4. Best Practices for Writing Learning Objectives

The next aspect of course creation is to list and determine each of the individual steps which must be understood to master the overall learning outcome(s).  Each of these smaller, hourly goals are your learning objectives—and will be the building blocks for your course. 

Unsure where to begin? Consider including each of the following measurable or observable demonstrations of knowledge within your course and incorporate within your objectives: Psychomotor (skills), Cognitive (mind-based), and Affective (emotions or attitudes). At minimum, all three should be considered when developing your objectives — it’s up to you to decide how to transform those demonstrations into S.M.A.R.T. objectives that will create a well-rounded learning experience. The following examples show how the above demonstrations can help write learning objectives:

Example learning objective – Psychomotor: Apply PNF techniques to XX muscle.

Example learning objective – Cognitive: Name two contraindications for XX techniques.

Example learning objective – Affective: Identify three psychological aspects elderly face when living with pain.

The importance of the considering all three demonstrations of knowledge within your course is simple: While it is important to understand the process of providing a specific technique effectively, we also need to better understand the population receiving those services, as well as when those services may be contraindicated and/or how they may help a particular client.

5. What to Do If You’re Stuck

If you engage in the suggested exercises, but find yourself stuck, that is okay. When stuck, the best thing to do is to get back to the basics—start with a very basic concept of understanding (e.g. recall, relate, describe, or explain) and naturally work towards more challenging tasks.

Similarly, as Bloom’s Taxonomy describes, if we can master recalling important facts prior to trying to explain or compare those facts to other information, we naturally progress to better organizing and identifying that same information. Think of drafting your learning outcomes and objectives in a similar fashion.

6. Putting it All Together

Once you have your learning outcomes and objectives defined and listed in order, it is time to consider how you will present each bit of information. Some information can be readily absorbed by engaging discussions or a short lecture, while others are best offered with physical demonstration and followed up by practice. This is important to consider as you proceed to ensure you allow the necessary time for the more complicated subject matters.

It is also helpful to consider more than one way to present a topic, and what kind of visual aids or activities you may introduce to help participants fully understand the subject matter, as well as engage a variety of people. Each group dynamic is different, and while some topics may prove easy for some to grasp, those same topics may be challenging for others.

If you follow these guidelines, writing your Course Outline (a component of submitting courses for NCBTMB-approval) will come naturally.

7. Next Steps

By considering and applying the provided guidelines and best practices to writing and designing your new course, you will not only make sure the course is ready for NCBTMB acceptance, but you will ensure a productive and rich learning experience for your attendees. This can lead to an organized and fun classroom, referrals, and a successful career in education. 

About the Author

Cindy Connolly, BCTMB, Approved Provider Specialist at NCBTMB.

Cindy Connolly, BCTMB, wrote this article on behalf of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Connolly is a graduate of the Northern Prairie School of Massage & Bodywork in Sycamore, Illinois. Due to her NCBTMB certification and extensive experience working with the fragile and elderly populations, she was the first massage therapist hired to work at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois. A past massage therapy instructor, she is currently an Approved Provider Specialist at NCBTMB.