The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has filed a challenge to the Florida Board of Massage Therapy’s decision to use the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ (FSMTB) Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) exclusively beginning in May 2009.

The NCBTMB’s National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) is utilized as a state credentialing exam and as a standalone certification exam. More than 90,000 massage therapists are currently certified through the NCBTMB. The FSMTB is a coalition of state boards of massage therapy that banded together in 2005 to create a massage licensure examination, with goals that included promoting portability and facilitating communication among the boards. Twenty-eight boards of massage now belong to the FSMTB.

At the heart of the NCBTMB’s 60-page argument filed with the state board is the relative youth of the MBLEx compared with its NCETMB. “There has been no showing that the FSMTB is even capable or competent to provide the expected approximately 4,400 licensing examinations that are provided annually in Florida,” the challenge states.

The challenge also claims a conflict of interest in that the chairman of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, David Quiring, is also the vice president of the FSMTB, and that “[The NCBTMB’s] financial and reputation interests will be affected by the elimination of the NCETMB as a licensure exam for massage therapists and bodyworkers in the State of Florida.”

Florida has the largest number—more than 28,000—of licensed massage therapists of any state that regulates massage.

A statement given to MASSAGE Magazine by the FSMTB on July 25 stated, “The FSMTB stands behind the Florida Board of Massage Therapy’s carefully considered decision to adopt the MBLEx as the appropriate licensing tool for assessing entry-level competence.

“As a member of the FSMTB, the Florida Board owns the MBLEx and along with the Florida Department of Health has been involved in the development and oversight of the MBLEx,” the statement continued. “Additionally, the Florida Board benefits from direct input into the administration and continued maintenance of the exam.”

A recent press release noted, “The FSMTB maintains the factually-based position that licensure is the function of the licensing boards—not the function of certification boards.”

Sixteen states—Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia—have adopted the MBLEx since it was introduced in October 2007. Some use the MBLEx exclusively while others use more than one exam.

As of press time, neither the NCBTMB nor the Florida Board of Massage had returned requests for interviews.

—Karen Menehan

MASSAGE Magazine editor in chief