According to massage industry leaders, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) is launching a membership organization that will offer members insurance with the intention to “strengthen the value of NCBTMB.”

The NCBTMB administers national certification exams that were used by virtually all states that regulate massage; in the past three years, however, a new organization, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, has seen its exam increasingly implemented in regulating states.

A letter sent to the NCBTMB’s board members and provided to MASSAGE Magazine on condition of anonymity on July 1 named the new association as the usaMassageResourceAssociation and noted, “When it launches, will automatically be the largest massage association in the country by some 91,000 members.”

A statement sent to members of the nation’s largest massage association, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) by ABMP and provided to MASSAGE Magazine on June 30 by ABMP stated:

“ABMP recently learned of the proposed launch of the USA Massage
Resource Association (USAMRA), a membership association created by the
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

According to a memo to the NCBTMB Board of Directors, it is NCBTMB’s intent to enter the association marketplace and offer “a robust membership package including insurance and much more-all designed to strengthen the value of NCBTMB by virtue of its relationship with”

We want to share our perspectives on this development and take
the opportunity to restate our commitment to you and to the massage and
bodywork profession.

ABMP feels it is entirely within NCBTMB’s prerogative to try to
find an audience for a new membership association. We are firm believers
that any group or entity has the right to compete in the marketplace. After
all, ABMP was in a similar position in 1987, when AMTA was the only
professional membership organization then serving the field.

That does not mean, however, that we think NCBTMB’s decision to
form an association is in its best interest as an organization, or that
their doing so will benefit the profession. Birthed by AMTA 18 years ago,
NCBTMB was created for the purpose of offering voluntary certification to
massage therapists who subscribed to and met high standards of preparation,
knowledge, and ethics. Seduced by the attraction of multiplying
significantly the number of individuals taking an examination NCBTMB
developed, NCBTMB moved into a vacuum, encouraging states to adopt their National Certification Exam for use as a required entrance exam into the
profession, even though their exam had not been designed for that purpose.

Within the past three years, a new organization-the Federation of State
Massage Therapy Boards-emerged (with an initial loan from ABMP) and
developed the MBLEx, a true entrance examination that quickly garnered the
support of both ABMP and AMTA as the entry exam of choice for our

Both ABMP and AMTA have publicly expressed support for the value
of voluntary certification and have encouraged NCBTMB to re-concentrate its energies on serving that original purpose. NCBTMB has resisted that advice, instead aggressively litigating and lobbying to retain a place in
entry-level testing and now seeking a new mission to provide professional
association services.

While defending NCBTMB’s right to try such a new initiative, ABMP believes that NCBTMB has not earned the right to merit your professional membership affiliation. At the core, what should an effective professional membership association provide its members? You have told us:

a.. quickly responsive, knowledgeable service to all
constituents, whether your request for help is simple or complex;
b.. practice development assistance;
c.. first-rate communications, in print and online, to keep
you abreast of new developments in massage knowledge; and
d.. comprehensive liability insurance protection backed by an
experienced staff present to support you should a claim be filed against

NCBTMB can secure some sort of insurance, but lacks experience
in administering such a program. Their experience in providing practice
development and educational content communications is highly limited.

As to basic service responsiveness, NCBTMB’s record is widely considered by the massage profession to be deplorable. Stories of no live person to answer the
phone, timely respond to an inquiry, or provide knowledgeable information
are legion. NCBTMB has changed the content of their examinations without
giving either the massage education community or state licensing boards
opportunities for meaningful input. Does this sound like an organization
with the skills to be your chosen professional membership association?

Throughout ABMP’s 22-year history, our focus has been on
constantly improving the value of your membership. Liability insurance is an
integral part of ABMP membership and an important element of any massage
therapist’s practice. But as we like to say at ABMP, it’s only part of the
story. Membership includes an award-winning magazine, valuable publications
and business resources, a robust (and also award-winning) website,
legislative and regulatory advocacy, top-notch service, and an opportunity
to be heard. Through 1,000-plus Massage & Bodywork articles, curriculum and instructional supports for schools and students, and frequent webinars, ABMP has earned wide respect as a contributor to the advancement of massage knowledge and teaching.

Sometimes providing quality customer service is as simple as
making sure someone answers the phone. ABMP has built its reputation over 22 years-one phone call, one conversation, one member at a time. When an ABMP staff member does not immediately have an answer to your inquiry, she quickly finds out and communicates the answer to you. No bull. No
pretensions. Honest acknowledgement of what we do and don’t know.

It’s not generally ABMP’s style to toot its own horn. Perhaps
the idea of an organization with demonstrated weakness in customer relations
thinking they can better provide professional membership association
services got my Irish up! We welcome competition and have learned through
experience interacting with AMTA that we can constructively work with them on issues of common concern to the profession even while vigorously
competing for members. If NCBTMB moves forward to form USAMRA, we hope to continue to support their certification and continuing education approval activities. Rest assured though: ABMP will work hard to keep you as a member and to ask you to encourage others to share your membership choice.

Thank you for listening; most importantly, thank you for your
loyalty to ABMP. We intend to merit your continued support.”

Les Sweeney, NCTM
President, ABMP