Kimberly A. Alexander, BSE, LMT, BCTMB, began her one-year term as president of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, an organization that advocates and creates resources for the massage education community, this fall.
Alexander graduated from Lexington Healing Arts Academy in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1993 and embarked on part-time work as a massage therapist layered onto her full-time work in academia, at a laboratory school for 22 years and then teaching at a massage school for eight years. She served as a member of the AFMTE’s Teacher Resources Development Committee and has volunteered with the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) as a site specialist.
In 2022 AFMTE was presented the Champion Award by Massage Magazine Insurance Plus for AFMTE’s work to strengthen and elevate massage therapy education and standards through supporting, credentialing and engaging educators.
Alexander looks forward to continuing that work. She inherited the helm of an organization that is still, she says, getting back on track after challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with administrative support back in place and renewed commitment to AFMTE core programs, Alexander and her fellow board members are poised to shepherd the organization into 2024.
Alexander sat down via Zoom video call with MASSAGE Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Karen Menehan, to discuss the AFMTE’s current plans and what Alexander envisions for massage therapy education. This interview has been lightly edited for length and flow.
Karen Menehan: What does it mean for you, both personally and professionally, to hold the position of president of the AFMTE?
Kimberly A. Alexander: It’s a huge honor. I really didn’t anticipate being the president of anything—but we are in a definite rebuilding phase, and it made a whole lot of sense for the people who had been on the board to continue in leadership positions as we get ourselves redirected and the organization comes back into its full capabilities.
I’m going to do the very best job I can and be supportive and accessible to the membership and also help get some things accomplished that got tabled during COVID.
KM: What is an example of an AFMTE program that was tabled and is being revitalized now?
KA: We are revamping and revitalizing the Certified Massage and Bodywork Educator program. We’ve just recently had our first certificate go through since 2020 and we have some other people in the pipeline right now.
I am proud of the fact that we’re back having people interested in it again and applying for it.
KM: COVID restrictions seem so far in the past, honestly. Why was this program so heavily impacted by the pandemic and why is it just now coming back?
KA: I think a lot of that probably came about because many of the programs became virtual during that time—and so I think that people were maybe a little more hesitant to send in their materials, because as a part of the portfolio process, videos are required. Recording a Zoom training might not be exactly the same as doing a bodywork class face-to-face. I think that was a contributor to the number of people that didn’t apply during that time.
KM: When I spoke with then-AFMTE President Shari Aldrich, who is now AFMTE immediate past president, in mid-2022, she mentioned several projects the AFMTE was undertaking. One of them was building diversity, inclusion and belonging among massage students and staff. What is the status of that project?
KA: We recently sent out a survey to our membership asking what direction they thought was needed in the field for educators and students in that area. Then there will be some next steps decided upon.
KM: Will that include training for educators?
KA: Yes, the primary focus would be educators.
KM: Do you also have an update on the National Teacher Education Standards Project, which aims to strengthen and improve massage education?
KA: AFMTE had developed a certificate that examined the portfolios of educators that submitted them for comparison to the National Teacher Education Standards and the core competencies that are part of AFMTE.
We’re in the midst of re-evaluating that, because COMTA has recently rolled out a training program to provide continuing education and help lead the way for everybody that’s involved in higher education—everybody from career services, to administration, to faculty to admissions, everybody across the spectrum.
It looks like there’s some really substantive things in there that will be very valuable for higher education programs in terms of training their staff and getting them all on the same page.
KM: Are you saying that AFMTE is affiliated with COMTA now, in terms of training?
KA: Not directly, but I would not hesitate to recommend COMTA training to schools. What I would like to see down the road is people taking the COMTA training, which is all virtual, by the way, then they come back to AFMTE and they say, “Well, I didn’t really get this part,” or “I don’t totally understand assessment,” and we would provide mentors for that part of the process. I can see us being collaborative going forward.
KM: In more general terms, what would you like to see happen in the area of massage education?
KA: There’s been a lot of area for growth in the area of preparing and assisting continuing education providers. That is an area I feel like AFMTE can have an impact. I want to see us take some steps to meet the needs of those folks, the CE providers, because they do belong to our organization and I don’t feel like we give them enough attention.
KM: What kind of needs do you foresee meeting for them? What would supporting CE providers look like?
KA: There is a constant vocabulary debate, so one step AFMTE could take would be trying to put some verbiage out there that maybe more folks would be willing to adapt and adopt in their discussions.
Also, the difference between giving a certificate for a class at the end of a course versus a certification program, which is a totally different thing.
We want to do some more outspoken discussions about those things so that people understand what they’re signing onto and paying for.
KM: We’re coming to the end of our discussion, unfortunately. What else would you like to say about the AFMTE’s work?
KA: We’re going to continue our monthly seminar initiative. I think a lot of schools are just starved for networking. They want to find ways to connect with other folks that are doing what they do.
I have high hopes that we can finally get back to our pre-COVID vitality and that we’re well on the road to that. I think that AFMTE has a lot to offer our massage educators.
About the AFMTE
The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education serves as an independent voice, advocate and resource for the massage therapy and bodywork education community. Its vision is to advance the therapeutic massage and bodywork professions by strengthening and elevating educational practices and standards through supporting, credentialing, and engaging educators. AFMTE will hold an in-person Education Conference June 12-13 in Kansas City, Missouri.
About the Author
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor-in-chief for print and digital. Her articles for this publication include “Massage Therapist Jobs: The Employed Practitioner,” published in the Sept. 2022 issue of MASSAGE Magazine, a first-place winner of a 2023 FOLIO: Eddie Award for magazine editorial excellence, full issue. She has reported and edited for publications including IMAGINE Magazine, The Mid-County Post newspaper and LIVESTRONG.