Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, MASSAGE MagazineThe Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is being established to serve as an independent voice and advocate for the entire education sector-–from entry-level training programs through post-graduate studies. It will include three components: a School Network (for the institutions themselves); a Teacher’s Network (for instructors in those institutions); and a Continuing Education Network (for providers of post-graduate training). The Alliance will be structured as a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors elected democratically from within its membership.

As the field of massage therapy continues to move forward in its evolution toward becoming a full-fledged profession, it is clear that the education sector must have a champion of its own. The challenges and opportunities that exist call for an autonomous entity that will take its rightful place among the primary stakeholders that comprise the field. 

The Alliance will offer a comprehensive range of services to its members, and will represent their interests in all domains. This advocacy will come into play in dealing with state and federal regulatory issues, accreditation, standard-setting projects, such as the Body of Knowledge and teacher education requirements, as well as ongoing efforts to get massage therapy better recognized and integrated into the health-care delivery system. By strengthening and improving massage education, the Alliance will bring great benefit to massage schools, teachers and practitioners, along with everyone in the general public who receives massage therapy.

As the education sector in this field is large and highly diverse, the Alliance will embrace all disciplines across the spectrum of what is commonly known as massage, bodywork and somatic therapies. In the U.S. and Canada, there are more than 1,600 schools and programs, and approximately 12,000 teachers at those institutions. In addition, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has more than 1,000 continuing education providers in its approval program. On one hand, each of the three Networks within the Alliance represents a distinct constituency within the massage therapy field that has its own needs and perspectives. Taken collectively, they are a significant force that exist for and serve the larger mission of learning, healing and growth.

Twenty-five years ago, an independent Council of Schools (COS) was created by a group of massage school owners. In 1999, the COS chose to go under the administrative control of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). For a number of reasons, this structure no longer meets the current needs of its members. At the AMTA COS Annual Meeting in San Antonio this past January, school members adopted a motion to begin the process of separating from AMTA and re-establishing an independent education organization.

In the spirit of this initiative, a Leadership Team has been formed by five veteran massage therapy educators who have stepped forward to assume responsibility for the startup phase of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. The members of this group have been involved with the COS for many years, and bring great depth and breadth of professional experience to this project:

• Iris Burman, L.M.T. Founder and director of the Educating Hands School of Massage in Miami, Florida. One of the original COS members, and part of the group that established the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation in the early 1990’s.
• Stan Dawson, D.C. Owner and director of the ASHA School of Massage in Norcross, Georgia. Chiropractor and massage therapist, and founder of the first integrative health clinic in the Southeast in the late 1970’s.
• Rick Rosen, M.A., L.M.B.T. Founder and co-director of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, North Carolina. Founding chairman of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and the first executive director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
• Demara Stamler, C.M.T. Director of Accreditation for NACCAS, with oversight of more than 1,450 schools. Former executive director of the Potomac Massage Training Institute in Washington, D.C., and former first vice president of the AMTA Council of Schools.
• Pete Whitridge, L.M.T. Continuing education presenter based in Fort Pierce, Florida. Former dhair of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy and former director of the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville, Florida.

Over the coming months, the Leadership Team will be creating an administrative home for the Alliance in the Washington, D.C. area, conducting a membership recruitment campaign, and planning for the initial organizational meeting in 2010. In addition to offering educational seminars for members, the Alliance’s bylaws will be ratified at this important meeting, and the first Board of Directors will be elected.

Please note that the Leadership Team is not affiliated in any way with the AMTA Council of Schools or the AMTA. The Alliance is a fully independent effort that is of, by and for the domain of massage therapy education.

About the logo: The leaf symbol was chosen for the Alliance to represent growth, change and our connection to the natural world. The overall design of the logo embodies flow and movement-–qualities that are indigenous to the practice of massage therapy. The Alliance has a website at

Massage school directors, administrators, teachers and continuing education presenters who are interested in becoming members of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education are encouraged to e-mail Rick Rosen at for information.