In her first month in office, Leena Guptha, D.O., B.C.T.M.B., new chair of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) has already identified the need to involve the massage therapy community in the future of her organization.

“I think that in order for NCBTMB to really find a rightful place in the profession, we have to know what the profession would like us to be, in order to serve the community,” she told me today.

I spoke with Dr. Guptha on topics ranging from the new board credential to specialty certifications, to a nascent think tank and education approval. From what she says, it seems a new day has dawned at the NCBTMB, and the organization has opened its door to robust, two-way communication with members of the massage profession.

Evidence of this is found in webinars Guptha conducted on Nov. 5, 12 and 21, with NCBTMB CEO Steven Kirin and former Chair Susan Toscano lending support on the final installment. The webinars are available in both audio and transcript forms on the NCBTMB’s website (http://www.ncbtmb.org/blog).

Guptha is also in the process of overseeing the creation of a survey that will gauge knowledge of the new board certification credential launched this year—which is replacing national certification—in part, she said, because this month’s webinars showcased the confusion many therapists have about the new credential. (To achieve board certification, an individual needs to have 750 hours of massage education, 250 hours of professional experience, complete an exam, pass a background check, obtain CPR certification, commit to the NCBTMB standards of practice and code of ethics, and commit to opposing human trafficking.)

“I’ve come to realize people don’t really understand what the board certification is about, and this is due to our lack of effective communication,” Guptha told me. She said many therapists are eligible for board certification, but they don’t understand how to transition from national certification or that they may take the board certification exam. “This is one area that needs a great deal of focus,” she added.

I was surprised to learn today there is not any concerted effort on the part of NCBTMB to move forward with specialty certifications at this time—surprised, because various meetings and conversations with NCBTMB personnel over the past year or so had led me to conclude specialty certifications were underway; however, Guptha reiterated the NCBTMB needs to remain focused on communicating with the massage field about board certification at this time.

Any movement toward specialty certifications—which I imagine could be in areas including pregnancy massage, sports massage, infant massage and medical massage—will begin only after a comprehensive evaluation of both what massage therapists desire from such certifications and the benefits specialty certifications could confer, including employment opportunities and rate increases, has been completed.

But, again, that evaluation will not be undertaken in the foreseeable future, Guptha said.

Another important project is beginning to roll out, however: The creation of a think tank to make recommendations regarding developing guidelines to review continuing education classes. It’s not a secret some classes approved by the NCBTMB for CEUs could be considered somewhat questionable, in terms of appropriateness to a massage career. Some classes focused on religion and counseling seem to have been approved despite NCBTMB’s stipulation that classes focused either of those topics shall not be approved, as examples.

A process to weed out certain classes “should have been in place since day one,” Guptha told me. “Twenty years has passed by, and I don’t know if anybody has really looked at these issues,” she added. “We have to radically improve in [this area].”

Guptha said she doesn’t have all the answers, but is seeking to understand the issues and problems, and is asking for help with solutions.

“Over the past 20 years of NCB, there have been some good times and some not-so-good times, and there have been some good decisions and some not-so-good decisions,” she said. “There is definitely an opportunity for change, there is an opportunity for re-evaluation, there is an opportunity for brainstorming for the future—all we need is people to come forward and say, ‘We’re with you.'”

If you are interested in being part of the NCBTMB education think tank or the volunteer group that will implement the think tank’s guidelines, send an email to info@ncbtmb.org with “CE THINK TANK” in the subject line.

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