From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Educators Launch New Organization,” by Karen Menehan, in the November 2009 issue. Article summary: A new national organization for massage therapy schools and educators launched late this summer. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (www.afmte.org) is intended to serve as an independent voice and advocate for the entire massage-education sector, from entry-level training programs through postgraduate studies.

by Karen Menehan

MASSAGE Magazine: Why would a new school organization be needed?

Rick Rosen: First and foremost, the massage education sector needs an organization that can serve as a voice and advocate for the needs of both institutions and individual educators.

Ten years ago, the American Massage Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Council of Schools became a committee within the AMTA’s organizational structure. According to AMTA bylaws, all committees come under the direct oversight of the AMTA board of directors.

Within this configuration, the Council of Schools Board was not permitted to take any substantive actions or positions without the prior approval of the AMTA board. As a result, the Council of Schools struggled to have its own voice over the past decade, and has been limited in its ability to advocate for the needs of its schools in the rapidly changing landscape for massage education and massage therapy in general.

(Editor’s note: On Oct. 1, the AMTA announced that it had discontinued its Council of Schools board on Sept. 21. The AMTA board of directors “made decisions to reflect the evolution of the association’s service to its school and educator members,” an AMTA statement read. “The board recognizes the value and importance of massage schools and educators and is always seeking new ways to provide greater support for those AMTA members.”]

MM: More specifically, in what areas do educators need support and assistance?

RR: Massage training programs—whether they are operated at freestanding proprietary schools, publicly funded community colleges or at for-profit career colleges—are complex enterprises. Institutions need ongoing support and guidance around such areas as marketing, student recruitment and retention, human resources, tuition financing, curriculum development, teacher training and regulation by state education licensing authorities, state boards of massage and accrediting commissions.

Individual teachers in massage schools have their own set of needs, more specific to the professional roles they serve within their institutions. Providers of continuing education programming represent a small, but very important group that has never had specific representation by any association. As a group, they are subject to both state and national provider approval processes—many of which could be improved.

MM: How will the alliance meet those needs?

RR: The alliance has been created to give schools and teachers the knowledge, tools and support that will empower them to provide the best quality education for the benefit of their students and the people they will serve. The alliance will also provide ample opportunities for networking, continuing education and community building through its meetings.

MM: What will the alliance’s structure look like?

RR: As an independent body, created by and operated for its members, the alliance will have a national office with staff in place to serve its membership. Most other regulated professions have a trade association that is dedicated to the educational institutions in that discipline.

Examples include the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. Organizations of this type are well-equipped to assess and provide for the needs of their member institutions; the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education will follow in their footsteps.

MM: What else can you tell us about the alliance?

RR: There are two other key arenas where the alliance will function: One is in the interface with the primary stakeholder organizations in the massage therapy field.

The second key arena is government relations. Laws and administrative rules on both state and federal levels have a powerful influence on the operation of schools. The specific needs of schools have not been given full consideration in the midst of efforts to secure state licensing laws for massage therapists. Once the alliance has a strong base, advocacy in this area can be pursued.

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