From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “The Top 3 Trends Shaping the Massage Profession,” by Karen Menehan, in the Trends & Opportunities 2009 issue. Article summary: Massage therapy’s roots run deep, intertwined with preventive health care, spas, athletics and, increasingly, the medical system. The profession’s longstanding branches have grown sturdier with time—but even as ancient techniques are updated for today’s clientele, new shoots are springing forth as the field expands.

April 2005: Apart from states that administer their own exam, states that regulate massage therapy mostly use the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB) as one part of their regulation processes.

May 2005: Representatives from seven regulated states, educators and representatives of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), which provided seed money, meet to discuss creating an organization to unify regulatory groups and create a uniform licensing exam. The result is the creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).

September 2005: The FSMTB holds its first meeting.

March 2007: The FSMTB releases results of its job-task analysis, administered as part of the development of a massage licensing exam. It finds 84 percent of respondents think massage licensing should be required throughout the U.S.

October 2007: The FSMTB announces the creation of the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).

December 2007: The Oregon Board of Massage Therapy announces plans to use the MBLEx exclusively, joining Arkansas in its decision to no longer use the NCETMB.

February 2008: The Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy votes to adopt the MBLEx for state licensure, as an alternative to the NCETMB.

April 2008: The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) announces a price reduction on its National Examination for State Licensing (another name for the NCETMB), from $225 to $175. The MBLEx costs $195.
May 2008: Florida votes to require new massage therapists pass the MBLEx, and to drop the NCETMB as its administered exam.

May 2008: The NCBTMB announces the formation of a new government relations committee “charged with monitoring legislative initiatives and state board developments throughout the country,” and the appointment of a director of government relations.

July 2008: The NCBTMB files a formal challenge to the decision by the Florida Board of Massage Therapy to replace the NCETMB with the MBLEx.

October 2008: The NCBTMB urges its certificants in Pennsylvania to ask their legislators to vote no on House Bill 2499, a massage-licensure bill that would allow the use of the MBLEx. Despite this, the bill is signed into law.

November 2008: The North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy votes to make the MBLEx the only major test that will be accepted for regular licensure after Jan. 1, 2011.

January 2009: The Florida Department of Health, Florida Board of Massage Therapy and the NCBTMB reach a compromise on the NCBTMB’s challenge to the Florida board’s decision to require new massage therapists pass the MBLEx and to drop the NCETMB as its administered exam. The compromise allows for use of both the MBLEx and the NCETMB.

January 2009: The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) announces its support of the MBLEx over any other exam for state regulation of massage therapy.

March 2009: The NCBTMB releases a statement about AMTA’s support of the MBLEx which reads, in part, “NCBTMB feels, respectfully, that AMTA’s decision to endorse the MBLEx was driven by passion rather than reason, and does not promote the long-term interests of the massage therapy profession.”

May 2009: House Bill 2059, intended to amend and create new provisions for health regulatory boards, including the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy, has an amendment added to it at the NCBTMB’s suggestion. The amendment would require Oregon to accept the NCETMB.

June 2009: The NCBTMB announces it has “laid the groundwork for an advanced credential and is taking steps toward development of specialty certifications” in areas including massage therapy instruction, pregnancy, sports and oncology massage, and spa techniques.

July 2009: Twenty-nine states are members of the FSMTB. Of those, 18 have adopted use of the MBLEx alongside the NCETMB and two have adopted use of the MBLEx exclusively. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia offer some type of credential to professionals in the massage and bodywork field—usually licensure, certification or registration.

—Karen Menehan