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American Massage Therapy Association

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Press Release Date: Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Top AMTA Stories of the Decade

Evanston, IL – The close of a decade is a good opportunity to look back at accomplishments. The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) and the massage therapy profession have a lot to look back on since 2000.

AMTA launched major initiatives, took bold action to advance the profession and offered unmatched benefits to its members in the past 10 years. As the new decade begins, the association reflects on its past 66 years and looks ahead to new challenges, as it seeks to help its members be successful in their massage therapy practices and as massage therapy schools and educators.

Here are twenty of the top AMTA stories/achievements of the decade.

AMTA GR Program Helps Boost Number of States that Regulate Massage

Since January 2000, AMTA has worked diligently to achieve its goals of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapy in all states that will eventually lead to portability of massage practice. These goals were finalized by the association in 2005, the year AMTA also reorganized its government relations efforts into a centralized approach, with coordination of its state chapter activities. The centralized approach also fostered greater cooperation with state coalitions and other massage therapy organizations.

In the past decade, the number of states regulating the profession rose from 29 to 43, with Montana and Michigan achieving licensing laws in 2009.

Read AMTA's government relations plan and a guide to massage therapy regulation in each state:

AMTA Announces Support for MBLEX as Massage Licensing Exam

On January 26, 2009 AMTA announced its view that the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), developed by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), is the best choice for a licensing exam that can lead to portability of massage practice. The association also restated its long-held view that national certification is a valuable cornerstone of the massage therapy profession.

Then AMTA President, M.K. Brennan stated, "We hope our support for one massage licensing exam will help move the entire profession forward in a unified way."

AMTA Marks 13 Years Celebrating National Massage Therapy Awareness Week®

AMTA began celebrating National Massage Therapy Awareness Week (NMTAW) in 1997. By 2000, it already had become the single biggest industry-wide promoter of public information on massage therapy. During the past decade, it became even more successful, putting information about the benefits of massage therapy and the professionalism of AMTA members before Americans hundreds of millions of times.

The association moved away from single-themed weeks to broader promotion of massage therapy and very popular posters, distributed to each member. AMTA forged supporting relationships with companies such as The Home Depot Building Better Health Program and FedEx to take massage directly to employees through company wellness programs, giving employees the experience of massage. Media coverage of NMTAW and of massage exploded, with 2009 AMTA media relations putting massage therapy and AMTA members in front of consumers more than 100 million times. 2009 efforts also resulted in a posting about the week and the NMTAW logo on one of the large electronic signs in the heart of Times Square in New York City.

National news media have come to rely on the release of AMTA's annual consumer survey during NMTAW, quoting results in news stories and referring to the results throughout the year. (See below)

Surveys Show Changes in Consumer Use and Views of Massage

AMTA's annual consumer surveys are a unique and consistent tool measuring both consumer use of massage therapy and attitudes of Americans about massage. The results provide massage therapists with information to help them adjust their marketing and recognize changes in attitudes and use by region of the country. The information also helps massage schools and massage therapy employers understand the marketplace and plan for the future.

Since 2000, the percentage of American adults who say they had a massage from a professional massage therapist in the previous year went from 15% to 22%. In the last few years of the past decade that number leveled out to a fairly-consistent 22% each year.

Some sections of the population and areas of the U.S. saw major progress in their use of massage in the past decade. The percentage of 45 to 64 years old who had a massage in a year more than doubled, from 23% in 1999 to 49% in 2009. Massage use among males grew from 11% to 18%, while use among women grew by 8 percentage points in the decade.

Western states still lead in overall massage use, but the South experienced the highest growth in the last decade by nearly doubling from 12% to 23% of adults per year.

See fact sheets for AMTA consumer surveys here

AMTA's Find a Massage Therapist® National Locator Service Jumps from 4,000 to 60,000 Users per Month

Throughout the decade, AMTA's public relations and media relations emphasized the importance of finding qualified massage therapy professionals. The association committed itself to creating ways to drive potential clients to its members. These promotions directed consumers, employers and other healthcare professionals to AMTA's Find a Massage Therapist national locator service.

The online and toll-free service blossomed into a major resource for potential massage therapy clients, going from an average of 4,000 searches per month in January 2000 to 60,000 actual searches per month in 2009. Several AMTA members report they now often receive more than one new client a week, as a result of the locator service.

In 2009, more than 700,000 searches were conducted for AMTA members through AMTA's Find a Massage Therapist national locator service.

AMTA Members Step Up After 9/11

After the devastating events of September 11, 2001 AMTA members showed their commitment to service and well-being through AMTA's Massage Emergency Response Team (MERT). Hundreds of AMTA members volunteered through MERT to provide massage to responders at the sites in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

AMTA and its chapters coordinated efforts with the American Red Cross, the Pentagon and the FBI, bringing massage relief for months to those who worked first to save survivors and then to those responsible for cleanup.

After this experience, the association shifted MERT coordination directly to its chapters, to ensure quick, locally-oriented responses to disasters.

AMTA Helps Members Affected by Gulf Hurricanes

The devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 touched many lives, including AMTA members. After the storms, AMTA provided a Practitioner Member Rebuilding Kit, which included a massage table and basic equipment and supplies to help members whose practices were destroyed by the storms. Members in the affected areas were offered membership dues relief or sent the Rebuilding Kit of products donated by leading companies, to help them get started again. The association also opened its online Career Center to all, offering free listings for open massage therapist jobs throughout the country and for members to post their resumes.

At the AMTA national convention that year, members donated more than $3,000 as an initial contribution through the AMTA-New Mexico Chapter toward a national plan to offset AMTA membership dues and chapter fees for those in the affected areas. Chapter initiatives resulted in donations of $50,000, which was matched by the AMTA national board of directors.

Many members volunteered to help relief workers cope with the physical and emotional stress of their efforts. AMTA members provided massage for Red Cross volunteers, initial responders and to many evacuees.

AMTA's President, Mary Beth Braun, announced in an email to all members, "All of us in AMTA can pull together to help our members who lost everything start practicing again. This is what AMTA is really about – a community of caring and compassionate massage therapy professionals."

CVOP Galvanizes Chapter Leadership Development

In 2003, the association launched an annual Chapter Volunteer Orientation Program (CVOP) each July to train chapter volunteers to handle their leadership roles. By the end of the decade, CVOP has become the heart of chapter leadership training, with representatives of nearly every chapter attending each year.

This event includes an introduction to the world of non-profit boards and volunteer responsibilities, sessions about volunteer roles and responsibilities particular to AMTA, how to access the resources available from AMTA and time for networking.

AMTA chapters are the local, face-to-face expression of the association to our members and it is critical that our members' experience of AMTA chapters be positive, dependable, and personally and professionally uplifting. Thriving chapters are our best way to build strong local communities of AMTA therapists who can improve their practices and foster the development of the profession.

AMTA Launches Volunteer Connections to Give Back to the Community

Surveys of AMTA members indicate massage therapists feel an important part of AMTA membership, and being a massage therapist, is to give back to the community at large through massage therapy. For decades, the association has fostered this type of community outreach. Starting with an online volunteer database in 2004, in 2008 AMTA created its Volunteer Connections program as a means to organize this spirit of giving in productive ways.

In 2008 and 2009, nearly 1,100 AMTA members volunteered for 118 service activities. Fifteen of the 2009 activities are ongoing opportunities. The association has collaborated with major non-profit charities providing the gift of massage, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure, American Heart Association, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Make-a-Wish Foundation.

In 2009, AMTA President Judy Stahl stated in an AMTA announcement about involvement in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk events, "This was a signature expression of AMTA's caring culture. AMTA stands for highest quality massage therapy. High quality and a culture of caring is what makes AMTA what it is and our members who they are as healing professionals."

Online Job Bank Connects AMTA Members to Massage Job Openings

AMTA's online Job Bank became a significant resource in the past ten years for massage therapists seeking employment. Since it revised version was launched in September 2006, everyone from spas to contracting chair massage companies have used the Job Bank to recruit massage therapists. A free benefit for members, the Job Bank also provides massage therapists with an online opportunity to post their resumes and seek positions. Since its re-launch in 2006, approximately 1,700 job openings and 4,400 resumes have been posted. In 2009, some 400 job openings and 450 member resumes were posted.

AMTA Expands CE Offerings with Launch of Online Courses

AMTA has always provided a wealth of continuing education (CE) opportunities. Recognizing the need for easier access and a variety of approaches, in 2006, the association expanded its CE opportunities to online courses. Its Center for Continuing Education began offering courses based on articles in MTJ, with great success.

They range from business classes such as "Taking Care of Your Taxes" to courses on "Cancer and Massage Therapy". Courses have now been accessed 15,400 times since AMTA began offering online courses to all massage therapists.

AMTA has been a primary provider of CE for decades. AMTA is the only national massage therapy membership organization that requires all practitioner (Professional) members to take continuing education. The association views CE as a vital part of professionalism.

AMTA Launches Online Shopping Mall – Savings Help Reduce Cost of Business

Also launched in 2006, AMTA's Online Shopping Mall now offers more than 600 products from 45 different vendors. AMTA members typically receive a discount of 15% or more off retail prices found on other websites, with some discounts up to 30% off retail. Products now include massage tables/chairs/stools, lotions/oils/creams/gels, continuing education home study courses, business/marketing materials, books, sheets/towels, massage stones, and recorded music.

AMTA Promotes Massage and Members through Media – Boosts Coverage and Use of Massage

Throughout the decade, AMTA continued its proactive public relations and media relations program promoting massage therapy and AMTA members to consumers, the media, the healthcare community and employers. Coverage of massage therapy mushroomed and as the new decade begins articles about massage therapy are routine in print, broadcast and online media.

AMTA surveys indicated these articles have influenced consumer attitudes about massage and led millions to try massage who hadn't done so before. Business publications recognized the importance of massage therapy as an economic force in the economy and the benefits of workplace massage to affect corporate productivity. In 2003, the association distributed a massage therapy poster to more than 5,000 medical offices, to encourage physicians to recommend massage and their patients to ask their physicians how massage might benefit them.

AMTA used paid advertising in major national magazines, such as Health, Self, and Redbook, as well as through online promotions through Google, and Yahoo. Television promotions were developed through Dish Network and various TV networks, and the association produced radio promotions each year for National Massage Therapy Awareness Week. In 2009, AMTA expanded its efforts to promote its members through YouTube and a variety of social media.

AMTA Expands Relationships with Healthcare Organizations to Position Profession for the Future

In the last decade, AMTA made great strides in building relationships with the healthcare community, and specifically with government and professional organizations within health care. It has sought to improve opportunities for massage therapists who choose to work in health care and positively impact public health and policy through information about the benefits of massage therapy.

Early in the decade, the association began providing regular information to government agencies and healthcare associations about the benefits of massage, supported by a growing body of research. In 2001, AMTA began supporting the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), whose mission is to direct the national healthcare agenda towards a health-orientated, integrated system, ensuring all people access to safe and regulated conventional, complementary, and alternative healthcare professionals. The association then became a member of the Academic Consortium of Complementary and Alternative (ACCAHC), created out of IHPC to provide a network of national CAM educational organizations and agencies to promote mutual understanding, collaborative activities and interdisciplinary healthcare education.

In 2002 AMTA contributed a report on massage to the White House Commission on CAM Policy. It has reached out to the American Medical Association (AMA) to work toward future clarity on use of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes for massage therapy and partnered with representatives of the American Hospital Association to research the use of massage therapy in hospitals. AMTA now has a representative to the AMA on its CPT Health Care Professional's Advisory Committee. This gives AMTA representation on the committee to review CPT codes associated with massage therapy. It also ensures the association is consulted when codes are edited or introduced that relate to massage therapy. Ongoing relationships with national organizations like the National Institutes of Health have allowed AMTA to reach important audiences who impact health care.

All these efforts have played an important role in establishing greater visibility, participation and influence for massage therapy in the nation's health care.

Annual Overviews of State of the Massage Industry Released

In January 2006, AMTA released its first summary overview of the massage therapy industry, based on research from a wide variety of sources. In 2007, the association expanded it research and released first to its school members and then to the profession a detailed report on the state of the massage therapy industry. Since then, this annual overview has become a major resource for massage therapists, massage schools and the business world to gauge the economic health and professional development of the massage therapy profession.

As the economic situation in the U.S. struggled at the end of the decade, AMTA's industry report provided a snapshot of its impact on massage therapists, massage schools and producers of massage therapy products. It also is a resource for journalists and business writers seeking data on the state of the profession.

Read industry summaries at

AMTA Voices its Views through Position Statements

In the middle of the decade, AMTA finalized a process to express the views of the association on aspects of massage therapy through official statements. The process empowers AMTA members to research and propose position statements that would express the position of the association on these matters. Proposals are reviewed for accuracy and clarity, and presented for debate by the AMTA House of Delegates (HOD). If a position statement is approved by the HOD, it immediately becomes the official view of the association.

The HOD approved the first AMTA position statement in 2006, "It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association that massage therapy can be effective for stress relief." By the close of the decade a total of six position statements had been approved by the association. The other five are:

  • It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage can aid in pain relief.
  • It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage therapy can improve the quality of life for those in hospice and palliative care.
  • It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that newborns (especially pre-term infants) may benefit from massage therapy.
  • It is the position of The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage therapy can be a valuable component of a wellness program.
  • It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage has been shown to aid in postoperative pain relief.

Read the position statements and their supporting information:

AMTA Convenes Groups for Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge Project

In 2006, AMTA's Board of Directors made a commitment to support the assembly of a body of knowledge for the profession. The association then began a process to convene stakeholders in the profession who regularly contribute to the profession's body of knowledge through their use of commonly-recognized research techniques to participate in a body of knowledge study. The board determined that "for the profession to advance in recognition, acceptance, professional knowledge and practice, a more complete body of knowledge needs to be stated in clear and meaningful ways. We believe the profession can best accomplish that through this study."

AMTA convened the first meetings of stakeholders and the project evolved into the independent Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge Project. The association continues its support and looks forward to the potential outcomes of the project.

AMTA Support Drives Massage Research through Foundation

AMTA made a major commitment to the development of massage therapy research in the last decade. The association provided operating funding of more than $4 million to the Massage Therapy Foundation. This has helped the foundation become a significant organization promoting massage therapy research and research literacy within the massage community. It also has allowed the foundation to host important national conferences to advance massage research.

AMTA's Board of Directors views massage research as vital to the future of massage practice and a necessary element in advancing the inclusion of massage therapy in health care. Its Future Directions document, that influences the association's annual strategic planning, includes its hope that in another decade strides will be made toward significant information in scientific literature on the use, safety and effects of therapeutic massage, and that massage therapy practice will be evidence-informed.

AMTA Supports Members during Recession

Many massage therapists were negatively affected by the economic recession at the end of the decade. AMTA's response for its massage therapist members was to find ways to help them reduce their costs to practice and to promote them even more to the public and to employers. Early in 2009, the association gave members a package of benefits to keep their cost of business down. This included price relief through AMTA's online Shopping Mall on products massage therapists commonly purchase. These coupons for renewing members were designed to save members hundreds of dollars that year.

Several AMTA chapters also helped defray membership costs by covering chapter fees for one year, while many also helped members defray expenses through continuing education classes they offer. The association helped members continue their education easily and at lower costs through more online classes. These efforts were aimed to keep down costs of business and still help members develop professionally.

End of Decade Signals 66 Years of AMTA Service to Members and Profession

In the fall of 2009, AMTA completed its 66th year serving its members and the massage therapy profession. In 2003, the association paid special attention to its 60th anniversary with a diamond jubilee during its national convention in Richmond, Virginia.

As the second decade of the 21st century begins, the American Massage Therapy Association looks forward to the challenges of an every-changing profession.

Source: American Massage Therapy Association

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