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Massage Today
February, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 02

Advanced Certification: The Future of Massage Therapy?

By Rebecca J. Razo

Arizona massage therapist Steve Miller has always been passionate about education. After completing his master's degree, he began a career in academic counseling until a tumor scare and chronic pain led him to seek massage therapy.

Following a successful round of treatment, Miller began looking into massage therapy as a side job, but his passion for the practice won him over, and he eventually transitioned from education into massage therapy full-time.

However, Miller became frustrated when he discovered that Arizona prohibits massage therapists from billing insurance carriers for their services. "In many states, massage therapists are not required to be paid by third-party carriers because the carriers often feel the work is not significant and performed by uneducated practitioners," he said. Realizing that quality of education was a huge sticking point with the insurance industry, he decided that the massage profession needed to be elevated to a level on par with similar health care professions, such as physical therapy.

Using his educational background, knowledge of massage therapy, and feedback from a wide range of health care professionals and consumers, Miller set out to create a new, advanced form of massage therapy certification that would, in part, enable qualified therapists to bill insurance companies. Miller collaborated with physicians, massage therapists and insurance companies, and eventually established the curriculum for the Certified Diplomate of Massage Therapy (DMT) using criteria similar to that of a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

Steve Miller, founder of the International Center for Excellence in Massage Therapy. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark "There is room in the massage community for a variety of certifications that distinguish levels of education practice," asserts Steve Miller, founder of the International Center for Excellence in Massage Therapy and creator of the Certified Diplomate in Massage Therapy, an advanced massage credential. This January, Miller announced the creation of the DMT and his new organization, the International Center for Excellence in Massage Therapy (ICEMT), which will oversee the DMT certification. According to the ICEMT Web site, "The DMT serves as the top-level credential for massage therapists and is the equivalent of a Doctorate degree."

Miller asserts that the DMT is essential to the advancement of the massage therapy profession: "By developing the DMT certification, the ICEMT verifies the practitioner has completed a rigorous program of study with the same background as other professionals who perform similar work. We can then begin working with insurance carriers to recognize this and accept DMTs as providers in their network."

Although the National Certification Examination (NCE), offered through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), already validates the practice of massage therapy, Miller stresses that the DMT is an advanced certification option only available to experienced massage therapists, while the NCE certifies entry-level massage therapists: "The DMT only seeks to recognize those practitioners who have completed a rigorous academic and research program. It is not meant for everyone, nor is it meant for entry-level practitioners. It also does not mean that if one does not have the DMT they are a poor therapist," he notes.

The DMT curriculum takes stock of an applicant's academic history, clinical and research experience, and civic performance. Much like a typical DPT degree, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from a nationally accredited university with a grade of B or higher; have completed a series of science and mathematical courses, including anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, calculus, and statistics, among others; have completed a 500-hour or greater massage education program; have had one year each of clinical experience and civic involvement; and have completed an independent research, study or continuing education program. To apply, therapists must complete a portfolio process in which their qualifications are reviewed by three members of the ICEMT evaluation board, which consists of two naturopaths, three massage therapists, and three non-health care- professionals.

Depending on how well the DMT is received in the massage community, the ICEMT will pursue independent accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) - a branch of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) - the same organization that accredits the NCBTMB's exam.

As for the ICEMT's immediate plans, Miller says the organization will begin issuing press releases to get the word out to the industry about the new certification; it also plans to work on educating insurance carriers at the local level about the DMT. If successful, ICEMT will expand its efforts to other areas.

In the meantime, does Miller worry about how the ICEMT and DMT certification will be received by the profession? "I'm sure that it will be laughed off as a joke [by some]," he muses. "Every venture incurs risk, and while I hope for the best with regards to the ICEMT and DMT, it bears little on my personal outlook on the field, life, and my abilities."

For more information on the ICEMT or the DMT, visit


  1. Interview with Steve Miller. Jan. 8 & Jan. 12, 2004.
  2. International Center for Excellence in Massage Therapy Web site.


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