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Massage Today
October, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 10

Massage Today Readers Share Thoughts on NCBTMB Changes

By Editorial Staff

Correction: In the October 2004 printed version of Massage Today, the results of this poll were inverted and thus reported incorrectly. The following reflects the correct poll results.

We apologize for the error.

In July, we reported that the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is making changes to its current national certification system in June 2005, including updating content on the national certification examination; creating a new national exam focusing exclusively on massage therapy; and implementing new eligibility criteria to take both exams. (Read story at

We asked readers to take an informal poll voicing their opinions about the changes. The following poll results are based on 91 responses, followed by a few comments made by those who took the survey. The complete listing of voter comments can be accessed online at Comments have been edited for space and clarity. This is a voluntary, nonscientific poll; therefore, caution should be used in generalizing the results.


Yes: 24.2%
No: 75.8%

Yes: As more people are looking to massage as a healing modality, we as professionals should be prepared to meet those concerns. Who is challenging the schools to increase curriculum? No one, and the states are not pushing these schools, since they do not receive federal funding. Some schools are in it for the money, not the integrity of the profession.

No: I believe the NCB is pushing its own agenda about what the massage profession should be. By increasing the number of hours of anatomy and physiology, and adding 40 hours of pathology to the required curriculum, it is leaning toward medical massage, which may not be the direction many massage therapists want to go. It is also making decisions about curriculum based on a small sample number of massage therapists polled. I own a massage therapy school in New Mexico and the questions I get from graduates are mostly about how to deal with inappropriate clients or ethical questions. Requiring only 10 hours of ethics and business in the curriculum does not adequately prepare our students to deal with the real world issues they will be facing.

No: The NCB has assumed areas of influence that go beyond its authority. In effect, it is dictating content of school curriculum without the consent or participation of school owners. The NCB does not appear to be seeking feedback from anyone outside its own organization. This approach does not serve the best interests of bodyworkers or the public.

No: I had to read the article twice to verify that the NCB is basing these regulations on a poll of 500 therapists. That number hardly represents a significant percentage of professionals in this industry. If the NCB runs a proper survey (i.e., with larger participation) the results might be a better indicator of what an entry-level therapist should have.

No: These new requirements make sense to me. How will the new requirements make better therapists? I have worked with therapists who were very skilled that were not able to pass the exam, and I have worked with therapists who passed the exam that I would not allow to touch me again. And why take a national exam if I cannot work in any state? Until this is addressed, I do not believe in the exam and do not support it.

Yes: I support advancements in certification; however, I worry that without an increase in massage therapy education from the basic eight-month program in most states, we will continue to struggle educating our medical partners - physical therapists, chiropractors and medical doctors - toward the further acceptance of massage therapy in mainstream health care.

Yes & No: The yes part - Requiring 160 hours in the sciences is a good thing if they are taught well and the material is relevant to bodyworkers. The more knowledge students have in musculoskeletal anatomy and kinesiology, the better, as long as it is balanced with the hands-on aspects of bodywork training. The no part - The NCB should not determine the curriculum for massage schools (It is doing so, unilaterally.) Its power grows, along with a new and confusing alphabet soup of tests. What a confusing mess. Not only must schools scramble to re-do curriculum, states and jurisdictions will soon be faced with figuring out which test is appropriate.

I would suggest strongly that the NCB work on its current test and get it right before moving on to the next project. Some of its current questions are inaccurate; others confusing; some amazingly simple; a few incomprehensively difficult; and a few questions promote modalities.

One of the questions I had to answer when I took the test:

Which is the most effective form of stretching?

A - static
B - ballistic
C - yoga
D - Active Isolated Stretching (which is trademarked)

There is no right answer to the above question; it was chosen to promote a stretching modality.

My friend, who had a nearly perfect score on the exam, responded to the NCB "call" at the end of the test for volunteers to serve the organization in shaping future tests and so forth. He was never contacted, which indicates just how closed this organization is to input from other members of the profession.

Yes: As is true in other health care professions, massage therapy needs to have a recognized, legally defensible national credential, which demonstrates entry-level textual competence. That the NCB is engaged in an ongoing, self-evaluative process, and responding to the demonstrated needs of its stakeholders and the profession at large is to its credit. School owners have a responsibility to their students (and to the general public) to evaluate and redesign their curriculum to meet the evolving demands of the profession. Failing to do so solely for commercial concern is inexcusable.

Those institutions that meet and exceed the emerging needs of their professional aspirants will be rewarded in the marketplace. Those that do not will collapse under the weight of their greed. The NCB is still the best barometer of the state of our art and will continue to be as long as it remains committed to objective analyses and pro-activity.

No: When any field gets too restrictive about requirements, it tends to signal a decrease in creativity in the field. Check out the American Medical Association if you have any doubts. There are many other ways truly qualified professionals can announce themselves, including posting a list of the post-graduate courses and certifications they have acquired since graduation. The client always is the best judge of the quality of the massage therapist anyway.


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