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Massage Today
September, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 09

AMTA and ABMP: Two Associations Compared

By Editorial Staff

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) are the two primary professional associations serving the massage and bodywork industry.

Massage Today routinely gets phone calls from massage therapists asking about these organizations.

Recently, Massage Today examined both associations' membership statistics and benefits. Information is derived from each association's respective Web site, as well as from interviews with Ron Precht, AMTA communications manager, and Bob Benson, ABMP president.

American Massage Therapy Association

First organized in 1943 with 29 members, the AMTA has enjoyed years of steady growth. In addition to its national headquarters in Evanston, Ill., the AMTA has chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The association, governed by a member-elected national board of directors, aims to support massage therapists and bodyworkers through several means, including research; public awareness and education; legislative efforts; educational events and conferences; and other resources. As of April 2005, the AMTA boasted over 52,000 members in the following categories (figures rounded off):

Professional members - 35,000
Associate members - 11,000
Student associate members - 4,000
New student members - 2,200
School members - 430
Supporting members - 100
(non-massage therapists)

According to Ron Precht, AMTA communications manager, the association began phasing out its associate and student-associate membership categories in December 2004. AMTA members in massage school now are classified in the student membership category, while all others (school members and supporting members notwithstanding) fall into the professional membership category. "Supporting members," according to Precht, "are those individuals that do not practice massage therapy, but are interested in promoting massage and supporting AMTA locally and nationally."

AMTA professional membership costs $235 (plus the state chapter fee) per year. To qualify, applicants must have a minimum of 500 approved educational hours, possess a current massage license in a regulated state or be certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). Student membership costs $79 plus the state chapter fee per year. Student membership applicants must be enrolled in an eligible entry-level massage therapy program.

Depending on the membership category, some benefits include professional and general liability insurance - $6 million aggregate coverage per year, and up to $2 million in coverage per single occurrence; a locator listing; election privileges and leadership opportunities; use of the AMTA logo; a membership certificate and card; a subscription to the Massage Therapy Journal, a quarterly massage magazine published by the AMTA; and various other resources.

For more information about AMTA membership, please visit

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

The ABMP was founded in 1987 by a single massage therapist and has experienced significant growth over the past two decades. The organization, based out of Evergreen, Colo., actively is involved in all aspects of the massage therapy community and works on behalf of its members by offering professional support, educational resources and legislative advocacy and updates.

Depending on the membership level, benefits include professional, general and product liability insurance, with combined coverage up to $9 million aggregate per year and $1 million to $2 million in coverage per occurrence; a subscription to Massage and Bodywork magazine, published by the ABMP six times a year; copies of the Successful Business Handbook and Touch Resource Guide; insurance and ethics certificates; membership identification; an insurance guide; and various other resources. Other publications offered by the ABMP include Body Sense magazine (published twice annually), Skin Deep magazine, Massage Marketplace, and Different Strokes, a bimonthly member newsletter. As of April 2005, ABMP cited over 54,000 members in the following categories:

Certified members - 12,170
Professional members - 26,750
Practitioner members - 4,018
Skin care professional members (non-massage therapists) - 2,427
Student members - 7,947
Institutional/school members - 320
Specialized members (non-massage therapists or not practicing) - 87
Non-insured members (non-massage therapists or not practicing) - 295

ABMP's offerings are unique in that membership also is extended to skin care professionals. Massage therapists who also qualify as skin care professionals maintain their memberships under whichever massage category they choose. Specialized and noninsured members, similar to AMTA's "supporting members," are either inactive, nonpracticing therapists or other parties interested in the massage industry.

To be eligible for ABMP membership at the certified or professional levels, applicants must possess a valid massage license from a regulated state, have completed 500 approved educational hours, or be certified through the NCBTMB. Those in possession of a nursing or physical therapy license may qualify for membership at either the certified or professional level with a minimum of 50 hours of additional massage therapy training. All applicants must maintain 16 hours of continuing education every two years.

The practitioner level of membership differs from the professional level only in terms of eligibility. This level is offered to therapists practicing in unregulated states who have a minimum of 100 approved educational hours. Certified membership costs $229 per year, while professional and practitioner memberships each cost $199 per year. The skin care professional membership (non-massage therapist) costs $229 per year. ABMP membership costs have not increased since the organization's inception.

For more information on ABMP membership, please visit


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