Massage Today
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
June, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 06

A Discussion About Continuing Education

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

Are you a life-long learner? I know I am. At times, I think I could be happy as a perpetual student. I love the process of evaluating what I know, comparing it to the knowledge and beliefs of whoever is teaching a class, and then choosing those items that fit into my specific needs and circumstances that I can take back to my practice.

When I first graduated from massage school, I found there was a whole new world of education available to help me make great strides in my capabilities.

There were many and frequent "ah-hah" moments for me. As my thirst to learn more grew and my time was spent in ever more workshops, the "ah-hah" moments started to diminish significantly. I learned rather quickly "there wasn't much new under the sun" and many of the things I was learning were similar actions and thought processes repackaged with different marketing terms. When I first recognized this, I was appalled, lamenting my loss of "ah-hah." I quickly outgrew my simplified and unrealistic expectations of continuing education though. I no longer find it necessary to get a wealth of new ideas from each workshop I attend. I also now realize that "similar" doesn't equate to "the same" and I find that nuances of style and intent actually are more than the same old thing with a new name. I don't need big "ah-hah" moments these days. One new idea, technique, or way of evaluating a situation that I can use in my practice is all I need to make me feel I'm getting real value for my education dollar.

I recently was reading responses on a massage chat group that expressed varying opinions on the desirability of mandating continuing education and requiring finite amounts annually. For me, the discussion was moot, as I am a member of several professional associations, all of which require specified hours of continuing education. I am nationally certified, and required to obtain continuing education hours if I choose to maintain that certification. My state also requires hours of continuing education to continue to practice. This has been the case for me since I began practicing in 1993, so I just accept it as "what is."

Most of the time, I think requiring a certain amount of continuing education on an annual basis is a good idea. The fact that CE is required lets me deduct the cost of the education on my tax return. Now, the IRS does have stipulations for this deduction in addition to it being required by law or an employer. The continuing education must "enhance or maintain skills." Being a CE Junkie, I end up in workshops of varying quality. Some I have attended were so bad that it would be doubtful if they meet this criterion.

One issue with continuing education has confused many in the last several years. At least as long as I have been practicing, continuing education has been provided in "CEUs" (Continuing Education Units). I believe 50 minutes of instruction equals one CEU. Recently, we see less use of the term "CEU" and observe it replaced by CEC (Continuing Education Credit) or CH (Contact Hour). At least one professional association and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) use this terminology. It stems from definitions of the International Association for Continuing Education Training (IACET). The Continuing Education Unit (CEU) was created by IACET as a measurement of continuing education. One (1) IACET CEU is equal to ten (10) contact hours of participation in an organized, continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction and qualified instruction. When I checked the list of authorized providers on the IACET Web site though, I could find none that appeared to offer continuing education in massage-related subjects.

I was impressed to find there is an organization whose sole focus is to positively influence the quality of continuing education. So does this mean that IACET-approved providers, or NCBTMB-approved providers are always going to be providing CE that is useful and of high quality? Not necessarily. Both organizations appear to be more concerned with the educational process of the provider than the content of the workshops presented. IACET's Web site says, "IACET approves the process, not the content - our standards apply across all disciplines. Through an emphasis on the educational process, the standards ensure clear program development and valuable learning outcomes."

The IACET's process approval is one I wish massage therapy CE providers would either obtain or emulate. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of our CE providers were measured on criteria in Organization, Responsibility and Control, a System for Awarding Credit, Learning Environment and Support Systems, Needs Identification, Learning Outcomes, Planning and Instructional Personnel, Content and Instructional Methods, Assessment of Learning Outcomes, and Post-Program Evaluation? (Those are the 10 criteria IACET uses in approving providers.) The criteria would represent a systematic approach to cause learning to occur. It might not guarantee high quality, but it would go a long way to make it much more likely!

Since this time last year, I have enjoyed a varied menu of continuing education. I have experienced Ethics, Seated Therapeutic Massage for Carpal Tunnel, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Documentation in the age of HIPPA, Advanced Clinical Skills: The Pelvic Bowl, Myofascial and Deep Tissue Techniques, Breast Massage, and Massage Therapy and the Shoulder Complex. I have no intention of using everything presented in these workshops in my practice, but I am ever so glad to have taken them. My clients and I are better off because I chose to invest the time and money. Just as a new table, advertising or signage is an investment in your business, so too, is education. Check out to assist you in determining how much of your education investment you can deduct from your taxes. As a matter of fact, I need to check with a tax advisor myself because later this year I'm participating in a continuing education program on a cruise ship at sea! I want to make sure I get a business deduction from the portion of the trip that represents work-related education. Maybe I'll see you there, and we can both get a nice write-off and help our practices at the same time!

Thanks for listening.

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters related to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue or online. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line