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Massage Today
July, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 07

Put Your Hands on Your Monitor, Part Two

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

In my last column, I made two errors. I would like to set things straight right up front. I don't bury my mistakes. First, I stated that the Career College Association (CCA) was part of a campaign to reduce classroom hours in massage programs.

That is false. I received inaccurate information from a usually reliable source. While individual schools are working to replace some classroom hours and, in some cases, already are providing distance learning programs to all students, the CCA's President, Nicholas J. Glakas, has made it very clear that CCA, as an organization, is not involved in any such campaign. I apologize for my misstatement and for any angst or problems it might have caused.

Second, due to a poorly worded sentence, some people wrongly assumed I was attacking and demeaning the disabled, the handicapped and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was never my intention to do so and I am sincerely sorry if it appeared that way to anyone. A longer version of this apology was published in the June We Get Letters & E-mail section of Massage Today (www.massagetoday.com/archives/2006/06/14.html). I support the ADA and the rights of disabled individuals to have full access to society and, in particular, the massage profession and massage education programs.

The classroom hours standard for massage education was established in approximately 1985 to guarantee massage schools actually were providing the amount of training hours advertised. I am not aware of any distance learning technology that was in existence at that time. There were no career colleges with massage programs at that time either. This standard has been consistent for more than 20 years. It has been written into the licensing statutes or administrative rules of most regulated states. In other words, in many states, it's the law that massage schools must provide classroom hours. Nothing has changed recently to inflict classroom hours on massage schools.

Sadly, many schools are breaking the classroom hour laws and providing distance learning programs in states where classroom hours are required and where the NCBTMB test is the licensing exam. One of the classes many schools provide, or want to provide by distance learning technology, is ethics. Teaching an ethics class illegally! This is pitiful. What a great example for new students - if you don't like a law, just ignore it. Why should students or therapists obey the laws and rules of the profession if the schools don't? This is a dangerous example to set. Where does it end? What's wrong with a "happy ending" if it generates more profit?

Can ethics classes be taught effectively with distance learning technologies? It doesn't matter. It's illegal or against the rules to do so. It's the same for any other class at this time. Until the law is changed, schools are obligated to follow it, so the question becomes irrelevant.

Why my passion over education standards? I entered this profession 20 years ago. It was the establishment of education and licensing standards that elevated massage in the public's awareness. If standards are lowered, making it easier and easier to gain entry into the profession of massage, there is a significant threat that the line between ethical and unethical will blur or disappear. Do we, as a profession, want that to occur? Is it worth taking any chance that it might?

What is the future of the massage profession? Here is a quote to me from one of the career college distance learning advocates: "You represent 'the old guard' of massage therapy (Thank you) and many of your associates are either close to retirement or will sell their schools to a corporation. It is obvious to us that revolutionary changes are in motion that will change the massage guild into an allied health career profession."

Allied health is not alternative and it's not independent. It's under the complete control and direction of the existing medical system. Is this where you want the profession to go? Do you want to be under the PT assistants?

I have nothing against career colleges or corporations. I do have a problem with the ones that are breaking the rules established by the profession they are serving not to mention the laws established by many of the states where they operate.

Maybe we are framing this debate incorrectly. Maybe the classroom hours standard is not the best way to insure quality, ethical therapists. How about a new standard that specifies the knowledge and hands-on skills that a graduate should be able to demonstrate, not just the hours of a program and where they are taught? Of course, this would mean changing a lot of laws and administrative rules. So while the profession develops a new meaningful education standard, let's also develop a piece of model legislation that gives us real professional recognition and protection while guaranteeing the public's access to our services.

Here is my compromise suggestion: Career colleges want the laws and rules changed so they can provide distance learning. We need a more uniform series of licensing laws. How about we work together? Let's develop new education standards. I suggest we start with the New York law at 1,200 hours and add the specifications of what a graduate should be able to do in order to graduate. With a program of this length, distance learning could be used for lecture classes. Concurrently, we should develop model legislation. It's time we strive for the highest common denominator instead of the lowest. The career colleges can then use their lobbying funds to enact the law changes. They will get a huge return on this investment from longer programs, uniform standards and distance technology implementation. However, until the laws are changed, through the legislative process not the courts, schools should obey the existing laws and standards. Fair enough? The right minds could bring this about in two to three years. How about it?

This is an editorial column and is thus my opinion or "My View From Here." I speak only for myself and not for any organization. I can see from "here" that any further discussion of massage educational issues on my part is a waste of good ink. I have brought the issue(s) up and offered my suggestions. It's up to the organizations and other stakeholders (that's you, by the way) to determine the future of this profession. If you care at all, get involved. Hold your associations, regulatory boards, schools and fellow therapists accountable and let them know your views and positions. If you don't work to determine your destiny, your opportunities and your profession's standards, a few others will, and they will not have your best interests at heart. Democracy only works with an educated, informed, participating population. Apathy is the food on which tyrants grow. In these times, tyrants seldom are individuals; they are more likely to be organizations, bureaucracies and large businesses. This column will no longer discuss massage education. I have other fish to fry.

See you in September!


Click here for more information about Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB.

 

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