An Update From FSMTB: Regulation & Professional Competence

By Debra Persinger , PhD

An Update From FSMTB: Regulation & Professional Competence

By Debra Persinger , PhD

The public has a right to expect competence throughout massage and bodywork therapists' careers. Regulating professional education is a necessary part of ensuring professionalism and protecting the public, and regulators normally require licensees to complete a certain amount of education each licensing period to meet minimum standards. Continuing education enables massage and bodywork professionals to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, with the ultimate goal of improving performance and client outcomes.

For those new to the profession and seasoned professionals alike, competence and the maintenance of competence of therapists is vitally important to public safety. For entry into the profession, a therapist's level of competence is established through verification of education along with assessment of knowledge and skill via the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). To determine competence over time without periodic reassessment leaves doubt as to the ongoing effectiveness of the licensed professional.

Assurance of continuing competence is the shared responsibility of the regulatory community, professional associations, employers, educators and the massage and bodywork professionals who are individually responsible for maintaining their continuing competence.

The Regulatory Role

State licensing boards set minimum requirements to ensure public safety. It is not appropriate for the state to prevent the adequate therapist from working by setting standards that require excellence. Not everyone will excel.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) provides education, services and guidance to the state licensing boards in the U.S. A primary FSMTB goal is to support efforts among our member boards to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage and bodywork therapists, in order to facilitate professional mobility and simplify and standardize the licensing process. A key initiative in fulfilling this particular goal is to establish robust, fair and reasonable standardized requirements of quality for continuing education.

The FSMTB is taking steps to ensure the provision of a system that is streamlined, fair and manageable, honors legal/regulatory needs, and that delivers quality education to the licensed therapist seeking to refresh or enhance their professional competence. In essence, the system will support quality assurance by ensuring that the public is protected through strategic education of massage and bodywork professionals.

Licensed therapists are important and necessary partners in supporting the regulatory community to ensure the integrity of the education it approves. This mutually beneficial relationship helps regulatory boards to fulfill their responsibility to provide relevant, efficient, and effective oversight of professional education that both maintains and enhances professional competence, and protects the public interest.

While FSMTB undertakes the provision of services for our member boards, individual states will always have the ability to regulate their licensees as they deem appropriate. For states that opt to continue to independently evaluate instructors and courses, the FSMTB will offer recommended standards for adoption by the state.

The FSMTB Perspective on Continuing Education Recognizes and Respects That:

  • Licensed therapists wish to maintain as much control as possible over their continuing education choices
  • The majority of continuing education providers have experience using best practices in education to develop and deliver quality courses for their students
  • State licensing boards will always have the final determination regarding whether continuing education credit is granted to a licensee.

Development of FSMTB Continuing Education Standards

Continuing Education Standards have been developed by massage therapy state licensing boards, through a process of inclusion and consensus, and adopted by the FSMTB. The hallmarks of this process ensured that the standards were developed in a way that was fair, accessible and responsive to the needs of the regulatory community, licensed professionals, and educators.

The following key differentiators highlight the FSMTB approach to fair and reasonable regulation of continuing education that supports public protection, consumer rights, and quality marketplace choice.

Licensed Therapists

  • Massage and bodywork professionals need a dependable basis for choosing among continuing education programs.
  • Licensees will provide important feedback to facilitate performance improvement and provider accountability.
  • Licensees may access a searchable database to search for continuing education courses.

State Licensing Boards

FSMTB will house course content and continuing education provider information in a CE Registry and record course completion information in the Massage Therapy Licensing Database (MTLD) for FSMTB members to access, thus allowing state licensing boards to receive primary source verification of a licensee's completion of continuing education courses.

The FSMTB program is governed, developed, delivered and monitored by the regulatory community resulting in reliable authority, consistent requirements, efficient administrative process, and appropriate vetting.

State licensing boards make the final determination if courses and hours count for license renewal.

CE Providers

The FSMTB will accept provider and course submissions in the CE registry based upon self-reported compliance with the standards. Providers accepted into the CE registry are held responsible for meeting or exceeding the standards.

In the event of provider non-compliance, the FSMTB, if appropriate, will indicate areas for improvement to initiate corrective action prior to any suspension or revocation of the registration.

Auditing will occur randomly throughout the process and 100 percent auditing occurs upon completion of courses via direct feedback from licensed therapists.

Following recommendations and input from the massage therapy regulatory community, licensed therapists, educators and professional associations, the member boards of the FSMTB voted to implement a program that provides reliable, unbiased and appropriate vetting of continuing education providers and the courses offered to the consuming public, and to adopt the FSMTB standards for continuing education.

As a result, the CE registry will enter the marketplace in 2018. We look forward to being of service to the regulatory boards, the licensed professionals seeking to maintain competence, and to the providers in the educational community.

FSMTB is a non-profit, membership organization comprised of massage and bodywork regulatory and licensing boards and agencies from 40 states, D.C. and the territory of Puerto Rico. FSMTB's mission is to support its member boards in their work to ensure that the practice of massage therapy is provided to the public in a safe and effective manner.