Massage Therapy’s Response to COVID-19
Massage Therapy’s Response to COVID-19

Massage Therapy’s Response to COVID-19

By Danielle Galian, Contributor
June 30, 2020

Massage Therapy’s Response to COVID-19

By Danielle Galian, Contributor
June 30, 2020

Stan Dawson, president of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) said it best, “we are all in this together.” Speaking to major stakeholders within the profession, our aim was to gain perspectives on how they are each navigating the new normal with COVID-19. The AFMTE, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA), the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) all shared their thoughts on the future and a united feeling of hope. 


At the time of our interviews, AFMTE was and continues to encourage its members to use the time not at work to build portfolios and work on the business aspects of their practice. “We’re doing a series of webinars explaining how to go about the teacher certification process to help members gain better insight and preparation for when they go back to work,” says Dawson. He goes on to explain how one of the first things AFMTE did was help schools and CE providers navigate difficulties regarding hands-on courses. Following very closely is their continued assistance and support with added resources to those who have lost income. “We’re helping them navigate through these times,” explained Dawson. In their own way, every organization is focused on helping members both weather the current crisis and prepare for the massage therapy profession’s comeback. 


Debra Persinger, executive director of FSMTB, explains how the organization is keeping the community active by holding webinars and virtual information sessions. They released a statement to highlight and further explain some of their advocacy work: “As we are all well aware, navigating a world with COVID-19 is new for all of us and is subject to daily and sometimes hourly changes as we escalate measures to protect health and safety,” she says. Persinger outlined some of FSMTB’s efforts within different divisions: 

State Licensing Boards and Agencies

FSMTB created a dedicated page on their website where they publish information for each state regarding massage regulation, as well as COVID-19 information from each state. Additionally, they scheduled a virtual regulatory Town Hall meeting for their member board executives to share policies, suggestions and experiences. This is in lieu of the annual Member Board Executive Summit that had to be cancelled in April due to travel restrictions. 

Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) 

FSMTB’s test delivery partner, Pearson VUE, plans to reopen test centers based upon state and local guidelines. Test centers will adhere to sanitation practices and protocols that support social/physical distancing for the safety of candidates and employees. “FSMTB is in the process of extending the Authorization to Test (ATT) window through the end of the year for all candidates currently waiting to test,” says Persinger. “Candidates typically have 90 days in which to take the MBLEx. Due to the anticipated backlog accumulating across all professional licensing exams, this extension should take some pressure off our candidates and will give them ample time and a test location, date and time to take their MBLEx. It will also support those who are not comfortable immediately entering public areas as soon as the stay-at-home orders are lifted. For applications received on or after October 1, 2020, the regular 90-day ATT window will go back into effect.” The FSMTB has also postponed the MBLEx fee increase that was scheduled to go into effect April 1, 2020. “Tough testing is not currently taking place, the postponement is intended to support applicants financially under the current circumstances and to remove early-bird application incentives,” Persinger adds. Candidates with MBLEx appointments who would like to reschedule to a later date this year can do so without a rescheduling fee. 


In an effort to gain more information on how complementary and integrative health care practitioners are coping with COVID-19, the MTF is taking part in a survey conducted by researchers from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, Prisma Health, Clemson University, and Indiana University (IUPUI). You can listen to a special podcast episode where host Doug Nelson, president of the MTF, speaks with three investigators working on the study, called Project Cope: Dr. Ann Blair Kennedy (USC Greenville), Dr. Niki Munk (IUPUI), and Smith Heavner-Sullivan (Prisma Health). Learn more about the survey and listen to the podcast by visiting Nelson provided some additional hope and words of encouragement for all massage therapists saying, “What we know is the power and promise of massage therapy. And what we have is each other. We need to find ways to support each other during these really difficult times.” 


Regarding their constant discussions with Prometric, their testing provider, “Presently, candidates for board certification are welcome to complete the online application process, as usual. Processing times for applications requires approximately 2-3 weeks. Once an application is processed, and exam eligibility is determined, NCBTMB and Prometric will work with candidates to determine available testing centers, assess current state/local mandates, and exam availability. If, for any reason, a candidate is unable to schedule an exam within the standard 90-day exam eligibility window, NCBTMB and Prometric will work together to extend the time frame. The safety of our candidates and Prometric test center employees are of utmost importance.” NCBTMB has taken a proactive approach to current crisis mitigation efforts. Among a variety of access points and informational tools, NCBTMB “fully supports the transition to e-learning platforms during this time to ensure learning continues,” says NCBTMB CEO Shelly Johnson. Johnson explains some of the support services and new information available to members and certificants. 

Current Board Certificant

“If you are up for renewal and unable to meet requirements at this time, contact NCBTMB within 30 days of your expiration date to discuss possible extension options,” Johnson explains. “Additionally, as NCBTMB sets no restrictions on CE delivery, all CE required for renewal may be completed online through NCBTMB Approved Providers.” 

Prospective Board Certificant

Applications for Board Certification remain open and will continue to be processed in a timely manner. If you reside in a state or jurisdiction currently on shutdown per government decree, you will be notified once Prometric testing centers reopen to schedule your Board Certification Exam. 

Support for Approved Providers. “Educators across the country have become more creative than ever before to further support our profession during these times—and many of our Approved Providers have led the charge” says Johnson. “If you are a fellow Approved Provider seeking ways to further serve the profession, or considering Approved Provider status, NCBTMB has several action plans in place to assist you.” 

Current Approved Provider

If you are up for renewal and unable to meet requirements at this time, contact NCBTMB within 30-days of your expiration date to discuss possible extension options. “Furthermore, during these difficult times, many NCBTMB Approved Providers have requested to turn live courses into live webinars to support our profession,” Johnson explains. “NCBTMB supports such efforts and has distributed appropriate next steps via email and should you/your organization be considering this approach.” 

Prospective Approved Provider

Applications for Approved Provider status remain open and will continue to be processed. 


Effective April 23, 2020, e-learning platforms are accepted to deliver core curriculum for all sciences, communication, ethics and pathology courses. 

As COVID-19 progresses and more news and information become available, Massage Today is committed to bring its readership updates from stakeholders in the profession. Continue to visit us on to stay current on information within the profession.

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