, Editorial Staff
, Editorial Staff
COVID-19 Guidelines for Teachers:
AFMTE’s Task Force shares recommendations for massage therapy educators.
As the covid-19 pandemic started to gain widespread attention in spring and summer—forcing shelter-in-place orders and restrictions around gathering and business—questions on how the massage therapy profession would change and adapt was at the forefront of most everyone’s mind.
At the time, organizations like The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) worked to develop procedures to supplement guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the evolving state requirements. For AFMTE, this effort resulted in the formation of what is now known as the COVID-19 Task Force, whose aim is to help recommend COVID-19 specific guidelines for massage therapy educators.
On July 14, AFMTE released “COVID-19 Related Recommendations for Massage Therapy and Bodywork Educators” on their website. While not mandated, the 11-page, interactive document is meant to help massage therapy instructors better navigate the effects of COVID-19 on massage education, and includes recommendations related to massage and massage educational activities from broader scientific, occupational, professional, educational and accrediting organizations.
AFMTE’s close contact with massage schools and continuing education providers means they have very specific recommendations for massage therapy educators. Drawing from the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ (FSMTB) guidelines as examples, AFMTE developed a comprehensive “working” document that, as Michele Renee, vice president of AFMTE, explains, continues to communicate with educators as COVID-19 progresses.
What Sets AFMTE’s Efforts Apart from Other Guidelines?
AFMTE found a gap in guidelines surrounding teaching, learning and instructional design. Renee describes how the recommendations already available were primarily logistical, like recommendations for how many people can be in a space together or what kind of PPE to consider.
However, AFMTE’s guidelines “are not meant to be rigid or strict,” Renee explains. “They were intended to really help people think through possibilities that will help them find the greatest success through this indefinitely volatile time that we’re in,” referring to the strategies around teaching, learning, and instructional design, as well as safety as they apply to schools drawing from those other guidelines that were available. “It’s one thing when you’re in a treatment room and there’s one therapist and there’s one client,” Renee says. “But what does that look like when you’re in a room full of students with one or more instructors, and how do we need to change the way we are teaching?”
AFMTE stresses the need for creative thinking. Suggestions for purchasing portable sinks or placing hand sanitizer at the classroom door are all valid considerations and deserve deeper thought, she says. “Some of those logistical pieces that are new around COVID we have to now consider,” Renee adds.
According to Renee, AFMTE is looking at teaching, instructional design and how students learn as they develop plans for the next 12 months in a way that is adaptable and flexible to the unfolding circumstances. In the case of another shut down, “how do we make that work for our students and in such a way that it doesn’t completely derail the educational experience?” Renee wonders. AFMTE suggests flexibility is key here, for both educators and students.
Response to Guidelines
Since the announcement and promotion of these guidelines, AFMTE has received what Renee describes as a lot of gratitude and appreciation for their work. “The usefulness of having a big picture painted and maybe some possibilities that people had not thought about” says Renee, “is something that’s helping educators specifically handle and be better prepared for students.” Renee suggests that as time goes on, these guidelines set in place will help form a safer future for both educators and students.
Outlook for the Future
As we continue to deal with COVID-19, many people have found extra time on their hands. One positive to come from this time is the ability to focus more on what matters—and for many in the massage therapy profession, that is education.
Renee believes the changes in education are an opportunity for educators to attract more students and educate more people. “This is not to diminish that it’s been extraordinarily difficult for many, many people,” Renee says. “But, perhaps having an online presence and allowing opportunities for online education will mean more lives will be impacted in a positive way within the profession.”
The Power of Accreditation
COMTA outlines the benefits of accreditation for both schools and their students.
One of the first questions someone looking to enter the profession may be asking themselves is how to find a massage program that will be the best fit. Many factors come into play, but one reliable way to find a massage school or program providing a nationally-recognized level of education is to look for one that is accredited.
In the profession of massage, there are many options for accreditation. The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA), however, is the only specialized accreditor for massage and bodywork.
COMTA accredits both educational institutions and programs offering instruction in massage therapy and bodywork. COMTA also has the added advantage of being recognized by the United States Department of Education as a special agency for massage and bodywork. This special stamp of recognition ensures that its commissioners are comprised of experts in their field, along with administrators and educators. The message is clear: accreditation is one way the massage therapy profession upholds the value of the profession and helps to advance its goals at the same time.
Accreditation in a Nutshell
Accreditation signifies a set of standards have been met by a particular school, ensuring that students have access to quality education. The Department of Education, with the help of COMTA, oversees what benchmarks need to be met, as well as the approval processes for massage therapy schools. This process must be completed every five years for a school to maintain its accreditation status. The Department of Education offers a portal to look up accredited massage schools. In addition to this, COMTA’s accreditation qualifications vary between institutions and programs.
Why Consider Accreditation
One of the many tangible benefits of accreditation, as Dawn Hogue, executive director of COMTA explains, is the ability of massage schools to offer federal financial aid to its students. “Students almost expect there to be the opportunity to receive financial aid or apply for financial aid,” says Hogue. “So, that becomes a benefit for both students and the schools, because schools often have a large pool of candidates seeking admission.” Hogue further explains how there’s a domino effect when a school is advancing its standards; school -> students -> clients -> massage therapy profession.
For massage therapy schools, the advantage of having a partner like COMTA is the reassurance offered when things don’t go as planned, such as in the case with COVID-19. The agency has been able to help educators during the pandemic by accommodating various aspects around the accreditation process. “Our recognition trickling down from the Department of Education gives us liberal latitude to work with our schools in a way that state boards may be a little bit more restrictive in doing,” explains Hogue. The process of accreditation hasn’t stopped for COMTA since the beginning of the pandemic.
The accredited schools under the COMTA umbrella were given leeway to make accommodations as they saw fit during the beginnings of the pandemic. “We’ve helped them manage this unique situation as their partner,” says Hogue.
Requirements for Accreditation
COMTA offers a comprehensive list of requirements for your institution to achieve accreditation. Here is a breakdown for both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation:
Institutional Requirements are:
- Five students enrolled.
- All programs offered must be massage therapy/bodywork programs.
- You must have the appropriate state license and be legally organized by that specific state education or state licensing agency.
- Your instruction must be at the post-secondary level.
- At least one massage therapy program offered must require 600 clock hours for completion.
Programmatic Accreditation Requirements are:
- Five students enrolled.
- The program must be identified as a professional massage therapy program.
- A specific entity or department must be responsible for the program.
- 600 clock hours must be part of the organized study plan for the program.
- A certificate, diploma, or degree in massage therapy must be offered to the enrolled students.
- A financial commitment to the massage therapy program must be demonstrated by the parent institution ensuring there are enough funds and support to enable enrolled students to complete the program.
- The program must be located in an institution that already has institutional accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Cost Challenge: How Financial Support Helps
A frequently asked question is why some schools choose not to be accredited? The answers vary, but cost can be a top concern. It costs money to go through the accreditation process. To help combat this factor and support massage schools, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has instituted a grant program for schools that’s been in effect since September 2018. The grant subsidizes half of the costs for the initial accreditation process. Hogue says, “That’s been a great benefit for almost 20 schools in the past two years.” Hogue wants all massage therapy schools to see the benefit in accreditation through the structure and alignment with the highest standards of the profession.
For more details on the accreditation process and how to apply for AMTA financial support, email Dawn Hogue.
Visit COMTA’s website to learn more about the accreditation process.
NCBTMB Extends Support to Board Certificants, Approved Providers, And Assigned Schools Amid COVID-19
NCBTMB has implemented various action plans to support the profession during this time.
Support for Board Certificants
NCBTMB has several plans in place to support you, whether you are approaching renewal or considering board certification for the first time.
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. Additionally, NCBTMB has no set 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. Prometric testing centers are open in most states. Check here for a complete listing.
Please note that several states are reporting a backlog in background checks. NCBTMB is doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of this delay.
Support for Approved Providers
NCBTMB has several action plans in place focused on helping approved providers who are looking for ways to serve the profession, as well as those who are considering applying for approved provider status.
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.
Many NCBTMB approved providers have requested the flexibility of turning live courses into live webinars. NCBTMB supports these efforts, and those interested can find information on next steps for this approach on NCBTMB’s website.
Prospective approved provider—Applications for approved provider status remain open and will continue to be processed.
Support for Assigned Schools
The NCBTMB assigned school community recognizes the challenges of teaching during this time of shut down and isolation. NCBTMB fully supports the transition to e-learning platforms during this time to ensure learning continues.
As massage therapy is a touch-based profession, NCBTMB will require 200 hours of hands-on massage therapy to be taught in a live classroom. Effective March 23, 2020, NCBTMB began accepting all sciences, communication, ethics, and pathology courses via e-learning platform until further notice.
NCBTMB has a full breakdown of guidelines for transitioning to or maintaining e-learning platforms for your assigned school during the pandemic.
AFMTE 2020 Election Results
The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) recently announced their Board of Directors and Leadership Development Committee election results. They took office on September 1. The two newest members of the board are Shari Aldrich and Andrew Jurdan.
See full election results at AFMTE’s website.
Call for Candidates: NCBMTB Certification Board
The National Certiﬁcation Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has an opening for one available practitioner member position on its certiﬁcation board. Applications are currently open and the position will begin on March 1, 2021. Eligibility requirements for practitioner certiﬁcation board candidates include being NCBTMB board certiﬁed for a minimum of three consecutive years prior to March 1, 2021.
Certiﬁcants will elect one board certiﬁed practitioner member to the certiﬁcation board in early 2021. All terms begin with the board’s annual meeting in March 2021. The estimated monthly contribution is between 5-7 hours, as members are required to participate in monthly board meetings – up to three (3) of which may be in person (expenses covered by NCBTMB).
The certiﬁcation board is responsible for all aspects of board certiﬁcation, including developing certiﬁcation criteria and examinations, evaluating candidates for certiﬁcation, and maintaining the integrity of the certiﬁcation process. The certiﬁcation board ensures that NCBTMB maintains its status as an accredited certifying body within the massage therapy profession.
Find the full list of details and application on their website.
Massage Therapy Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Virtual Fun Run
Massage Therapy Foundation announced its Virtual Run/Walk/Roll fundraiser taking place between August 18 – September 18, 2020. Participants of all ages and in every location around the world are invited to pick their favorite 30-minute activity and get active to raise funds to support research, education, and community service to enhance the massage therapy profession.
“Some will run their first mile, others will attempt their farthest distance on a bike, while many will walk their dogs through the park. MTF welcomes all to participate while staying COVID-19 safe and responsible. What a wonderful way to help the Foundation celebrate its 30th anniversary by getting active for 30 minutes. It is the perfect distance for an entire family to join together and achieve a goal to support the profession and bring benefits of massage to underserved populations,” said MTF’s President, Doug Nelson, LMT, BCTMB.
The registration is a $30 donation. Registration, FAQ, and resources are available on their website.
AFMTE Changes the Name of the Educator Certification Credential
The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) changed the name of its certified educator credential. It is now known simply as Certified Massage and Bodywork Educator (CMBE). Due to some confusion between other acronyms and the original CETMB credential, the Board of Directors decided to change the name and the AFMTE will update all materials and marketing to reflect the new name.
AFMTE President Stan Dawson commented on the name change by saying, “The name of the CMBE credential reflects a fundamental value stemming from the Entry-Level Massage Education Blueprint’s (ELAP) core that the defining feature of massage and bodywork is therapeutic, structured touch, regardless of the system through which it is applied. It also honors a commitment to diversity and exploration in education while aligning with the AFMTE’s vision to advance the therapeutic massage and bodywork professions by strengthening and elevating educational practices and standards through supporting, credentialing, and engaging educators.”
Deanna Sylvester, AFMTE Certified Educator Project Manager said, “This name change reduces confusion and simplifies our acronym, while continuing to directly reflect the accomplishment and expertise of our certified educators.”
Visit AFMTE's website for more information.
Massage Highlighted at Virtual Pain Management Symposium
Representing the massage therapy profession, Massage Therapy Foundation President Doug Nelson was recently a panelist at the Alliance to Advance Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management (AACIPM) virtual symposium.
The two-day symposium, held on May 13th and 14th, featured some of the nation’s leading examples of innovation and progress on evidence-informed, holistic pain management and featured multi-disciplinary, team-based approaches. Other key contributors to the conversation included the Veterans Health Administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Duke University, University of Vermont Medical Center, Boeing Company, and the United Health Group.
The conference aims to support the ongoing advancement of massage therapy as part of an integrative approach to pain management. Massage therapy is currently covered by the VA, DoD and many Medicare Advantage plans as a supplement benefit for pain management.
Review the presentations featured at the conference.
FSMTB Offers Free Cultural Competence Courses and Guidelines with COVID-19 Considerations
Free Cultural Competence Courses on Prejudice, Racism & Discrimination
To further their commitment to education and service, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards has begun offering the online Cultural Competence: Prejudice, Racism & Discrimination courses free of charge through July 31, 2020 to all those who wish to watch, listen, learn, contemplate – and, in large or small ways, act.
FSMTB says, “It is our hope that by taking one of these Cultural Competence courses, you are inspired to be intentional and proactive in supporting each other and in supporting positive change.”
The organization believes we all have the responsibility and the platform to reinforce a culture of caring; where hate, racism, bigotry and discrimination have no power. “We draw strength from our diversity,” says FSMTB.
For Massage and Bodywork Professionals, visit FSMTB’s website.
Massage & Bodywork Practitioner Guidelines with COVID-19 Considerations
The intent of this document is to provide a resource to FSMTB member boards and agencies, massage and bodywork professionals, and massage school staff to support public protection. Readers are encouraged to refer to and use the FSMTB Guidelines for Practice with COVID-19 Considerations within the confines of the regulatory structures of their respective states.
The FSMTB Guidelines for Practice with COVID-19 Considerations references Standard Precautions and CDC protocols and adapts them to the specific practice environment of massage and bodywork. Whenever possible, this document reflects specific CDC recommendations to provide guidance on facility cleanliness and sanitation, facility policies and procedures, and requirements for massage practitioner hygiene.
“For public protection, it is important to support regulated professionals who are informed and can exercise professional judgment that is not clouded by misinformation and fear,” said FSMTB Executive Director Dr. Debra Persinger.
The FSMTB recognizes that some customization and flexibility are necessary to allow these concepts to be of assistance in each jurisdiction and practice setting. The recommendations and guidelines do not replace any directives or guidance provided by federal or state agencies, regulatory boards, or other authorities having jurisdiction. Where conflicts occur, the stricter requirement will apply.
COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. The document will be modified as necessary when further relevant information becomes available.
FSMTB acting Board President Craig Knowles said, “The Board of Directors extends its sincere appreciation to the members of the Practice Guidelines Task Force who worked diligently to research and prepare the Practice Guidelines and to share best practices for massage and bodywork therapists, all while working from home during the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
Visit FSMTB’s website for more information.
AMTA Offers Free CE, Releases New Consumer Data and Opens 2021 Call for Speakers
AMTA continues to offer the profession an extensive free CE library to help meet licensing requirements and reinforce massage skills. Choose from a wide range of NCBTMB-approved free courses in several categories.
AMTA’s Online Courses give massage therapists, massage therapy educators and massage therapy students an opportunity to enhance their continuing education.
+ Business & Marketing
+ Massage Educator Skills
Visit AMTA’s website for more information on how to participate in free online courses.
In a May 2020 AMTA consumer survey on massage therapy and COVID-19, of those who indicated they received massage in the past 12 months:
+ 72 percent have a high likelihood of going back to the therapist they saw for their last massage.
+ 45 percent of massage consumers will look at getting a massage once restrictions are lifted.
+ More than half of respondents who received a massage in the past year anticipate getting a massage for soreness, stiffness or spasms when they are able to get a massage again.
+ And, 41 percent anticipate getting a massage for pain relief or pain management.
Share your knowledge with the massage profession by submitting a speaker application for AMTA educational opportunities, including AMTA’s 2021 National Convention, AMTA’s 2021 Schools Summit and AMTA’s online continuing education.
Being an AMTA speaker has myriad benefits, including:
• Exposure to other massage therapists, educators and vendors who share your commitment to educational excellence and high ethical standards.
• Sharing ideas, knowledge and experience with massage therapists new to the profession and those with years of experience.
Speaker applications are due July 23, 2020.
For more information, visit AMTA’s website.