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Massage Today
June 30, 2009

NCBTMB to Launch New Association Offering Insurance

ABMP Welcomes Competition

By Christie Bondurant

In a recent letter to their board members, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) announced their newly formed association USAMRA (USA Massage Resource Association), a membership association offering insurance among other benefits. The NCBTMB letter also states that at the USAMRA launch it will be the largest massage association in the country, automatically including the more than 91,000 nationally certified massage therapists and bodyworkers. Currently, the NCBTMB along with its public relations company, Penny Ohlmann Neiman, Inc. (PON), is making inquiries to national companies who may be interested in offering benefits to members of the new association.

The letter, obtained by Massage Today, said in part: "NCBTMB and PON are starting to make preliminary inquiries to a number of national companies who may be interested in offering benefits to our newly formed association, the USAMRA (usaMassageResourceAssociation). When it launches, will automatically be the largest massage association in the country by some 91,000 members. We can offer companies who choose to partner with us a tremendous promotional value by being part of a robust membership package including insurance and much more - all designed to strengthen the value of NCBTMB by virtue of its relationship with"

Responding to the news of plans for the new association, Les Sweeney, the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) president, today sent the following statement (in part) to members of the ABMP:

"... ABMP feels it is entirely within NCBTMB's prerogative to try to find an audience for a new membership association. We are firm believers that any group or entity has the right to compete in the marketplace. After all, ABMP was in a similar position in 1987, when AMTA was the only professional membership organization then serving the field.

"That does not mean, however, that we think NCBTMB's decision to form an association is in its best interest as an organization, or that their doing so will benefit the profession. Birthed by AMTA 18 years ago, NCBTMB was created for the purpose of offering voluntary certification to massage therapists who subscribed to and met high standards of preparation, knowledge, and ethics. Seduced by the attraction of multiplying significantly the number of individuals taking an examination NCBTMB developed, NCBTMB moved into a vacuum, encouraging states to adopt their National Certification Exam for use as a required entrance exam into the profession, even though their exam had not been designed for that purpose. Within the past three years, a new organization - the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards - emerged (with an initial loan from ABMP) and developed the MBLEx, a true entrance examination that quickly garnered the support of both ABMP and AMTA as the entry exam of choice for our profession.

"Both ABMP and AMTA have publicly expressed support for the value of voluntary certification and have encouraged NCBTMB to re-concentrate its energies on serving that original purpose. NCBTMB has resisted that advice, instead aggressively litigating and lobbying to retain a place in entry-level testing and now seeking a new mission to provide professional association services.

"While defending NCBTMB's right to try such a new initiative, ABMP believes that NCBTMB has not earned the right to merit your professional membership affiliation.

"...NCBTMB can secure some sort of insurance, but lacks experience in administering such a program. Their experience in providing practice development and educational content communications is highly limited. As to basic service responsiveness, NCBTMB's record is widely considered by the massage profession to be deplorable. Stories of no live person to answer the phone, timely response to an inquiry, or provide knowledgeable information are legion. NCBTMB has changed the content of their examinations without giving either the massage education community or state licensing boards opportunities for meaningful input.

"...We welcome competition and have learned through experience interacting with AMTA that we can constructively work with them on issues of common concern to the profession even while vigorously competing for members. If NCBTMB moves forward to form USAMRA, we hope to continue to support their certification and continuing education approval activities. Rest assured though: ABMP will work hard to keep you as a member and to ask you to encourage others to share your membership choice."

As of press time, Massage Today was unable to reach NCBTMB. Massage Today will continue to follow this story providing updates as available.


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