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Massage Today
September, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 09

Alliance Strives for Teaching Excellence

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) recently held its fourth annual conference in St. Charles, Missouri, in the hopes of "Creating a Culture of Teaching Excellence" and bringing together the leading educators in the massage profession.

In addition to discussing AFMTME's Teacher Education Standards Project (TESP), there were keynotes and additional teacher training sessions. More than 130 educators participated in what has arguably become the most well attended education conference in the massage therapy profession.

The conference tackled some tough topics including opportunities and responsibilities of the profession to participate in the Affordable Care Act, unified core competencies, uniform teacher standards and brainstorming on the future of massage therapy education. Long-time Massage Today columnist Whitney Lowe shared his insights into "Creating the 21st Century Teacher," and how massage teachers can utilize technology to better reach the students of today. And Janet Kahn discussed the potential behind the profession's involvement in the Affordable Care Act. Several workshop sessions were also offered including Instructional Strategies to Motivate Your Students by Whitney Lowe and Coming to Agreement on Core Curriculum by Kate Zulaski and Dr. Tony Mirando. Sue Toscano and Donna Sarvello from The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), also presented an update to continuing education providers.

At few conferences will Winona Bontrager, President of AMTA, Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation, Karen Armstrong, VP of the FSMTB, Sue Toscano, Chair of the NCBTMB, Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP, and Kate Zulaski, Executive Director of COMTA, come together in the same room and entertain questions from the audience. With education as the common denominator, groups that otherwise seem to be opposed to each other, come together to discuss common concerns and goals.

St. Charles - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Background

The AFMTE is a relatively new organization, with a mission to champion the education sector of the massage profession. With this fourth conference, the AFMTE has established a forum for broad discussion of massage education. The AFMTE explains its rationale as standing "for the interests of the education sector" and "taking its place among other stakeholder groups that comprise the massage therapy field." After a slightly rocky start, the organization has moved forward with several initiatives, has more than 300 members and put itself in respectable financial shape by proclaiming themselves debt free during the business portion of the conference.

The AFMTE sets itself apart from other groups through the following goals:

  • Strengthen and improve massage education by providing information and educational opportunities to institutions, administrators, teachers and continuing education providers.
  • Provide forums for learning, fellowship and mutual support.
  • Advocate for the interests of members.
  • Serve as the designated representative for massage therapy education in dealing with other stakeholders in the field, as well as organizations and regulatory bodies outside the field.
  • Develop standards that guide and inform the effective teaching of massage therapy.
  • Promote access to massage therapy education to those who are seeking it, from entry-level training through post-graduate studies.


With its emphasis on strengthening and improving massage therapy education, the AFMTE launched its Teacher Education Standards Project with a five phase approach, recognizing this process could take five to ten years to compile the necessary feedback from all stakeholder groups and complete the final standards.

A first draft of the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers was sent to AFMTE members for review in advance of the 2011 Annual Massage Conference in Charleston, SC. At this meeting, discussion forums were held to receive feedback from the education community on the proposed standards. The Committee then reviewed both verbal and submitted written comments, and a second draft was presented at this year's conference for public comment by the massage therapy field. This last round of input will be considered as the final document is prepared for adoption.

Once the standards are defined in the competencies document, a model teacher training curriculum will be created as a recommended template, which leads to the next phase of identifying and developing teacher training resources. The next step will be to create a voluntary certification program as a vehicle for teachers to demonstrate they have, in fact, achieved the core competencies that have been established. The final, and largest goal of the TESP, is to work with national accrediting commissions and state regulatory agencies to incorporate these teacher education standards.

Currently, the AFMTE has completed Phase 1 of the TESP and has published the Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers. According to the AFMTE, this document, "is the first of its kind in the massage therapy field and describes the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) needed for teachers to produce successful and consistent outcomes with adult learners in a variety of educational settings."

A variety of attendees from massage school directors, teachers, CE providers and representatives of the primary stakeholder organizations participated in sessions providing input on the initial versions of the competencies. A preliminary draft was also sent to members for comment and any feedback received will be used by the committee in the development of the final document. Following a public comment period of 60 days, the committee will review all the feedback submitted and make needed revisions to complete the Core Competencies document.

In a post conference statement to Massage Today, the Board said, "We feel it was one of the most successful conferences yet. It was very rewarding to have feedback from Continuing Education Providers, School owners and teachers that were implementing the Core Competencies. We also received tremendous feedback from attendees on how to move the Core Competencies forward. We believe we surpassed our goal for creating a culture of teaching excellence by creating a core of collaboration and unity from all organizations. It was great to have all sectors represented and coming together at the table to discuss and share with a common goal. Organizations represented were: Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, American Massage Therapy Association, Federation of State Massage Therapy Board, Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences, Massage Therapy Foundation, and National Certification Board Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork."

To view the presenter info from the 2012 AFMTE conference or to learn more about the AFMTE Teacher Education Standards Project and comment on the Core Competencies, visit the AFMTE website at


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