AMTA’s Strategic Investments in Accreditation, Education and Research Advance the Massage Profession

AMTA’s Strategic Investments in Accreditation, Education and Research Advance the Massage Profession

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) recently announced strategic investments in other key massage organizations that affirm the strongest organizational alignment that field has seen for two decades. With AMTA’s growing membership – up 50% in 5 years – the not-for-profit that has for years fueled the field’s research arm has now stoked activity in its accreditation and educator organizations.

Word of AMTA’s recent beneficence arrived through the newsletter of the Alliance of Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE).  The under-funded, volunteer-driven organization has worked diligently for years to strengthen the educators who serve as massage school faculty. AFMTE’s National Teacher Education Standards Process began by establishing competency standards for teachers. The overall goal of the 5-step project is transformational: create a culture of teaching excellence in the massage field. AMTA granted AFMTE $75,000 over two years to advance the standards project.

AFTME’s Stan Dawson

The grant was a positive surprise. For many years – despite that fact that independent educator organizations are key legs on which professions stand – AMTA acted as if AFMTE was a competitor to AMTA’s own programs for its school members. AFMTE’s president Stan Dawson, DC, LMBT thanked AMTA for the investment. He confirmed that it was AMTA’s first support of the educator group. Dawson says AFMTE projects that the program will become self-supporting.

Dawson shared additional news of a change in AMTA granting patterns.  For the more than two decades of its work as the accrediting leg of professional maturation, the leaders of the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) have similarly struggled to secure resources to advance their mission. AMTA has not in the past pushed the importance of specialty accreditation for the massage field. COMTA has struggled, attracting only 70-90 schools from over massage programs. AMTA granted COMTA $200,000. The funds are for a “a new scholarship program for schools that will help schools who might have wanted to achieve Accreditation but previously weren’t able to because of the expense.” The numbers of COMTA-accredited schools is anticipated to rise.

I e-mailed Bill Brown, AMTA executive director for comments on what had shifted. He replied via email that “the timing was right for these decisions, based on AMTA’s situation and the kinds of projects aligning with all our missions.” AMTA’s long-time communications manager Ron Precht sent an email with information that fills in some of the blanks.  Wrote Precht: “In the past, we wouldn’t have had the resources to give back in this way, but we can now.  With our success comes responsibility.” The membership doubled to 85,000 over the last five years since Brown arrived. (There are an estimated 350,000 licensed massage therapists in the US.) Here are snapshots of AMTA’s exercise of responsibility:

  • AMTA continues as the Massage Therapy Foundation’s primary donor with contributions reaching $550,000 last year.
  • AMTA is a key sponsor of the MTF’s 2019 International Massage Therapy Research Conference.
  • Also in the research realm, AMTA is the principal sponsor of a project to position the profession for uptake in military and Veteran’s medicine entitled “Massage Integration in a Military Primary Care Clinic: an Implementation and Impact Study.”
  • It now offers free student memberships and free registration of school members in its annual Schools Summit.
  • AMTA has helped a third leg of massage professional development via operational support for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
  • Since 2013, AMTA has given away some $250,000 in student scholarships.
  • In the past year, AMTA provided 100,000 hours of free continuing education.

Precht’s note on behalf of Brown underscores the organization’s role as a not-for-profit: “A nonprofit organization, [AMTA’s] resources go back into the profession. That is our mission, it defines us. Our Board gives back to well-established, nonprofit organizations that have a direct impact specifically on the massage therapy profession.” The memo specifically referenced the National Teacher Education Standards Process: “This is an important step forward for our profession and our Board wants to make sure the program gets launched.”

The communication from Precht opened with a comment that is an over-assertion, looking back over the past 15 years: “AMTA has always supported the cornerstones of the massage therapy profession and these exciting announcements are in-line with that approach. Remember, AMTA solely exists to support our members and advance the profession. The more we give back and invest in our members, the more it comes back to us.”

In fact, AMTA let a couple of those cornerstones – COMTA and then AFMTE – sag over much of the past two decades. Now that has changed, hopefully into the future. This is an impressive portrait of growth since Brown took AMTA’s helm five years ago. And with these strategic moves, more power to AMTA and exceptional news for the massage profession. All bode well for strengthening the appropriate integration of massage into US health care.