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National Certification 
in Massage/Bodywork

The idea of having a national certification board was initiated by AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) in 1988.  AMTA gave $150,000 and later another $75,000 from their general funds to create an exam that was initially an entrance exam for AMTA potential members.  Sometime and somehow, in 1989, the intentions changed and it became a national exam. 

In April of 1989, 60 massage therapists signed and sent a joint initiative to AMTA to stop the process until more information could be gathered regarding whether or not national certification was necessary for the profession.  This was rejected by AMTA.

A steering committee was chosen by  4 AMTA officers.  It consisted of 2 members of AMTA who initially proposed this action, Susan Rosen of Washington and Susanne Carlson of Oregon. Within the committee,  7 out of 9 members were AMTA members.

In May 1990, the steering committee declared that it was now separate from AMTA. 

Massage Magazine in Jan/Feb 1991 reports that there were never any studies, surveys or reports done that established a need for certification.  There was a survey of AMTA members asking whether or not they supported the action, but not not if the thought national certification was needed.  1,420 AMTA members responded of which 1,042 said they supported national certification.  At the time there were approximately 60,000 therapists nationwide.

National Certification was developed in an attempt to bring credibility to the profession.  It's intentions were to improve the status and image of the bodywork community.  The exam would certify that certain educational and professional standard were met.  The educational requirements were the bare minimum thought to be need to practice massage. The exam is based on a study done to find out what practitioners do and what they need to know.

The national certification board has created an entry level test.  It does not mean that therapist who take it will be a good therapist.  It has not eliminated prostitution or the idea the massage is often equated with prostitution. It does not mean that the therapist will know what to do when they work on your herniated disc or other injury. It does not eliminate having to be fingerprinted (in some cities) or get a massage parlor license to set up a massage business.

The test questions were supposedly made after doing a survey of what therapists do in their practices. It claims to have based the questions on what current therapists have been using in their practice. I would love to see how the survey was done and who it was sent to. How long have these people been in practice?  What information did they learn after massage school?  
The test itself is questionable as it includes topics such as meridians, chakras, other types of therapies such a Ayuvedic medicine, what color your organs are on a energetic level.   I feel these do not have anything to do with doing basic massage.  

What it does do, is protect the massage profession from being regulated by other professionals such as doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists. It does often give credibility to a therapist in a state that doesn't have any regulations and states where the legislative members are uneducated about massage. There are still some cities/towns that have zoning laws restricting the practice of massage in certain areas.  There are also some places where massage is still equated with the practice of prostitution.  

Here in Washington State, Massage in regulated by the Department of Health's board of Massage.  500 hours of education are required with specific hour requirements of certain topics.  In the City of Seattle, I need a city business license.  There is still a local newspaper, The Seattle Weekly that regularly advertises illegal massage services.  Licensing in my opinion has not stopped massage being equated with prostitution. What is being done to stop this?













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