The History of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards

Founding and Purpose

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) (https://www.fsmtb.org/) was formed in 2005, emerging from a growing need for uniformity and cooperation among various state boards regulating massage therapy. The founding principle was to facilitate better communication and consensus-building among state boards, ensuring that massage therapists could meet standardized criteria of practice and ethics.

FSMTB was established to serve and support state massage licensing boards and agencies in their mission of public protection. This type of organization has been effectively and responsibly serving other health professions for years – specifically, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, and the Association of Social Work Boards.

Many other professions have similar organizations serving roles in standardizing practices, setting examination criteria, and ensuring professional consistency across various states. These organizations often play crucial roles in establishing and maintaining high standards of practice, ethics, and education within their respective fields. Here are some notable examples:

  1.  Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada : The Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC) is the national organization for massage therapy regulators in Canada. They represent the provincial agencies that regulate massage therapy under legislative authority. Their goal is to promote consistency and excellence in regulating massage therapy across Canada.
  2. National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN): Analogous to the FSMTB in nursing, the NCSBN creates and administers the NCLEX examinations for nursing licensure in the United States. They also develop model nursing practice acts and facilitate collaboration among state nursing boards.
  3. Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB): Similar to FSMTB but for medical doctors, the FSMB oversees medical licensure and discipline. They also administer the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), a crucial step for medical licensure in the U.S.
  4. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA): For accountants, NASBA works alongside the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) in managing the Uniform CPA Examination, crucial for certification as a Certified Public Accountant.
  5. Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB): In psychology, the ASPPB provides services to psychology boards and administers the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a key component in the licensure process for psychologists.
  6. National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE): This organization develops and administers standardized tests for the chiropractic profession, ensuring that chiropractors meet specific educational and competency standards.
  7. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP): For pharmacists, the NABP administers the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and provides accreditation and certification programs, playing a similar role to the FSMTB in pharmacy.
  8. American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE): Overseeing the standards in funeral service education, the ABFSE accredits funeral service and mortuary science programs and works closely with state licensing boards.
  9. National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC): In the field of therapeutic recreation, the NCTRC certifies recreational therapists and ensures that practitioners meet certain educational and professional standards.

Having a Federation of Massage State Boards is an important step in being a profession.

Rick Rosen’s article on The Structure of a Profession:
Where Does Massage Therapy Stand Toda
y? (PDF) written in 2009 says:

“While each mature profession has its own developmental history, culture, and methods of operation, there are six basic components that are common to all.
These are:
1) Membership Association;
2) Independent Organization of Colleges or Schools;
3) Accrediting Commission;
4) Federation of State Licensing Boards;
5) Specialty Certification Boards; and
6) Research Center.

We have all of those in place, yet we are so far behind in achieving portability, professional practice standards and CE competency requirments.

History of the Federation of Massage State Boards Timeline

1999Massage Today April, 2001 (archive.or, Volume 01, Issue 04

A group of representatives from various state massage regulatory agencies met in August 1999 to join forces in establishing the National Alliance of State Massage Therapy Boards (NASMTB). Together they approved the following:

The National Alliance of Massage Therapy State Boards (NASMTB) mission is to serve as a resource to the member boards in their efforts to improve the quality, safety, and integrity of massage therapy services in the interest of public health, safety and welfare by:

Sharing and disseminating information to promote uniformity in the regulation of the practice of massage therapy.

Serving as a source for regulatory information for the public, government, and other professional regulatory boards.

Addressing multi-state massage therapy regulatory issues.

Encouraging research to enhance education, evaluation, and examination for licensure and/or certification as well as continued competency in massage therapy.

April 2001 – Massage Today April, 2001, Volume 01, Issue 04. “A group of representatives from various state massage regulatory agencies met in August 1999 to join forces in establishing the National Alliance of State Massage Therapy Boards (NASMTB).” Massage Today on Archive.org

Mission Statement
The National Alliance of Massage Therapy State Boards (NASMTB) mission is to serve as a resource to the member boards in their efforts to improve the quality, safety, and integrity of massage therapy services in the interest of public health, safety, and welfare by:

– Sharing and disseminating information to promote uniformity in the regulation of the practice of massage therapy.
– Serving as a source for regulatory information for the public, government, and other professional regulatory boards.
– Addressing multi-state massage therapy regulatory issues.
– Encouraging research to enhance education, evaluation, and examination for licensure and/or certification as well as continued competency in massage therapy.


July, 2005, Volume 05, Issue 07 Massage Today (archive.org): Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) hosted a meeting, May 11-12, 2005, in Denver, Colo., to initiate conversation that is potentially the most significant massage news of the decade, and will certainly be of interest to the majority of massage therapists in the U.S.
An interim board of directors was chosen until a meeting of the broad base of massage therapy boards can be convened. Serving on the interim board are Arnold Askew (Alabama Board of Massage Therapy); Kathleen Egenes (New Mexico Massage Therapy Board); Patty Glenn (Oregon Board of Massage Therapists); Kathy Jensen (Iowa Massage Therapy Board); Michael Jordan (Oregon Board of Massage Therapists); Christine Kiely (New Hampshire Advisory Board of Massage Therapy); Daisy Millett (North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy); Dave Quiring (Florida Board of Massage Therapy); and Rick Rosen (Body Therapy Institute, NC). Rosen and Glenn were selected to fill the respective roles of interim Chair and interim Vice-Chair.

Nov 2005 Editorial in Massage Today by Cliff Korn.

“The FSMTB will provide the means for state boards to be in greater communication with one another. This networking will allow board members and staff to share the common issues that each agency deals with on a regular basis, as well as identify best practices to improve the effectiveness of their operations. FSMTB also will provide education, services and guidance to Member Boards that help them fulfill their statutory and ethical obligations.
The FSMTB will provide the means for state boards to be in greater communication with one another. This networking will allow board members and staff to share the common issues that each agency deals with on a regular basis, as well as identify best practices to improve the effectiveness of their operations. FSMTB also will provide education, services and guidance to Member Boards that help them fulfill their statutory and ethical obligations.

In the area of professional standards, FSMTB will take an active role in advocating for efforts to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage therapists, in order to facilitate professional mobility and to simplify and standardize the licensing process. FSMTB also will seek to improve the standards of massage therapy education, licensure, and practice through cooperation with other entities in the field that share this objective.”

“FSMTB was envisioned to be an entity to support individual state’s massage regulatory boards and to help enable reciprocity/portability. FSMTB will take an active role in advocating for efforts to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage therapists, in order to facilitate professional mobility and to simplify and standardize the licensing process. FSMTB also will seek to improve the standards of massage therapy education, licensure, and practice through cooperation with other entities in the field that share this objective.
…A letter from the American Massage Therapy Association suggesting such a move might divide the profession. The letter from the AMTA Board of Directors said in part, “…it was indicated that this federation would be creating an exam. Because the profession already has a test accepted by most states that currently regulate massage therapists, we encouraged this new federation to work with the NCBTMB and its new leadership to strengthen the existing exam.

The AMTA statement also said, “The AMTA Board would like to reaffirm our long-standing support of the concept of a federation of state massage therapy boards. This concept can provide a venue for states to communicate about the value of professional standards, fair regulation and improved portability of massage therapy.”

While actively exploring the option of creating a new massage therapy credentialing examination that would meet the specific needs of entry-level licensure at the state level, the FSMTB states that they recognize the scope and potential impact of such a choice and have initiated a dialogue with NCBTMB to explore the possibility of the two organizations working in collaboration to improve NCB’s existing exam program.

At the meeting in Albuquerque, representatives of state boards were elected to the following positions: President, Patty Glenn, LMP, OR; Vice President, Dave Quiring, LMT, FL; Treasurer, Chris Kiely, LMT. NH; Directors at Large, Kevin Snedden, LMT, MO; Georgia Clem, AR; and Rita Sax, ACMT, IL; Public Member, Vacant. The Board also voted to hire Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT as Executive Director, and established an administrative office at 3 Terrace Way, Greensboro, NC 27403-3660. The FSMTB’s web site is www.fsmtb.org.

Please watch future issues of Massage Today for current information on the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

References:

American Massage Therapy Association Board of Directors statement issued September 22, 2005.

Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ press release issued September 30, 2005.

2005 – The Shoe’s On The Other Foot (archive.org) Now By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

The homework has been done. Most other regulated professions, such as physical therapy, chiropractic, social work, etc., have such federations for their state boards to communicate through. In organizing this entity for massage boards, other similar organizations were closely studied. Several were visited, observed and interviewed. The best features of most other federations were taken and a consultant/lawyer for several other federations was retained as an advisor. Therefore, the creation of the massage Federation quickly was achieved, built from a solid foundation, based on what has worked for others, skillfully and carefully adapted to best benefit our uniqueness. This organization is off to a great start with enthusiastic, skilled and dedicated people at the helm. It needs and deserves the support of the entire profession for it to reach its positive potential. It’s my hope that all the stakeholders will come together and support the Federation for the good of the profession. Sadly, however, the “good of the profession” usually is based on the cash flow of the affected. Time will tell.

The creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and the MBLEx Exam, ended the NCBTMBs long run as the main exam for the massage profession. Losing that income nearly ended the NCBTMB. See also the History of the NCBTMB

2005 – Screen Shot from first website says:

New Organization Established to Advance Massage Therapy Regulation

A historic step in the evolution of the massage therapy field was made recently in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At a meeting on September 20-21, 2005, representatives from 23 of the 34 state boards that currently regulate the practice of massage therapy came together to formally establish the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). Also part of this meeting were 12 leading massage therapy educators and authors from around the country.

Similar in structure to associations of state boards that exist in most other professions, the mission of FSMTB is focused on public protection. As stated in its Bylaws, “The Federation shall support its Member Boards in their work to ensure that the practice of massage therapy is provided to the public in a safe and effective manner.”

During this spirited and highly productive meeting, the objectives of the organization were introduced, discussions on the key challenges and priorities in the field were conducted, Bylaws of the Federation were revised and adopted, and the first Board of Directors was elected. FSMTB has been incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Illinois, and application for IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status will be filed soon.

First and foremost, FSMTB will provide the means for state boards to be in greater communication with one another. This networking will allow board members and staff to share the common issues that each agency deals with on a regular basis, as well as identify best practices to improve the effectiveness of their operations. FSMTB will also provide education, services and guidance to Member Boards that help them fulfill their statutory and ethical obligations.

In the area of professional standards, FSMTB will take an active role in advocating for efforts to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage therapists, in order to facilitate professional mobility and to simplify and standardize the licensing process. FSMTB will also seek to improve the standards of massage therapy education, licensure, and practice through cooperation with other entities in the field that share this objective.

At its recent meeting, FSMTB observed that one of the areas of greatest concern expressed by both state massage therapy boards and massage therapy schools is the examination program administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). This examination was first offered in 1992 as a part of a voluntary certification option for practitioners; however, it is currently being utilized by the most of the regulated states as a mandatory requirement for licensure.

From the state board perspective, the continued reliance on this exam program is being questioned for a number of reasons, including: 1) long-standing problems with delivery of basic services, such as exam registration and approval of continuing education providers; 2) the fact that state boards have had no direct input into the design and administration of this examination program, nor any role in the policy making process of NCBTMB; and 3) inconsistencies between the eligibility requirements set by NCB for this exam — and the specific curriculum standards upheld in each state where massage therapy is regulated. These are not only logistical problems; they may also present issues of legal exposure for the state boards.

During the period leading up to the meeting in Albuquerque, FSMTB researched 10 different board federations in other professions, and conducted site visits to six of these groups. What was discovered is important to the future of massage therapy in this country: that the majority of well-run professions have a national licensing examination that is owned and operated by its association of state boards. This is the case in the fields of Nursing, Physical Therapy, Medicine, Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Social Work.

This is a very successful model that provides the highest level of quality assurance and public protection. Based on this demonstrable track record, FSMTB is actively exploring the option of creating a new massage therapy credentialing examination that would meet the specific needs of entry-level licensure at the state level.

Recognizing the scope and potential impact of such a choice, the leadership of the Federation has been gathering comprehensive information on examination development and administration needed to support its decision making process. As an alternative, FSMTB has initiated a dialogue with NCBTMB to explore the possibility of the two organizations working in collaboration to improve NCB’s existing exam program.

On the subject of examinations, the key message to all stakeholders in the massage therapy field is that FSMTB is aware there are fundamental problems with the existing structure of how minimum competency is determined — and that this organization is committed to finding and implementing the best solution that ensures public protection while respecting the needs of massage therapy schools and their graduates who seek licensure.

At the meeting in Albuquerque, representatives of state boards were elected to the following positions:

BOARD of DIRECTORS
President | Patty Glenn, LMP
Executive Director, Oregon Board of Massage Therapists
Vice President | Dave Quiring, LMT
Chair, Florida Board of Massage Therapy
Treasurer | Christine Kiely, LMT
Member, New Hampshire Massage Therapy Advisory Board
Director-At-Large | Georgia Clem
Executive Director, Arkansas State Board of Massage Therapy
Director-At-Large | Kevin Snedden, LMT
Chair, Missouri Massage Therapy Board
Director-At-Large | Rita A. Sax, LMT
Chair, Illinois Massage Licensing Board
Public Member | (open seat)
NOMINATING COMMITTEE
Kim Brewer, LMT
Member, South Carolina Advisory Panel for Massage/Bodywork
Ramona Chance, LMT
Ohio Massage Therapy Advisory Committee
Daisy Millett, LMBT
Chair, NC Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy

As one of its first tasks, the Board of Directors voted to hire Rick Rosen, MA, LMBT as the Federation’s Executive Director. Mr. Rosen is a 27-year veteran of the massage therapy field, with experience in the realms of education, private practice, government relations, and regulation. He is the founding chairman and a past member of the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy.

2006 – First Annual Meeting

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards is pleased to announce its First Annual Meeting and Conference. This meeting will be held from September 21st – 23rd at the Elms Resort and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. See Archive.org

2007 – As requested from the states, the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) was created from a job task analysis survey of more than 7,500 professionals in massage, bodywork and somatic practices.

2007 Progress Report. The MBLEx received an additional boost in October as Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), an early catalyst for FSMTB, donated $10,000 for the purpose of educating and recruiting state boards to adopt the exam.

March 26,2007 Press Release (archive.org) – To ensure the examination reflects current practice, a Job Task Analysis (JTA) Survey was developed. The Survey was deployed online from October 13, 2006 until February 1, 2007 and responses were received from 7,646 massage, bodywork and somatic professionals. A large majority of respondents (84%) think licensing should be required across the nation. The top five modalities/approaches used in practice in the United States are Swedish (87%); Deep Tissue (80%); Trigger Point Therapy (50%); Myofascial (50%); and Reflexology (42%).

2008 – First Candidate Handbook created. See Archive.org

2008

RESPONSE TO STAKEHOLDERS
(Overland Park, Kan. – July 10) – In recent days, following the executive level changes at the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), the FSMTB
has been inundated with communications asking that the FSMTB take a firm stand offering stability and guidance to the profession. The FSMTB shares the concerns of many stakeholders about a seemingly fragile infrastructure of the primary certification body for the massage and bodywork profession. However, we wish to reiterate that policies, actions and conduct of NCBTMB, or any private certification body are not under the control of licensing boards and agencies.

2009Press Release: New Leadership
“The delegate assembly, comprised of FSMTB member boards, elected Dennis Beye, LMT, and chair of the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy, as well as Jane Johnson, LMT and chair of the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy to serve on the Board of Directors, replacing Connie Shanks-Knight, LMT, and Christine Kiely, LMT, whose terms had expired. Kevin Snedden, LMT, and Susan Beam, LMBT, were both re-elected to the Board of Directors. Christine Kiely was elected to fill the one-year position vacated by Patty Glenn, LMP/LMT and executive director of the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists. Glenn’s tenure included a three-year span as president of FSMTB and one year as immediate past president.”

2009 – Press Release (archive.org )(Overland Park, Kan. – February 3) – The Board of Directors of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) wishes to acknowledge the leadership of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) in endorsing the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) as the best choice of a licensing exam that can lead to portability of massage practice.”

March 1, 2012: Press Release.(archive.org PDF) FSMTB Announces Proposal for New Continued Competence Model. In March 2011, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) announced the launch of a project to develop a new national program to provide state regulatory agencies with a centralized quality assurance process for the renewal of State licensure or State certification. As part of this process, the FSMTB convened a task force representing State regulatory boards and agencies,
educators and massage therapists.
In January 2012, the FSMTB board of directors accepted the task force recommendations for the Maintenance of Core Competence (MOCC) Program, summarized as follows:
 The regulatory community should maintain the mission focus on public protection. The best way to ensure public protection is to focus on the regulatory cornerstone of addressing core competencies for safe and professional practice. The regulation of requirements for Continuing Education (CE) that addresses content beyond entry level requirements for professional enhancement should move
to specifically focus on the Maintenance of Core Competence (MOCC) which more directly addresses protection of the public. Guidelines will be provided by the FSMTB to assist in the transition phase of moving from broad continuing education requirements to maintenance of core competence.
 Addressing regulatory needs and areas identified as requiring regulatory intervention and guidance,
the FSMTB is in a unique position to provide education on behalf of member boards. FSMTB will provide a no-fail educational component in the form of maintenance of competence modules with assessment that will be taken at the learner’s own pace. Hourly requirements would move to
competency requirements. Course content will be specifically established by the regulatory community and enhanced by entities such as law enforcement, insurance companies, federal agencies, and other stakeholders in the profession. Public safety data and disciplinary information would be
directly relevant to the State massage and bodywork regulatory community.
 The Task force acknowledges a great need to enhance and elevate the profession and poses that this
is the primary role of membership organizations and voluntary certification programs.

2011 MOC Guide (archive.org PDF)

In January 2012, the FSMTB board of directors accepted the task force recommendations for the Maintenance of Core Competence (MOCC) Program, summarized as follows:

Recommendation 1
Licensure renewal requirements focus on public protection and maintenance of core competencies. All therapists complete a required educational program for re-licensure focused on public safety issues.
Recommendation 2
A transition phase addressing maintenance of core competence as well as current continuing education for professional enhancement will be needed.
FSMTB will provide State Boards and Agencies with guidelines to assist in the transition phase.
Recommendation 3
Professional enhancement and continuing education is voluntarily attained at the discretion of the therapist and not mandated for licensure renewal.

ABMP’s response: GROWING AND CHANGING 03/09/2012

The FSMTB’s announcement leaves that question unanswered. Instead, the profession could be getting a competency-assurance program that is based on the outline of the MBLEx. In essence, FSMTB (through its task force) has said, “continuing education is not our thing; we need to ensure continued competence.” I have for a long, long time argued with chapters, organizations, and individuals that we need to stop using state regulation of our profession as a means for professional development. We can’t and shouldn’t legislate professional development; we can and should legislate competence. More isn’t always better—using state regulations to impart some expectation of “what a professional should be” is misguided

 Laura Allen’s blog about the FSMTB program and announcement. 

2011 – The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) announced it has launched a project to develop a model practice act for the massage profession. The FSMTB board of directors has appointed a model practice act task force comprised of representatives from the regulatory community of the FSMTB member boards and agencies. Massage Magazine.

2012 – MASSAGE EDUCATION GROUP MAKES RECOMMENDATIONS IN RESPONSE TO FSMTB PROPOSAL CONCERNS April 2, 2012 Massage Magazine

2013 – MASSAGE COALITION PREPARING DATA ON ENTRY LEVEL EDUCATION January 14, 2013 Massage Magazine.

2014 – Massage Practice Act developed by FSMTB

MASSAGE EDUCATION ALLIANCE SHARES FEEDBACK ON MODEL PRACTICE ACTAugust 15, 2014. The model practice act was born of three years’ work by an FSMTB task force comprising representatives from regulatory boards and agencies. An initial public comment period ended in June. Massage Magazine

2014 – an agreement was achieved between the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and the MBLEx being the only examination used for state licensure in the United States.