Professional Organizations for Licensed Massage Therapists
No matter what profession you’re in, continuing education and professional development are essential to your success. Software developers take online courses to hone their skills; teachers go back to school for master’s degrees; and digital marketers attend conferences to learn from experts and peers alike. When it comes to the healthcare and allied health professions, though, continuing education is particularly important. The human body is infinitely complex, and it’s important that health professionals never stop growing and learning. As a licensed massage therapist, then, you know that you need to continue to develop as a professional. In addition to massage continuing education courses (massage CEUs), though, there are other ways to grow within your field.
If you’re getting ready to take the MBLEx exam, you’ve likely read a bit about it — including the organization that administers it. When it comes to massage therapy, though, there are literally dozens of massage organizations nationwide. These range in size, structure, and complexity from tiny local- and state-based organizations up to some of the largest national groups in the United States.
Joining these professional organizations offers you opportunities for personal and professional growth. You’ll have the chance to connect with your peers, make contact with experts in your field, and stay up to date on the latest news related to massage and bodywork.
Let’s take a look at some of the largest national organizations for massage. We’ll cover both professional development organizations, as well as those focused on research and philanthropy. Let’s get started.
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)
Founded in 1992, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) is a private nonprofit organization. The mission statement of the NCBTMB is to “define and advance the highest standards” in bodywork and massage. In the pursuit of this mission, the NCBTMB offers an NCBTMB Board Certification credential, along with maintaining a list of Assigned Schools and Approved Providers.
The organization’s origins date back several decades. In the late 1980’s, members of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA, see below) began to discuss the potential of creating a national, standardized exam for massage therapists. At the time, only a handful of states offered any sort of massage therapy regulation, and there was no standardization across states. The first NCBTMB licensing exam was created in the early 1990’s, with many states using the exam as a means of evaluating new applicants for licensing by the mid-90’s.
The NCBTMB continued to be a national standard in many states for the next two decades. In 2014, however, the NCBTMB and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB, see below determined that FSMTB’s MBLEx test would take the place of the NCBTMB exam as the national exam. Rather than offering a national massage exam, the NCBTMB now focuses on Board Certification, Assigned Schools, and Approved Providers.
As a massage therapy professional, you can consider applying for NCBTMB board certification. In order to qualify you’ll need to:
- Complete at least 750 hours of education
- Log a minimum of 250 hours of hands-on massage experience
- Pass a background check
- Firmly commit to opposing human trafficking
- Possess a current, valid CPR certificate
Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) was founded in 2005 as a nonprofit organization. Its mission statement is to assist its state member massage therapy boards in ensuring that massage therapy is practiced professionally and responsibly from state to state.
The FSMTB began in 2005 as the result of a meeting of various members of the Associated Body & Massage Professionals (ABMP, more information below). Their goal was to create an alliance across a number of states with the aim of creating a more cohesive regulatory community nationwide.
One of the biggest concerns that the FSMTB identified was the need for a standardized, national licensing examination. Over the course of time, the FSMTB eventually developed the MBLEx exam. The MBLEx, or Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, is now used all across the country in 46 out of 49 regulated jurisdictions (including the vast majority of states in addition to the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico).
Passing the MBLEx is a requirement for licensure in the vast majority of U.S. states. To learn more about the content contained on the MBLEx, click here.
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) considers itself to be the nation’s largest nonprofit professional association for massage therapists, students, and schools. The AMTA works to career guidance, networking, community, discounts, publications, education, and liability insurance to its members. It also focuses on promoting massage to the public at large, as well as helping to fund and support massage research.
The AMTA began as a small group of massage therapists in 1943. Now, 75 years later, it has grown into a membership association with more than 80,000 members nationwide. The national organization is led by a board of directors, all of whom are elected by the organization’s nationwide membership. The AMTA also maintains more than 50 local chapters throughout the country, allowing for individual participation on the local level.
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) is a national association involving the membership of individual therapists. The ABMP was founded in 1987 and has since become the largest massage therapy membership organization nationwide.
ABMP gave birth to the FSMTB, which now administers the MBLEx exam. Additionally, ABMP offers business and liability insurance to massage therapists tailored to meet the needs of massage professionals. Members receive additional benefits as well, including things like discounts, access to a free website for their business, a subscription to Massage & Bodywork Magazine, and ongoing legislative advocacy.
Both students and licensed massage therapists are eligible to join ABMP. For more information on how to become a member of the organization, click here.
Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE)
The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) consists of a nine-member board of directors. The board members serve two-year terms, and work to govern the direction of the organization
The AFMTE is guided by the notion that education is central to massage therapy, and therefore works to strengthen education within the field of massage. As they state on their website, their vision is for a “credentialed instructor” teaching every class on massage therapy and bodywork.
The AFMTE believes that massage education needs its own dedicated advocate in order for the field of bodywork to continue to develop. In order to facilitate this, the AFMTE works to promote a National Teacher Education Standards Project; advocate for its members in dealings with other organizations; offer educational opportunities; and generally strengthen and improve education in the realm of massage therapy and bodywork.
For more information on membership with the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, click here.
Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation has been recognized since 2002 as a specialized massage accrediting agency by the United States Department of Education. At its core, the COMTA works to accredit both entire schools and institutions and well as individual programs in the world of bodywork and massage therapy. The COMTA also offers such accreditation for esthetician and skin care programs.
The COMTA was first formed in order to promote the quality and integrity of education within the massage field. The organization is now a member of the Association of Specialization and Programmatic Accreditors, or ASPA. The commission offers so-called Curriculum Competencies, with the goal of ensuring high standards in massage education across the country.
To browse the COMTA directory of member institutions, click here
National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists (NANMT)
The National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists (NANMT) began in 1992. The organization was founded by a registered nurse who was also a trained massage therapist. She identified a need within the profession for an organization of nurses who were focused on massage therapy.
According to the organization’s founder, one of her largest inspirations was her awareness of the power of touch. As she began to incorporate her massage training into her work as a nurse in a hospital setting, she started to realize how well the two professions fit together. The organization began as a small, statewide organization in Georgia, but quickly grew into a national organization with a large membership. The NANMT has been a key player in promoting the benefits of massage, and also helped to win a legal decision which determined that massage is within the scope of practice for nurses.
The learn more about the National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists (NANMT), visit their website.
Clinical Massage Association (CMA)
The Clinical Massage Association (CMA) offers classes and education in clinical massage. Its mission involves providing medically-focused inpatient and outpatient massage education for massage therapists, caregivers, bodywork professionals, patients, and patients’ families. The CMA also works to promote greater cooperation between licensed massage therapists and other health care practitioners.
American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA®)
The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA)® is focused specifically on supporting approaches to health and wellbeing as evinced in Asian bodywork therapy, utilizing Eastern philosophical approaches. The AOBTA works to provide both education and opportunities for networking to its various members around the country.
The AOBTA® was first formed in 1989 when various associations related to Asian bodywork opted to come together into a larger organization. The organization maintains a list of Asian approaches to bodywork that fall under its umbrella, including acupressure, shiatsu, tuina, medical qigong, and more.
There are currently more than 1,000 active members in the organization. The benefits of membership include credentialing, access to affordable liability insurance, a member newsletter, workshops at both the regional and national level, and the opportunity for professional development.
American Medical Massage Association (AMMA)
Founded in 1998, the American Medical Massage Association (AMMA) was original created in order to serve the needs of medical massage therapists. In order to achieve its goal of promoting medical massage therapy as an allied health profession, the AMMA advocates for high professional standards, quality education, and rigorous testing.
One of the stated goals of the AMMA is to bring about the necessary circumstances such that medical massage becomes a valid, recognized therapy in health care facilities around the country. The organization also works to maintain the integrity of the medical massage profession.
To learn more about the American Medical Massage Association, visit their website
Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF)
The Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) works to promote massage therapy as an evidence-based treatment modality, while aiming to make massage available to everyone. In this vein, the Massage Therapy Foundation engages in the advancement of knowledge and education for licensed massage therapists by supporting education and research within the field.
Founded in 1990 by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the MTF is committed to the advancement of massage therapy as a profession through the use of scientific research. The MTF derives part of its funding from support from the AMTA but accepts outside funding as well.
MassageNet Research Network
The MassageNet Research Network was founded in 2009 with funding from the Massage Therapy Foundation. The mission of MassageNet is to encourage and develop an open dialogue between massage educators, research, students, and licensed massage therapists.
The MassageNet Research Network is unique in that it is a practice-based research network (PBRN). While medical research data is commonly collected in a laboratory environment, practice-based research (such as that promoted by MassageNet) comes from the experience of clinical practitioners. By connecting researchers with licensed massage therapists, researchers are better able to access information related to actual massage settings — rather than being limited to the results available to them in a controlled laboratory environment.
Prior to the establishment of MassageNet, most practice-based research networks focused on more mainstream medical modalities. MassageNet was created to encourage the assimilation of practitioner data related to complementary and alternative medicine.
Licensed Massage Therapists
While joining a massage organization is helpful for professional development, it’s first necessary in the vast majority of states to pass the MBLEx exam. Studying for the MBLEx can be daunting. But, passing the test is simply a matter of taking the right approach. Bamboo™ offers unlimited MBLEx practice tests, animated review courses, and more. Click here to take a look at our affordable pricing.