Thursday, October 22, 2009

Energy Terminology Cleanup

After reviewing a lot of comments regarding Polarity Therapy and the MTBOK, I believe most of the issues relate to a mis-interpretation of the MTBOK itself, its impact, and the intent. We have made some changes which we hope will resolve the concerns, and offer the following additional information:

Impact and Intent: The MTBOK is “just” a body of knowledge for the Massage Therapy profession – it does not now, nor will it, have any legal force of law or regulation. As it stands now, the MTBOK does not in any way suggest that other professions such as Polarity Therapy belong under Massage Therapy, nor does it say or imply that Polarity Therapists must or even should be Massage Therapists. Of course, even if that was in the document (it is not) it wouldn’t matter since the MTBOK does not change law or regulation.

Although the MTBOK does include work including energy in the scope of practice, it clearly states in the section description (Section 130) that the therapist must have specific post graduate training where necessary or required. The MTBOK recognizes that although there may be some overlap between distinct professions this does not imply that a trained professional in one must be in the other.
Although the Scope and Description sections of the MTBOK are intended to cover the full breadth of the Massage Therapy profession (and does not include other professions such as Polarity Therapists), the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) section is even more narrowly focused – it is specific to entry level Massage Therapists (and not other professions such as Polarity Therapists).

In the MTBOK, the section relating to energy actually only requires that an (entry level) massage therapist should know broad theoretical frameworks of several different energy approaches, and although it did mention Poles, and included the word 'polarity,' Polarity Therapy itself was not mentioned, nor is there a skill or ability required for it. Nevertheless, since this area has apparently caused some concern, particularly for people in Polarity Therapy and other energy focused professions, we have made some specific changes which will appear in the 2nd draft:

• The term “Polarity” has been removed from the document
• The KSA section originally titled “Energetic Approaches” has been changed to “Energetic Theory”
• The bulleted item under Skills and Abilities has been changed to read “Identify personal perception of energy and one common theory of energetics.”

Let me reiterate one key point – the MTBOK does not now, nor will it suggest or recommend (much less mandate) that polarity therapists be massage therapists. I’m not sure why this concern even got started. Regardless, I hope that this explanation as well as the document changes noted above will help to clear up any misunderstanding.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

MTBOK Stakeholder Input Session was a huge success!

You may know that on Thursday, September 24th we held an MTBOK Stakeholder Input Session open to the public in Orlando, FL. We filled a double room, and senior representatives from all of the MTBOK Steward organizations (AMTA, ABMP, AMTA COS, FSMTB, MTF, and NCBTMB) were present.

The idea of holding ad open to the public meeting at the AMTA convention site gave a lot of massage therapists the opportunity to participate just as we had hoped. I did see a number of name tags with the "Public" identifier on them and I talked to one attendee who had come a long way to attend - so I'm happy that we got outside attendance.. We also were told that more than 40 attendees had returned their registrations for CE classes to attend, so we know we had interest!

I wish I had exact attendance, but I don't. ... I do know we had more than 100 since all the chairs were occupied, and we had some standing, but I don't have an exact count. Its not bad that we could get a number nearly 10% of the total convention attendees! I think the work is very important, and I'm glad that we have so many people willing to tell us what they think.

All of our Task Force members (see "Who we are" at were present, and after a brief introduction, we broke into 4 large groups with 2 Task Force members recording and facilitating the stakeholder input at each group.

We came away from the session enthused and energized, and from my perspective moving around the room, I suspect that a lot of the attendees felt the same.  The positive energy and interest was palpable, and the interaction was great.

What we got out of the session far exceeded our expectations, and we couldn't be more delighted. We spent the next morning (and some of that night) organizing and going over the notes from the sessions. The Task Force facilitators presented each of the notes they took, we discussed each, and talked about how of the comments would impact the MTBOK itself.

In the end, we have a list of updates we are making, and several items that need to be further researched and/or discussed before we take final action.

We also shared a number of less specific thoughts from the meeting - how the participants seemed to feel about the job thus far, and what "themes" we saw as a result of the discussion. 

If any of you reading this were in attendance, Id love to hear what you thought.  Everybody keep in mind that although this was our only scheduled in-person input session, we have a simple and easy way to comment on the MTBOK itself via an online form.  Both the MTBOK itself, and access to the comment form are available at our website:

Im working now on organizing and tracking the comments and changes we receive.  Over the next week or so Im hoping to catch up on responding to comments we have already received.  Our intention is to respond to all comments... at least as long as the volume of input can be managed. So if you have provided input and haven't heard back in the next couple of weeks - let me know.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some MTBOK Clarifications

Im pleased that we've begun to get responses already on the draft MTBOK, and its just what we are hoping for.  Its also clear that the respondants are passionate about the profession, and have given thought to their responses. 

As a task force of 8 trying to represent such a broad complex profession, we think its vital that we get feedback from the community.  Thats why we have tried to make it easy to do so, why we have scheduled two drafts for review (the next update will be just after the first of the year) and why we are holding a public input session in Orlando, FL next week.

In reading over your comments though I can tell there is some misunderstanding about the approach we have taken and the impact of the MTBOK (at least in the near term).  So I thought I would clear some of that up. Please keep in mind that Im going a little out on a limb here because Im not actually a member of the Task Force... but if they take issue with what I say here, I will relay that back to you as well.

  • First, the MTBOK does not, and will not have force of law or regulation.  Which means that whatever the final product includes will not change any State or local laws or regulations, at least in the near term. Over time we believe that the educators and regulators, etc will come to value a single, profession wide body of knowledge built by and for the profession as a valuable single source of authoritative information. We also believe that the reason for the wide range of requirements for certification/licensure across the country is a direct result of organizations individually trying to cope without a comprehensive, profession-wide adopted standard. We think the establishment of the MTBOK will help over time resolve a lot of the inconsistencies that you experience from jurisdiction to jurisdiction across the country.
  • Some people have expressed concern that the required knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) are too much for an entry level massage therapist. The Task Force believes that the MTBOK needs to grow with the knowledge and science that supports the profession, and has included some new areas that we believe therapists, even at the entry level, need to be exposed to.  As in most of the knowledge areas, entry level therapists would not be expected to have in depth knowledge but would be expected to know what it is and what the general impact is on their work. This helps position a Massage Therapist to better guide their career and continuing education over time.
  • The MTBOK is to be created by and for the profession.  Which means that it is supposed to represent what our profession believes is the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform their work. We want and need your input.  Id suggest that as you look through the document, your approach should be to consider whether or not individual KSAs should be something that all therapists need to know and or do, not the details of implementation. If you disagree on something, tell us about it and why using the comment form.
  • The task force is trying to be sure that the variety of work that is being performed by massage therapists is included in the scope and KSA requirements. Our field is broad, and the MTBOK hopefully represents that well.  We are focused on Massage Therapy, and there is no attempt to try to bring other allied professions under the MTBOK.  In fact, we have tried to invite non Massage Therapy organizations to comment so that any issues may be resolved before it is finalized.  Since one of the ways a profession gets widely recognized is through the development and existence of a Body of Knowledge, we would encourage other allied professions to develop their own.
  •  Finally, the specific competencies (in terms of Knowledge Skills and Abilities) in the draft version of the MTBOK are for entry level therapists, and do not include the additional KSAs that are required as a massage therapist advances or specializes.  The method of documenting these are not addressed in phase 1 of the MTBOK at all, and this work will be done later as appropriate.  Phase 1 specifically notes that some of the work performed by massage therapists requires additional knowledge, certification and/or licensure.  So, for example, although we believe all massage therapists should be exposed to non-western energy theory and the existence of meridians and points associated with these, it does not mean that this is adequate for a massage therapist to practice reflexology or acupressure without the appropriate additional study, certification and/or licensure.
I hope you will keep these points in mind as you read the draft MTBOK and that you do let us know what you agree or don't agree with.The effects of this wont be immediate, but I hope you will agree that the end result will significantly strengthen the foundation on which our amazing profession is built.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Draft of the MTBOK Released

Today we released the first draft of the MTBOK content.  Its in a downloadable pdf document available at Our press release is also available there.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the MTBOK is intended to be by and for our community, and we want to hear what you think and hope you will provide us with focused comments.

Because there are lots of potential comment-ors out there, and only 8 n the Task Force, we developed an automated comment/suggestion collection form that we think will make it easy for you to give us comments and still allow us to manage the volume of comments we get in.

We do want to hear from you.  Although we ask that each comment be as focused as possible on specific areas in the document, you can submit as many as you need, and I think its pretty quick to do it.  The link to the collection form in in the MTBOK pdf itself right on the first page.

I think its a great document, and I hope it generates good feedback so that its not only better, but truly represents our wonderful profession.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Stakeholders Event and Flyers

In case you'd like the flyer for our September 24th Stakeholder input session, you can download it here:

By the Way, in case anyone isnt clear about who our "Stakeholders" are, it is anyone who is involved in Massage Therapy: practitioners, schools and educators, businesses, associations, allied health care professionals etc... so if you are reading this, you most likely are one!

While this session is a great opportunity to meet and talk with the full MTBOK Task Force, you will be able to provide comments on the content as it develops via an online form and other means. We are hoping to also be together at the Highlighting conference in Seattle next year, when Phase 1 of the MTBOK is finishing up

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stakeholder Input Session in Orlando, FL

Just a clarification - you DONT have to be an ATMA member or actually attending the convention to get into this session.

Flyer for upcoming opportunity to meet with the MTBOK Task Force

Im proud that the MTBOK is  under the joint stewardship of six of the major professional organizations relating to Massage Therapy.  I think its unprecedented, or at least rare, but it is great that these organizations all recognize the importance of the MTBOK.

All of them also help us in many ways, and we try to take advantage of this to help without appearing to favor one or the other - every one of the Steward organizations is an important part of the MTBOK.

Weve decided to take advantage of the large gathering of MT professionals at the convention in Orlando, Fl at the end of this month.  As you may have read before, we have an event scheduled for 9/24/09 from 4:00-5:55pm at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort at the AMTA National Convention in Orlando, FL.

I hope that if you are at the convention you will set aside this time to meet with the Task Force, get an overview of the project and to provide input to the MTBOK content which will be released in a first draft on September 15th.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Countdown to the first draft release!

Watch for the upcoming release of the MTBOK first draft on September 15th!

This will be a draft all set up to make focused comments easy for you and easy for us to work with all your comments.  Remember, this will be your chance to participate and help bring life to the MTBOK.

We will be publishing a link to a site where you can provide your comments on the document.  You will be able to submit as many comments as you like, but we will ask that each comment is focused on either a particular part of the document or a specific content item.

We also intend to provide a fillable pdf form as an alternate to the online collection instrument.

I look forward to hearing from a lot of you!

Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK) Phase 1 Upcoming Events

(The following post was originally posted on 8/24/2009 here:

You may have noticed my absence for a couple of weeks, and I'm sorry about that. I don't expect it to continue. Right now the MTBOK Task Force is keeping themselves, and me, quite busy.

As you may know, we are working to create Phase 1 of the first Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK) created by and for the Massage Therapy community. Although the content we develop is independent, we are sponsored by six "Steward" organizations who have pooled their resources and joined to get the project going. One of the mandates they gave us was to strive to be as open and inclusive as possible. To that end, we are planning on two full draft versions which will be made publicly available, one in September and one shortly after the new year.

I'm proud of the draft that the Task Force is putting together. They've done an extraordinary job, and put a lot of time into it. However, we all feel that the job itself has really just begun, and no one on the Task Force thinks the MTBOK is finished, or for that matter even "ready for prime time."

But this is how we must proceed, because we want this document to be a consensus of the full Massage Therapy community, not just the Task Force. So this document is a first draft - rough, and not fully flushed out - but it does show you the direction we are moving in and how we are thinking. So it's the perfect time to start getting, analyzing, and incorporating the views of the community we represent.

We hope you will read the document well and provide us your comments, corrections and suggestions. This is the best time to do it, because the farther "upstream" a change is made the easier it is to make and the more powerful the "downstream" impact is.

We are now creating ways in which we can facilitate YOUR ability to provide suggestions and comments while we ensure that our small group (eight members working on this project as part-time volunteers) can efficiently manage a large volume of input. I hope you will like the comment collection options, and that you will try to comply with them. For us to be able to manage the comments, we will be asking for focused comments: one theme at a time, and that you target the specific place in the MTBOK as much as possible. Our automated collection instruments will help with this by allowing you to identify section number and line number of the area that you are commenting about. Of course, our goal is to get all of your comments, so you may provide as many as you wish, and this methodology will give us the best chance of keeping up with all of the comments we receive.

I've gone on too long about this for one blog, but please keep the following points in mind:

1. We will issue a first draft of the MTBOK content for public review and comment on 9/15/2009.
2. We will issue a second draft for public review and comment shortly after the first of the year.
3. The final phase 1 MTBOK content will be released in early May of 2010.
4. After the first draft is released, comments will be accepted at any time through the final release. Although you will see deadlines for comment submission, this will only relate to whether your comment will be able to be considered for the next release.

One other opportunity: for those of you who will attend the AMTA National Conference in Orlando, FL this September, we will be conducting a session designed to hear your comments in person. I hope we will see you there!

Finally, you can see from the above that we are both sponsored and independent. The MTBOK Steward organizations won't see the draft before anyone else. This blog is hosted on an ABMP site, and AMTA is assisting us with an in-person activity at their convention. I could (and probably will at some time) go on and on about the unconditional support all the Stewards are providing for the project, but that will be for a later blog...

MTBOK - What's Going On Right Now?

(This post originally appeared on 7/20/2009 here:

Three weeks into the project and the Task Force is hard at work, and keeping me busy as well! You may recall that the first phase of the MTBOK development is addressing only the foundational elements. The task force is charged with developing a fully vetted (reviewed, commented upon by the stakeholders and updated to include resulting changes) MTBOK which contains the following:

- The Scope of Practice
- A description of the field
- the competencies of an entry level massage therapist expressed in terms of the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) they must possess.

The Task Force has divided into two teams to focus on these issues, and are currently gathering data from books, job analysis data, State laws and regulations, educational institutions and allied health fields. Its a tremendously busy time for them - not only are they crashing to do this work, but since this is only a part time effort for them. They must also keep up with their normal work and family needs. If you have read their brief bios (see "Who We Are" at the website) you will know that they already had a lot on their plate.

Their job is complicated by an aggressive timetable so that there is time for the community to participate in and comment on the MTBOK developing content. Our goal is to have an early draft out fairly quickly to help get the community up-to-date, involved and participating. The Task Force will continue adding to their work during the comment period, and then follow up with analysis and discussion resulting from the comments they receive; then right back to work to prepare a final draft for one more review and final presentation of results in May of next year.

More on the schedule and associated activities later. Right now I want you to know that you will have opportunities to provide constructive comments and input to the process. I hope you will jump on the train to make sure this a body of knowledge built by and for the profession. We want you to be included in the process.

On MTBOK Independence

(This blog originally appeared on 7/20/2009 here:

Early July is the right time to talk about independence, at least in this country - don't you think?

You have read some about the fact that the MTBOK is sponsored by six organizations well known to the profession (see the previous post with our Press Release.) In a later post I will talk a little about the many other related organizations who we will continue to include in our goal to be as inclusive as possible while we build the MTBOK. But today I wanted to say a little about the other side of the coin - the concern that one organization or another may have undue influence over our work.

I'm happy to say that in the establishment of the MTBOK development project the Steward organizations were aware of this possibility, and took steps to be sure this didn't happen. In the "ground rules" set forth by the Stewards is the following agreed upon concept:

"Independence - The initiative should be conducted by a taskforce independent from the control or undue influence of any stakeholder group or other professional entity. As part of its independence, the taskforce should share its results with the profession broadly, and should not seek “approval” or “ratification” from any stakeholder group."

In my dealings with the Steward representatives, I can tell you that these aren't just empty words - they have certainly taken them to heart.

I felt I should talk about this early on because I want to be sure you don't think the MTBOK is being driven by the agenda of any individual or group of organizations. In this way I hope to build your support for the project, and get your participation as we put out our work for vetting and comment.

So - our Steward organizations have charged us with being as open and inclusive as possible (more about these later) while assuring us that the products we produce will not come under undue influence.

Of course, we all have opinions, some of them strong, and I do expect to hear a lot of them. Its our goal to listen to them all, and then produce a baseline Phase 1 of the MTBOK. It isn't going to be easy, but the strength of an independent MTBOK is that it will be built by representatives of the broad community based upon input from as much of the profession - and allied fields - as possible.

If people participate, and a solid foundation for the MTBOK is built, it can become a living Body of Knowledge that grows with and in response to the needs of the full range of stakeholders.

And that's our vision, and how independence contributes to its success.

More about where we are in the start up process next time.

Welcome to the MTBOK Project Manager's Blog!

(The following blog was originally posted on 7/08/2009 here:

Hello all! My name is Chip Hines, and I'm the Project Manager for the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK) Project. Im tremendously excited by this work which puts me in the middle of something that I think will provide great value to the Massage Therapy profession. At the same time, I get to work with a group of very talented and energetic folks who are creating the ground work for the project - a Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge.

A great deal of background work has brought us to this place, and I intend to use this blog to catch you up, and to help keep you informed.

The current topic is that the MTBOK Stewards have issued a press release to let you know that the members of the Task Force have been selected. Ive copied the press release below so that you can see what they said and who are the task force members.

But first, I want you to know that there is a lot of work that has already been done, and that the entire principle upon which this effort rests is on inclusiveness. Although the results of the task force - the MTBOK itself - will be independent of any specific organization, the project is sponsored by a group of "Stewards" from 6 of the major Massage Therapy related organizations.

As our work progresses over the next year, we will be offering both formal and informal opportunities for review and input from the full Massage Therapy and allied communities. But more about all this in future blogs. You can learn more by going to our website at

Here is the press release issued just yesterday by the MTBOK Stewards:

Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge Task Force Announced

July 7, 2009

The Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge (MTBOK) Stewards are pleased to announce the volunteer MTBOK Task Force member selections have been made. Every attempt has been made to select a dynamic group of individuals who together represent what may be considered the broadly defined field of massage therapy.

Each of the MTBOK Task Force members were chosen for their experience, credentials and expertise as well as having a working understanding of at least one of the major areas impacting the current and future growth of the Massage Therapy profession. The members of the MTBOK Task Force are:

Megan Lavery

Kevin Pierce

Susan Salvo

Michael Shea

Steve Schenkman

Dawn Schmidt

Nancy Schmitt

JoEllen Sefton

The Task Force is responsible for initiating a profession-wide and unifying effort to articulate a common body of knowledge for the profession. Under the guidance of Chip Hines, a PMI certified Project Manager Professional, the Task Force members will begin work on the foundational elements of the MTBOK project in July, 2009. These foundational elements include:

* Definition of massage therapy

o Describing the Field (primarily to enhance understanding and appreciation of the profession by those outside the profession)
o Scope of Practice
o Terminology

* Competencies of an entry-level massage therapist (knowledge, skills, abilities)

The MTBOK project is expected to complete the foundational elements phase of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge initiative in approximately one year.

Six organizations have agreed to jointly steward the MTBOK initiative. They are American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), AMTA Council of Schools, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), Massage Therapy Foundation, Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) and National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).

All stakeholders in Massage Therapy are encouraged to follow the progress of the project, and to provide comments, suggestions and make contributions. Specific instructions will be forthcoming as the project gets started this summer. Task Force bios and other MTBOK updates are available at