by Marie Anthony
On Oct. 3, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) announced a decision to standardize the massage therapy licensure exam to the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
- As of Feb. 1, 2015, the NCBTMB will no longer offer a licensure exam, and as of Nov. 1, 2014, no further applications for the NCBTMB's exam will be accepted.
- The MBLEx, administered by the FSMTB, is now the sole standardized licensing exam for the massage therapy profession, achieving the mutual goal of the national massage therapy organizations and supporting professional mobility.
- The NCBTMB will focus on providing certification through its advanced Board Certification (BCTMB), which will be the highest attainable certification credential level in the profession.
- The NCBTMB will continue to define and champion standards in the profession and education through its Approved Provider Program for schools nationally.
Licensure versus certification
Each of these two organizations has a distinct mission-the FSMTB's is to support its member boards in their work of protecting the public, while the NCBTMB focuses on defining and advancing high standards in massage and bodywork. The FSMTB will support and deliver the MBLEx; the NCBTMB will support and deliver the BCTMB certification.
Passing the FSMTB's exam is one component of licensure requirements to enter the massage therapy profession, in most states. It is intended to protect the public from harm by establishing entry-level standards for the profession and ensuring an individual meets those standards. The FSMTB created the MBLEx as a licensing exam, with licensure and the needs of regulatory agencies in mind.
The NCBTMB's certification grants recognition, and is a certificate intended to elevate the massage therapy profession by setting and upholding professional standards. This is a process owned by the NCBTMB, which will be accountable to its certificants and not to regulatory state or national boards. The NCBTMB uses its own exam to determine if a massage therapist meets certification standards. The NCBTMB's Board Certification will be the highest attainable certification credential level in the massage therapy profession.
For students interested in attaining an advanced degree, Board Certification can be helpful. Take, for example, an Associate of Health Science degree program designed for actively credentialed or licensed health care professionals currently working in their fields, such as the one offered by Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This entire degree requires 61 credits, 30 of which are awarded with proof of current Board Certification and employment in the field.
The Board Certified Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (BCTMB) program covers the following areas:
- Massage and Bodywork Techniques and Application: 43 to 46 percent
- Evaluation, Planning and Documentation: 34 to 37 percent
- Communication: 10 to 12 percent
- Law and Ethics: 8 to 10 percent
The overall aim of certification is to develop and hone massage therapists' business, professional and customer service skills.
The MBLEx covers the following areas:
- Client Assessment, Reassessment and Treatment Planning: 17 percent
- Ethics, Boundaries, Laws and Regulations: 15 percent
- Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques That Manipulate Soft Tissue: 14 percent
- Guidelines for Professional Practice: 13 percent
- Pathology, Contraindications, Areas of Caution and Special Populations: 13 percent
- Anatomy and Physiology: 12 percent
- Kinesiology: 11 percent
- Overview of Massage and Bodywork Modalities, Culture and History: 5 percent
How this affects you
Due to this significant change in the industry, massage schools will now focus their student preparedness on passing the MBLEx, no longer having the need to prepare students for both exams. According to Joe Rongo, massage education curriculum director at ASIS Massage Education, which operates four massage schools in Arizona, "We are now focusing all resources and attention to training and preparing students for a single licensure exam at the beginning of the program and will continue through the end of the program. This will save time for both instructors and students."
Many massage schools are now including the cost of test preparation in tuition, as well as the application fee for the exam. This is great news for students, as it shows schools are reinforcing success from the start until the end of the time they have with students.
This change could prove to be a positive one for the industry.