The Core: Entry-Level Analysis Project Report

Notepad with eyeglasses and penThe Coalition of National Massage Therapy Organizations which includes seven of the largest massage organizations in the United States has just released a joint statement on the “The Core: Entry-Level Analysis Project Report”.

You can download the joint statement from the website here:

The actual report will be released on February 10th and I’m excited to see it.

The aim of the project was to define what an entry-level massage therapist must learn to provide safe and competent massage and to come up with the minimum number of hours required to teach those skills.

Until now, no one has ever defined what an entry level massage therapist does using research and defensible methodology. As a result education standards across states has been all over the map, both in terms of content areas and hours of training.

While this report is not the final word on what we do and what training we need, it certainly is the first real step forward in getting consensus and establishing agreed on standards. The fact that seven of the most prominent organizations, all with competing interests, were able to jointly support the process and endorse the final report is nothing less than a miracle. I think the leaders of those organizations deserve a pat on the back for bravely entering the process when the outcome could have ultimately be detrimental to all of them. Those organizations are:

  • Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE)
  • American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
  • Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF)
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)

Also a big congratulations to the seven member work team headed by Anne Williams. There was an unimaginable amount of work involved in analyzing enormous data sets (including tens of thousands of job task analysis, surveys of therapists, educators, clinic owners, the public and other research data), translating that research into massage knowledge or skill areas, breaking down each of those into detailed learning objectives, and then analyzing thousands of points of feedback from massage professionals to ultimately determine the number of training hours required for an entry level therapist. The fact that the report was completed in just 21 months is unbelievable really. I thought it was way too ambitious, but they did it. I’m sure those seven people will be happy to have a life again. I’m also impressed with the innovative learning taxonomy that was created as a result of this project and that will likely serve all vocational schools moving into the future.

This project has been the topic of debate pretty much ever since it was started 21 months ago. It’s given bloggers and Facebook pundits lots of food for discussion, rants, and prognostications. There’s nothing people hate more than change and this report will definitely make people change the way they think about our role as massage professionals and the way we think about education. I expect to see a great deal of ranting in our profession over the coming month. The details contained in the report are somewhat incidental. I hope people see it for what it is: The next step forward in meaningful evolution of massage as a profession.

ELAP: Ready for Review and Feedback

You may or may not know about it…

Seven of the top massage leadership groups in the United States have been meeting over these past couple years to determine how they could work together to better serve the industry.

One of their first initiatives was determining what an entry level therapist needs to know to practice safely and how many hours of schooling are required to learn those skills. It has been a massive project and yesterday they released details as well as a way to provide feedback to the work group.

This project called the Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP) (not a particularly sexy name) has the potential to radically change the massage profession in the United States and your input is important. This will be particularly important at this point in time for massage instructors and school administrators, but it has such wide ranging implications that everyone should contribute their feedback. Yes, that means you.

You can give feedback as well as find out more about the project, it’s history, it findings and implications here…

From the site:

The Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP) is a research project that defines the minimum number of training hours necessary to acquire knowledge and skills essential for safe and competent practice as an entry-level massage therapist. The project was initiated through conversations between the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, American Massage Therapy Association, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the Massage Therapy Foundation, and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

ELAP aims to obtain and use research data and analysis of findings from other massage profession projects to inform the creation of an entry-level curriculum map. The map will define the essential elements of an entry-level curriculum necessary for safe and competent practice in a massage career, as well as the number of hours deemed necessary to teach these learning objectives and outcomes. The project outputs will be used to inform the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) Model Practice Act designed to promote interstate portability of credentials in the massage profession. The recommendations of the ELAP project will be available to the massage profession as a resource to enhance consistency of entry-level curricula in massage and bodywork training programs.

Measuring the Wrong End of Our Students

The number of hours required for a massage education always seems to be a hot topic in the USA. But I’ve never really understood the obsession with measuring how much time a student spends with their butts planted in their chairs at school. Seems to me that we are measuring the wrong end of our students. Shouldn’t we be measuring their minds?

What’s wrong with massage education?

I’ve been teaching massage for over two decades and have been doing online education since 1999. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about technology in the classroom and looking at the effective of models of education that would work for massage, in particular those using a blended curriculum – part online, part in-class.

As I’ve been researching requirements for massage schools in the USA, I’ve discovered that very few States allow any online component. Even where online education is not expressly prohibited, regulators I’ve talked to say they never approve programs with web-based elements. What’s up with that? Do we live in the dark ages?

I know that education hasn’t really changed for the past 500 years, so it shouldn’t surprise me that schools are so backwards in adopting new models, but it does.

Look at the numbers:

  • Attrition rate for students is 13%
  • Less than 2/3’s of graduating students pass their State certification exam

That means 44% of students going into massage training, never make it out the other side. And out of the ones that make it as therapists, over 50% have to work significant hours outside the profession (20+ hours) to make ends meet.

Does it occur to anyone that something is wrong?

It does to some people and I applaud the efforts of the current industry leaders at the most recent Leadership Summit. They are working to establish baseline criteria for education in this profession as a first step forward. It’s the most basic thing we could possibly do to start to turn things around. It’s about time the issue was tackled using a reasoned and researched-based methodology instead of people’s opinions or ideologies.

The idea is not revolutionary, but it’s vitally important. The profession has been building on a foundation of sand for far too long and we need a solid foundation if we are ever to move forward.

For my part, I’ll be exploring the use of technology in massage education in more depth. Instead of looking simply at doing old things in new ways, I will try to push some boundaries and do new things in new ways. We need a little shakeup. So be on the lookout for some interesting experiments in massage education over the next year.

I’ll be exploring issues in education more frequently in this blog. If it’s something that interests you, subscribe to the blog or subscribe to me on Facebook.