I recently attended the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education 2019 Educational Congress. While there, I started talking with people about LMT Body Politic and the need for a massage therapy policy organization dedicated solely to policy and policy making. The most constructive feedback I received was that while the idea is good, how do I expect to “sell” it. In short, the comment was acknowledging the challenge in getting buy-in from the rank and file therapist.
Most therapists don’t really care about politics. Most would expect that, because they pay dues to various organizations, that those organizations would cover the issue for them. To a certain degree, I suppose that nay-sayer is right – not about the part regarding whether we need yet another group or not, but about the part that members of organizations expect those organizations to do right by them.
Here’s the question that I would ask: Do those organizations have a clearly articulated policy that extend beyond their memberships and their membership needs to positively affect our profession as a whole? Are these policies available to the public? Are they consistent with the research and agreement within our profession? Do they consistently adhere to those policies? Professional organizations advocate for their members and the maintenance of those organizations, not necessarily for the profession as a whole. One clear example is the ELAP project. Those involved determined that to move to a competency-based system, it would take a minimum 625 hours of education. Yet, I see no widespread effort on the part of the professional associations to move the needle in state legislatures to raise education to that standard.
Years ago, a dedicated group of regulators met to form the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards because there were some issues with the certification board exam and a perceived lack of responsiveness to the state regulatory boards. Today, this group is now the home of the entry-level exam for our profession. Later, another dedicated group determined that there needed to be an organization dedicated to representing educators – outside of COMTA and the council of schools. That group, the AFMTE, just celebrated its 10th year by rolling out a teacher certification process (disclosure: I am one of the first to gain this credential). These groups bucked the trend of relying on an already-existing group that was not adequately addressing the issues facing the profession in those areas.
We do not have a group dedicated solely to policy and policy making. And we need one. For example, how do we move forward with the new opioid guidelines that suggest massage therapy should be a solution instead of the drug? How do we disseminate the information on the Veteran’s Administration inclusion of massage therapy and how do we implement it to create more job opportunities? How do we address one of the other elephants in the room: the impact of human trafficking and prostitution on our profession and the regulatory solutions necessary to address it? And let’s not forget that there are regulatory solutions to avoid on that issue.
We cannot rely on the associations to administer policy for the entire profession. There are just too many conflicts of interest within the current organizational structure: If an association doesn’t agree with the policy, they will not push forward with that policy, even though it might be the right thing for our profession. While these professions do a lot of good for our profession, their focus is diverse. Thus, a new organization is needed. One that is just focused on policy, with no conflicts of interest that may affect that policy.
Here’s the vision: A new policy organization that takes the lead but coordinates with the professional organizations in a way that moves the entire profession forward. Part think-tank, part lobbying organization, part political advocacy group, part resource center, part training center.
Are you interested? Together, we can make things happen!