Approved Provider Program

NCBTMB’s New Approved Provider Program

Rolling Out October 2013

The Purpose of Continuing Education

Today in the United States relative to the massage and bodywork profession, a 500 hour (or more) core curriculum of entry level education is delivered to teach basic anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathologies of the body’s systems. It also incorporates entry-level bodywork, stress management, business, ethics and other types of modalities to gain students’ interests about the holistic realm. Upon demonstrated mastery of this information, along with hands on skills, an entry level massage therapist is judged to be competent to safely administer one to one hour and a half of full body massage.

This is simply the beginning of a therapist’s professional journey, a journey that must include some component of continued learning in both the educational and clinical (hands on) realms. In other words, an entry-level practitioner must do more to learn, retain and operationalize the necessary skills to maintain continued growth, awareness and professional competency, in addition to remaining vital and competitive within the profession.

Continuing education is one of the generally accepted methods which professionals and regulatory agencies use to ensure a therapist refines and builds on entry-level skills. It also is a means by which the larger health care and consumer communities can be assured that therapists maintain psychological, educational and professional high intentions in areas of ethical and operational excellence.

The purpose of continuing education is, more specifically, to:

  • detour the development of bad habits
  • acquire knowledge of more advanced modalities
  • learn effective new techniques
  • increase Practitioners’ awareness of other holistic modalities
  • continue to increase basic, intermediate and advanced skills
  • develop successful business/marketing methods and tools
  • refine massage therapists’/bodyworkers’ ethical behavior and standards of practice with clientele
  • discourage burnout due to repetitive bodywork
  • increase massage therapists’/ bodyworkers’ knowledge of medical and holistic practices, psychology, science and massage therapy
  • assist therapists, through additional knowledge and strengthened techniques, in remaining competitive within the marketplace


Purpose of NCBTMB’s Approved Provider Program

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) administers a certification program, Board Certification, accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Continuing education is a vital part of certification programs designed to credential professionals across the United States. Over a decade ago, the NCBTMB established its Approved Provider (AP) program to serve as a key component of its massage therapy and bodywork credential. The principal intent of the AP program was to ensure that certificants had access to reliable, credible, high-quality continuing education throughout their careers. By obtaining continuing education (CE), a practitioner demonstrates a personal and public commitment to enhance continued competence in the massage and/or bodywork profession, which is why it continues to play such a critical role in NCBTMB’s certification program.

NCBTMB recognizes its obligation to continue serving the profession by encouraging the personal and professional development of practitioners across the country. As the massage and bodywork professions mature, continuing education must also evolve. With this in mind, NCBTMB has reassessed the national AP/CE program and the evolutionary role it must play as massage continues to advance.

As in all aspects within the health and wellness continuum, nothing stays constant. What worked for massage therapy over a decade ago when the national CE program was emerging will no longer serve the profession today as we continue to advance into the future. More than ever, members of the public and healthcare professionals alike seek options - new ideas and answers to the age old question of how to better improve quality of life. For our profession to play a part, it must step up to the plate and evolve as well.

NCBTMB recognizes the critical need to ensure relevant and credible continuing education. The profession must define, differentiate and identify the educational level of the wide variety of modalities and subjects that practitioners study. Mature, advanced massage therapists desire access to accomplished instructors teaching appropriately advanced material. Conversely, recent graduates may need basic classes to refine newly acquired skills.


Objectives of the Approved Provider Program

The primary objectives of the Approved Provider Program are to:

  • fulfill the roles, requirements and needs of Board Certification pursuant to its mission and purpose
  • be a model that state boards, peer organizations, continuing education providers, certificants, schools, can acknowledge, support and when applicable, emulate
  • utilize the knowledge of our educational leaders throughout the profession in concert to reflect the needs of the industry at large
  • further the knowledge of our massage therapists throughout the country


Creation of the Revised Approved Provider Program

In May of 2011, NCBTMB Board members and staff met with the massage therapy industry leaders, peer organization, Approved Providers, state Board Members, school owners and certificants to discuss the weaknesses of the Approved Provider program. All of the participants shared their experiences, visions and future needs of the Approved Provider Program. This meeting revealed that many aspects of the Approved Provider Program were in need of improvement.

NCBTMB Board Members continued to speak to massage therapists and providers, along with other medical professional, listening to each person’s concerns. Research on other medical professions’ continuing education programs was also performed; dissected and best practices from these programs were implemented into the current Approved Provider Program.

Once the program was written, a call for comment went out to NCBTMB Approved providers and schools. The feedback from these participants was received and evaluated. The revised program is the end result of listening to the profession. All feedback was incorporated to complete this project.


The Future

This program will continue to evolve with the profession. Within the Holistic realm there are many different modalities accepted for CE that are within the massage therapist’s scope of practice. NCBTMB does accept a wide variety of categories and will continue to do so.

Continuous upgrades of this program will be implemented as needed in the future. NCBTMB will be considering new processes that will help therapists and the profession grow.


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