Dr. Leena Guptha Weighs In Heart to Heart: Part 2

November 14, 2013

On November 12th, we continued the conversation in our latest webinar with Dr. Leena Guptha. Thank you to those of you who submitted questions and tuned in to hear the answers. We encourage you to join us for future webinars and continue asking the questions that matter to you.

As in Part 1 of this webinar, a lot of material was covered. For your convenience, we’ve posted below the questions and answers discussed, as well as additional information with a few answers in which Dr. Leena expands her response. 

Watch Part 2 of the webinar below:

Questions and Answers:

Karen: I would like to know how a professional massage instructor who is no longer practicing can bridge from National to Board Certification?

Dr. Leena: If you can demonstrate that you had 250 hours of hands on experience, Karen, then you could potentially transition into Board Certification. As a reminder, up to 25 hours can be volunteerism. Thereafter, the renewal requires 100 hours’ work experience in:

  • Massage therapy or bodywork
  • Volunteerism
  • Administration
  • Teaching
  • Curriculum development
  • Writing/publishing

Doris: Please give "real world" advantages to board certification credentialing.

Dr. Leena: Typically, the process is: Licensure, Board Certification and then super specialization. Real world example: Cardiology, the Board Certified Cardiologist that leads to after further training becomes the Interventionalist, Electrophysiologist, Heart Failure specialist, Lipidologist, or Vascular specialist Board Certifications.

Sandy: What are the plans for moving forward and assuring the problems from the past do not continue to haunt NCB? In what way will the bylaws be reviewed and changed to clarify procedures? What is currently happening that adds value to board?

Dr. Leena: The plans are to reach out to Certificants, providers and schools. Developing Think Tanks, surveys to find out what people want is to do. Asking and answering the tough questions. Reaching out for help! We hope to continue redeveloping credibility, regaining confidence of our community, re-inventing ourselves with your help and transforming to be the partner of choice in certification, education and educators. These are the initial plans based on my first month’s assessment.

There's been a lot of talk about the bylaws and the election, I'm not sure if those are the bylaws you are referring to— in which case, we plan to be looking at more the nomination process, but I'm all eyes and ears on this one…because, as Chair Elect, I was so far removed; then, as Chair, I become central in making a statement that we followed the bylaws. So, while out of the process I heard unrest and while following the process, even more unrest. We need a much better model here for next year.

Organizations all have a history, the only way to move forward is to learn from the past and implement positive changes for the future. In saying this I do believe that we have made some strides, we have been listening to the profession. When implementing the new AP program we listened to Approved Providers and implemented a new program that would be cost effective to our APs and would allow us to audit and review providers. We are moving forward into the future by opening up discussions and moving toward specialties certification. We have been asking for suggestions and information from Certificants, peer organizations and the profession. In the past 2 years we have heard you and we will continue to reach out and listen and work towards contributing a stronger profession.

Margo: I have submitted question after question regarding changes with which I did not concur;
I am now operating in a one year vacuum of uncertainty.  I do want to know what to expect in the future.

Dr. Leena: I am sorry you have not received the answers to your questions.  Well, now is the time, Margo. I wonder if the one year vacuum is as an approved provider. I'm right there with you in the one year approved provider group, so if I understand the question correctly, the answer is to follow the APCE renewal process before the one year term expires. If I have misunderstood the question, you can write into chair@ncbtmb.org and I'll try to answer your question again.

Susan: I am already a licensed massage therapist in Illinois. In IL, is it a requirement to be National or Board certified to work legally in the state or is it OPTIONAL?  No one can give me a straight answer on this.

Dr. Leena: During my volunteer history, I was the Illinois Chapter President and we focused on licensing. It was the chapter board of that era that secured licensing in Illinois. Of course, things may have changed since our efforts became law; however, Board Certification is optional. In the first iteration, it was one of our options to enable licensure out of a series of Illinois grandfathering choices. The Illinois state board comprised of fine upstanding massage therapists should be able to confirm or clarify this information.

Darcie: Michigan now licenses massage therapists. Do I still need to keep my NCBTMB certification? The state does not require it.

Dr. Leena: Board Certification is a voluntary credential; it is a higher credential than licensure. It is your choice. Board Certification shows a commitment to the profession and consumer. It distinguishes the advanced therapist from an entry level therapist. The medical profession uses and recognizes credentials and it creates a career pathway.

Kelley: Why should I continue with NCBTMB with MBLEx and FSMTB on the rise as the end-all authority and security for the massage and body work professions?”

Dr. Leena: Those of us in licensed states all have a license that is the entry level credential, which is the same in other healthcare professions. The higher level voluntary credential is Board Certification. The choice is not one or the other; it is more a question of career path and attaining a higher level certification, rather than just passing an entry level licensure test. Once a person passes this test, they can submit the results with the other requirements to obtain a state license. The Board Certification credential is a higher, voluntary certification. Medical professions that have this type of credential, they do look highly on people that actually work toward the higher credential to set themselves apart from an entry level. Massage therapy is no different—it is new to the profession and we clearly have to do a much better job to explain this to our constituents, but Board Certification is not new to healthcare.

Barbara: With the new rules of hours of training with NCBTMB, will I, after 19 years of being member, still be able to continue being a member?

Dr. Leena: Generally, Associations have members and Boards have Certificants. So, after 19 years as a Certificant, you would have renewed several times and most likely meet the Board Certification requirements. To get 750 hours, we are accepting CE hours, as well as accredited college courses.

Lisa: Is there a demand for new or specific types of CE programs? What type of continuing education programs are MT's looking for? How much is it to market to the NCBTMB MT list? As a national CE provider, how can we best collaborate with NCBTMB?

Dr. Leena: Judging by the Sounding Board comments, I would like to take the opportunity for those listening to join the Sounding Board, as we will be using the Sounding Board, as well as other medical professionals, to identify Certificants’ needs and visions for NCB. We cannot just depend on the desires of the profession to choose the best avenues to take in regards to specialty certification and certification; rather, we must also work with other professions to learn what they would like to see from massage therapists.

The NCB mailing list is $125/per 1000 contacts. We can collaborate through Think Tanks of recognized experts and new evolution of volunteers that help to carry out those recommendations.

Michael: What is the health of NCBTMB? How is it surviving all of these changes? Did NCBTMB ask its members what they wanted from their association? How is NCBTMB handling the new strife in regards to the new board appointees?

Dr. Leena: As a Chair, I am saddened to read disparaging remarks by a respected colleague for an organization that was and will remain the alma mater and without whose credentials today, would not have the ability to re-invent themselves and be a beacon in the profession. I would say the immune system is engaged, the auditory system is on high alert to listen to the profession, the heart is willing and wanting to be what the Certificants want us to be, the mind is alert, the spirit is strong but the need for support in transformation is high. We are not actually an association; however, through surveys we will be asking exactly this. In fact, this is the necessary pursuit to determine what the profession wants us to be in a constructive and meaningful way. Actually, I was the last person to be appointed to the board and I will be attending to appointments this week. However, I think you may be asking about the election of the public members.

First, I'd like to say that I don't know the two candidates; second, the board is separated from the nominations committee so that we do not influence the process, and I guess this is the outcome of not influencing the process. Of course, you can never please all of the people all of the time; however, we need a better system as the separation between the two entities seems to have caused, as you say, 'strife'. As we move forward together, we will continue to listen to the profession. We must continue to work towards our Mission Statement – to define and elevate the standards of the massage therapy and bodywork profession. NCB's primary reason for existing is to work towards higher goals so this profession does not remain stagnant, or worse, fall back into the dark ages. This will mean hearing you and your concerns and changes for the future. Changes are scary for many, but please keep in mind the only constant in life is change.

Karen: What is happening with the National Certification?

Dr. Leena: If you are currently Nationally Certified, you can transition to Board Certification. National Certification, the minimal entry requirements for a massage therapist, is phasing out in favor of the higher level advanced credential of Board Certification.

Helen: I am a DOD/military employee stationed overseas. Is there any means to take the recertification exam proctored through the military base education center? This would be convenient for US therapists overseas and would save on a costly trip back to the US.

Dr. Leena: According to Pearson Vue, there is no Palm Vein functionality at the military testing centers. So, we would need to work with you and Pearson on alternative security measures.

It is important to note that only active duty military personal are allowed to test at the military testing centers. Military candidates can only schedule their exams in person, at the military testing center. You will see a link to a page which has some relevant information: http://www.pearsonvue.com/military/

Sheryl: What role/view does the Board take on helping Massage Therapists move into more mainstream Healthcare settings?

Dr. Leena: I see from this, and other questions, great potential visions for the future. At this time, we need to clearly do a much better job of communicating the process and value of Board Certifications, as well as a radical approach towards our APCE provider class approvals – which you may have seen in the social networks. The new Board Certification is a higher credential modeled on the medical model. Our focus currently needs to be returned to our roots. Mainstream healthcare and the integration of massage therapy is certainly a personal passion of mine; it does require a collective effort to promote our higher credential within healthcare and, when we regain our rightful place within the community, this acceptance and integration is certainly a key area for the entire profession.

Taya: As you said at the NCBTMB booth at the AMTA Convention, ‘You should join and take the secondary exam to ‘elevate the profession’.  Does this influence the public view? Or does this influence the other healthcare professions?  Does NCBTMB advertise in public or medical publications?  Does NCBTMB help states lobby to become licensed or to defend licensure?  I believe the answer to all of these is no.  So can you explain how NCBTMB elevates the profession?

Dr. Leena: Defining and elevating the standards of the profession is the only way that we are going to be taken seriously in other professions. I've often heard that people want to be taken seriously with other professions, but we have to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. When we work with other professions, we have to have clear guidelines about what is in our scope and outside of our scope and be able to communicate this information. We also have to be able to critically think about different situations that will arise as we are working. Having certification is only a beginning. As we move through the growing pains, we will realize that specialty Board Certification does not necessarily mean that we all know different modalities and sciences, but it does mean that we will be able to identify indications, contraindications and work within our means to complement other procedures and medicinal treatments. Only then will be begin to see acceptance into healthcare and facilities.

NCBTMB does not have lobbyists that promote state licensure. State licensure is built around protecting the public, and though NCB does agree with that and take measures to assist with protecting the public through our Ethics and Standards Committee, this organization was built around defining and raising the standards of massage therapy and bodywork.

Margaret: Why should someone get Certification if they have the state license? What is the research project about?

Dr. Leena: To attain a higher level credential. A state license is typically the starting point and certification is the advanced credential. The research project is about research literacy; we support the foundation and their research literacy course. We realize that information from the past may have not been completely accurate due to the lack of research and knowledge based around deciphering legitimate from illegitimate research. To combat this lack of knowledge, we have implemented a research component into our certification. This too strengthens our mission to define and elevate the standards of massage and bodywork. There is no medical profession that has ever refrained from continued research in order to better themselves and serve the public to the best of their ability. Massage therapy and bodywork professionals should follow the leadership of the other professions that have continued to gain recognition over the past years.

Debbie: The Federation has been representing themselves as the organization about to unify M.T. requirements in the US.  Boards seem to really be impressed, and it seems to be hurting our standing.  Is NCBTMB addressing this, and why did we not chair this idea?

Dr. Leena: The Federation has created a state licensure test that is accepted by states for one of the state licensure requirements of these states. State licensure was created to protect the public. Board Certification is built around defining and elevating the standards of our profession. This credential is not a requirement, but a means of differentiating the entry level massage therapist from a more seasoned massage therapist.

Ann: Can you tell me if massage therapy is making any progress in gaining acceptance by insurance companies for our role in patient rehab work? PT's are reimbursed for work we are also certified for (i.e. Lymphedema), yet we are not?

Dr. Leena: Reimbursement is certainly a hot topic. Our focus is on education, but as a profession maybe we should be thinking about this, too. This could be an initiative of one of our associations, though we, the NCBTMB, are wanting and willing to collaborate with our stakeholders on initiatives that serve the profession.

Sylvia: Do we foresee the NCB at any time in the near future as an accrediting body for nurses wishing to take CE workshops and classes from NCB providers?

Dr. Leena: What a wonderful vision. As I look to the future and beyond, I have to say anything is possible…but it has to be with the support of Certificants, endorsement of the stakeholders and open communications such as these to help guide us and be what the profession wants us to be.

NCB is not an accrediting body; however, we do approve the providers and CE that we accept for continuing education, and it would be wonderful if we could collaborate with the nursing and other professions. Our current focus here, however, is on strengthening our existing APCE program. Once we are aligned here, at a future date but not the immediate future, we can look at what are the requirements in relation to the nursing profession. I am happy to keep an open dialog here and receive further information.

Taya: I am confused, is NCBTMB a nonprofit organization?  Or is it a profit organization?  I was asked to write questions once for NCBTMB.  I watched in horror as we were taken out to the most expensive restaurants in the city where much alcohol was consumed.  With this type of behavior it appears as if this organization is all about making money.  How many paid employees are there? If this organization is member driven, who is in charge of the budget.

Dr. Leena: NCBTMB is a non-profit organization of 17 employees. I cannot comment on former dealings with money, but now and for the future, I can assure you that we take our financial responsibility very seriously and I review these matters with the CEO weekly to track our expenses. The money that we earn by charging for certification and approvals goes directly into reviewing Certificants, Approved Providers, Schools, administrative fees and building fees. The processes put into place to review these different programs are quite lengthy. We have to ensure that we are taking every step towards ensuring that our actions are legal and can be enforced. We are not a membership organization, but the CEO creates a budget that is then approved by the board; this procedure is customary among our organizations.

Taya: The basic test for NCBTMB is very basic and in no way reflects the education from most massage schools.  I do understand that it was the profession that asked for the 2nd examination to distinguish the relaxation/spa therapists from treatment massage, but will this test actually reflect the broad based of treatment?

Dr. Leena: The entry level licensure exam is an entry level exam. It reflects the information that is asked on entry level licensure exams. There is no credential associated from NCB for this exam. Our Board Certification exam is a higher level exam that asks real world scenario questions and there is a credential associated with this exam. Neither was created to distinguish spa from treatment therapists.

Karen: What information do we need to send to NCB and when, in order to receive national board certification and make it permanent? Will the field of MT ever have national standardized board exams like RN?

Dr. Leena: Pass the Board Certification test. You will also need:

  • 750 hours of education
  • Graduate from an NCBTMB assigned school
  • Additional hours can be submitted from courses taken in continuing education or accredited college or university
  • 250 hours of professional hands on work experience (25 hours will be accepted in volunteer work)
  • Current CPR Certification
  • Copy of current identification
  • Sign to oppose human trafficking
  • Agree to the NCB Code of Conduct
  • Agree to a criminal background check

Board Certification is on a two year renewal. This is exam is standardized, however as it is new, even those eligible are in a four year transition period and it requires the advocacy from the profession and the stakeholders to bring your question into reality.

Wayne: I am wondering about the upcoming changes to the certification process. What type of documentation will be required to verify the 250 hours of hands-on work in order to qualify for the new designation?

Dr. Leena: You can document these hours through a letter from an employer, or from your appointment book. You will need to black out the last names of your clients or a letter explaining your experience. Some have used a tax statement stating massage therapy. The purpose of the 250 hours of hands on experience is that we want to be able to say that a certified massage therapist has the critical thinking skills, adheres to a higher standard and has work experience. This way, when an organization is looking for a therapist with work experience, they can be confident when hiring a Board Certified massage therapist.

Beverly: How likely is it that the NCBTMB will ever have specialty certifications?

Dr. Leena: I do see from the Sounding Board survey comments on Facebook, and other conversations, that there is an interest here. Board Certifications of specialty, as in other professions, appear to be the next step after our new and current Board Certification. However, to ensure the process is handled properly, we will do our research, due diligence, dialog with Certificants, stakeholders and employers. We need to identify the needs from the medical profession, as well as other areas of demand. Our Board Certification program is still getting off the ground; we have about 3,000 Board Certified massage therapists that would be eligible to further go onto a specialty. The Board Certification itself is in a four year transition phase, so we also need to do a better job of explaining the Board Certification requirements, which is the first and necessary step towards specialty. We would need to be sure that the area or areas of specialty are grounded in relevance to the Certificant, the profession and the work place. That requires substantial research and dialog phase to ensure we are making knowledge based decisions, and I believe it opens up a clear avenue for collaboration between our massage therapy organizations.

Terrie: Can you please explain why the amount of CE’s that we had to get to remain certified was for therapists who were already certified and have been for many years already? Why were we not grandfathered in? It’s not fair.

Dr. Leena: We are accepting your past continuing education that we have previously accepted in recertification, along with any accredited college our university courses that you have taken any time in your life. We want to ensure that everyone has the required educational hours to meet the Board Certification criteria. If you currently do not meet those requirements, and need a little bit of time to gain the additional education, we would be happy to work with you. Email info@ncbtmb.org and ask for the recertification department. We have worked with several people on this subject and have found that most people do meet the criteria but just did not understand all of the avenues they were able to take to meet it. We are not offering grandfathering as such, but we have a clear and present pathway to transition your national certification to Board Certification.

Heather, Patricia and Amy: Why are we required to take research courses to be Board Certified? What do these have to do with massage therapy courses, and how do they relate to us? I have just begun in the field and trying hard to add more courses to my work – why are they necessary?

Dr. Leena: Research is a cornerstone of some healthcare professions. In the massage therapy profession, it is an emerging area. We require 3 hours of research literacy when renewing from Board Certification to Board Certification which would be in 2015. However, the basic premise is to support and promote the profession moving towards recognizing and embracing research.

The next part of this question was asked by Patricia and Amy, too. The research component refers to research literacy. We are not expecting a published research article or thesis though for some that could well be their direction; moreover, we are expecting a Certficant to gain through a 3 hour course an insight into the importance of research, how to discern the quality or validity of research and understand the findings. You can find excellent research courses on the Massage Therapy Foundations website.

Janet: I am one of those caught between two states; one with licensure and one without. I work in both. I passed my National cert test for WI, and know the state has received it…but will I also receive a copy of it?

Dr. Leena: Thank you for your question. If you passed the National Certification exam, you will have received your certificate to your address on file. We can also send proof of you passing to your state. However, as you say, you passed the national certification test for Wisconsin. I am not clear which exam you are referring to. If you took the licensing exam then that is an exam, but not a credential.  There is not a certificate involved with licensing, as these are two different entities. You can contact us at info@ncbtmb.org to follow on your particular situation.

Sandra: How do you qualify for a tax exempt nonprofit company?

Dr. Leena: We are registered as a non-profit organization because, unlike for-profit organizations, all money made by the company is reinvested back into the company.  There are no owners or shareholders that receive dividends or portions of net income.

Christine: Is NCBTMB going to hire more staff to handle email and phone inquiries as well as processing online applications for Board Certification?  The time it takes for these things to get processed seems overly lengthy.

Dr. Leena: We have been implementing new processes to improve our processing time. Because of these new processes, within the past two weeks we have noticed a dramatic change in the time it takes to review applications and also the amount of time that each individual person that contacts us needs. Please keep in mind that the lengthy process time could be also because we are missing information. I am aware that we had serious issues with missed calls and emails in the past, which is totally unacceptable. We are working, and will continue working, with each and every person on a case by case basis. We have both a new phone system and a new processing system with Pearson Vue.


Thank you to all who joined us for this important webinar. To be notified of future webinars, please register your email address at http://www.ncbtmb.org.

As a reminder, if you are interested in being part of the NCBTMB APCE Think Tank or part of the volunteer force following the guidelines and recommendations from the Think Tank? Send an email to info@ncbtmb.org and put CE THINK TANK in the subject line.

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