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I am thrilled to announce that I have recently received the highest voluntary credential in the massage profession and can proudly display my certificate stating that I am Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. So what does that mean?

When I first received notice that the powers that be in the massage industry were changing the way that practitioners were to be credentialed, I admit that I was annoyed. I thought this was just a new way for them to get a little piece of my pie. Honestly, I’ve never been big into credentials. I used to work with a woman who was so impressed by her own credentials that she earned the nickname “Alphabet Soup”. She would leave you a sticky note to tell you she had gone to lunch and sign it ” Jane Doe, LMNOP, QRS, TUV.”

I understand the need for credentials, to protect the public, prove that you’ve met the minimum requirements for entry into the profession, etc. But credentials are no guarantee that someone is good at what they do, or that a lack of credential means that they aren’t. I’ve had some of the best bodywork in my life in places that had no formal credentialing requirement.

But as I read more about the reasoning behind the changes here in the United States, I became a little less cynical. They wanted to have a way to differentiate between a practitioner who had simply met the minimum requirement and one who had continued their education and practical experience well beyond the minimum requirement. Why is that important?

I am not certain of the motives of the professional organizations, but as a practitioner, consumer and observer of the massage industry, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of “fly by night” massage therapists. In fact the average full time career span for massage therapists is only 5-7years. The reasons for such short careers are varied. Many therapists get injured, some use massage as a “gateway” into spa management, aesthetics or other related industries, and some just realize it’s not the job for them. Most massage programs can be completed in 6 months, so it’s not a huge investment of time and money if you decide you don’t want to make a career of it.

To be considered for Board Certification, an applicant has to provide proof of an additional 250 hours of continuing education beyond the minimum requirement for an entry level practitioner, as well as proof of several hundred hours of paid, practical experience in the field. Once they’ve achieved Board Certification, they have to continue to meet bi-annual requirements with regard to education and practical experience in order to maintain the credential. While it still doesn’t guarantee that the person is good at what they do, it does prove that they have dedicated a great deal of time, energy and money to their development as a professional. When I choose a massage therapist, I want someone who is dedicated to their craft and who loves to expand their knowledge and skill level, not someone who simply met the minimum requirement.

As someone with 16 years of experience in the profession (and many more CEUs than the Board asked for), I am proud to be Board Certified! Look for my certificate next time you visit Connective Touch Therapeutic Massage in Reston, VA.

Meaghan Maillet, BCTMB

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