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Interim Executive Director Shelly Johnson's Opening Session Speech Transcript

Good morning.  I’m thrilled to be able to talk with all of you today as your interim executive director.  I’m especially excited because I am speaking to you at an AMTA convention in my home state.  As a Minnesotan, I think this is one of the finest states in the union and I hope – I know – that after you’ve all had a chance to spend a few days in the land of 10,000 lakes you’ll agree.   

As Kathleen said, balance is the theme for our convention, but balance is also the underlying theme for AMTA.  Under the strategic leadership of our Board of Directors, AMTA strives to balance our dual mission, to serve our members while advancing the massage therapy profession.

It hasn’t been easy in this economy to serve this mission.  When the financial world is so out of balance, it takes more effort to keep our mission on track.  But we’ve done it very well, this year, and there are a couple of reasons why.

First, it takes strong and committed leadership at the helm.  That’s why I’d like to personally thank our AMTA National President Kathleen Miller-Read and the rest of the National Board of Directors.  I thank them for their leadership of your professional association and their trust in me to carry out the organization’s vision, while they search for a new Executive Director.  I also want to thank Elizabeth Lucas for all that she accomplished in her many years with AMTA. 

Speaking of important people at the helm, I want to reinforce what Kathleen said about your chapter leadership and their vital input into our planning for next year.  It is terrific to see the high level of commitment and cooperation between all levels of our volunteer leadership.  That’s a further reflection of AMTA’s balance.

There is another group of important people working very hard on your behalf that I want to thank - the AMTA staff.  Without their partnership, we could not be nearly as effective, delivering the value you need to be successful in the profession you love. 

We manage your dues dollars very wisely.  That’s more important than ever during this slow economy.  And, that’s why AMTA continues to be financially strong and healthy so we can be there for you. 

So, let’s talk about how we’ve done that this year. 

First, we must and do take actions that best help our members remain viable in a changing world. You can take comfort in the fact that your association remains committed to understanding how the world is changing and how to help you weather the storm and prosper in the long run.

Everyone in the profession of massage therapy is affected by consumer use.  If more people seek massage, more people enter massage school and then the profession. That means more massage therapists prosper and people are healthier.  Consumer demand drives our profession.   

This summer, AMTA commissioned its 14th annual consumer survey on use of massage.  We are releasing the information now, instead of next month, because it is so relevant, we want you to have it right away.  We are issuing a press release today on the results.  You can pick up a copy at the Registration Desk.

These survey results and the other information we’ve released in the past years are converging.  In February, we released information at our Massage School Summit showing most massage therapists have seen a decline in their business and fewer people are attending massage school. 

What we now see in our consumer survey is that the percentage of adult Americans who had a massage in the past year dropped to 18%.  That’s four percentage points lower than last year - and the lowest it’s been in 3 years. To compound matters, the average number of massages each person received also dropped. 

Now, we know people haven’t changed their views on the value of massage, they are just cutting back because they don’t have as much money to spend.  As the economy improves, we believe people will slowly increase their use of massage and we will return to more prosperous days.

AMTA doesn’t like to give you challenging news, but we believe that’s our duty to you.  We gather the best and most accurate information so it can allow our practitioner members and our school members to manage their businesses. 

But I have some good news too!

The consumer survey also shows AMTA is the most recognized massage therapy organization.  More than twice as many consumers recognize AMTA than any other massage organization.  And, they seek AMTA massage therapists two to one over members of any other massage group.  AMTA membership is definitely your advantage in the marketplace. 

There are so many things AMTA is doing to help you maintain your professional balance now and for the future.  For example, we have worked to reduce your costs to practice and increased our efforts promoting AMTA members to the public and to employers, to help you find work in your profession.  Our new online store, connected now to Massage Warehouse, gives you real discounts on more products through your membership than ever before.  These can mean even more savings in your practice.

Your association has found ways for you to continue your professional education easily and at lower costs.  We’ve expanded our online class offerings, while many chapters are offering continuing education classes at low prices.  We’ll continue to expand these opportunities to help you develop professionally while keeping your cost of business down.

Online, we’ve also started regular webinars for both Professional and School members.  They are geared toward helping you build and maintain your practice or school.  And, our free professional website benefit is a big hit.  It’s typical of how we are committed to making your business successful. 

AMTA is actively promoting you as the best choice for massage therapy through our national public relations and advertising programs.  We strongly promote AMTA’s Find a Massage Therapist® national locator service to consumers, especially through Google search.  Consumers and potential clients, are responding by looking for AMTA massage therapists in record numbers again this year.  There have been hundreds of thousands of searches for AMTA practitioner members through the service in the past year. 

These are real searches for AMTA members, not just window shoppers looking at the website.  We will continue to use this approach to bring you potential new clients.

Back in 1997 AMTA established National Massage Therapy Awareness Week the last full week in October to promote awareness of therapeutic massage and to celebrate its benefits.  Did you know that in 2009, National Massage Therapy Awareness Week reached an audience of more than 100 million?  And, each year, we see the number of people seeking AMTA massage therapists jump after this week and continue their interest through the end of the year.  It’s another way AMTA works to bring you clients, and we look forward to what NMTAW 2010 will bring.

And to help you with your celebration, there is a beautiful poster promoting National Massage Therapy Awareness Week included with your fall issue of MTJ.   Post it in your practice location, give them away at chapter meetings, put them up in your classroom. 

If you want more of them, you can get one for free in the AMTA exhibit booth.  That’s booth number 315. You also can visit our website for further ideas and graphics.

This is a fast-paced world and AMTA is constantly looking for ways to enhance all your member benefits.   And, information is key to making this happen. 

Knowledge is a powerful tool as you grow your practice and continue to develop as a professional.  We want to make sure you can easily gain the knowledge and information you need.  How many of you have visited our new AMTA website?  Isn’t it beautiful?  It’s been redesigned to help you find more information easily.  We’re especially excited about the new online Career Guidance section.  There is information about working in a spa, how to work in a healthcare environment, tips on starting an independent practice, and information about being an employee.  It’s there all the time, when you need it. 

And have you seen the research section?  Here is an area that showcases AMTA’s efforts to bring about research literacy and evidence-informed practices to improve the quality of care.

Quick communications and dialog with you are also important, both to you and to AMTA.  A little over a year ago, we began using social media to further engage and inform members.  Now, thousands of you are communicating with AMTA and one another.

It is an expansion of how the AMTA family communicates.  Communication fosters ideas and ideas can help you succeed.

Education is another key to the advancement of the profession.  We have a new collaborative approach with massage schools.  This involves open and regular dialog with schools and our dynamic Schools Summit, focused on realities of the marketplace. 

Again, this year, we have an exciting session at convention to help students learn ways to build their practices.  Tomorrow is our third annual Student Day.  It’s an educational and fun session for students to discover more about successful business practices.  This is a unique opportunity for them to hear from top leaders in the profession, ask questions and network. 

As we help you grow your practice and provide the best care to your clients, we also have focused attention on issues of professional competency.  Competency, skill and professionalism can make a difference for you in a changing marketplace.  And, they are essential as the profession matures.

We are especially pleased about the release of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge.  It’s a result of many stakeholders coming together to benefit our profession.  We are proud to have been the organization that convened this group.  This is an important step in the profession and we encourage you to read this document and comment on it.

This is one example of AMTA taking the lead to advance the profession.  Sometimes we do this with other stakeholders and in other cases, on our own, reaching out to the healthcare community, to industries and employers hiring massage therapists, and to policy makers impacting education and health care.  In all cases, our goal is the same – to advance the profession and to help them understand that you, AMTA members, are committed professional massage therapists and educators who stand apart, because of your commitment to ethics, continuing education and standards.  We want them to recognize the name AMTA as an indicator of quality in the massage therapy profession.

I want to take a moment to talk about our contacts in the health care arena.  This is such an important area for massage therapy.  In the past two years, we have solidified our relationship with the National Institutes of Health. 

AMTA continues as a member of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care, as well as the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium.  These relationships allow us to build relationships to put both AMTA and massage therapy in the right places when opportunities for national healthcare dialog occur.    

AMTA’s representative to the American Medical Association on its CPT Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee was reappointed this summer.  This relationship gives AMTA and, therefore, the massage therapy profession input on review of CPT codes associated with massage therapy.  I want to thank AMTA’s representative, Susan Rosen of Washington State, who is building relationships and educating other health care professionals about the application and integration of massage therapy in the health care setting.

At this convention, we are providing a special focus on massage therapy in the health care environment and integration into health care.  We are thrilled to have pre-convention and post-convention programs related to this, and our special immersion event sponsored by Northwestern Health Sciences University and the Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s Penny George institute for Health and Healing.  It was especially exciting to see that these sessions filled up more than two months ago! 

I am delighted today to also announce AMTA has a new relationship with the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada Association to discuss integrative approaches to health care in North America.  We will join the NHPCA National Educational Dialogue Summit in Victoria, British Columbia in October.  Next year, we will host an open discussion on shaping health care to embrace complementary and integrative therapies at the 2011 AMTA national convention in Portland, OR.  We are pleased to have NHPC’s President, Paul Buffel and Don Himmelman of their board here this morning.  Paul and Don, thank you for joining us.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… our ongoing work with all stakeholders in the profession to achieve fair and consistent licensing and our discussions with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards about a model practice act for the profession are two important examples. Our friend, Debra Persinger of the FSMTB is here today and Debra we welcome you.

These collaborations are how AMTA works together with these fine organizations to advance the profession.  With your involvement and support, AMTA steps up and moves our profession forward.

And, you know there are many different ways to move the profession forward—sometimes it’s by giving back to our communities.  That’s why I love to talk about our Volunteer Connections program.  You saw a video of our members involved in the Susan G. Komen events before Kathleen spoke.  Some of us saw this video during our March Board meeting and I KNOW I was not the only person who teared-up all over again!

This is an expression of the heart of AMTA and of our members. It connects our passion for massage with our compassion for people.  And, it is a perfect example of the balance within massage therapy.  It is one more reason to truly be proud of your connection with AMTA. 

As I said at the beginning of my speech, our mission is to serve you and advance your profession.  To do that best, we rely on input from you.  As a not for profit organization, we are member focused and member run.  Your board pays attention to your thoughts and ideas to help determine the association’s direction.  You are at the heart of the organization—in fact—you are AMTA. 

That’s the voice we listen to.  How else can we truly serve you?  How else can we advance the profession unless we have your input?  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but…AMTA has its share of critics.  We’re not always popular with the pundits and sometimes things are said about us that aren’t true.  Does it hurt our feelings?  Sometimes.  Do we feel misunderstood?  Sure. You probably feel that way, too.  But we can’t worry about that.  We have to ensure that we follow our mission like the North Star.  We must deliver the products, programs, and services that serve your needs as a practicing massage therapist, massage student, educator or school owner. We must advance the profession in the way you feel is best. 

You are AMTA.  Your association stands for you and for the profession of massage therapy.  That’s the balance inherent in AMTA’s mission statement and that’s what we are here at this convention to celebrate.

Gosh I’m excited and, like you, I love what AMTA stands for.  Thank you for coming to this beautiful convention in the beautiful land of 10,000 lakes.  Have a wonderful, wonderful convention!

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"As a professional member of AMTA, I have found comfort in knowing that all the effort I put into obtaining my massage certification is recognized and protected. AMTA standards validate the profession."

Kim K., AMTA member since 2003

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