Developing, Maintaining, and Using a Body of Knowledge for the Massage Therapy Profession

  • JoEllen M. Sefton, PhD, ATC, CMT Auburn University
  • Michael Shea, PhD, LMT Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA.
  • Chip Hines, LMT, PMP C Hines LLC
Keywords: task force, alternative and complementary medicine, massage education, scope of practice, KSA (knowledge, skills, and abilities)


Background: The diverse field of massage therapy has lacked a formal body of knowledge to serve as a practice and educational foundation and to guide future development. This deficit has hampered the growth of the profession and its acceptance and recognition by the medical and allied health care community. Purpose: To provide massage therapists, bodyworkers, physicians, educators, and associated allied health care professionals in the United States with a description of the purpose and development of the massage therapy body of knowledge (MTBOK) and recommendations for its future development and utilization. Methods: Professional groups in the massage therapy community came together and established a task force to develop a body of knowledge for the profession. Five groups became the stewards for this effort. A nationwide search produced a task force of eight volunteers from diverse areas of the profession charged with the responsibility of researching and developing the MTBOK document. Review of documents, curricula, state laws and regulations, certification exam content, interviews, and public comment resulted in the development of the MTBOK. During development multiple opportunities for comment and discussion by stakeholders (public) were provided in an effort to create a professional consensus. Results: The resulting MTBOK document establishes professional descriptions of the field; scope of practice; knowledge, skills, and abilities for entry-level massage therapists; and definitions for terminology to insure standardization, in order to provide a foundation for future discussion and growth. Conclusions: The MTBOK fulfills the goal for which it was developed, to serve as a foundation for the growth and development of the massage therapy profession as a whole. A living document, it should continue to evolve and grow with the profession. Maintenance and continued stewardship of this document by the massage therapy community is vital for continued professional progress.

Author Biographies

JoEllen M. Sefton, PhD, ATC, CMT, Auburn University
D Sefton, PhD, ATC, CMT Dept. of Kinesiology Asst Professor Director, Neuromuscular Research Laboratory Director, Graduate Athletic Training Program Certified Massage Therapist - 15 years Speciality Certifications in sports massage, myofascial release, pregnancy massage
Michael Shea, PhD, LMT, Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA.
Department of Embryology
Chip Hines, LMT, PMP, C Hines LLC
How to Cite
Sefton, PhD, ATC, CMT, J. M., Shea, PhD, LMT, M., & Hines, LMT, PMP, C. (2011). Developing, Maintaining, and Using a Body of Knowledge for the Massage Therapy Profession. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice, 4(3), 13-24.