I attended the AMTA-NC Conference (American Massage Therapy Association) in Hickory over the past weekend. It was a wonderful experience. I took some wonderful continuing education— one on Deep Tissue Made Easy taught by Eric Stephenson was especially good— made some new friends and visited with old ones, and met some vendors with whom I’ll probably continue to do business.
Before I became a massage therapist, I was a teacher. I have always belonged to my professional organizations, and I find it hard to understand when others don’t. The reason I most often hear is that the professional groups are too expensive. However, I would counter that it is more expensive not to join. I certainly get direct personal value for my money, and I have a voice on a state and national level that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
For example, this first of two AMTA-NC Conferences this year cost me $200, which was $100 less than for attendees who were not AMTA members. For that I got 15 hours of usable continuing education. I went to the AMTA volunteer luncheon, so I ate one meal free, and the night before I went to the AMTA social that had heavy hors d’oeuvres and let that be my dinner. During both these meals, I interacted with other AMTA massage therapists and felt the kind of cameraderie that comes from being with people who share the same passion. The conference was held in my town, so I didn’t have to get a motel room. The fall 2009 Conference was in a nearby city, and again I drove. The next one will be in Cary, which will mean I have to find a place to stay, but those two nights won’t be too much extra considering I will have gotten 45 hours of continuing education for about $600, networked with other MTs who may send me referrals, and met teachers, vendors and MTs who can give me usable ideas that I can apply to my business now. As a member, I can also go to any of the district continuing education offerings in the state and learn other techniques for a reasonable cost. I can even check out videos of different modalities from the AMTA-NC library for free and further expand my knowledge base.
On a state and national level, the AMTA supports me by lobbying for legislation that maintains the integrity of massage therapists as professionals and balances the amount of regulation between what keeps us safe and reputable and what limits our ability to do our jobs. So far, I have no grievances with how this is being done or with how I am being informed of what is happening. I am glad someone is fighting for me.
There are other benefits I get from AMTA that are similar to the ones I get as a retired member of NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators) and NEA (National Education Association). These include liability insurance, other insurance offers (particularly important for MTs as they are offer group rates for people who are very often self-employed), discounts on products and services, and legislative updates.
As a retired educator, I was recently elected vice president of the Catawba County Retired School Personnel. My job will be mostly to find programs for our meetings. CCRSP is the local unit of the North Carolina Retired School Personnel and is connected to the NCAE and the NEA, both of which I was a member from the time I took my first teaching position in 1973.
For my entire teaching career, NCAE fought for higher salaries, lower class sizes, a research-based curriculum model, and better conditions for students and teachers. I never minded paying my dues, and during the best years, I worked in schools that had a 100% membership. That simple fact gave us more clout with the local adminstration and school board, the state legislature, and Congress. Sadly, many teachers in the schools currently do not belong to NCAE/NEA. I see many of the reforms for which we fought by going to Raleigh, marching, and speaking directly to legislators falling like a house of cards. I have no doubt that those who stand together are stronger than those who stand apart.
That said, I’d like to encourage you to join your professional organizations, no matter what your profession. It is my experience that these organizations try to self-regulate the profession in ways that maintain the integrity of the members and to keep unnecessary legislation from doing for us what we should be doing for ourselves. Likewise, it provides a network of other professionals enabling us to learn from each other and support each other. Finally, it give us a voice that comes from the very people who are most affected by regulations and who understand and care about the professions they love. That seems a bargain to me.