Updated: May 5
AMT, MaMA, MA, ATMS, ANTA....are they all the "Peoples front of Judea in disguise?"(Click here if you need to recap this epic comedy moment!)
One of the most common question posed online is “ which is the best association to join.” Let me share some of my learnings on the subject with you.
There are quite a few Associations in Australia for massage therapists, and each one has its pros and cons. It’s important you make your decision based on your needs and your business model.
Have you seen the skit in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" discussing the difference between the Peoples front of Judea and the Judean Peoples Front? That's a bit like the situation with the major Massage Associations in Australia. The major players are:
AMT - Association of Massage Therapist
Massage and Myotherapy Australia (formerly AAMT)
MA - Myotherapy Association of Australia (formerly IRMA)
ANTA - Australian Natural Therapies Association
ATMS - Australian Traditional Medicine Society.
The one thing all of these associations have in common is that they all facilitate the issuing of provider numbers for Health Funds. If you are not a member of a recognized association you will NOT be able to get provider numbers.
Apart from that, all the associations are slightly different and offer different services and levels of support to their members.
A really important thing to look at before you join is what is covered in the scope of practice for each association. This is usually found in their code of ethics document or an approved modalities statement.
An example of somethings to consider:
If you choose to join MaMA and use their approved insurance provider, you will also be covered to practice things like Reiki under the standard insurance.
By comparison, if you join the AMT, Reiki is considered as outside of the scope of massage therapy should not be included in a massage treatment. Same goes for Fertility Massage. AMT have a very firm stance on this (click here) and if you want to offer Fertility Massage, then AMT is not the Association for you!)
If you have multiple qualifications under your belt (eg Diploma of Remedial Massage and Diploma of Counselling) you may do better going with an Association that has a broader focus (eg ANTA).
If you just practice Relaxation and Remedial Massage, go for one of the more specialised Associations.
These difference are not a bad thing. Some Associations have very low requirements for membership and for ongoing development. Personally, that is not what I want from my Association though. I want an Association that holds therapists accountable, is clear about their recognised modalities and only recognise CPE points for legitimate courses that teach you to be a safe and ethical therapist.
Just because the Association you join has a preferred Insurer, does not mean that you have to have a policy with them. These are just easy to use because they are negotiated to meet the needs of the majority of the members.
If you do use the preferred insurer, make sure you are very clear as to what is covered in your policy. Do not fall into the trap of believing just because you have ticked a modality on the paperwork that you are covered for it.
A reputable Association will be transparent of what they require for you to be "qualified" to offer a modality. eg MaMA state that if you offer aromatherapy massage (click here) then your training must be equal to the Nationally Accredited Units of Competency for this subject. A MLM in house training is NOT sufficient for insurance purposes.
Same goes for Dry Needling. On the AMT website (click here) they have very clear explanation about the type of training you require. If you did a 1 day Dry Needling course that just does not cut it!
Also, some insurers will allow you to add extra modalities and businesses to the one policy (like personal training). Don't just assume that the Association Insurer is the best option for you.
Each Association has different requirements for the number of ongoing points that you are required to maintain to keep membership. If you are geographically isolated, maybe look at an Association that is willing to recognise online learning. If you a city based, maybe an Association that has a lot of face-to-face courses on offer. However you plan to get your ongoing education, look for an Association that will support that. Also don't be scared by the number of points required. Less does NOT = better or easier! All Associations require some points and they are easy to get, so long as you do not leave it until the last moment.
Side Note: Be aware that some Associations require course providers to pay large fees in order to be an "Approved Provider". The courses may not necessarily be the best on offer but the providers have paid a hefty bill to be promoted. Other Associations also have a "Approval Process" and the courses are reviewed by an education committee, but NO endorsement fee is paid (way more ethical in my books). I have done some "Approved" courses over the years from the former process and the content has been questionable to say the least. Strategic direction
Take a moment to look at where each Association is heading in the near future by looking at the Strategic Direction or current focus. eg AMT is currently trialing a mentor program that pairs new graduates with experienced practitioners, MaMA is focussed on a new "certification" process to introduce titles that are trademarked like "Certified Remedial Therapist". Some Association, if you check their website, don't have a current strategy, and haven't updated their information since 2017 (bit of a red flag right there!) Go with the Association that is heading in the same direction as you.
The most important consideration for me came down to communication with my Association. My old Association produced and mailed a glossy magazine every few months. They had a Facebook page that was updated on an adhoc basis, but no closed group for member support. In this day an age, that just didn't cut it for me. So I changed. My new Association has Facebook and Twitter.... and they actually use them regularly! If I have a question, I can jump online, post a question and have 50 therapists around the country help me find a solution!
Where to now?
Being a member of an Association is like any relationship. The Board and the staff are not mind readers. If they aren't doing something, ask why (and, God forbid, maybe offer to help rectify the problem). It is a two way street but if you've lost the love, then don't be afraid to look around and to move. Most Associations have a transition plan to move (and you should not loose your provider status!) They are there to support your role as a Massage Therapist. If they aren't doing that then they aren't the Association for you. Communicate with them. Tell them what you want from them and if they are not going in the same direction as you, then it might be time to part ways.