Certifiably Certified Part 1 (…of 3!)

Common terminology throughout the field of massage therapy continuing education can get a little crazy. Take the difference between “training” and “certification” for example, some courses will give you a “Certificate of Completion” or “Certificate of Continuing Education Hours”, or a Diploma…. some courses will say you are trained in a method, while others will say you are automatically Certified in their method after completing their class.

Another meaning to “Certification” takes a deeper understanding in the material. Many massage techniques out there will not endorse your use of their technique, or even offer you added perks within their company (like product discounts, online listing services, use of their name in your marketing, or even extra credentials in some cases to add after your name such as “CST”) until you complete a specialized self-study process to be distinguished as “Certified,” versus merely just being trained.

The NCBTMB defines Certification as:

Certificate of Completion: A Certificate of Completion is given to a participant who has attended 100 % of a live course.

Certificate of Achievement: A Certificate of Achievement is given to a participant who has passed some type of written or practical examination.

Many NCBTMB Ce Providers use the “Certificate of Completion” as a “Completion of Hours” Document, and the “Certificate of Achievement” is then used as an internal form of standardization within that technique.

…Since the NCBTMB itself does not issue these documents and cannot monitor the standards of each individual technique as they are taught to each person, many specialized techniques and modalities across the field of massage therapy education have taken it upon themselves to set the bar high for the quality of those who represent their original massage content, and have created additional steps for their graduates to rise to a new level of excellence within their own internal “brand name” level of Certification, putting to good use the option of the “Certificates of Acheivements”…

For example: could it be a little nuts to assume that the student therapist who experienced a sample of barefoot massage work in their entry level massage therapy school have the same understanding, resources and excellence in the technique as the massage therapist who invested in a specialty Continuing Education course to learn Ashiatsu, who also completed 20 documented practice sessions, passed a practical application in class, felt the work directly from the instructor, then massaged the instructor AND passed a written test on the subject? Should both these therapists be able to ethically say that they are Certified and trained in Ashiatsu? They are both trained in some aspect, sure, but the point I want to drive home is the use of terminology, as it is often used as a title to distinguish those who put in effort to achieve excellence, rather than just assuming it by osmosis.

To clean up the craziness and confusion in our own back yard, I encourage you to check into how the technique you trained in utilizes the certifiable lingo, and keep these examples in mind. Think of it as “big C” Certification from extra work, versus a “little c” certificate on paper. Stay ethical, and only refer to yourself in terms that are accurate to your level of training within that modality. Remember that receiving a certificate to hang on your wall, or attending a 3 hour sample of the work at a meetup, convention or in massage school, although it did give you great insight, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are actually Certified in that technique. Advertising yourself as such can misrepresent your skillset and abilities – and ultimately diminish the integrity of our profession.

To help push the field of Massage Therapy into the future, continue to learn. If you like a certain style, then dive into it and seek out more and more training specific to that style! Take nationally recognized classes that challenge you, choose modalities that hold you to a high standard who expect more than entry level basic application of their material. Learn, practice, apply…. and remember this:

“A certificate does not make you certified. Attitude, performance, commitment to self and team — these and a certificate make you certified.” ~Author Unknown

…Read part 2 of this blog series

as we explore what it means to be Certified in Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy and other techniques in the field of massage therapy.


Ashiatsu Deepfeet Bar Therapy® is the leader in Continuing Education for Massage Therapists  nationwide. Our method of deep tissue barefoot Swedish massage using an over head support system has improved the quality of life for many massage therapists around the world. Learn more at www.deepfeet.com.