The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) accredits both educational institutions and programs offering instruction in massage therapy and bodywork or esthetics and skin care. The organization was formed to establish and maintain the quality and integrity of the profession and is governed by a Commission of elected volunteers. COMTA was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a specialized accrediting agency in 2002, an acknowledgement of its expertise in ensuring quality education and allowing programs to access federal student aid funds.Accreditation defined
Accreditation is a voluntary peer review process that identifies and acknowledges educational programs and/or institutions for achieving and maintaining a level of quality, performance and integrity based on educational and professional standards.
Standards of Accreditation
- Are set by practitioners and educators in the profession.
- Are designed to encompass diversity in curriculum competencies and organization - as well as methods of instruction - to reflect the diversity in professional practice.
- Are continually reviewed to ensure they reflect the most current practices and ethical guidelines.
- Are based on regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Education for accrediting bodies.
- Include complaint and appeals procedures to provide due process related to the interpretation of standards for individuals, programs and schools.
Click here to download COMTA’s Standards and Self-Study Report (pdf).
COMTA: a brief history
In 1982, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Council of Schools (COS) was established, in recognition of a shared concern among educators and school executive directors for the quality of massage therapy education. Early Council work focused on the need to develop and maintain educational standards.
In 1989, the Commission on Massage Training Approval/Accreditation (COMTAA) was established. In the following two years, with the assistance of AMTA’s Program Approval Review Committee, COS and additional AMTA volunteers and staff, COMTAA created and implemented standards, policies and procedures that would meet the rigorous standards of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) for accrediting agencies. Recognition by the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation was pursued as a developmental stage toward the ultimate goal of USDE recognition.
In 1992, in an effort to combat widespread fraud, waste and abuse in the federal Title IV financial aid programs, Congress passed the Higher Education Amendments. This law requires USDE recognized accrediting agencies to act as “gatekeeper” of federal funds. The responsibility for oversight of student loan programs for years had been shared by states, accrediting agencies and the USDE. Congress determined in 1992 that this triad was not able to guarantee program integrity and financial accountability in higher education institutions. The Amendments created a new triad in which the states (which have a new enforcement capability) and the accrediting agencies (which have new requirements to meet) each have responsibility for monitoring and reporting to each other and to the USDE.
While waiting for the USDE regulations to be issued, COMTAA continued to accredit and approve programs, as well as refine its policies and procedures to be ready to come into compliance with those regulations.
In October 1996, an elected COMTAA Commission was seated. The members were elected by the then current COMTAA approved and accredited programs. The initial representation on the Commission included two massage school administrators, two massage school educators, two public members, and one each of professional academic, massage therapist employer and massage therapist practitioner.
In 1997 the decision was made to end the approval status on March 31, 1999, and change the name to the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). In 2004 COMTA became a completely independent organization.
USDE recognition was granted July 10, 2002. On November 8, 2004 COMTA’s USDE recognition was continued for five years and the scope of practice was expanded to include accreditation of academic associate degree programs. As part of the renewal of recognition process in 2010, COMTA requested an expansion into occupational associate degrees and aesthetics/esthetics and skin care. The body which determines agency recognition (NACIQI) met in December 2010 to evaluate this renewal and expansion. Both areas of expansion were approved and the COMTA recognition was renewed for one year to allow for certain COMTA procedures and policies to be updated. The recognition will be reviewed again by the Department and NACIQI in December of 2012.