The History of FSMTA for 80th Anniverssary


The Baby Boomers were raised with Dr. Spock as the primary resource for child-rearing advice. The post-WWII suburban housing, labor-saving appliances, and commuting changed the family lifestyle.  Vietnam entered as a viper into a youth-oriented society that was bent on sex, drugs and rock and roll.  The 1972 Olympics brought about a huge surge of both competitive and recreational running.  It was the runners and other athletes that quickly found the benefits of massage.   

Florida remained at the forefront in encouraging massage to become a reputable profession. Updates to the Massage Registration Act required establishments to have a registered Masseur (RM).  There was also a requirement to have treatment rooms with partial doors.  At this time applicants were required to furnish fingerprints for their permanent file and part of the renewal process.  In 1977 there were changes to Chapter 480 Florida Statutes.  Two of the important ones were the name change to Massage Practice Act.  The definition of massage was also simplified to: “manipulation of the superficial tissues of the human body with the hand, foot, arm or elbow whether or not such manipulation is aided by hydrotherapy or thermal therapy or any electrical or mechanical device and the application to the human body of a chemical or herbal preparation”. 

In 1978 several members of the Florida State Massage Association (FSMA) attended the first Sunset Review hearings in Tallahassee.  Special fundraising was used to hire a lobbyist.    The efforts were successful as the legislature recognized the need for knowledge of anatomy and physiology by the massage profession this recognition in the Purpose clause will become important in later discussions. 


More private massage schools were opening and sometime around 1983, the name of the association was changed to Florida State Massage Therapy Association (FSMTA) Continuing education was still optional until 1984 when FSMTA approved a mandatory continuing education requirement for association renewal.  The definition of massage was expanded to include colonic irrigation.   

I found this quote regarding FSMTA efforts to improve the public image of massage.  In a recent email from Dot Fleisher to Alex:.  “Our first challenge was to change the image of massage.  Back in those days, the telephone books had prurient messages, full-page ads touting “Tahitian Delights” or “Me and my Sister” and did not recognize the therapeutic work we do.  With the help of Ned Dobner, we tried unsuccessfully to change the tone.  Then the brilliant idea–change the law.  So we convinced the Florida Board of Massage to pass a regulation requiring any advertising to include the legitimate license number of any establishment or practitioner.  This included the Yellow Pages, daily newspapers or monthly magazines, and since the early 1980’s this has been the law, for both advertising and for personal business cards, etc.  Mission accomplished!”   

Back to the running Baby Boomers.  In 1984 FSMTA formed its first Sports Massage Team.  This was in preparation for the Florida Sunshine State Games which are Olympic Styled Sports Festivals.   

The issue of liability insurance became acuter since state law required coverage.  FSMTA did not offer insurance and coordinated with AMTA to meet their requirements so that Florida licensees could obtain coverage. 

1n 1986 a new era of information was launched with Massage Message.  Marcia Elder was the editor from 1990-1998.This FSMTA magazine gave timely information, relevant articles and encouragement to all the members of the association (300 members that year).   It was felt that the quarterly executive board meeting and the new magazine increased the membership three-fold for the next convention held in Sarasota in 1987.  Marcia Elder acted for the FSMTA when the Department of Revenue wanted massage therapy to pay taxes on services.  This was countered by a ruling stating that massage services were therapeutic and health care.  This had been part of the Purpose clause at the beginning of Chapter 480 FS.  

The association found an oversight regarding the corporation papers that should have been filed in Tallahassee.  That oversight was corrected as well as the second incorporation of FSMTA in 1986.    

1988 FSMTA legislative agenda was to legalize house calls and on-site massage without an establishment license.  In April 1988 the first in Massage Legislative Awareness Day was held in Tallahassee.  This was a joint effort by the FSMTA and AMTA-FL and included seated chair massages for the legislators and their staff.  Also in 1988, the newest FSMTA chapter held a convention in Key West. 

1989 brought about the change of statutory references from “masseur” to Massage Therapist.  This news was welcomed by those attending the 50th annual Convention of FSMTA in Hollywood.  


A Central Office was opened in Orlando with David Johnson as Director. 

The Florida Bar Association offered to help the FSMTA produce a video Massage Therapy, the Answer to Stress in 1990.  This video was shown at the Florida Bar Meeting in Orlando. FSMTA also offered seated massage to bar members. Copies of the video were available and proceeds were directed toward the Legislative and Lobbying Fund. 

FSMTA started offering Premise and Liability Insurance in 1991.  

1992 legislative session brought about the Health Insurance wording that protected massage CPT codes from “arbitrary discriminatory practice”  by Health Care carriers/administrators.  Two previous sessions of the legislature had failed to pass this bill. 

At the 1993 Sarasota Convention Paul Lambert was announced as the FSMTA Attorney.  Paul provided information on the scope of massage therapy practice from a legal and historical perspective under Florida Law.  Paul brought valuable experience as well as local knowledge of Tallahassee political climate. 

The 1993 Health Care and Insurance Reform Act provided a comprehensive health care model.   The FSMTA Board of Directors voted in May 1993 to empower a panel of experts to investigate the process and develop parameters for the practice of massage therapy in Florida.  Massage Therapy Provider Guidelines, Phase I was printed in July of 1994.   


I will continue to chronicle our more modern history in my next article. 


I have posted graphics for our awards 2004-2013 and other specifics of our history on Facebook (Ralph Russ (Historian))  and the complete article by Alex Spassoff which chronicles not only FSMTA but the history of the Board of Massage and the interrelationships. 


1992 Key West Convention 


1993 Sarasota Convention  


1990 Convention Forum  




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