Nikki Arel is a “Power-House” and a valuable asset to the Connecticut Chapter and AMTA. She started her AMTA journey over 15 years ago, after graduating from The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy (CCMT). If you have been to a chapter meeting or event, chances are you have met Nikki.
Nikki has been a teacher at the former CCMT and teaches at the Bodymind Center for Thai Massage. She has also provided education at our chapter meetings.
Nikki is also a yoga instructor. In addition to AMTA, Nikki has a strong connection to our military. She provides massage to active-duty military and veterans. She also has further training to work with trauma-sensitivity and adaptive yoga for the military and is certified through Warriors at Ease. When time allows Nikki also volunteered/worked in DC at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial and has also traveled to various states with “The Wall That Heals.” She is currently working on her Masters in Social Work, with a concentration in military social work.
As an AMTA member, Nikki has volunteered on the Community Service Massage Team (CSMT) and the CSMT Emergency Division. She has served as chair and a team leader since 2015. She has been an active participant at the EMS Expo and Massage Therapy Awareness Day at the Capitol.
Nikki has served for 4 years as a delegate to the Assembly (former House) of Delegates. She has been actively involved in discussions with other delegates and reaching out to membership in order to share your voice at the National delegation. Her passion shines through in this work and she has served this chapter with distinction in this role.
The largest impact she has had in this chapter is as Government Relations Chair. The list of her achievements in this position are long:
- Education hours were increased for licensure
- Liability insurance is now required for MTs in CT
- 60 hours of supervised clinic time is mandatory for massage therapy licensure in the state, separate from classroom hours
- Defeat of a proposal by the Governor to tax massage therapy
- Inclusion in drafting the bill that would license estheticians and nail technicians in CT
- Currently working with the Department of Public Health and the Public Health Committee to amend wording in the final version of the Esthetician’s Bill
- Advocated for the profession during mandates, shut downs, and reopening of massage therapy during the pandemic
- Kept membership informed, whether pandemic related or bill related
- Engaged membership in letter writing campaigns and in-person verbal testimony opportunities
- Invited to be part of the TIP (Trafficking In Persons) council
Nikki has built strong working relationships with state legislators, legislative staff, and our lobbyist. The effort also involved working with the Department of Public Health and the massage therapy schools within CT to ensure their support for the legislative changes to the education hours and liability insurance requirement. Her passion for the profession of massage therapy, her effective communication, and her ability to make clear and concise comments were vital in the success of all legislative actions.
The Connecticut Chapter has had a long-standing event, where volunteers from the chapter spend the day at the capital offering free massage to legislators and staff as a goodwill event (Massage Therapy Awareness Day at the Capitol). Nikki has used this event to bring awareness about the massage therapy profession. While we had legislative active issues, informational cards were created to given to those who received any body work.
The key to working with legislators is delivering your message in a concise and effective manner. Nikki was very successful in developing relationships with key legislators.
Also key to the success was engaging the membership. Nikki spearheaded successful campaigns to mobilize our members to provide written and in-person, verbal testimony concerning the bills being presented. Nikki worked with AMTA members, as well as non-AMTA massage therapists, towards the best resolution for ALL massage therapists.
In the hearings regarding taxation of massage therapy, the legislators had a mindset that massage therapy was just a service that the wealthier constituents receive to relax and pamper themselves. The message was clearly delivered that our profession is more than pampering. Legislators received the message that massage therapy is considered a medical treatment, with research to prove its medical effects and recognized by insurance companies and CMS.
Over the last year Nikki has worked with the lobbyist and DPH to keep massage therapy in the forefront, and she helped draft the guidelines that were presented to the Department of Health for safely reopening massage therapy practices during a pandemic.
While in a shut-down period, Nikki expertly navigated the comments from membership that both supported reopening and opposed reopening. When unemployment benefits challenge members, they often reach out to Nikki for guidance. Nikki swiftly redirects members to the appropriate resources and steers conversations away from sticky situations where there is no “winner.” Had she handled these situations differently, some political chaos could have resulted. Due to her influence and political awareness, the chapter did not incur any reputation damage and the Board did not have to mobilize. This is a valuable leadership skill set, and we are lucky to have Nikki.
Notably, Nikki has also been invited, as a valued stakeholder, to join the TIP (Trafficking In Persons) council meetings. The council involves lawmakers and other state agencies and organizations that discuss how to deal with human trafficking, including appropriate laws, without penalizing legitimate massage therapists. Legislation is currently being heard that will place a massage therapist on the TIP council.