Legislation: A Hard Row to Hoe

The majority of states have now passed massage therapy legislation; there are only five remaining states without any regulation: Alaska, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Idaho and Minnesota both have Freedom of Access laws in effect. 35 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have joined the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. I hope the rest of the regulated states will follow suit and join this great collaboration.

This past weekend, I was in the beautiful state of Kansas teaching a class for the AMTA Chapter there. I listened to Chapter President Marla Heiger give an update on their legislative process, which actually started ten years ago. It will be revisited in July.  Getting massage regulation in place is a hard row to hoe, as anyone who has ever been in on the process can attest.

Back in the day when massage legislation first came to North Carolina, I was employed by a massage school; the owner of that was on the first board here. In my capacity as her administrator, I sent around to neighboring states that already had legislation, and helped her summarize their rules. She was on the rules committee at the time, and had a hand in drafting the initial rules. It’s never a simple process.

One of the main hurdles, for a lot of states, has been in educating legislators, and convincing them that regulation is needed and that it benefits the public as well as the profession.

I’m not just a massage therapist, I’m a marketer. One of the main rules of marketing is that people want to know how something will benefit them. And one of the main rules of politics, as we all know, is that legislators often have to be forced into paying attention to important issues.  Involvement on the part of massage therapists is crucial.  Last week in Kansas, for example, the chapter president handed out blank petitions and encouraged the therapists who were present to ask all their clients to sign them…they need a certain number of petitioners before the legislature will even put the issue back on their agenda.

Getting legislation in place depends largely on the efforts of AMTA. ABMP also has a government relations representative. The FSMTB is here to help member boards in any way they can. In the final analysis, massage therapists have to care. They have to want the credibility that goes along with licensure. They have to want to put a stop to unethical practices associated with massage. One of the therapists in my class this weekend said that in spite of the fact that there is no licensure there, when their new phone book came out recently, there were six listings of people claiming to be “licensed massage therapists. ” That’s bad, because in the eyes of the public who may be looking for a therapist and doesn’t know anything about the law,  it makes the dishonest advertisers look superior to the therapists who are listings themselves honestly without that designation. All the more reason to get some rules in place.

I wish Kansas well with their legislative efforts, and I hope that the few other holdout states will follow suit. It’s important to our evolution as a profession.

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