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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

Wisconsin Registration Law Upgraded to State Certification

By Betsy Krizenesky, WRMT, AMTA-WI Government Relations Chair

Effective March 1, 2003, 2001 Wisconsin Act 74 upgrades the current registration law to state certification for massage therapists and bodyworkers. Regulation will still be of titles rather than the actual practice of massage therapy and bodywork.

Those choosing not to meet state requirements will still be allowed to practice massage in Wisconsin without a state credential, but will need to choose titles other than Certified Massage Therapist and Bodyworker.

The regulatory bill was initiated by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA-WI), after a member moved at a chapter meeting on August 25, 2000 that no new legislative action be taken before taking a survey of massage therapists. In February 2001, three-fourths (76%) of respondents to a mailed survey voted for the chapter to pursue practice protection. The bill draft was almost identical to the original legislation that had been drafted by a coalition of massage therapists and bodyworkers in 1996, resulting in the current registration law.

Representative Dean Kaufert and Senator Judith Robson introduced the legislation (AB 749/SB 413) in January 2002. In its initial form, the bill addressed licensing (practice protection). In February, the bill was amended to certification for the profession (only title protection, but nonetheless an upgrade from registration).

Proponents in Wisconsin see the most compelling reason for increased regulation strongly linked to the burgeoning use by the public of massage therapy. As larger cross-sections of the population are seeking the services of massage therapists and bodyworkers, a larger proportion of clients seen have more serious health problems. As a profession, we need adequate training to be able to recognize contraindications to treatment to avoid doing harm. State regulation is the most effective way of ensuring adequate profession-wide training.

All Wisconsin registered massage therapists and bodyworkers with a valid state credential on March 1, 2003 will become state-certified massage therapists and bodyworkers upon successful renewal. Therapists applying for the first time for a renewable credential will need to meet current requirements, which will not change with the new law. Those requirements consist of an approved 600-hour program in massage therapy or bodywork, and passage of the NCE and a take-home exam on the laws of Wisconsin that apply to the profession.

New stipulations as of March 1, 2003:

  1. The public will be able to easily distinguish those who are state certified by the therapist's certificate number that must appear on all advertising.
  2. The profession's opinions will be represented by a seven-member Massage Therapy and Bodywork Council in the Department of Regulation and Licensing. These seven members of the profession will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature.
  3. Under the new law, "A certificate holder may not practice massage therapy or bodywork on a client" without first obtaining informed consent. Under current law informed consent is referred to in the administrative rules, RL 94(6), not in the statutes, as being required before "initiating a plan of treatment."
  4. The following phrase has been added to the current definition of massage therapy and bodywork " improve circulation, reduce tension, relieve soft tissue pain or increase flexibility..."
  5. The current link to the physical therapy law has been removed.

For your own copy of the new law, which will take effect March 1, 2003, call 1-800-362-9472 and ask for 2001 Wisconsin Act 74, or print yourself a copy from:


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