Massage Today
Massage Today dotted line
dotted line

dotted line
Share |
  Forward PDF Version  
Massage Today
October, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 10


"Touching the Massage Today readers one letter at a time"

By Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT

Author's Note: Welcome to my monthly column, DearLyndaLMT, where I answer questions from you, the readers. I have been blessed this past decade by working with many experts in the massage profession who will serve as resources, mixed with a touch of Dear Lynda's views and advice.

So ask away with all those things you've wondered about but didn't know who to ask! I can't guarantee all of your questions will be published, but I will do my best to answer you, or at least point you in the right direction.

Please remember, as with all advice, it is just that: advice. Always check to make sure that you're working within your scope of practice in your city/county and state. Please send your questions to or:

P.O. Box 173,
Cocoa, Florida 32923


My husband's company is transferring him from New York City to Alberta, Canada. I am a licensed massage therapist here. Do you know what type of licensing I need to practice massage therapy in Alberta, and is there anyone I can contact for information about associations there?

-- Patricia in New York

Dear Patricia,

I spoke with Melanie Hayden, president of the Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners (AMTWP), about requirements in Canada. She shared with me that British Columbia and Ontario are the only regulated provinces in Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador are expected to have regulation for the massage therapy profession in the near future. Massage therapy in the province of Alberta is not currently regulated, so you will need to abide by licensing in the local jurisdiction in which you intend to practice. The AMTWP offers professional membership to massage therapists and wholistic practitioners who have successful completed their studies at an AMTWP-approved school. You can call them directly to check if your school has been recognized or if an application for recognition needs to be made. You should do this in advance of your moving to help ensure a smooth transition.

The association offers medical malpractice insurance and a large selection of other membership benefits. Melanie told me that as a new member from out of town, you could benefit tremendously from their MentorTree program. The program offers an instant support group, professional contacts and networking opportunities that would be perfect for any practitioner new to the profession or new to a city. You can call AMTWP's toll-free number (1-888-711-7701) for more information.

Good luck to you and your husband!


I live in San Mateo County, California, and I'm thinking of becoming a massage therapist. I understand that one of the requirements is an annual examination for STDs. If I have herpes simplex type I or II, will I be automatically disqualified, or are there other regulations regarding practicing with this condition? I want to start classes soon, but if I can't get licensed, I don't want to waste my time.

-- DW in California

Dear DW,

I personally do not know of any massage therapist who has been denied a license due to having herpes. With cities and counties having different ordinances, you really need to call the local government and read a copy of its ordinances.

I sent your question to two very active massage therapists in California; here is what each shared with me:

Beverly Mays, who owns Redwood Massage & Sauna in Redwood City, and is the director of governmental relations for the AMTA-CA chapter, shared the following:

I know of no local ordinances in California that would reject an application for a massage permit from someone with herpes of any type. Usually the ordinances are worded similar to the following: "Applicant has been examined by a doctor within the last 30 days and been found free of any disease or condition capable of being transmitted by the work of therapeutic massage." Herpes does not fall under that description. State law prevents requirements for HIV testing, and cities rarely even mention TB, which is possible to spread by massage contact.

In my city, Redwood City, an old ordinance still requires a VD test. Every year I get a note from my doctor, who usually doesn't even examine me at all, since he realizes the note is irrelevant to public health, because I have no conditions that can be transmitted to clients through massage. The city never asks why VD is not mentioned, and I would fight it if they would. VD is not spread through massage.

If your reader has other questions, he can contact me directly via e-mail at .

I also contacted Mark W. Dixon, NCTMB, who practices in Newport Beach, California and teaches at the Western Institute of Neuromuscular Therapy in Laguna Hills. He shared the following:

To determine if a particular STD is in question, it is necessary to check the ordinance in the town in which you wish to practice. Some ordinances name them specifically, and some say the applicant must be free of all communicable diseases. Reading the entire ordinance is always a good idea, since it is not uncommon for the person at the counter at city hall to be unfamiliar with the details.

When encountering a requirement that is unacceptable to our profession, I advocate working to change that requirement by working with the city council to produce a law that truly regulates massage as a health care practice. Most local ordinances are in fact anti-prostitution laws that degrade the legitimate practice of massage.

A strong case in favor of high educational requirements and the National Certification Examination has been successful in many areas, especially in unregulated states that leave massage regulation to the cities. The city wants to know that the public is safe and that the massage professional is qualified and well-trained; education and national certification help to assure local lawmakers that such persons present an extremely low likelihood of committing illicit acts. Mention the requirement for continuing education and that the Code of Ethics of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is backed up by a grievance procedure that can be activated by other professionals and the general public.

When approaching city governments about removing the most onerous requirements from massage ordinances (STD testing, windows in massage room doors, prohibition of sex toys, etc.), it is best to emphasize our interest in solid education (minimum 500 hours.) and national certification, and to avoid the approach aimed at assisting the city in controlling prostitution. That's not our business and it's not our job. We're here to raise public expectation of our profession.

If you'd like some guidance in working the system to your advantage, feel free to contact me for more information at .

Lynda Solien-Wolfe is Vice President, Massage and Spa at Performance Health. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and has been in private practice in Merritt Island, Florida for more than 20 years. Lynda graduated from Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, FL.


Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreement
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.
comments powered by Disqus
dotted line