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Massage Today
April, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 04

Of Foxes and Henhouses

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I rarely shy away from expressing my opinions about issues - good, bad or indifferent - related to the massage profession. I have written columns suggesting that state regulation in Mississippi and New Jersey is seriously flawed and detrimental to practicing therapists, and misses the mark of protecting the public.

I recently was made aware of another state's massage board exercising its right to obtain a few minutes of fame. North Carolina's massage board recently posted proposed changes to its administrative rules, which rank up there with "world-class" bad legislation!

The individual who suggested I take a peek at the proposed rules did so because of some draconian clauses involving schools. Many who know me share my disdain of schools that use last year's students as this year's instructors, so I was prepared to be pleased to see that some of the schools' oversight was being tightened up. Unfortunately, "tightening up" in North Carolina means "bringing overbearing force."

One new rule would require schools to submit documentation and application on prospective new staff members before they begin working at the school - Stanford and MIT don't require that much oversight, nor does your local school district! If a faculty member gets hit by a bus the day before school starts, this rule would make it illegal to hire a completely qualified individual to meet the start of the school program! I understand the need to develop qualifications of instructors for any professional or trade school, but requiring the vetting of a board is several steps beyond reasonable need.

The massage board is further looking to regulate schools by doubling the fees and changing school renewals to $100 per student. From my brief analysis, this surely is adverse to all small schools in North Carolina, and is a major slap in the face to the profitability of one of the fastest-growing segments of massage education - the community college system. Community college tuition fees are mandated by law, whereas proprietary schools can pass through the new fees to students by charging higher tuition. It would be interesting to see if a proprietary school owner had a hand in the wording of these proposed rules, which seems to give that segment of massage education a competitive edge.

My guess, though, is that the average massage therapist is willing to let the schools fight their own battles and will focus instead on the impact on practitioners. I found these items of particular interest. There is a requirement to report others in violation of the state rules within 10 days, or be subject to the same penalties as the person causing violation. While I am a proponent of evaluation and policing by peers, I find this mandatory tattletale regulation offensive. I find it morally wrong when, as in North Carolina, the requirement is to report all charges of wrongdoing to the board, not just convictions. They seem to have missed the "innocent until proven guilty" clause in jurisprudence.

Arguably, the worst of the offenses that these proposed rules enable is the inclusion and misuse of much of the NCBTMB's Standards of Practice into North Carolina regulation. The new rules suggest that the proposed Standards of Practice section will provide a more comprehensive template for licensees to use as they carry out their professional duties. They say the requirements are intended to provide a greater measure of protection for the public as it receives massage and bodywork therapy in a wide range of practice environments. I think not; further, I think that the North Carolina massage board is attempting not to protect the public, but to shape the profession into a clinical perspective that the board itself holds.

It chooses to not develop its own Standards of Practice, but to cut and paste those from the NCBTMB. Its cut-and-paste method, however, is seriously flawed. In its wisdom, the NCBTMB chose to include, "if applicable" to many of its standards, realizing that circumstances and type of practice determine applicability. North Carolina chooses to say, "licensees shall" instead of "if applicable!" It has taken something good and turned it into something else to suit its own purposes. This is a common evil: using something for other than that which was originally intended.

I have long been a proponent of massage therapy as a regulated profession. One of the reasons I prefer it is because it lends itself to massage therapists providing peer review of complaints against other massage therapists. I have been a loud critic of nurses, chiropractors or others having oversight of massage therapy. That is particularly why I find the trend of poorly administrated regulation so frightful.

I see situations like this one (and those I recently reported on in New Jersey and Mississippi) as driving our professional self-determination into the hands of others. I hope that the ABMP, AMTA, IMA, and every other state and local association in North Carolina make their collective voices heard as to why the proposed changes should be reworked.

More importantly, I hope that all the practicing massage therapists in North Carolina exercise their rights to make comments to the massage board about these proposed changes. Any person has the right to comment on proposed changes to the rules.

If you wish to make such comments, the board requests that you:

  1. Name the rule in question;
  2. Clearly and concisely state your position about the proposed change; and
  3. Identify why you either support or do not support the proposed change.

It accepts written comments via United States Postal Service, private carrier or e-mail - but not fax. Your comments should include your full name, address and phone number. For more information, visit

Thanks for listening!

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters relating to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue of Massage Today. Please send all correspondence by e-mail to , or by regular mail to:

Massage Today
P.O. Box 4139
Huntington Beach, CA 92605

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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