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Massage Today
May, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 05

Our Issues

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

I constantly am amazed at the variety of topics massage therapists discuss with me. This past month has been quite interesting, and I'm going to share some of the issues brought to my attention.

I must stress, however, that I am not a definitive source of information on any of these issues. I have only opinions, not answers. If you want answers, you need to be contacting our "Dear Lynda" columnist, not the editor!

One prospective massage therapist from New York started his e-mail to me with, "This might be a dumb question but" I used to think there were no dumb questions, but I guess I might have judged too quickly, as the writer went on to ask my thoughts about breaking the law and working unlicensed. Apparently, "There isn't much opportunity for massage therapists that much anymore." Overlooking the fact, for a moment, that there has never been a better time to work as a massage therapist in the history of the whole wide world, does this writer think the editor of the largest touch therapy trade publication on the planet would advise that there are loopholes in the law that can be exploited so one can bilk the public by impersonating a massage therapist? My answers to this person would be to follow the laws in your jurisdiction, go to school, start your business and work hard to grow it, the same as you would if you were a carpenter, a Quiznos sub franchisee, a hot dog street vendor or a barber. The writer asked, "Could I maybe give massages (which I think in general I am good at) and accept only tips, plus have everyone sign a medical type release form in case someone tries to claim that I caused them harm or something like that?" No, you can't!

Another reader from California wrote, "I am contacting you to inquire into any new laws around licensing. I heard in November of 2005 that a new law was being implemented in January 2006. In this new law, statewide licensing would be made null and void by national licensing. Furthermore, well-seasoned MTs would be 'grandfathered in' by this law." She continued with, "I need to know EXACTLY what the truth is and any surrounding information to support me and my staff." I'm not sure where this information came from in November of 2005, but whoever was doing the talking was either uninformed or misunderstood. There are almost no national employment credentials, at least that I am aware of. Physicians, attorneys, bus drivers and licensed investigators are all credentialed by the state. As far as I know, only James Bond as 007 was licensed by a national entity. We at Massage Today try to diligently cover any and all state licensing news. Be sure to use the "search" function on to see what has already been written on this topic.

Perhaps the most engaging communication I had this past month was from a New Hampshire massage therapist who wanted to recertify with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. She told me that after completing the recertification application, she called the NCBTMB to verify certain information so that she wouldn't have to resend the application. After several such attempts without getting a return call, she finally sent the completed application to the assigned NCBTMB lockbox. When she didn't hear anything in what she felt was a reasonable amount of time, she called again, and again, and again. She kept getting told her application had not been received and that she needed to speak with a particular individual to resolve the issue. That individual was never in the office and never returned her calls.

This massage therapist was on the verge of tears as she relayed to me her at tempts to recertify. The only advice I was able to suggest was to put her situation in writing and send it directly to John Page, NCBTMB's executive director. She had already gone through more effort to recertify than I would ever have done myself. As a former chair of NCBTMB, it pains me to admit that, but it's very true. I happened to be in the company of another former NCBTMB chair when this story was unfolding, and when I asked him his thoughts on it, he relayed to me that NCBTMB had never even sent him recertifying applications and that his certification had lapsed before he was even aware of it. If a private organization designed to serve the public and the profession cannot efficiently recertify those who support it, the decay has reached overwhelming proportion.

Another reader chose to remain anonymous, so I have no clue where she is from. Normally, I just delete communications that aren't signed, but I read this one and had a chuckle or two at the well-meaning, albeit opinionated writer. (Opinions are my job, after all!) She wrote, "I have a question. I am strongly aware of a massage therapist who is operating a disreputable practice. To my surprise, I am shocked at how many people are okay with it. They think it is funny, especially guys. Or they think it is just rumors. I know they are not rumors. I know for sure. I know facts but I cannot prove them to anyone. This leaves people to check it out for themselves. Who do I tell? This is what I know. She has told me things herself."

She went on to itemize a laundry list of alleged violations and her reasons for why she thought them an affront to her and her business. They were all important to her, but I shall not repeat them here, as it serves no purpose. She continued, "See, I find this all completely unethical and so wrong. No one seems to care or listen or want to get involved. How does such a situation get fixed when people seem to not want to get involved? If I talk to men, they kind of laugh and make comments about happy endings, etc. I personally don't want my name mentioned to her if she gets reported, either, so I understand why others don't want to get involved; I don't want to either. But this has to stop."

My response to this person is that the only place to send complaint information is to your state licensing board. It is the only entity that can send a cease and desist letter and actually stop unethical practice. If you are unfortunate enough to be practicing in an unregulated state, your only recourse is with the local police department if there are local laws being broken. Do not try to send a complaint without identifying yourself, though. If you aren't signing the complaint, it isn't really a complaint; it's gossip.

So, how would you have responded to these questions?

Thanks for listening.

Massage Today encourages letters to the editor to discuss matters related to the publication's content. Letters may be published in a future issue or online. 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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