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Massage Today
December, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 12

Winds of Change in North Carolina & Pennsylvania

By Editorial Staff

In the past two months, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have each passed legislation that, among other stipulations, allows for the potential use of a non-NCBTMB exam as a method of approving massage therapists for practice.

They join 13 other states that have opened the door to and/or approved use of the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) including Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

According to the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the New Mexico Massage Therapy Board intends to use the MBLEx for licensure; rewrites of specific language to allow for the MBLEx are in process.

In North Carolina, recent legislation amending the state's Massage and Bodywork Therapy Practice Act included this key requirement regarding examinations: "[The applicant] has passed a competency assessment examination that meets generally accepted psychometric principles and standards and is approved by the Board." The NCBTMB and FSMTB exams were developed based on "psychometric principles and standards."

Following passage of the legislation, the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy approved sole use of the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) for "regular" licensure after Jan. 1, 2011.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Pennsylvania's recent massage licensure legislation included similar language; that bill was approved in October, making Pa. the 40th state to enact massage regulation. As of press time, no decision has been made as to whether the MBLEx will be the exclusive test used to license the state's massage therapists.

N.C. Adopts MBLEx

In October of this year, the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy sat down with the NCBTMB and the FSMTB to discuss Senate Bill 1314, which was signed into law Aug. 18, 2008. When the meeting adjourned, the N.C. Board approved the MBLEx, administered by the FSMTB, as the exam to be used for "regular" licensure. The existing NCBTMB exam will be phased out in two years and  the MBLEx will take its place.

"The N.C. Board voted to accept the MBLEx only after much research including presentations from both the NCBTMB and the FSMTB regarding examinations," said Susan Beam, the chair of the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy.

"Because protection of the public is the primary concern of licensing agencies and the MBLEx is designed as a licensing exam, almost one quarter of the MBLEx addresses ethics, boundaries, and professional standards," she said. "Also, the MBLEx is owned by the member boards of FSMTB, of which North Carolina is one. We have been able to observe, and when appropriate, participate in the development of the MBLEx. We will continue to have input regarding content and delivery of the MBLEx. Finally, we expect the MBLEx to eventually be accepted by most, if not all, states, which will increase portability of licensure for massage therapists."

The N.C. bill stipulation was supported by the North Carolina chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), as well as the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Pennsylvania: Similar Language in New Licensing Law

In Pennsylvania, massage therapist licensing legislation was signed into law on Oct. 9, 2008, by Gov. Edward Rendell. The legislation includes similar language to the North Carolina legislation with regard to exams: "Any examination approved by the board must meet generally recognized psychometric principles and standards."

As of press time, no qualification has been made concerning which organization's examination (NCE or MBLEx) can be taken to satisfy the state's requirement.

Commenting on the recent trend involving choice of exams, M.K. Brennan, AMTA said, "The AMTA-Pennsylvania chapter and many other massage therapy organizations and individuals devoted several years and countless amounts of energy in working for legislation that would be fair for all in the profession and for the public. AMTA believes state regulatory boards should have the option to choose the massage therapy licensing exam(s) they will recognize. However, AMTA does support the concept of one massage therapy licensing exam recognized by all states, as it is a key element in working toward future portability of massage therapy practice."

To view the complete bill text of North Carolina SB 1314, visit: To view the text of Pennsylvania HB 2499, visit:


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