Image of Utah in the United States
Image of Utah in the United States

Utah Law Would Create Lower Tier Massage Licensure

Utah Law Would Create Lower Tier Massage Licensure

A proposed bill in Utah—SB 180—aims to deal with labor shortages by creating two lower tiers of massage therapists: Certified Massage Practitioners and Massage Assistants in Training. Proponents of the bill suggest SB 180 would reduce arbitrary licensure burdens that prevent more people from entering the workforce. Opponents of the bill point out that SB 180 may create unsafe massage practice by allowing people without entry-level skills, knowledge, and training to perform massage therapy.

This bill would require that Certified Massage Practitioners and Massage Assistants in Training undergo 150 educational training hours compared to the 500-hour minimum standard and 600 to 625 national average. The bill would also modify the licensed massage therapy exam requirements so that these new categories of massage therapists would essentially have the same scope of practice as licensed massage therapists in the state.

See Also: Massage Therapy Legislative Updates for May/June

Pushback from Massage Therapists and Organizations

Massage therapists in the state of Utah, as well as many massage therapy organizations, say this bill will put massage consumers at risk. A lack of classroom time to learn and practice foundational skills necessary for client intake and assessment seriously jeopardize baseline client safety, many say, especially when understanding when massage is contraindicated is just as important as knowing when massage is indicated.

“Massage therapists in the great state of Utah have worked hard to establish professionalism and standards that not only protect the consumer but they protect the therapist as well,” says Heber J. Blackner. “SB 180 takes away both the professionalism and the protection that we’ve worked so hard to make sure were in place.”

Jessica King, who started a petition that currently has 3,169 signatures, says the process of becoming a licensed massage therapist doesn’t need to change for people to enter the massage profession. “Being a licensed massage therapist is not only already easily accessible, but also incredibly affordable through both traditional schooling, as well as via a working internship,” the petition says.

“There is no need to create a lower tier in order to facilitate what already exists.” Massage therapists are also concerned the lowered educational standards could create conditions that make human trafficking or exploitation easier.

Opponents of the bill protested the change on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol late in February. As of March 4, 2022, the bill has passed both the state senate and house, but was not signed into law due to a clerical error.

This bill will likely be reintroduced in a special session this year or in the 2023 session.

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