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Massage Today
August, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 08

Legislative Evolution in Texas

By Janine Ray, LMT, MTI, CCMT and Pamela Ellen Ferguson, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA and GSD-CI, LMT (TX)

Texas members of various associations of massage, bodywork and Asian bodywork therapies are busy forming a new Texas Legislative Coalition to prepare for an advisory board. Solid legislative efforts by the Texas Association of Massage Therapists (TAMT), the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA), the Texas Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (TAAOM), the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Texas Medical Association, recently helped to kill the Texas Health Freedom Coalition Bills SB 1084 and HB 1716 at the end of the Texas 82nd Legislative session in June.

The Complementary and Alternative Health Care Services Bills would have given anyone the right to practice anything on a shopping list of more than 20 professions and techniques, including Bodywork, Acupressure, Traditional Oriental Practices such as Qigong Energy Healing, Polarity, Folk Practices, Mind-Body Healing Practices, Cranial-Sacral and more, without licensing or certification or minimal education requirements. The random list was proposed without any apparent reference to or support from national organizations which represent the major professions within bodywork therapies.


The solid clout of opposing voices was the peak of legislative discussions prompted by a historic and unique April 7th roundtable meeting during the AOBTA national convention in Austin. Organized jointly by Janine Ray, TAMT Legislative Director, and Pamela Ferguson, former AOBTA Director of Council of Schools and Programs, the meeting included some 25 national and state representatives from TAMT, AMTA, AOBTA, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), Feldenkrais Guild of America (FGNA), the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI) and the United States Trager Association (USTA). Everyone gathered to discuss legislation that was currently in the Texas House and Senate, as well as the proposed bill that TAMT had been working on that would make the conforming changes to HB 2644 to combine all Bodywork Therapists, Asian Bodywork Therapists and Massage Therapists under a Massage and Bodywork License which would also honor the respective educational requirements and scopes of practice.

FSMTB's Model Practice Act

Coincidentally, the April 7th meeting happened to fall in the same week that the FSMTB announced their special Task Force to craft a Model Practice Act (MPA) for Massage and Bodywork. The purpose, as summarized by Debra Persinger, FSMTB Executive Director, and Sally Hacking, Director of Government Relations, is to provide a resource to legislatures and boards, to establish standards of minimal competencies, educational requirements, methods of addressing consumer complaints and evidence of unethical practice. The FSMTB chose a seven member task torce from their 41 member states. Six members represent their respective state massage therapy boards, including Deborah Overholt of New Jersey, who is also Legislative Director of the AOBTA. The seventh member is Yvonne Feinleib, director of the Texas Department of State Health Services Massage Therapy program. The task force's first report is expected in October.

What's Next?

While there was a consensus of opinion regarding the wisdom of a comprehensive MT/BT Bill at the April 7th meeting, former AOBTA President Debra Howard pointed out potential problems that would need to be clarified and addressed as Texas moves thoughtfully toward a new bill. Howard quoted an example of scope of practice issues in Louisiana, where ABTs must be licensed as Massage Therapists. Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese technique within the scope of practice for ABTs, was banned by the state massage board after an unqualified MT instructor incorrectly taught the technique in a classroom.

To continue resolving all of the above issues with a view to achieving some solid common goals, including honoring differences within the various professions of Bodywork Therapy, Asian Bodywork Therapy and Massage Therapy, the Texas members of the various associations expressed a collective need to form a new Texas Legislative Massage and Bodywork Coalition. The aim is to fine tune a piece of legislation that would detail and clarify the definitions of massage and bodywork, core competencies, and ethical issues related to protecting the public. The aim is work in tandem with the DSHS.

The ultimate vision is to evolve into an all inclusive advisory board to discuss issues like a grandfathering clause, and how this will impact independent schools and community colleges, as well as all facets of the professions. Of course any proposed legislation will depend on the necessary budget allocation for DSHS to implement the bill.

Pamela Ellen Ferguson teaches mainly CEU and advanced courses in Asian Bodywork Therapy at schools of Shiatsu abroad. She is the Asian Bodywork Therapy Dean Emerita of AOMA. For more information, please visit her columnist page. You may email Pam at .


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