Massage Licensing Trends: Confusing or What

Massage Licensing

Karen Menehen wrote an excellent chronology on the ever-changing licensing regulations for massage therapists from the period 2005 to the present.  Her article appeared on Massage Magazine’s Trends and Opportunities – 2009.

Because of state versus national requirements, the whole licensing issue can confuse new graduates of massage therapy who are planning to obtain licenses immediately.  Given these recent changes, would it be better to wait until the law is actually enforced and implemented and then see how things unfold, or should massage school graduates just go ahead and obtain whatever licenses and permits are presently required by the state they intend to practice in?

In our last two blogs, the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) was celebrating the passage of Senate Bill 731 but were still trying to figure out what schools would qualify and how much to charge for the licence fee.

Note that SB-731 was approved in 2008, but went into effect only in September this year, so this is one example where patience and waiting it out would be the smarter decision.  The only catch to waiting is that if massage therapy graduates are itching to set up their own business, potential income is lost if they don’t obtain that license right away.

In Karen Menehen’s article/chronology, she mentions that in May last year, the state of Florida voted that all new massage therapists must pass the MBLEx for state licensing purposes and that they should drop the NCETMB.

Most massage therapists are probably more familiar with NCETMB because this was one exam that up until April 2005 was used by most states  (in addition to their state-administered exam).  NCETMB stands for the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

In May 2005, however, representatives from seven states and from the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP)  met and decided that the aim should be to introduce a unified licensing body for the sake of uniformity.

From that meeting, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) was born.  Two years later, the FSMTB announced the MBLEx requirement.  Oregon and Arkansas Boards of Massage Therapy decided to use only the MBLEx, dropping NCETMB as a requirement; the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy voted that it would also use the MBLEx but as an alternative to the NCETMB but did not drop NCETMB altogether.

In May 2008, Florida voted to adopt the MBLEx and consequently dropped the NCETMB requirement.  This was challenged by officials who were behind the NCETMB and they went as far as asking Pennsylvania to vote no to the MBLEx but their efforts failed.  North Carolina hopped into MBLEx bandwagon as well.

Early this year – January to be exact – the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) said it would use the MBLEx over any other state licensing exam.  Also at about this time, a compromise was reached between the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Board of Massage Therapy and the NCBTMB:  both the MBLEx and the NCETMB would be used for state licensing.

This has not stopped the NCETMB however from doing all possible grunt work to maintain the NCETMB requirement for state licensing.  According to Kathy Menehen, so far 29 states have joined the FSMTB (the creator of the MBLEx), and 18 of them have adopted the MBLEx along with the NCETMB; two states have opted for the MBLEx exclusively.

As for the other states and the District of Columbia, she said they offer either a license, certificate or registration to professionals in massage and bodywork disciplines.


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