It’s pretty amazing how differently massage therapy is regulated in different cities, counties, and states. Finding the right balance between having absolutely no massage regulations on the one hand, and having way too many regulations on the other, is obviously challenging for many jurisdictions around the country.
In most cases when I therapist is living in a particular area it can be pretty straightforward as long as you have one set of guidelines you know and understand, and are able to comply with. This of course assumes that there are not any ridiculous restrictions or prejudicial types of clauses in the law. (I recently worked directly with the city Council of Alexandria Virginia to successfully repeal some of those kinds of regulations).
Where this can get particularly difficult is when the therapist live somewhere that is close to a border of another jurisdiction where they would also like to practice. One perfect example of this is the Washington DC metro area. You have not only the District of Columbia itself, but also the states of Virginia and Maryland which are all very close in proximity to each other. Each of the jurisdictions has different rules and laws and each requires a therapist be licensed in that jurisdiction in order to practice there.
It becomes a very unfortunate situation for many therapists who often live very close to the borders, and have clients interested in their services, adjacent to the jurisdiction which they are actually licensed. Obtaining a license in Maryland for example costs well over $500. For a therapist living right across the border in Virginia, there is of course a barrier there. This is not to mention the possibility of having to take additional exams including the costs for those, and so on. In a state like Florida, it’s not an issue because it’s a large state and most commerce does not take place near a border.
When states have different cities and counties that also have local regulations, such as in the case of Virgina which is a commonwealth, it creates similar issues. So for example, the massage therapist licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia may also have to worry about local city or county licenses. This is of course a redundant and puts additional and unfair burdens on massage therapists who not only have to go through the trouble of obtaining these local licenses, but also have to pay the fees associated with them.
This kind of border issue is only one of the examples of burdensome regulations imposed by states and state massage therapy boards. For example, this state board of massage in Maryland recently instituted a requirement where all massage therapists have to record client information and take complete therapy session notes for each and every client every single time. So even if you have a regular client was simply comes for a relaxing Swedish massage every once in a while, there is still this burden of generating and maintaining for at least five years all of this unnecessary paperwork. In the case of what we would call a medical massage or something related to insurance reimbursements, this makes perfect sense. But to apply these blanket rules to all massage therapists under any conditions is really in my opinion a complete overreach by the Board into the practice of massage therapists.
Unfortunately as is the case often times in politics, those who serve on massage regultions boards are not always really in tune with what is going on in the real world, and the real life experience and challenges faced by regular working massage therapists. It is up to those working massage therapist another interested parties to make their voices heard and become active in the regulatory process so that commonsense and fair laws rules and regulations can be implemented and maintained without all of these regulatory burdens. A good place to start would be in Maryland which just made being a massage therapist more difficult.
Dan Melmed, LMT
Owner, Body Well LLC