by Pallas Hutchison An article in a men's magazine stated that a massage license doesn't mean anything. This statement is offensive and incorrect. Most states, including Massachusetts, require licensing for massage therapists. This means that Massachusetts has a set of educational and ethical standards that massage therapists have to adhere to. These standards protect clients in a multitude of ways.
Educational requirements vary by state. According to Massage Magazine, Maryland and New York have the highest standards for massage licensure in the United States. Maryland requires 500 hours massage education, 60 credits of college education (the equivalent of an Associate's degree), and a passing grade on one of three standardized tests for competency. New York requires 1000 hours of massage education and a passing grade on their state massage exam. In these states, massage therapists get as much respect as nurses. Massachusetts requires 650 hours of massage education.
The core of the academic curriculum includes anatomy, kinesiology, and pathology which teaches the parts of the body, how the parts work together, and what can go wrong. Hands-on training is built into the curriculum and must be completed before certification. This means that graduates treat their clients using therapeutic touch techniques that they have practiced on other massage students as well as the general public in student clinics. By the time they obtain licensure, they have done hundreds of hours of massage in a variety of settings. Continuing education requirements force massage therapists to stay abreast of new techniques and discoveries in bodywork, the medical field, and health sciences.
Ethical standards ensure the massage therapist will use their knowledge to help each client as best they can within their scope of practice. Scope of practice refers to what the professional license covers as far as treatment as well as the types of training received. Each massage therapist will have a different set of specialized trainings. They will know what they can treat effectively, how to treat it using their skill set, and when to refer a client out to someone more qualified.
By adhering to these educational and ethical standards, licensed massage therapists demonstrate integrity, respect for the profession and, by extension, respect for their clients. When choosing a massage therapist, or any professional, look into whether or not they hold a license. If a license is required and they don't have one, ask them why not. A massage license is more than a piece of paper; it's a quality of care guarantee.