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State Laws and APTA’s Federation Membership

By: David R. Comings, PhD, BCPP

It’s that time of year again, time for the meeting of The Federation of Therapeutic Massage, Bodywork & Somatic Practice Organizations (The Federation).  Every year representatives from the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA) participate in The Federation’s meetings to discuss our common goals, way forward, best practices, and lessons learned.  One of the most important discussions, that continues throughout the year, is how to address pending legislation in the several States that may interfere with our right to practice. 

The Federation provides a forum for communication among its members – non-profit professional organizations representing a broad spectrum of related professions, including massage therapy, bodywork therapy, structural integration, somatic practices, movement education, and energy practices.  Due to the fact that each of our organizations uses touch in some manner, state legislators and regulators occasionally reach the incorrect conclusion that we must be doing massage, and all of these professions should be regulated and licensed as massage therapy.

Due to Polarity Therapy’s focus on influencing the body’s energy fields, touch within Polarity Therapy sessions is largely incidental to the focus of stimulating and balancing the movement of energy within the body.  This provides a strong and significant differentiation between Polarity Therapy and massage therapy, and is one of the reasons we oppose being regulated under the umbrella of massage therapy. 

The Federation provides APTA the ability to speak with a larger and stronger voice than we could on our own.  Working with The Federation ensures we are aware of the legislative activities going on in the States, assist and receive assistance in our responses and recommendations to the States, and present a consistent position with respect to maintaining our right to practice.

Currently, we are tracking laws and regulatory approaches being proposed in Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  Some of these (e.g., Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio) have the potential to significantly impact our right to practice and we are working to effect changes to the legislative or regulatory language to prevent that.  Others (e.g., New Hampshire, Tennessee) do not impact us currently, although we continue to monitor them to ensure they remain benign.  Still others, like Minnesota, provide exemptions to various modalities, including Polarity Therapy, that secure our right to practice in those states.  Our objective is to get exemption language inserted into the laws and regulatory bodies in as many states as possible.

Examples of the problematic laws being proposed include: 

Massachusetts (MA) has proposed SD 1840 (S.168), described as an attempt to address “human trafficking.”  MA wants to license all “bodyworkers” through a “board of registration of massage therapy and bodyworks.”  One of the seven members on the board will be a law enforcement representative.  The board will develop and enforce scopes of practice, establish continuing education requirements, determine minimum competency requirements, and “establish by regulation a code of ethics.”  All of this would override in MA what APTA has in place for the governance of Polarity Therapy nationwide.

Georgia has proposed HB 242 that would permit a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) to claim to be performing a number of non-massage modalities, including Polarity Therapy, without meeting the established standards, ethics, or membership in the professional organizations regulating these modalities.  As a result, a Georgia LMT could claim to be practicing Polarity Therapy (for example) without being a BCPP or a member of APTA.

Ohio’s proposed SB 105 creates an issue regarding the practice of Polarity Therapy in Ohio by redefining massage therapy overly broadly.  Massage is regulated by the Ohio Medical Board which states in its FAQ that “Modalities that involve the manipulation of the soft tissue for a therapeutic purpose constitute massage therapy even if commonly known by another name, such as reflexology, reiki, polarity, etc.”  Since SB 105 excessively broadens the definition of massage, and the Ohio Medical Board has declared that Polarity Therapy is another word for massage, all BCPPs in Ohio would be required to also be LMTs in Ohio in order to practice if this bill passes in its current form.

We can use your help.  If you are interested in participating in the APTA Legislative Committee please contact Ms. Shelley Drasal at

David Comings
Director of Legislation




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