Dr. David Comings, PhD, BCPP, Director of Legislation
The Federation of Therapeutic Massage, Bodywork and Somatic Practice Organizations (Federation MBS) has historically been a strong advocate for exemptions to massage licensing statutes within the states. Recently, several of the prominent members of the Federation MBS have stated that they believe the best approach for their disciplines right to practice will be to pursue licensing. This change in their posture towards licensing strongly reflects the current political and legislative environment being experienced across the United States.
This change in perspective has occurred despite the fact that the Massachusetts bill seeking to license all “bodyworkers” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (S.168) has been “sent to study” – which likely represents the end of the bill for this year. While this is something to be celebrated, as this was a badly written bill that would have created more problems than it solved, this will not be the end of the discussion. Even if this bill dies in this year’s legislative session it has been a persistent effort on the part of Sen. Montigny and there is every reason to believe a similar bill will be introduced next year.
Now that Massachusetts S.168 seems to have been effectively defeated for the year, Vermont has proposed Vermont S. 270 – a massage therapy licensing bill for the State of Vermont. Previously Vermont did not have a massage therapy licensing law. The proposed law does not provide any exemptions to practices such as Polarity Therapy or any of our Federation MBS partners. If this law passes in Vermont in its current form, all Polarity Therapists will require massage licenses to practice in Vermont.
New Mexico has proposed HB 155, which seeks to license all massage therapy establishments – to include sole proprietor establishments. Massage therapy is already licensed in New Mexico and this change only applies to massage establishments. Polarity Therapists in New Mexico are not subject to New Mexico’s Massage Therapy Practice Act since we explicitly fall under the Unlicensed Healthcare Practice Act, which governs complementary and alternative healthcare practices, like Polarity Therapy. It is relevant that it is an attempt to extend state regulation into our homes, if that is where we practice our healing arts. If it works for massage therapists, they may well seek similar regulation for other practices.
The current political-legislative environment is increasingly difficult for complementary and alternative therapies. The fact that perspectives are changing within the Federation MBS towards licensing highlights significant changes in our political-legislative environment. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of this shift. There is no doubt this will become an agenda item when the Federation MBS meets in April, and I am certain the discussions will be quite interesting. More on this to follow – coming to a column near you this April.
David Comings, PhD, BCPP
Director of Legislation