MLN Vol. 16, No.1

Massage Law Newsletter

Vol. 16, No.1                      ISSN 1073-5461                        October 2000   


Mary Brewster, Associate Editor

Dear Reader:

Thank you for your October 9, 2000, e-mail about our web site  <>. I do not understand why you are "appalled at some of what" we "have to say." My Comments  about what you have written appear after the following numbered parts of your e-mail, which I quote. I would appreciate your comments about my  Comments.

1. "I am a cmt" [Certified Massage Therapist] "in Missouri who stumbled across your web site accidentally and I am appalled at what you have to say.  The belief that a trained massage therapist is no more competent than someone who buys a table, places an ad in the paper and starts giving massages is absolutely ridiculous."

Comment. Your "belief" has nothing to do with what is on our web site. None of the reports on that web site refers to anyone "who buys a table, places an ad in the paper and starts giving massages." I have never heard of anybody doing that. Some of our reports refer to people who are self-trained. They learned massage from books and videos and/or by receiving massages from different massage therapists, during which they focused on how they were being massaged. They then practiced on family members and/or friends until they were confident about working on paying clients. Some of them have been in practice for several years, have had many satisfied clients, and have not harmed anybody. None of these people bought a table, placed an ad, and began doing massage.

There is no well-documented research that these self-taught massage therapists are less competent in their hands-on work, give massages of lesser quality,  and have clients who are less satisfied than massage therapists with formal (school) training.

2. "Your statement that competence is immeasurable can be applied to absolutely ANYTHING madam!

Comment: None of the reports on our web site assert that "competence is immeasurable." What the reports do say is that hands-on competence can be and is reliably evaluated only by those who experience that hands-on competence when they are massaged. Several reports point out that hands-on competence cannot be measured by a written test. The written national certification examination, which alleges that it measures competence, does not measure hands-on competence.

In 1991, the opposition to national certification was such that it motivated the Public Information Committee of the Council for the National Certification Program for Massage Therapists to comment as follows on this highly  controversial issue. Its comment began as follows:

"How can a written examination be valid as a basis for National Certification since it cannot test for essential things like hands-on work and the more intuitive aspects of massage therapy?" Note the admission that a written test cannot measure hands-on work. If a written test could not measure hands-on work in 1991, how can the written national certification examination measure hands-on competence today?

3. "What if Illinois decided to deregulate the field of psychology, since there were no hard statistics on how many people were injured by untrained psychologists? 

Comment: Our reports are not concerned with psychologists. However, licensure has not prevented some male psychologists from sexually molesting women patients..

4. "Obviously you are unable to see that steps must be taken BEFORE someone is hurt. Common sense dictates that we must be PROactive, not REactive!!! 

Comment: We are very proactive. This is why so many of our reports point out the need to obtain well-documented evidence of harm that has actually occurred before promoting state regulation to allegedly protect the public from harm allegedly caused by allegedly inadequately trained massage therapists.      

5. How would you feel if you found out your loved one was killed due to blood poisoning because they were massaged by an untrained "therapist" while they had erysipelas?  (Or do you even know what that IS madam?)

Comment: There is no well-documented evidence that any client (with or without a contraindication) has been killed by a massage therapist. There is no well-documented research which (a) provides information about how many people with contraindications have been harmed by massage therapists, (b) correlates harm (associated with massage) with each contraindications, and (c) tells us the nature of the harm and how serious it was. The most likely reason why no such research has been done is that there have not been enough reports of harm, associated with contraindications, to justify that kind of research. A client, with or without a contraindication, is more likely to be injured in an auto accident while she is walking or driving to and from a massage therapist, than by the massage therapist.

6. "However, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with requiring that those giving massages have some basic, standardized educational requirements."

Comment: I believe that those who want to comply with "some basic, standardized educational requirements" should have the opportunity to do that. But there is no well-documented research that tells us what those  "basic, standardized educational requirements" should be. There is no well-documented research that state-regulation, school-accreditation by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, and the national certification examination are necessary to assure hands-on competence, to protect the public safety, health and welfare. The only legally justification for state regulation of massage therapists is the need to protect the public from harm.

7. "And I believe that most TRAINED therapists will agree that the only people who do find something wrong with this are those who thought they had found  a quick, easy way to make money without having to invest any time, energy or money on learning what they should have been required to know all along."

Comment:  "It seems that proponents of licensing are hopeful that a state license would mean more money, status, and power." Jerry A. Green, Attorney for the California Coalition on Somatic Practices.

"I think the move toward licensure is regrettable. I believe licensing creates state-sanctioned monopolies ... with the explicit goal of "protecting the public, but with the real effect of protecting those who hold the monopolies respective entitlements, reducing information to the public, and restricting competition." Don Schwartz. Director, Trager Institute

"Professional regulation is not about serving society. It is about power, control, and money for a self-selected group of providers trying to be part of a health-care system rife with corruption, greed, and life-damaging and life-ending errors  - all well-documented by the nightly network news." Don Schwartz. Director, Trager Institute   



Licensing by Practice Acts

      A permission to perform an activity.

      Generally is mandatory to perform the activity

      Involves the police power of the government.

      Presumes that working in the particular field of activity is a privilege. Establishment of licensing shifts the activity from a right to privilege. The privilege is given and may be withdrawn at any time by the issuing agency.

      Increases the power of government, and reduces the power of the individual consumer.

      The purpose is to restrict entry and strictly control the profession or activity.

Certification by Title Protection Acts

      A statement of completion or meeting a standard.


      Does not involve the police power of the state.

      Presumes that working the field is a right.

      Certification may be withdrawn at any time by the issuing agency. However, this does not stop one from working.

      Preserves and enhances the power of the individual consumer to decide upon the practitioner of his choice.

      The purpose is mainly to inform and educate.

*From "Nature Facts" published by the American Naturopathic Medical Association. Reprinted with permission from "Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners" by Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

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