MLN Vol.19, No.3

Massage Law Newsletter

Vol. 19, No 3                                   ISSN 1073-5461                                      March 2001






 Mary Brewster and Albert Schatz

The   following information is quoted form the  official state report:




Licensure of the practice of massage theraapy is Not Needed to Protect

 the Public interest

The Board is Not Complying with

Applicable Laws and Rules


The Massage Therapy Licensure Board  was created under Chapter 30 of the West Virginia Code in 1997.

Issue Area I:

Licensure of the practice of Massage Therapy is not needed to protect the public interest.

This report is a "Regulatory Board Examination" which means that by law a determination is required to be made whether or not a board is necessary for the protection of public health and safety. The primary finding of this regulatory review is that licensing of the practice of massage therapy is not needed. A major consideration of the Legislative Auditor in this review is the following requirement in code (§4-10-5b).

The evaluation shall access  ... whether the public interest requires that the board be continued.

In determining if there is a need for the Massage Therapy Licensure Board, a primary consideration is whether the unregulated practice of the profession clearly endangers the health, safety or welfare of the public. Supporting data indicates that there is no easily recognizable harm to the public if the profession of massage therapy was unregulated. Most of the complaints the Board receives are accusations that a persons may be practicing without a license. Only one complaint concerned the more serious matter of sexual assault. However, in this case the Board received the complaint and imposed disciplinary action subsequent to the individual being convicted of sexual assault by a court of law. In the state of Texas, which provided a list of complaints, all of the complaints received were either misconduct of a sexual nature or unlicensed practice. Sexual misconduct is a matter to be taken to law-enforcement agencies and although of concern, it does not relate to harm associated with inadequately trained massage therapists.

Other state have also examined the need for regulation of massage therapists. The findings of their review are similar, as illustrated below:

*Kentucky determined that there was low risk of harm to the public and there was no need for regulation.

*When a group seeking licensure applied through the California legislature's Sunrise Process, it stated, "We injure very few clients. As a result ... we will have difficulty meeting the Sunrise criteria without manipulation of the data." California Sunrise criteria is similar to West Virginia's in  asking the following questions: 1) Is the unlicensed profession a serious danger to public healthy and safety? 2) Will state  licensing adequately protect the public health and safety? and 3) Can other means protect public health and safety?

*The Georgia Legislature concluded, "There is no documented danger of actual harm to the public ... The potential for harm to the public appears to be remote and would not be alleviated by licensing."

Further, the Pew Professions Commission instructed the Task Force on Health Care Workforce Regulation to identify and explore how regulation protects the public health and propose new approaches to better serve the public's interest. The report issued by the Task Force recommended title protection (often referred to as certification) rather than licensure  for professions such as massage therapy whose services are not especially risky to consumers.


The unregulated profession of massage therapy would not present significant harm or danger to the health, safety or welfare of the public. Had this board applied through West Virginia's Sunrise process, it likely the recommendation would have been not to establish a separate board. Therefore, continued licensure of massage therapy is not needed. A less restrictive and more cost efficient manner of oversight would be certification of massage therapy under an existing board. Certification would involve primarily obtaining proof of an individual's passing a nationally accepted test and maintaining a register of the names of certified individuals. This could be done under an existing licensing board such as the board of Chiropractors or the board for Physical Therapists.

Recommendation 1:

The Legislature should consider terminating the Massage Therapy Licensure Board.

Should the Legislature choose not to terminate, the following recommendation is made.

Recommendation 2:

The Legislature should consider a less restrictive and more cost efficient manner of oversight of massage therapy such as Certification, and placing this function under an existing licensing board, such as the board for Chiropractors or the board for Physical Therapists.

Issue Area 2:

 The Board is not complying with

applicable laws and rules.

The Board has not complied with many applicable laws and rules. These laws and rules, found primarily in the Board's own article of Code and within the general provisions of Chapter 30, are important in the effective operation of a licensing board..

For more information -

[Home] [Massage Law] [Journal ] [Special Issues] [Bios] [Spiritual Massage] [Massage Humor]