State Licensing of Massage Therapists and Why Our Profession is Legitimate
Did you know that all massage therapists in the state of TX (and most other states, for that matter) require mandatory state licensing? I have met surprising numbers of Americans who did not understand that a massage therapist is a professional who is not only well-educated, but who is required by state law to be licensed in the of one’s practice. Yes, we professional massage therapists are more than just a warm body and a warm pair of hands.
To become licensed as a massage therapist in the state of TX, a massage student must undertake 500 classroom hours of curriculum within a classroom in an accredited school. Curriculum is to contain courses of instruction in Human Anatomy and Physiology, Massage Technique, Health and Hygiene, Business Practices/Ethics, Hydrotherapy, Kinesiology, and Pathology. This is a comprehensive educational experience that usually takes anywhere from 9 months to a year, in many cases. At least 50 hours of hands-on massage practicum (internship) is also required. Additionally, TX requires passing a jurisprudence exam and being certified in CPR/AED. Lastly, the national MBLEX (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination) must be taken and passed to obtain licensure to work in TX and most other states as a licensed massage therapist. Once proof of all academic and testing requirements have been satisfied, one can finally apply to the TDLR (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation) for procurement of the actual license. There are ongoing requirements of fees and continuing education units to be renewed every 2 years in TX to keep one’s license current. Additionally, any criminal offenses committed by the licensee may likely revoke the state license to practice.
To become trained and employed in our chosen field of bodywork, we all must answer to higher regulatory bodies and pass rigorous testing to be able to work with you. We are often not viewed by the public as professionals who align themselves with ethical and professional standards of conduct and accomplishment. As the old adage states, “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” Unfortunately, “bad apples” exist in our profession because of the same reasons criminal elements exist elsewhere in our society. The criminals who have infiltrated our profession (despite regulations to deter or bar those with immoral and/or criminal intent from working as therapists) have somewhat stained the reputation of our profession as a whole. It’s unfair that the majority of massage therapists who are not immoral folk or criminals must suffer from the sins of those who are scoundrels. To be crystal clear: professional massage therapy is NOT A SEX BUSINESS!!! I cannot emphasize this loudly or often enough. Massage therapists are not prostitutes, “madams”, or “pimps.” However, those seeking to promote and work in the sex-trade have easily used massage as a devious disguise to attract clients and hide their illicit activities. One needn’t search far within the Houston metroplex region to notice hundreds, if not thousands, of questionable “massage parlors”, especially those open 24 hours, late at night, located near motels, hotels, and airports. In older times, such areas were called “red light districts”, signifying areas of a city where sex services for sale were easily found.
This abuse and vilification of massage therapy has discouraged many of us professional therapists from embracing our work with full peace of mind that we will be immune from the evil tentacles threatening to attack us during our working hours. No therapist is safe from this cancer in society. I have known another female massage therapist who was sexually propositioned by a female client during a massage session. The reports of male clients sexually harassing female therapists during sessions seems as old as time itself. It has happened to me on the job. That makes me another voice in the #METOO movement. I’ve always managed to protect myself and to oust the perpetrator (forcibly remove him from the establishment) whenever these events happened. But, just because I’m a strong enough person to protect myself doesn’t justify the fact that I was put at risk in the first place by these immoral individuals who came to me not for an actual massage, but sought an illegal sexual service. I can’t even begin to estimate the number of women who collectively and inwardly writhe with psychic or physical disgust and pain at the feelings of fear and panic when a man on our massage tables turns from a seemingly nice guy into a devilish apparition exposing his genitals and asking for or demanding the unmentionable. And, I’ve no doubt there is no gender difference. I’m sure male massage therapists get their share of illicit sexual requests too. This perversion of our occupation is a pandemic problem. This activity is more than embarrassing; it also feels very dangerous when it happens, as based on my personal experiences.
This is one of the greatest reasons why I finally opened my own small massage business. I wanted to feel safe, since none of the places I had previously worked at had serious, proactive measures to keep me safe. Oh yes, the major massage franchises do have their sexual harassment policies, but my experience was that they were only as effective as the employees willing to actually enforce them. The main deterrent to keeping scumbags looking for sex out of legitimate massage establishments is to screen, screen, and screen again. Most franchisees of massage chains (as well as some independent massage businesses) cringe at the thought of turning down any client. Clients = $$$. In some cases, the bottom line of profit is worshiped more than the sanctity of the human being (i.e., the massage therapists employed at a business.) In those instances, employed or contracted massage therapists become as lambs to the slaughter in false worship of the almighty dollar. And that is not honoring human life, in my opinion. And, it is clearly not good business ethics to break the law by the encouragement of illegal sexual activity in business.
Human trafficking of sex workers or sex slaves is a horrid reality worldwide. How many untold souls of young men and women (especially children) are forced into the sex-trade under the guise of being masqueraded as massage therapists in illicit, illegal businesses operating in the red-light districts, or even hidden away in suburban America? As long as human touch of any kind is seen as a prelude to sexual functions, this perversion and criminality will undoubtedly continue. It is beyond my scope of expertise to lecture on how we, as a society, must teach everyone that a distinction between healthy human touch (i.e., handshake, hug, professional massage), and consensual, adult, sexual touch among intimate partners within the home must be made for the highest good of all.
My final word is this: please view me and my fellow licensed massage therapists as professional, well-educated, allied healthcare workers who work in a decent, honest profession meant to help bring you relief from stress and pain.