New Massage Licensure Law: Changes Affect Pennsylvania Practitioners
Apr 30, 2011 08:52PM
● By Robert Dean
When Camille Baughman, owner of Camille Baughman and Associates Therapeutic Massage and Wellness Center, in Carlisle, first entered the massage therapy field in 1986, the relatively young industry enjoyed minimal regulation. Becoming a licensed massage therapist was important to her, even though licensure wasn’t required in order to practice in the state of Pennsylvania. After researching the options, Baughman traveled to Florida to obtain her license, where she continued to renew it annually—until this year, when she’ll be required to do things differently.
In 2011, Pennsylvania joined with 42 other states that require licensure of massage professionals, helping to ensure the public of professional competency required to practice, by defining criteria for knowledge, skills and abilities. Baughman couldn’t be happier. “I really believe this will give Pennsylvania’s massage therapy industry the recognition it deserves as part of the wellness and healing profession,” she says. “And for young people entering the field, it gives them a sense of pride to be a part of a growing profession.”
The new state law, which was passed in 2008 and went into effect this year, required the governor to appoint a regulatory board for its implementation. The newly formed State Board of Massage Therapy comprises three representatives from different government departments, six massage therapists and two members representing the public. Professional and public members are appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of a majority of the members elected to the state senate.
According to the state board, the law now requires those studying massage therapy to accumulate at least 600 hours of classroom instruction that must include the study of massage techniques, anatomy and physiology, ethics and more. To be grandfathered in, existing therapists must show proof of having been in business for five years. A license costs $65 and must be renewed every two years for $75. In addition, massage therapists must receive at least 24 hours of continuing education every two years, pass a criminal background check and have CPR certification to obtain a license. Practicing without a license can lead to a fine of up to $10,000 for each offense.
Baughman says it’s important for therapists that already meet the requirements to know that they must initiate the process before October 2011. “To qualify for licensure after the grandfathering provision expires in October, an applicant must have completed a minimum 600-hour massage therapy program and pass an exam.” The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), of which Baughman is a member, was one of the driving forces behind the new state law and continues to help professionals navigate their way through the process.
Winona Bontrager, owner and director of the Lancaster School of Massage (LSM), is currently serving a two-year term as member-at-large on the AMTA national board and has previously served as board president of AMTA Council of Schools. She, too, is a big supporter of the new law and what it means for the industry, saying, “I believe the new requirements will help the massage industry gain more acceptance in the medical community, allowing us to receive more referrals from physicians and hospitals that may have been reluctant to work with massage therapists.”
The new law doesn’t affect the curriculum already in place at LSM, the school Bontrager founded in 1991. “We have always had a quality program that encompasses the whole person, focusing on practical skills as well as self-awareness and interpersonal relationships,” she says.
Baughman and Bontrager agree that increasing awareness of massage therapy as a legitimate therapeutic professional practice—as well as an integrative and complementary tool for overall health and wellness—is a great step forward for the industry.
For more information about licensure, call the State Board of Massage Therapy at 717-783-7155. For the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Massage Association, visit AMTAPa.org.