Proposed Utah Bill Raises Legal Concerns of Who Can Safely Practice Massage
March 1, 2022 - The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) opposes the new Utah Senate Bill, S.B. 180, titled “Massage Therapy Practice Act Amendments” which would create two substandard tiers of licensure for massage therapy. This bill is being met with strong resistance from Licensed Massage Therapists (LMTs) as well as all of the national massage organizations and schools, and many say it would facilitate illicit activity, trafficking and prostitution under the guise of massage.
AMTA is concerned that SB 180 could flood Utah with two lower tiers of licensed therapists: “Certified Massage Practitioners” (CMPs) and “Massage Assistants in Training” (MAITs) which would lack the basic entry-level skills, knowledge, and training to safely practice massage therapy. These positions would only be required to undergo 150 educational training hours, compared to the 600 hour current minimum standard. Allowing inadequately-trained individuals to practice massage on the public opens the door for potential harm or injury to the consumer.
In addition, the bill changes exam requirements for licensed massage therapy, and triples the number of apprentices an LMT Supervisor can have at once. And, during the limited time of training of 150 hours of education, it remains unclear at what point these individuals will begin working on the public. In short, the education and supervision requirements for the CMPs and MAITs raises several issues and questions about protecting the safety of the public against under-educated practitioners.
SB 180 Poses Serious Ethical and Legal Concerns
There are also serious ethical and legal concerns in respect to allowing an individual to practice massage therapy on the public with substandard training and education. Will a consumer be charged for this service? Will consumers be informed that the therapist is in training and not a licensed massage therapist (LMT)? Will the supervisor be in the room at all times? Who will be liable if an injury occurs, or in the event of improper draping or inappropriate touching? These questions among many others illustrate how this bill lacks many important safeguards to ensure individuals are performing massage therapy within the scope of practice.
Most Consumers Consider Massage Therapy A Form of Healthcare
Massage therapy is a well-recognized and widely-supported treatment for many types of pain and other health issues. There is significant evidence supporting the use of massage therapy for many important patient health treatments, including chronic pain management, behavioral health treatment, rehabilitation/physical training, and acute medical conditions such as cancer management, post-operative pain, lymphatic drainage, and maternity and newborn care.
Massage therapy intended to alleviate chronic pain conditions is provided in chiropractic offices, physical therapy offices, integrated medical centers and other clinical settings. However, because massage is often not covered by insurance, consumers also go to a spa, massage therapist office, franchise or chain to get massage to treat chronic pain issues. In addition, recent industry research shows that 92% of Americans ages 18 and over believe massage therapy is effective in reducing pain. A number that has been relatively consistent over the past 15 years. And in 2021, 73% of massage consumers received a massage for health and wellness reasons.
With the majority of consumers turning to massage therapy for health and wellness issues, lowering standards for the profession could put Utah residents at risk. CMPs and MAITs may not be fully trained on how to conduct a proper client assessment prior to a massage therapy session. Identifying contraindications for clients is crucial for preventing the possibility of injury and/or potential claims that could be made against the therapists. In addition, the burden of understanding whether the massage therapist is adequately trained to address health issues should not be placed on the shoulders of the consumer.
Reducing Standards For the Massage Profession Creates Opportunities for Illicit Activity
Reducing standards for the profession and creating these significantly lower tiers of licensure gives the impression that the authors and supporters of SB 180 condone illicit activity in the form of human trafficking or money laundering. So-called “massage” businesses have notoriously exploited loopholes and inconsistencies in federal, state and local laws. By passing SB 180, the Utah legislature is effectively creating a breeding ground for sex trafficking, prostitution, solicitation and exploitation. Without an established minimum education requirement, this legislation opens the door for fraudulent activity.
“AMTA believes in maintaining fair and consistent licensing of massage therapy in all states. This means requiring high levels of education and training for all massage therapists to continue to support the credibility, professionalism, and efficacy of massage therapy,” said Michaele Colizza, AMTA National President.
Take Action Now To Show Your Opposition to SB 180
To show their opposition to this bill, Licensed Massage Therapists and the Utah Beauty Project Coalition recently came together at the Utah State Capitol on February 28 to protest these changes to massage therapy licensure. We encourage all Utah massage therapists and concerned residents to take action now and contact your representatives and their interns. You can let them know that you’re a constituent, tell them why you’re opposed to SB 180, and that you would like them to oppose it too. Share this with your friends and family and ask them to take action as well. Every voice matters and we all need to show our support for the massage therapy profession.