The Importance of Certification and Licensing

Having basic ethical and professional standards has helped shape the massage therapy into the reputable profession it is today. Nevertheless, the practice of massage can still be a dangerous endeavor if the therapist does not have knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and the basic understandings of the effects and contra-effects that massage has on the body.

The public has a right to expect that a massage therapist has the qualifications needed to practice effectively and safely.  Legal recognition of the practice of massage therapy and clearly-stated requirements to practice are essential to promote the profession and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.

Licensed vs. Certified

To fully understand the need for regulation in the field of massage therapy, it is important to know the difference between a licensed massage therapist and certified massage therapist. Here is a basic breakdown of the difference:

Licensed massage therapist:

Licensure is a mandatory process of professional regulation by a government office (usually a State office).  A student who graduates from a massage therapy school should have a license in order for him or her to practice massage therapy.   Bottom line, if you don’t have a license you are not allowed to receive payment for your work.

State licensing requirements will vary from state to state and by localities within a state, therefore it is important for you to know the authority that governs massage therapy in your work area.

Certified Massage Therapist:

Certified means being authorized or officially tested in meeting specified standards in the field of work.  A massage therapist who has received a graduation certificate of massage therapy must take a board certification exam (MBLEX) that is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).  

After a massage therapist successfully completes an approve massage training program.  They will receive a graduation certificate that is required to take the MBLEX exam. Massage therapy certifications can be given by certified instructors and accredited schools and colleges for the purpose of showing the applicant has successfully completed their coursework.

Massage Therapy Regulation

In the United States, 44 states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapists. Cities, counties, or other local governments also may regulate massage. Training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the benefits of professional licensing include:

  • Protection of the public through the establishment of high standards for entry into the profession.
  • Protection of the public through the regulation of practice and recourse to effective disciplinary action.
  • Fair and consistent regulation applying to the whole state.
  • The right of massage therapists to define their practice, through proposed legislation and through regulation under an authoritative or advisory board of massage therapy.

Most states that regulate massage therapists require them to have a minimum of 500 hours of training from an accredited training program. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork certifies practitioners who pass a national examination and fulfill other requirements.

Reasons for Regulation

It’s not hard to guess that the large majority of clients seeking a massage for health reasons is going to seek out a certified and licensed massage therapist.  However, reasons for governmental regulation don’t just benefit those seeking a massage. There are reasons that benefit therapists, too. And these reasons further legitimize the profession of massage therapy as a whole.

  • Legal recognition of massage therapy in the form of state licensing creates standards of minimum competency. Competency is measured and enforced through formal education, training, and examination requirements. 
  • Legal recognition of massage therapy ensures that individuals have met the eligibility requirements needed to practice massage therapy and that they are qualified to represent themselves to the public as state licensed massage therapists. 
  • By providing a legal definition of the scope of massage therapy practice, professional licensure helps consumers identify the responsibilities and services unique to a massage therapist. It allows consumers to select the most appropriate massage therapy professional for their needs and brings the benefit of open access to the selection process. 
  • Legal recognition of massage therapy through licensure enables a state or jurisdiction to discipline a massage therapist. States do not have the ability to regulate a profession that is not formally recognized in statute. Professional licensing laws enhance public safety by enforcing disciplinary actions against non-compliant practitioners. 
  • Legal recognition of massage therapy through licensing protects the public in other ways as well. It establishes a consistent standard of practice, which is enforceable by a professional code of ethics. In addition, it establishes a formal grievance process for that helps prevent unethical and/or non-compliant massage therapists from continuing to practice.

The Academy of Natural Therapy is concerned with the direction Massage Therapy is heading. Our massage therapy program gives students all of the tools they need to obtain certification and licensing. Contact us today to discover The Academy of Natural Therapy difference!