by Charlotte Michael Versagi, L.M.T.
state has a statewide massage law, but a fellow massage therapist
told me there are local requirements that I have to meet, too. Who
should I check with to find out what the local regulations are?"
You may think that just because you took the National
Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork that
you can hang up your shingle. However, Jason Thies, director of
administration for the national certification board, says, "One
of the standards of practice of the national board is that you follow
all the guidelines and rules of your local ordinance, also. Whether
it be state, city or municipal, you need to follow those rules for
Mark Dixon has a private practice in
Newport Beach, California (an unregulated state) and teaches at
the Western Institute of Neuromuscular Therapy in Laguna Hills.
"Go to the front counter of city hall and ask for a copy of
the permit that specifically regulates the practice of massage in
that city," he says. "Most city ordinances are written
as anti-prostitution ordinances and most state
laws are written to try to regulate valid health-care modalities.
Its still up in the air whether a city ordinance can override
a state law."
"The city clerk is the place to
start in the city or township you want to work in. If your area
is regulated by the county, you need to check with the county clerk,"
says Margaret Szedenits, NCTMB, the president of the Michigan (an
unregulated state) chapter the American Massage Therapy Association:
"Unfortunately, in some places you also have to check with
the police because of the past potential prostitution
issues many cities had to deal with."
But ordinances regulating the practice
of massage are not all you should be concerned about, says Szedenits.
There are two questions embedded in
this one concern, she says. 1) What are the requirements for practicing
massage?; and 2) What are the requirements for opening
a business that happens to be massage, instead of say, a bakery?
"You need not only to check on
your citys ordinance, but if youre in a business
district, its very important to check zoning in that specific
district," she says. She cites one example of a massage therapist
in Birmingham, Michigan, who was put out of business because, according
to Szedenits, although she could practice massage in the city of
Birmingham, she was not allowed to practice massage within the specific
business district in which she had opened her business. "She
was too close to homes," Szedenits says. "The city shut
her down. She would have been fine if she were in the main business
Szedenits said that your city clerk
could tell you if you need a business license to practice, and how
much you need to pay in fees.
"If there is a statewide
massage law, it depends upon the state if you have to do anything
else," Szedenits explains. "Some state massage laws supercede
local massage regulations." Szedenits strongly suggests talking
to your state massage professional organization to help wind your
way through the red tape.
- Charlotte Michael Versagi,
L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is a journalist, a lymphedema therapist who
also sees cancer patients, and a science instructor in a massage-therapy
program at The Carnegie Institute in Troy, Michigan.