The massage field is a step closer to the ability to practice in more than one state under one license.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) announced March 17 that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has selected the massage therapy profession to receive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments to develop an interstate compact for occupational licensing portability.

What this means for massage therapists is one could, upon completion of this new project, practice in more than one state with just one state license.

The scope of the assistance includes the drafting of model interstate compact legislation, developing a legislative resource kit, and convening a national meeting of state policymakers to introduce the compact.  

Transcend State Boundaries

Interstate occupational licensure compacts allow professionals in licensed occupations to transcend state boundaries by creating uniform licensure requirements, FSMTB  Executive Director Debra Persinger, PhD, told MASSAGE Magazine.

Although the Department of Defense couched this development in language related to spouses of military personnel, “The compact will create streamlined pathways for interstate practice for all members of the profession, not just those with a military affiliation,” Persinger said.

The FSMTB, with support from the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation and Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, submitted an application for assistance with establishing the compact, according to an FSMTB press release. Established in 2005, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) is an autonomous, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization comprising state regulatory boards and agencies that regulate the massage therapy profession.

When will the development of interstate compacts for licensure portability begin? In a sense it has already begun, said Persinger, because it is a natural step in the trajectory FSMTB set long ago.

“Since the inception of the FSMTB, a primary goal has been to support efforts among member boards and agencies to establish compatible requirements and cooperative procedures for the legal regulation of massage therapists,” she said. “The purpose of this goal is to facilitate professional mobility and to simplify and standardize the licensing process.”

FSMTB: Removing Obstacles

The FSMTB has long been working toward making things easier and more uniform for massage therapists so that they can practice and move around the country without unnecessary obstacles, Persinger said, citing such examples as:

2007: National licensing exam (MBLEx) – introduced to bring uniformity to entry-level examination and for states to govern competency assessment. The MBLEx replaced prior inconsistent use of state exams and various certification exams.

2013: Entry-Level Education Analysis Project (ELAP) – defines knowledge and skill components of entry-level education and recommends the minimum number of hours (625) schools should teach to prepare graduates for safe and competent practice in the massage profession. This ELAP initiative was initiated and supported by the seven national massage organizations. 

2014: Model Massage Therapy Practice Act – a comprehensive resource for FSMTB Member Boards and Agencies and to assist regulators with statutory language based upon collective input from the Massage Therapy regulatory community and the profession. FSMTB promotes licensure uniformity for portability where appropriate and the Model Practice Act enhances this mission.

2020: Continuing Education Standards – the regulatory community introduced CE standards to bring uniformity to education requirements for licensure renewal.

2021: Massage Therapy Licensing Database (MTLD) – most recent initiative to provide a comprehensive view of regulated massage therapists to facilitate the role of public protection among state licensing boards and agencies and to facilitate license portability.

“We are thrilled that our goals parallel that of the Department of Defense in this regard and we are appreciate of their funding to help the massage therapy profession establish a compact in conjunction with the Council of State Governments,” said Persinger.

In addition to massage therapists, the DOD stated, the professions of teaching, social work, cosmetology and dentistry/dental hygiene were also selected to work with the Council of State Governments to develop model interstate occupational license compact legislation.

Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief—print and digital. Her recent articles for the magazine include “The Massage Magazine Interview: Benny Vaughn” and “A Timeline of Massage Events that Shaped the Field, 1985–2020.”