83404581Massage therapy continuing education providers and educators are celebrating the passage of a bill by the New York State Senate last week. The bill reverses the requirement that continuing education providers be licensed as massage therapists in the state in order to teach there. The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, awaiting his signature.

“This is good news for all New York massage therapists,” said Alliance for Massage Therapy Education President Pete Whitridge, L.M.T. “The previously restrictive statutory wording prevented New York massage therapists from learning hands-on skills from some of the country’s finest continuing education providers.”

A law requiring New York massage therapists to earn CEUs went into effect in January 2012, and included the mandate that CEU providers be licensed in the state. This meant unlicensed CEU providers could speak to students, but a teaching assistant licensed in the state had to provide all hands-on demonstrations.

This was both cumbersome and costly to coordinate, according to New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists (NYSSMMT) President Denise Williams, L.M.T. The NYSSMMT encouraged its members to become knowledgeable about the bill and comment on it, Williams said.

Massage therapists, massage schools and continuing education providers have all been hampered by the law.

For more than two years, New York’s massage therapists have not been able to learn from many top CEU providers, said Thomas Myers, founder and director of Kinesis, which offers continuing education in fascial anatomy and technique and is headquartered in Maine. “On the one hand, the high standards to which New York holds its therapists in terms of education has had a positive effect on the whole country—[but] on the other, unnecessarily restricting the ability of New York therapists to get further training from outside of New York deprives therapists the diversity of education that enlivens the profession within the state,” he said.

Genevieve Reiter, chair of the massage program at New York College of Health Professions, with campuses in Syosset and New York City, said she is “thrilled” by the passage of the bill, “because in my opinion there are many people out there who have written books and are experts in the field and have been doing this for years—and we have been prohibited from learning from them.”

Continuing education provider Whitney Lowe, founder and director of the Orthopedic Massage Education & Research Institute, headquartered in Oregon, said he has been frustrated “by the limitation in New York State that prohibited out-of-state instructors from demonstrating hands-on techniques in the classroom.

“I’m not sure how this original legislation got started, but it is very relieving to see it finally coming to an end,” Lowe added.

Assuming that Gov. Cuomo signs the bill—and Williams said there is no foreseeable reason he would not, as the Senate passed the bill almost unanimously—continuing education providers will be back in business in New York soon, according to Pat Mayrhofer, founder and president of Nature’s Stones Inc., a continuing education provider based in Pennsylvania. “Many of the top instructors in this country travel to many states to teach their passion,” she said. “Now they can include New York.”

 Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief.