alternatives to massage
June 15, 2015 11:49 AM   Subscribe

What options are there to legally provide massage/relaxation services without a massage license?

My friend Julia lives in Massachusetts. A few years back, she got a significant amount of training in massage and a lot of other relaxation techniques, but never actually got her license to practice as a massage therapist. She gives massages to me and her friends/family all the time, though, she's amazing at it.

She wants to open a business, but without a license she can't exactly go into business as a "massage therapist" per se. What steps could she take -- short of getting a license -- that would let her legally accept money for these kinds of services? Is there something else she can call herself, such as a "relaxation specialist" or something?
posted by Ain to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the alternative term of choice is "bodywork".

Things like Feldenkrais and Reiki fall under a different category than massage therapy and aren't regulated by the health and safety code like massage therapy is.
posted by Kakkerlak at 12:29 PM on June 15, 2015

It sounds like a skeevy pursuit. Can't she just get a license?

Or how about quick and dirty training and certification somewhere in some bullshit alternative bodywork? Apparently relevant law, though of course IANAL:
(b) Nothing in this section shall prevent or restrict the practice of a person who uses touch, words or directed movement to deepen awareness of patterns of movement in the body, or the affectation of the human energy system or acupoints or Qi meridians of the human body while engaged within the scope of practice of a profession with established standards and ethics, but such services shall not be designated or implied to be massage or massage therapy. Such practices shall include, but not be limited to, the Feldenkrais Method; Reflexology; The Trager Approach; Ayurvedic Therapies, Rolf Structural Integration, Polarity or Polarity Therapy; Polarity Therapy Bodywork; Asian Bodywork Therapy that does not constitute massage as defined in this chapter; Acupressure; Jin Shin Do; Qi Gong; Tui Na; Shiatsu; Body-Mind Centering and Reiki. These exempt practitioners may use the terms “bodywork”, “bodyworker” and “bodywork therapist” in their promotional literature.
Reiki looks promising in this regard. There's a training center in Boston that teaches you how to give reiki treatments in 8 to 9 hours, according to the web site. She could start by giving reiki while working on proper (?) certification for massage therapy.
posted by pracowity at 12:33 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

The issue is that she should not be providing any sort of massage unless she is a licensed massage therapist -- you can see that in what pracowity posted -- no matter what she calls herself. That's the whole point of a licensed profession, that it's regulated by the state (to protect consumers, as well the industry reputation) and that people without licenses can't practice it legally.
posted by jaguar at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]

Why can't she get a license?

Unless she actually does want to go into the handjobs business she's going to have a difficult time attracting the right kind of clients without a license.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:45 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am a licensed massage therapist. What your friend wants to do is both ethically questionable and practically unwise.

I'm curious where/how she got this "significant" amount of training, and what the nature of that training was. States require a minimum of 500 hours of initial training (plus biannual continuing education requirements), and some require more (Massachussetts requires 650). This represents the bare minimum required to practice massage, and most of us feel underprepared when we first start. Does she have 500+ hours of training, not just in the practice of massage, but in anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, medical terminology, ethics, intake procedures, etc?

I am concerned that although she can sporadically give a few massages to friends and family, she may be missing important info and training that she'd need to safely do massage as a full-time job. If her body mechanics aren't up to par, she will be in a world of hurt if she goes from performing a massage here and there to performing multiple consecutive massages per day, day after day (that's assuming she can in fact attract enough clients to make a living).

She will not be able to get insurance if she's not licensed. If she is ever sued for supposedly harming someone while massaging them she will be exposed to tremendous financial risk. She's also more likely to in fact harm someone, if she's not well-versed in endangerment sites, medical conditions for which massage is contraindicated, pharmacology, and proper intake procedures.

In addition, massage therapists have fought hard to be respected as professionals, and to distance ourselves from the image some people have of those who practice massage as flakes, hippies, or burnouts. For someone to go around representing herself as a massage therapist while not wanting to do the actual work required to legitimately become one really undercuts what we've accomplished in this realm. I'm offended at how lightly she takes this, and so likely will be other therapists. Your friend likely won't have a circle of other therapists with whom to network, exchange bodywork, bounce ideas off of, and fill in for each other. "Hi, I'm not really a massage therapist but I'm looking for weaselly ways to represent myself as one" is not a great way to gain friends and advocates in the massage community, just like it wouldn't be in any other community.

Encourage your friend to do this the right way and get licensed.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 2:29 AM on June 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @mysterious_stranger

I have, believe me. She just basically wants to go by word of mouth and accept "tips" (her words, not mine). It sounds like she's committed to doing it regardless, unfortunately. :(
posted by Ain at 12:33 PM on June 16, 2015

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