Massage registration needed to uphold public health standards

By Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP, BCTMB

wellness-285590_960_720“Wow, this is rather startling,” I think to myself as I enter Rochester City Hall to prove I am a nationally certified massage therapist so I can begin my practice. I am oddly nervous about presenting a stack of paperwork proving my 15 years of professional massage experience in healthcare.

In hand, I have my Washington state licensure from the department of health; my BCTMB certification that was once identified as the NCTMB credential; my teaching credentials with NCBTMB; and a plethora of continuing education certificates including specialties in oncology massage and end of life care. Additionally, I hold my AMTA certificate of insurance and my transcript from massage school, demonstrating completion of an 800-hour professional licensure program.

My nervousness turned to disappointment when the clerk wanted only my BCTMB credential and drivers license. While on one hand I appreciated the ease with which I could begin practicing, on the other I was bewildered. I thought, “But now I can only work in Rochester? How weird!?” In Washington, I would often travel 45 miles in one direction to see a client without the concern of breaking laws.

I value my BCTMB credential. And my licensure in Washington State by the Department of Health holds me to the privilege and responsibility of being a health care provider. As a massage practitioner, I am used to being perceived and respected as a health care provider. In fact, I expect to be.

That of course requires certain obligations and commitments from me, such as annual renewal and continuing education requirements. It also means I adhere to state standards for HIPAA. I have specific ethical and professional boundaries to uphold as well. In return however, I have been accepted into health care as a colleague. As a specialist in oncology massage, I was a part of my clients’ integrative care team. Many clinicians, from physical therapists to physicians, refer patients to massage for rehabilitation or symptom management. Moreover, clients and caregivers report back to their clinicians about the value and significance of massage in their overall care.

When I teach, I often say, “Clients come to us inherently asking us to help them become more whole.” We open practices of massage to help others return to their daily activities and regain a sense of who they are. We open practices to help others manage injury, illness, pain, and anxiety. Let’s face it, massage therapy is a part of physical medicine which impacts all aspects of our lives. If we don’t feel well, we don’t work well, play well or enjoy life. Massage helps us recover and feel better.

Each state in our country has regulations to uphold public healthcare standards. The practice of massage should be included in these standards. From my vantage point, standards are guidelines for clinical protocols and business practices so we can provide the best standards and practices of care for our clients. These guidelines and professional boundaries also work to protect us as professional caregivers.

We become partners and sometimes advocates in our clients care, all the while working within our scope of practice to support their health. We refer to other clinicians when our clients need something beyond our care. We become team members with other clinicians instead of massage therapists who operate outside of the circle of care. In fact, I will say that massage is one place that actually provides an opportunity for continuity of care in the health system. Unlike other clinicians, we spend the most time with people.

Minnesota needs registered massage therapists for several reasons. My reasons include the following. Voluntary registration:

  • helps raise public awareness that massage is a part of health care;
  • reassures the public that their therapists are bound by professional standards and ethical conduct;
  • gives practitioners a credential that designates a standard across the state;
  • gives practitioners flexibility in building practices in several locations; and
  • brings Minnesota into the same playing field as other states that already recognize massage as healthcare.

I am sure you have your own reasons. Perhaps now is the time to add your perspective on the topic by contributing to this blog. I fully believe massage therapists have the heart and the hands to help others regain a sense of self. We took an oath to: “To do no harm.” Let’s step up to the plate now and build a stronger foundation for the good of us all.

Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP, BCTMB has been in practice since 2001 with a specialty in oncology massage and end of life care. She now resides in Rochester, MN. As an instructor, Meg is certified through NCBTMB. She is a member of the Oncology Massage Education Associates© teaching around the country: “Massage for People Living with Cancer” © and “Bodywork in End of Life Care: Journeys in Dying” ©. She has co-authored chapter 11, “Being is Enough” with Gayle MacDonald author of “Medicine Hands: Massage for People with Cancer” 3rd edition 2014.  A 2007 graduate of The Peregrine Institute of Oncology Massage Training, the first past president of The Society for Oncology Massage, Meg is also an advisor to the 2016 Oncology Massage Healing Summit in Bloomington, MN. 

To learn more about the MN Massage Therapy and Bodywork Act, please visit our website: