In South Carolina, Massage Therapy is regulated by the state government as it is in most states. Of course, I cannot speak for all massage therapists, but I believe Massage Therapy may be one of the few industries where most of the practitioners are in favor of government regulation in their profession. There are several areas where this government oversight is important including initial licensure, continuing educational requirements, and standards of practice. In states where massage therapy is regulated, the rules vary somewhat but let’s look at what is required in South Carolina.
To become a Licensed Massage Therapist in South Carolina, you must have completed at least a 500-hour course at an approved massage/bodywork school. This training covers not only how to massage, but when massage is contraindicated, ethical standards, and other training. It is also required that therapist pass the National Certification Examination or Federation of States Examination for Massage/Bodyworks. A licensure fee is required and the license must be renewed the following June and then every two years.
To remain licensed after the initial renewal period it is required that the massage therapist complete 12 hours of continuing education in approved coursework by and approved continuing education provider. Coursework can include different massage modalities such as Esalen, Lomi-Lomi, etc.; reviews of anatomy; massage for specific issues; and other training associated with massage therapy practice. At least three hours of the education must be in Ethics and ethics is also an important part of the standards required to practice massage therapy in South Carolina.
When you mention “ethics” in Massage Therapy, you first thought may be on prohibiting sexual behavior between the therapist and client and that is important. Ethical standards prohibit any sexual and even inappropriate or suggestive behavior with clients – an important distinction between licensed massage therapists and the masseuse or masseur at some of the massage parlors that are actually fronts for prostitution. There are standards for draping and behavior that support the professional, non-sexual relationship between therapist and client. Ethics does not stop there. There are also ethical standards related to privacy, ensuring confidentiality of client identification and information, sanitary conditions, advertising and more. To remain a licensed practitioner, these standards must be actually practiced – just education is not enough.
Regulations can sometimes be frustrating but in the case of Massage Therapy it is important to protect both the therapist and the public.