Wisconsin Governor Signs Law Requiring Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers to Become State Licensed

Under the current law, a person who is not certified as a massage therapist or bodyworker by the Department of Regulation and Licensing may not designate himself/herself as a massage therapist or bodyworker. The passage of AB 588 will make it mandatory for massage and bodywork therapists to be licensed by the state in order to practice, essentially changing the law from title protection to a mandatory practice act.

ABMP will keep members informed as the processes develop. Below are frequently asked questions that will address more common concerns.

Q. If I already have a Wisconsin State Certification, how does this affect me?
A. You will simply renew your credential by the regular renewal date (February 28, 2011). You will not have to reapply or start over in the application process. You may receive notification regarding the change from certification to licensure from the state. Make sure your address and contact information is correct by checking your profile.

Q. Will I be required to complete continuing education in order to renew on February 28, 2011?
A. No, not for the 2011 renewal.

Q. Will my title change?
A. Yes, you will be a licensed massage or bodywork therapist (LMT or LBT) instead of certified massage or bodywork therapist (CMT or CBT).

Q. I was Wisconsin State Certified but I allowed my certifcation to lapse. What should I do?
A. There is a 5 year grace period during which you can simply renew your lapsed state credential instead of having to start over in the application process. Check your status.

Q. How do I qualify if I am not currently Wisconsin State Certified?
A. The board will determine an application process. It will likely be similar to the
process in place for certification. We expect applications to be available by the end of 2010 at http://drl.wi.gov/profession.asp?profid=25&locid=0.

A grandfathering provision was adopted in the law to recognize existing practitioners who had not previously become state certified. For one year after the effective date of the act, the board will accept one of the following requirements to obtain a state license:

  • The applicant was actively engaged in the practice of massage or bodywork therapy by practicing for an average of 10 hours per week for at least 10 years; or
  • The applicant passed a nationally administered entry-level competency exam; or
  • The person was actively engaged in the practice of massage or bodywork therapy by practicing for an average of 10 hours a week for at least 3 years and successfully completed a 200 hour licensure program approved by the board; or
  • At least 180 days before the effective date of this act, the applicant completed a minimum 600-hour massage or bodywork training program.

The “effective date” is the first day of the 7th month after publication of the Act, December 2010.

Applicants will also have to attest that they have professional liability insurance, pass a state exam on massage and bodywork laws and regulations, and pay the fee.

Q. What will the qualifications for licensure be after the grandfathering provision expires in December 2011?

  1. Complete an approved minimum 600-hour massage or bodywork program.
  2. Pass an entry-level competency exam accepted by the board.
  3. Pass a state exam on massage and bodywork laws and regulations.
  4. Attest to having professional liability insurance (which is included in your ABMP membership).
  5. Pay the fee.

Q. Bodywork is a general term; are any practices exempt from licensure?
A. Specific practices are not named in the law. However, there are four categories of exempt practices.

  1. Practitioners manipulating only the soft tissue of the hands, feet, and ears; and
  2. Practitioners using touch, words, and directed movement to change a client’s awareness of existing patterns of movement; and
  3. Practitioners using touch to affect the energy systems; and
  4. Practitioners using touch and education to effect change in the structure of the body while engaged in the practice of structural integration.

Q. What title will I use if I practice one of the exempt practices?
A. A person who is exempt from licensure may use the terms “bodywork,” “bodyworker,” and “bodywork therapy.”

Affiliated Credentialing Board
The bill creates the Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Affiliated Credentialing Board. A credentialing board has similar responsibilities to an examining board. Members are appointed by the governor and subject to senate confirmation; they will have authority to issue administrative rules interpreting the licensing law, and they will have authority to investigate complaints and discipline licensees.

Q. Who will be appointed to the Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Credentialing Board?
A. The board will be comprised of six massage and bodywork therapists who have engaged in practice of massage or bodywork therapy for at least two years. One will represent private, occupational schools approved by the Educational Approval Board and one will represent massage and bodywork programs offered by technical colleges. A seventh member will be a public member who is a practitioner of one of the exempt practices. Each member will serve a four-year term.

Q. How do I apply to be a member of the board?
A. Members of Wisconsin state boards and commissions are vital participants in developing policy, regulation, advisory and advocacy efforts for a wide variety of issues affecting all Wisconsinites. ABMP encourages members looking for a meaningful volunteer experience within the massage therapy profession to apply. This is not a paid position and will likely be a time commitment of 10 or more hours a month.

If you wish to apply, simply complete the Appointments Application and return it, and your resume, to the governor’s office by email or fax it to (608) 267-7888.

ABMP will keep you informed as the board is appointed and rules and regulations are developed. Stay informed at www.abmp.com.