Arkansas Proposes New Massage Therapy Rules

The Arkansas Department of Health (the Department) is proposing numerous revisions to the “Rules for Massage Therapy in Arkansas.” ABMP has summarized the changes below. View a copy of the proposed revisions here.

If you would like to comment on the proposed revisions, email Cosmetology and Massage Therapy Section Chief Kelli Kersey at no later than August 27, 2020. The Arkansas Department of Health is also holding a public hearing on Thursday, August 27, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. where they are allowing public commentary. The meeting will be held at:

Freeway Medical Tower
5800 W. 10th Street, Room 906
Little Rock, AR 72204

Even though new rules went into effect in January 2020, the Board has substantial updates. Much of the proposed changes are minimal. Highlighted below are changes that have a larger effect on licensees and schools.

Section 2: Principles, Methods, and Definitions

The following are new and amended definitions:

  1. Guest speaker: a qualified speaker or presenter. Note: The proposed rules remove the restriction that speakers must not teach more than 16 hours in a school curriculum to be a guest speaker.
  2. An MBLEx passing grade is identified as a score of 70% or higher.
  3. The proposed rules reduce the high school diploma requirements in postsecondary massage therapy schools. Note: The current rules require that enrollment must be made up entirely of students with a high school diploma or its equivalent. This amendment decreases that enrollment requirement to 50%.

Section 3: Policies & Procedures

The current rules require that requests for items to be placed on the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Committee’s (MTTAC) agenda must be submitted to the Department of Health’s Massage Therapy Section within 30 days. The proposed rules reduce the notice requirement to 14 days prior to a MTTAC meeting.

The proposed rules have gone further into what is required for a pre-licensure criminal background check. The proposed rules allow an individual to petition for a “pre-licensure determination,” which can verify whether an applicant’s criminal record will disqualify them from licensure and whether a waiver can be obtained. Read about the pre-licensure determination process beginning on page 10.

The proposed rules outline the circumstances under which the Department may grant a waiver to individuals convicted of a felony. The Department may grant a waiver upon consideration of the following, without limitation:

(i) The age at which the offense was committed;

(ii) The circumstances surrounding the offense;

(iii) The length of time since the offense was committed;

(iv) Subsequent work history since the offense was committed;

(v) Employment references since the offense was committed;

(vi) Character references since the offense was committed;

(vii) Relevance of the offense to the occupational license; and

(viii) Other evidence demonstrating that licensure of the applicant does not
pose a threat to the health and safety of the public.

Section 4: Enforcement

The proposed rules require massage therapists to post a copy of the most recent inspection sheet in a visible area. School, instructor, and massage therapy licenses must be posted in reception areas, outside individual work rooms, or in the clinic area, along with a copy of the online complaint website and phone number for the Arkansas Department of Health Cosmetology and Massage Therapy Section.

Although the law allows for inspections, the proposed rules give an inspector the authority to enter and annually inspect a massage therapy spa, clinic, or school at any time during business hours.

Section 5: Licensing and Renewals

The proposed rules add to the list of examinations approved by the Department. The current rules only specifically identify the MBLEx. Under the proposed revisions, the Department would accept:

  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards of Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx)
  • National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM)
  • National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB)

Section 6: Reciprocity, Temporary Licensure, and Military Licensure

The proposed revisions substantially amend the section regarding license reciprocity and add subsections for temporary and military licensure.

The proposed rules update the section regarding reciprocity and bring them more in line with the rest of the country, proposing that a license from another state that is “substantially similar” will be allowed to be licensed through reciprocity.

In addition, the proposed rules allow the Department to issue a temporary license once they are in receipt of an application, the required fee, and documentation. Temporary licenses are effective for 90 days unless the applicant does not meet the reciprocity requirements, in which case the temporary license is immediately revoked.

The proposed rules add a new section regarding military licensure. The Department will grant automatic licensure to an individual who holds a substantially equivalent license in another jurisdiction and is one of the following:

1.         An active duty military service member stationed in the state of Arkansas

2.         A returning military veteran applying for licensure within one year of discharge from active duty

3.         The spouse of number 1 or 2 above

They proposed rules also discuss licensing for those moving from a state that is not licensed. Click here to read about reciprocity and state-specific education requirements.

Section 7: Continuing Education

The proposed rules require courses to be approved by the Department, unless approved by NCBTMB, AMTA, or ABMP. For courses approved by the Department, for every one hour of CE taught, the instructor must have five hours of specialized related training. CE course proposals must submit the following:

  • Proposed title
  • Schedule of course
  • Learning outcomes
  • Session description
  • Relevance of course
  • Program content/time frame
  • Teaching strategies
  • Learning environment

Continuing education course providers must submit course revisions to the Department if any item listed above changes.

Section 8: Massage Clinics

The proposed revisions add the following to the list of massage service requirements:

  • Sanitize all surface areas a client touches with a disinfecting solution that is bactericidal, virucidal, and fungicidal.
  • Keep furniture, equipment, electrical equipment, and other fixtures clean and in good repair.
  • Launder linens after each use and have a separate receptacle for soiled and clean linens.
  • Store clean linens out of public use areas, such as restrooms, reception areas, and hallways.
  • Keep oils, lotions, or any other products in closed, labeled containers.

Note that these are not pandemic-related guidelines; these are the proposed rules for the standard practice of massage. Massage therapists will have to sanitize between clients and use clean linens for each client moving forward.

Section 9: Massage Therapy Schools and Postsecondary Massage Therapy Schools

The proposed rules add extra requirements for the massage school application. Any person, firm, or corporation seeking to open a massage therapy school must submit an application along with the following: a description of the school location, a floor plan, a list of equipment, the curriculum and textbooks, and a list of instructors and their qualifications. Samples of school forms, such as contracts, sign-in sheets, attendance records, transcripts, and instructor logs must be also submitted for approval.

Additional measures for school operations have been proposed. School facilities must:

  • Be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Clean equipment and tools thoroughly on a routine basis and sanitize them with a disinfecting solution that is bactericidal, virucidal, and fungicidal.
  • Have clean and accessible restrooms that are not to be used for storage.
  • Have waste containers that are durable, easily cleaned, and emptied daily.
  • Dispose of all one-time use towels, sheets, and protective coverings.
  • Have furniture, equipment, and other fixtures that are washable.
  • Maintain electrical equipment.
  • Launder sheets and towels after each use.
  • Have separate receptacles for clean and soiled linens. Receptacles must be covered.
  • Keep oils, lotions, or other products in labeled containers.

Instructors who teach any portion of a curriculum must be a licensed master massage therapist or massage therapy instructor.