ABMP Advocates for Massage and Bodywork Licensure in Minnesota

ABMP submitted written commentary to the Minnesota legislature regarding Senate File 967 and House File 973, which would create statewide licensure for massage and bodywork therapists. We support this legislation and advocated on your behalf because licensure would create a unified scope of practice, develop professional standards, establish minimum education hours, and elevate the profession.

We invite you to read our comments below and write to your elected officials. Find your representatives and senators here. When writing your letter, you can use our sample advocacy letter.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) provides professional liability insurance, business resources, professional publications, and legislative and regulatory advocacy for more than 81,000 members nationwide, including over 2,000 members in Minnesota.

ABMP is writing in support of Senate File 967 (SF 967), which would create statewide licensure for massage and bodywork therapists in Minnesota. Currently, 45 states require massage therapy licensure. States requiring massage licensure benefit the licensed professional and the public by providing a unified scope of practice, professional standards, minimum education hours, and accountability identified through practice violations. ABMP believes SF 967 would provide the same benefits to the massage community in Minnesota and that massage and bodywork licensure must be a priority for the legislature this session to elevate the professions so they are on par with other licensed states. The current municipal regulation framework fails to protect the consumer.

First, SF 967 would establish minimum education hours and define qualifications and competencies for entry-level practitioners. ABMP applauds SF 967, which would require a minimum of 625 hours of massage education. We support this hour requirement due to the findings of the Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP), which identified the skills and knowledge that should be included in a core massage education to prepare a student to practice safely and competently. The ELAP recommended entry-level curriculum guidelines of 600 to 650 hours. The proposed 625-hour requirement in HF SF 967 satisfies ELAP’s standard.

Dovetailing off our first point, ABMP recognizes the benefit of massage education uniformity that would assist students in passing a national psychometric exam—another requirement outlined in SF 967. The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) is a leading provider of such a test: the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx). FSMTB states the optimal number of massage therapy education hours to pass the MBLEx is between 600 and 650 hours. We fully support the 625-hour requirement in SF 967.

Second, licensure sets up guardrails that assure consumers their chosen massage therapist is practicing within the same scope of practice as others within their state and has met the same licensing requirements vetted by one entity, rather than multiple municipalities. In turn, public protection increases. SF 967 would allow only licensed professionals to practice and to use the terms “licensed massage therapist,” “LMT,” “licensed Asian bodywork therapist,” or “LABT.” This classification system will help consumers choose wisely when selecting a massage therapist. A licensing credential lends credibility to a profession and gives a level of comfort to consumers—they know who is educated, vetted, and capable of performing quality, safe services.

Another failure of the municipal regulation framework is the lack of violation and discipline reinforcement. Currently, a massage therapist can be disciplined in one city, move to another, and the receiving city is unaware of the offense. In contrast, SF 967 would implement processes to address ethical violations, license revocations, and convictions relevant to the practice of massage and bodywork therapy. The bill would require a criminal background check and a description of disciplinary actions against an applicant for an initial license application. ABMP views these processes as a positive step forward for Minnesota to better protect consumers from those who commit a massage violation. 

Third, many massage therapists are sole practitioners and travel from city to city to see clients. The current patchwork of municipal regulation in Minnesota is an undue burden on practitioners, requiring massage therapists to comply with multiple city ordinances. SF 967 would restrict municipal ordinances from instating costly municipal licenses on practitioners. Licensure would reduce the administrative and financial burden of those working in multiple jurisdictions and increase portability and city reciprocity. At a national level, Minnesota massage therapists are at a disadvantage when they want to move out of state—they cannot participate in a licensure by endorsement process in 45 states. By adopting a licensing model of regulation, Minnesota practitioners will be able to relocate across the country more easily and transfer their endorsement smoothly.

Fourth, ABMP is pleased with the licensure by prior experience provision included in SF 967. When laws and regulations go through major changes, such as implementing licensure, they can critically harm businesses or professionals who relied on the previous system. It is imperative that massage and bodywork therapists practicing under the current regulation model be provided a pathway to licensure. The thoughtful inclusion of a prior experience clause in SF 967 is necessary for the massage community to remain vibrant and successful during the period of change.

ABMP believes statewide massage and bodywork licensure is desirable in Minnesota and preferable to the current patchwork of local regulatory patterns in place. It’s time Minnesota joined the 45 other licensed states and recognized the benefits of licensure. We encourage you to vote yes on SF 967 and ask that a hearing be held to move Minnesota licensure forward this legislative session.

Thank you for considering our opinions.