After proposing new rules in September 2022, the South Carolina Panel for Massage/Bodywork (Panel) officially adopted new massage therapy rules eight months later on May 10, 2023.
To learn how the new rules may affect you, your business, or your school, ABMP has summarized the rules below. One important change is renaming the Panel to the Massage Therapy Board. The new rules also impact the following areas:
- Minimum Massage Therapy Education Curriculum
- Temporary Massage Therapy License for a Professional Event
- Authority to Practice Massage Therapy in an Emergency
- Reactivation of an Inactive License
- Massage Therapy Establishment and Sole Practitioner Establishment Operations
- Sole Practitioner Establishment Licenses
- Residential Licensed Establishments
Minimum Massage Therapy Education Curriculum
The new rules eliminate the section titled “Qualification for Licensure” and replace it with this new section that details the minimum education requirements for massage therapy curriculum. The biggest change here increases the hour requirement from 500 hours of training to 650 hours. The 650 hours of instruction must be in the following subjects:
- Anatomy, Physiology, and Kinesiology (250 hours)
Content must include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, palpation techniques, related pathology and medical terminology, and cautions and contraindications, with a minimum of 40 hours of instruction in pathologies.
- Massage Theory and Practice (200 hours)
Content must include massage theory and principles, practical massage and bodywork applications, special populations and accommodations, allied modalities, and hands-on practice in a classroom setting.
- Business and Ethics (85 hours)
Content must include professional ethics, communications, boundaries, business practices and development, interpersonal skills, and career planning, with a minimum of 45 hours of instruction in professional ethics.
- Laws (15 hours)
Content must include state and federal laws and regulations, HIPAA and privacy issues, with a minimum of five hours of instruction in state-specific laws and regulations.
- Student Clinics (100 hours)
Content must include a minimum of 75 hours of student clinical time spent on full-body massage for the public that takes place on-site and under the supervision of a licensed massage therapy supervisor. Student clinics must include instruction in massage, assessment and intake, documentation, room preparation, and clerical work relevant to the session.
Note: Students cannot participate in student clinics until they have completed at least 250 hours of coursework in the areas of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, practical massage and bodywork applications, professional ethics, and boundaries.
Graduates applying for a massage therapy license must submit an affidavit from the school, on an approved form, documenting their completion of required subjects and hours of instruction. An official transcript from the school can be submitted, if necessary.
Now that these rules are adopted, massage therapy schools have up to one year from the effective date, May 10, to apply the hours and curriculum content changes. Students who graduate from or are enrolled in a massage therapy program prior to that date, may qualify for licensure by meeting either the educational requirements in the new rule, or the requirements in effect prior to the effective date.
Temporary Massage Therapy License for a Professional Event
The new rules outline the process of how an out-of-state massage therapist can obtain a temporary license to practice massage therapy in South Carolina on a short-term basis for a professional event. A professional event is defined as “a specific athletic, performing arts, or other similar event.” To apply for a temporary event license, an applicant must:
- Have a current massage therapy license in good standing in another state
- Submit a completed application at least two weeks prior to the professional event
- Submit a copy of their current out-of-state license
Authority to Practice Massage Therapy in an Emergency
The rules outline the process of how an out-of-state massage therapist in good standing can obtain the authority to practice massage therapy in South Carolina in response to a declaration of disaster or state of emergency. To provide massage therapy services in such cases, an applicant must:
- Submit a completed application form providing notice of their intent to offer massage therapy services in the state of South Carolina
- Submit a copy of their current out-of-state license
The adopted rules eliminate the section titled “Reciprocity” and replace it with a new section that details the process for how new South Carolina residents with out-of-state massage therapy licenses can obtain a license to practice in South Carolina. While the old reciprocity and new endorsement processes are very similar, there are a few additional requirements to the endorsement process. Endorsement applicants have to:
- Submit proof of having a current, active, and unrestricted massage therapy license in good standing issued by another state that had licensing requirements at least substantially equivalent to those in effect in South Carolina as of the date of initial licensure.
- Substantially equivalent education may be shown by providing proof of having taken and passed a national examination.
- Provide a state criminal history records check, supported by fingerprints, by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, along with a national criminal records check, supported by fingerprints, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Reactivation of an Inactive License
The new rules detail how a licensee can reactivate their inactive license. The licensee must:
- Submit an application form
- Supply proof of completing six hours of continuing education for each year the license has been inactive
- Provide an updated state criminal history record check, supported by fingerprints, by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and an updated national criminal record check, supported by fingerprints, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Massage Therapy Establishment and Sole Practitioner Establishment Operations
The new rules list mandatory sanitation requirements and other policies for all licensed massage therapy and sole practitioner establishments:
- Individual massage therapy licenses and the establishment license must be displayed in a prominent location visible to the public.
- The establishment must comply with all applicable state and local building code requirements and fire safety codes.
- Each establishment must have adequately equipped restroom facilities accessible for use by the licensees, employees, and clients.
- The establishment must have a sink with running water, soap, and sanitary towels or hand sanitizer designed to clean without the use of running water.
- The establishment and equipment must be kept clean and in good repair.
- Clean linens, such as gowns, towels, sheets, or drapes, must be used on each client.
- Sheets, towels, or other materials used as table coverings must be changed after each client, and massage table surfaces must be disinfected after each use.
- Linens must be laundered before reuse.
- Massage oils, lubricants, and lotions must be stored in enclosed containers and dispensed from clean containers to prevent contamination.
- If client treatment records are kept, they must be maintained to safeguard confidentiality, in accordance with applicable laws.
Sole Practitioner Establishment Licenses
The rules require sole practitioner establishment licenses for fixed places of business, including a rental space controlled by a licensed massage therapist who is not an employee. A sole practitioner establishment must comply with the establishment licensing, operation, and inspection requirements.
Residential Licensed Establishments
The new rules allow licensed establishments to be operated in a massage therapist’s home residence if the massage services are provided in an area that is not used for sleeping purposes and that offers sufficient privacy for the client.