Texas Proposes New Massage Therapy Rules for Schools—Comments Due September 19, 2021

January 5, 2022 Update:
On December 7, 2021, the proposed massage therapy distance learning rules and others listed below were adopted by the Texas Massage Therapy Advisory Board.

For a recent update from Texas for practitioners, view this link.

Proposed massage therapy rules were published in the Texas Register (page 6) August 20, 2021. The rules primarily affect distance learning. ABMP has summarized the rules below. We also explain how you can comment on the proposed rules to make your opinion on the topic heard before the September 19, 2021, deadline.

Definitions (117.2)
The proposed rules define distance learning as a “formal instructional process in which the student and instructor are separated by physical distance and communication technology is used to deliver instruction to the student.”

Massage school license—general requirements and application (117.50)
The rules propose that massage schools obtain department approval in writing before offering instruction via distance learning. If a school wishes to change the technology used to provide distance learning, they must obtain additional written approval beforehand.

Massage school inspections (117.55)
The proposed rules would allow the department to inspect a school’s instruction, including observing or auditing instruction offered via distance learning.

Massage school curriculum outline and internship (117.59)
The proposed rules add distance learning as a method to provide massage therapy instruction:

“. . . a massage school must provide all of the minimum 500 hours of the supervised course of instruction at the physical location of the licensed massage school where the student enrolled or, if otherwise allowed . . . through distance learning.”

The rules stipulate that an internship, however, may not be offered through distance learning—internships must be completed at a licensed massage therapy school.

Distance learning
The proposed rules create a new section outlining the parameters of distance learning. A massage school must:

  1. Verify each student’s identity who receives instruction through distance learning.
  2. Track each student’s hours completed through distance learning.
  3. Monitor each student’s participation in distance learning, ensuring that there is ample opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and the student.
  4. Document compliance with bullets 1–3 for each student.
  5. Ensure students have the educational materials needed to fulfill all course requirements.

A massage school cannot use distance learning to provide the instruction required by Section 455.156(b)(1)(A) of the act: “200 hours . . . taught by a licensed massage therapy instructor and dedicated to the study of massage therapy techniques and theory and the practice of manipulation of soft tissue, with at least 125 hours dedicated to the study of Swedish massage therapy techniques.” In addition, a massage school cannot alter the time clock records used to track student hours completed through distance learning, except in a documented case of technological failure. Distance learning instruction must be interactive. For example:

  • Participating in an activity where there is interaction between the instructor and the student
  • Submitting an academic assignment
  • Taking an assessment or an exam
  • Participating in an interactive tutorial or webinar
  • Participating in a study group, group project, or online discussion
  • Interacting with an instructor regarding course material

The proposed rules add a new requirement for both in-person instruction and distance learning instruction. A massage school must provide information to protect the safety of a massage therapist that covers what steps to take if a client initiates any verbal or physical contact with a massage therapist that is intended to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of either person. This instruction can be provided at any time in the 500 hours.

Massage school student progress requirements (117.67)
The proposed rules state that the department may require schools to note if hours were completed in a massage school in person or through distance learning.

Submit commentary on the proposed rules
You can submit commentary to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) showing your support or opposition to the proposed rules. ABMP has a sample advocacy letter that you can use to help write your comments.
The deadline for commentary is September 19, 2021.

There are three ways to submit your comments on the proposed rules:

  1. Electronically via TDLR’s website
  2. By fax to 512-475-3032
  3. By mail addressed to:
    Monica Nuñez
    Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
    PO Box 12157
    Austin, TX 78711