Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) in March, enacting a lower-tiered approach to massage therapy licensing. The bill maintains standards and qualifications for licensed massage therapists and introduces lower-tiered licensing for massage assistants and massage assistants-in-training. ABMP has outlined the highlights of SB 42 for you below.
WHAT THE BILL DOES
Clarifies the state’s definition of massage therapy and creates the definition of limited massage therapy
Most notably, Utah now recognizes limited massage therapy, which has a reduced scope of practice compared to massage therapy. SB 42 defines “limited massage therapy” as:
- The systematic manual manipulation of the soft tissue of the body for the purpose of promoting the therapeutic health and well-being of a client, enhancing the circulation of the blood and lymph, relaxing and lengthening muscles, relieving pain, restoring metabolic balance, relaxation, or achieving homeostasis.
- Seated chair massage
- The use of body wraps
- In connection with an activity above, the use of at least one of the following:
- the hands
- a towel
- a stone
- a shell
- a bamboo stick
- an herbal ball compress
Defines massage therapy supervisor
Under the new two-tiered system, Utah recognizes a host of supervisors under whom massage assistants, massage assistants-in-training, and massage apprentices can earn training hours and/or work under. Utah defines a massage therapy supervisor as one of the following: a massage therapist who has at least three years of lawful practice with 3,000 hours; a licensed physical therapist; a licensed physician; a licensed osteopathic physician; a licensed acupuncturist; or a licensed chiropractic physician.
Provides the requirements for licensure as a massage assistant
To be lawfully licensed as a massage assistant in Utah, applicants must:
- Submit an application
- Pay a to-be-determined fee
- Be at least 18 years old
- Complete 300 hours of education and training*
- Provide satisfactory evidence you will practice as a massage assistant only under the indirect supervision of a massage therapy supervisor
- Pass an examination to be determined by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing
A massage assistant can obtain 300 hours of education and training by completing the following:
- 150 hours of education and training while enrolled in a massage school or while licensed as a massage assistant-in-training under the direct supervision of a massage therapist in good standing who has engaged in the lawful practice of massage therapy for at least 6,000 hours.
- 150 hours of education and training while enrolled in a massage school or while licensed as a massage assistant-in-training and under the indirect supervision of a massage therapist in good standing who has engaged in the lawful practice of massage therapy for at least 6,000 hours.
Provides the requirements for licensure as a massage assistant-in-training
To be lawfully licensed as a massage assistant in-training in Utah, applicants must:
- Submit an application form
- Pay the required fee
- Be at least 18 years old
- Provide satisfactory evidence that you will practice as a massage assistant-in-training under the supervision of a massage therapist for a period of no more than six months.
A massage assistant-in-training license expires six months after the day it is issued.
Describes required business signage and scheduling notification
If a massage assistant or massage assistant-in-training engages in practicing limited massage therapy at a massage establishment, the business must display a sign, visible to the public, indicating that certain massage services offered at the business are performed by a massage assistant or a massage assistant-in-training.
A client must be notified before scheduling or agreeing to services that they will be receiving a massage from a massage assistant or a massage assistant-in-training.
ABMP will advocate for reasonable rules and regulations as directed by this legislation and provide you with updates as we learn more.
By Bob Benson, ABMP Chairman
ABMP President Les Sweeney, when presented with an issue, likes to say, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?”
In Utah, proponents of Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) aimed at uprooting existing massage licensing requirements. Their proposed solution felt like a sledgehammer applied to a thumbtack.
What could they have done differently?
A) Look in the mirror: Offer increased pay rates, reasonable hands-on work hours per day and week, and provide therapist schedules sufficiently in advance to permit therapists to structure family obligations and other parts of their lives in order to attract more of Utah’s 7,656 licensed massage therapists.
B) After addressing A), approach the eight approved massage schools in Utah (plus others in adjacent states) with the upgraded employment propositions and follow through at school career fairs or similar events.
The proponents of SB 42 chose a different route. Their legislation was introduced in 2022. The educational requirements specified for a new massage assistant-level tier (called “massage assistant” or “massage assistant-in-training”) seemed wholly insufficient to protect the public. Contrast the new tier’s requirements, including “indirect supervision” for the massage assistant or massage assistant-in-training, to licensed massage therapists’ 600 hours of designated education plus passing the MBLEx to demonstrate proficiency and knowledge to provide safe, effective massages. ABMP vigorously opposed the legislation, as did several other aggrieved parties. The ABMP Government Relations Director testified against the bill and pleaded directly with individual legislators.
Due to timing constraints, the bill carried over to 2023, when it passed and was signed into law. ABMP’s pleadings did help boost the education requirements, including beefing up the experience levels required of individuals providing apprenticeship training, but the overall education/training package still feels thin. Applicants for “massage assistant” status also will have to pass a national exam approved by the Utah Division of Professional Licensing. ABMP intends to urge that body to select the MBLEx for this purpose to maximize public protection.
If you share ABMP’s views, you can express your desire that the Utah Division of Professional Licensing specify the MBLEx as the required exam to pass to become licensed as a “massage assistant.” You can contact the Division at email@example.com. Please reach out to the ABMP Government Relations team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like support drafting comments.