Virginia Bill Proposes Mandatory Licensure for Massage Therapists

HB 562, introduced in the Virginia legislature this session, proposes to change Virginia's massage therapy regulation system from certification, also known as "title protection," to mandatory licensure. Under the current certification system, any person who claims to be a massage therapist, or uses any title or designation tending to imply that he or she is a massage therapist, must obtain the state massage therapy certification. HB 562, by contrast, would require that any person who engages in massage therapy, or holds him or herself out as engaging in massage therapy, must hold a state massage license. A similar proposal was introduced in 2012 but did not pass.

"Massage therapy" is defined in the bill as "the treatment of soft tissues for therapeutic purposes by the application of massage and bodywork techniques based on the manipulation or application of pressure to the muscular structure or soft tissues of the human body." No license would be required for a practitioner of the healing arts who "provides stroking of the hands, feet, or ears or the use of touch, words, and directed movement including healing touch, therapeutic touch, mind-body centering, orthobionomy, traeger therapy, reflexology, polarity therapy, reiki, qigong, muscle activation techniques, or practices with the primary purpose of affecting energy systems of the human body."

Thus, HB 562 says that if you practice massage therapy, as that term is defined in the bill, and do not fall under an exception, then you must have the license, no matter what you're calling yourself. 

Under the bill, anyone who holds a Virginia massage certification prior to July 1, 2017 would automatically receive the Virginia license.  

If passed, the law would become effective on July 1, 2017. The requirements for licensure would remain the same as they have been for certification: 500 hours of massage education plus passage of the MBLEx exam. 

We will keep you updated on the status of HB 562.