Virginia Mandatory Massage Licensing Bill Passed

The Virginia bill discussed in our last update, Virginia HB 562, has become law. The new law changes Virginia's massage therapy regulation system from certification, also known as "title protection," to mandatory licensure. 

Under the state certification system that has been in place until now, any person in Virginia who claimed to be a massage therapist, or used any title or designation tending to imply that he or she is a massage therapist, has been required to hold the state massage therapy certification.  The new law now requires 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, no matter what title or designation he or she is using.  "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." A license is not 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." Students enrolled in a massage therapy educational program under the direction of a licensed massage therapist are also exempt.

The law technically goes into effect on July 1, 2016. However, any person holding a current Virginia state certificate to practice massage therapy prior to January 1, 2017, will automatically be deemed to be licensed.  When you renew your certification after January 1, 2017, the Board of Nursing will issue a massage license to you rather than a renewed certificate. Therefore, if you are currently state-certified, there is nothing you need to do other than keep your certification current and renew it on time.

Applications for licenses will not be available until the regulations implementing the law are issued, but the Board will continue to issue certifications in the meantime.  All certifications will be treated as licenses.  If you are not currently state-certified, but you are engaging in massage therapy, or holding yourself out as engaging in massage therapy, then you must hold a massage certification, which will be deemed a license, in order to continue to practice after July 1, 2016.  If you fall into this category, you should begin the process of satisfying the requirements and then applying for certification now. The requirements for certification have not changed:  you must have completed 500 hours of massage therapy education and passed the MBLEx exam, and you must submit to a criminal background check. For more information on applying for certification, click here.

The Board is required to issue regulations by December 15, 2016.