USA Today recently ran a front-page article with the print headline “A Pipeline to America’s Sex Trade?”. (The full article is available online with a different headline via Yahoo at www.yahoo.com/news/massage-schools-across-us-suspected-100107791.html.)
Based on a report by the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation, the piece successfully outlines many issues in the massage and bodywork profession, including so-called “diploma mills,” illicit sex spas, and lax enforcement and communication among many state institutions and law enforcement. We are pleased these issues were brought to light for consideration by government, licensing, and education entities.
However, we disagree with the sensationalism of the headline, and the practice of cherry-picking a handful of horror stories and giving the impression that all massage schools are complicit in these activities when the vast majority of the 919 state-approved massage schools across the country are operating legally and above board (www.abmp.com/updates/blog-posts/massage-schools-stay-resilient-during-covid-19-pandemic). We also disagree with the absence of any significant commentary in the article about the role that state licensing, and the enforcement of state licensing, plays in the fight against the issues identified in the article.
Specifically, the focus on a school in Minnesota—a state that has no licensing for massage therapists despite efforts by ABMP and others to create that system—should have necessitated a discussion of that issue. California, also mentioned in the article, has a system of voluntary certification that is better, but can still be improved. ABMP continues to work on licensing issues in those states, and generally as outlined in a recent Massage & Bodywork magazine article at www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com/i/1358392-may-june-2021/12.
We appreciate having allies in the ongoing effort to keep the massage profession free of the influence of illegal and illicit actors, and we are supportive of efforts to do that without the implication that professional massage therapists and legitimate massage schools are contributing to those issues.
ABMP’s Government Relations team continues to work advocating on behalf of our members and the profession. Protecting our practitioners and their clients are first and foremost in our minds. For more information, visit www.abmp.com/members/career-development/regulation-advocacy.