Recently, a story ran in a local publication about a massage business that was raided due to being unlicensed and a question of unethical practices. When individuals or businesses falsely impersonate licensed therapists and practice illegally this gives the public a very bad impression of what massage therapy is. Victor Terrazas, Director of the Massage Therapy Program at Western Technical College, recently shed some light in a question and answer session on how stories such as these take away from all of the positive health and wellness benefits that licensed professional massage therapy provides.
Terrazas starts out by saying, , "As an industry, we as licensed professionals are constantly battling the dated and incorrect terminology used to identify us such as "massage parlors", or "masseuse". This terminology carries an unethical and perhaps a sexual connotation along with it, and we have to fight that all of the time. This situation makes it much harder for licensed therapists. Businesses that use our profession as a disguise for anything other than ethical and professional practice are detrimental to our communities and the profession as a whole."
Q: What do ethics have to do with massage therapy in general?
A: Because massage therapy is a licensed and regulated health care practice, ethics is as critical as in any other health care practice.
Q: How can the public verify if a business is running legally and ethically?
A: The Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), which is the State regulatory and oversight entity for massage therapy in Texas, has a list of all licensed therapists, massage therapy establishments, licensed instructors as well as schools and continuing education providers on their website. They also provide information on individuals and businesses that have received enforcement actions against them ranging from, but not limited to, licensing denials to license revocations and fines. All massage therapists and businesses offering massage therapy services must meet certain requirements, as well as owners and operators of businesses. That website is http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/massage/default.shtm
Q: What does Western Tech do to prepare students to practice professionally?
A: Western Tech's massage therapy program is very extensive. It offers more training than any other program in the area. In terms of ethics and business, we teach an extensive course specifically on the rules and regulations as directed by TDSHS. Because I have worked on State issues and have firsthand experience pertaining to curriculum requirements and licensing requirements, I provide a very strong emphasis to this portion of our program, ensuring students get accurate information. .
Q: How can one file a complaint , and does law enforcement have any legal jurisdiction to intervene with an operation that is not operating legally?
A: The website I provided has information on how to file official complaints. In addition, local law enforcement has authority and jurisdiction on ensuring the regulations as set by the TDSHS are being followed licensed professionals. An individual who wishes to file a complaint against a massage therapist or a massage therapy establishment may write to:
Complaints Management and Investigative Section P.O. Box 141369 Austin, Texas 78714-1369 or call 1-800-942-5540<tel:1-800-942-5540> to request the appropriate form or obtain more information. This number is for complaints only.
Q: Is there anywhere individuals can go to check an establishment's status online?
A: Yes, as I mentioned before, the State website provides that information. One very important thing to consider is that there is no "national license" which allows individuals to practice massage therapy in all 50 states. For states that require licensing, each state has its own educational and licensing requirements. Because there is an exam that some state utilize to measure competency titled The National Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, often times the public mistakes this credential as a "national license", which is completely inaccurate. This or any other licensing exam is not sufficient to practice massage therapy in any or all states that require licensure. Individuals must still apply with their respective state to obtain a license; the test alone is not enough. Some states do a criminal background check. Texas is one of those states. The public needs to know that all therapists practicing in the state of Texas must be licensed through the TDSHS. To my knowledge, no license issued in any state is automatically reciprocal to other states. This is very important. Whether at the mall or any other place of business, anyone offering massage therapy in Texas, must be licensed by TDSHS.
Q: What else should readers know about ethics and massage therapy and the massage therapy program at Western Tech?
A: Everyone that is part of the massage therapy faculty here at Western Tech is extremely passionate and dedicated to the professional and ethical practice of massage therapy. Most of us also have private practices and businesses, and we have a vested interest in the success of our graduates. We promote and provide the education and training students and graduates will need and we work diligently to instill in them a sense of professional responsibility for ethical and professional practice. Because we also work very closely with employers and industry, promoting the highest sense of high standards in our profession with our students is a very critical component of our program.
Q: What does Western Tech do to assist businesses to become licensed establishments?
A: Western Tech helps businesses by providing an orientation to the rules and regulations and other information needed to function legally and ethically. In addition, although readily available on the State website, we can provide applications that are needed. There is some guidance available with filling out all applications, however each business structure is different and it is best for businesses to do an internal evaluation and contact the State directly with questions specific to their business. There is a jurice-prudence exam required from all establishment applicants, which again, is addressed when providing training and orientations on the rules and regulations.