Freedom Comes To Massage Therapist

Finally… FREEDOM!

To be a professional. Thanks to CAMTC.

Moving to Los Angeles from New York in 2001, had me very excited about my career as a massage therapist. I had just completed two years of massage school in NY and was eager to embark on a new chapter in my life; one of professionalism and compassionate healing. I had envisioned a healthy balance of house calls, with perhaps one or two days per week in a health care setting to supplement my private practice.


This daydream came to a screeching halt soon after my arrival in L.A., upon learning that the licensing process was going to be much more complicated and dollar-consuming than I could have ever imagined. I quickly learned that in addition to a business permit, I would need to obtain a massage permit for each city or county in which I planned to treat clients. Each had its own set of fees, regulations, and level of scrutiny. (By ‘scrutiny’ I mean, a lack of respect as a health care provider.) The city of Los Angeles classifies massage therapy as ‘adult entertainment’ under the city zoning laws, and therefore by default, gives as much respect to massage therapists as it does prostitutes. This was a huge eye-opener, after coming from a state where massage licenses are granted by the Department of Education (the same entity which grants medical and teaching licenses). There are some cities in California that require nothing more than an application fee and your signature, without so much as a minimum education requirement! How’s that for professional standards?


I realized there would be no point in wasting my energy on wishing that things were different. I simply had to suck it up and choose one city to become licensed in, and accept the fact that I could only practice massage within that city. If I had a larger bank account at that time, I might have chosen to hold licenses in several cities so I could have a broader client base, but I simply could not afford it. Although I felt frustrated and limited within my profession, I conceded to the regulations set upon me and my peers. The house call aspect of my business was quickly hindered, since many of my prospective clients lived outside the geographical limits of my L.A. license. A weekly client of mine, who I used to treat in her L.A. office, asked me if I could come to her house to treat her husband. I had to decline because their home was (a mere 3 miles away) in Beverly Hills, and I did not hold a Beverly Hills massage license. And so it went…


I decided to shift gears a bit and rent space in a wellness center full-time, rather than try and navigate the restrictive house-call path. After some time, I began to feel comfortable and more confident as a well-respected bodyworker, establishing a nice following at the center. Then one day, in mid-session with a client who I’d been working with regularly to alleviate chronic sciatica pain, the door to my treatment room suddenly opened as I was momentarily blinded by a sharp beam of light from the vice officer’s flashlight. He demanded to know, “Is that person wearing underwear?” It took me a moment to comprehend what was happening, and another moment to compose myself, after realizing that he assumed something inappropriate was taking place. This was not the last time I would experience this degrading interaction in such a potentially professional setting.


It goes without saying, that I was feeling quite disheartened and disrespected as a therapist, when suddenly one day, the sun came out! In September 2008, Senate Bill 731 was passed, which resulted in the formation of the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). I couldn’t believe my ears… I would finally be able to practice anywhere in the state of California once I obtained certification through CAMTC! The application process was simple, and I did not feel like I had to prove to law enforcement that I am NOT a prostitute. This is what I and my fellow massage therapists have been waiting for. With CAMTC statewide certification, we now have the right to practice our profession within the standards set by our fellow professionals, not by the city vice squad. My clients feel more confident knowing their safety is being overlooked by an entity suited to do so; a group of professionals who embody the professional standards required of one to call themselves a massage therapist. Certification renewal with CAMTC takes place every other year, as opposed to annually like most cities/counties. The application process is streamlined and simple to understand, and about half the price of what I was paying annually for renewal.


My faith in the integrity of this profession within the state of California has finally been restored. My CAMTC certification boasts much more credibility among my prospective clients than my city permit ever did. I am so proud of what our profession stands for and I display my CAMTC certificate on my office wall with an enormous amount of pride. For those of my fellow massage therapists who are considering CAMTC certification, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It affords each of us the freedom we need to practice our profession, along with the respect we deserve as health care practitioners. Thank you CAMTC!

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