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Getting your paperwork/licence in order



I am just graduated from a 550 hr 5 element shiatsu school here in Massachusetts.Whereas my training has been very thorough in techniques,It has been quite shaky on the matters of how to go about being legal to practice.Now that we have graduated , my teacher is far too buisy to relate to us asking questions anymore to get the kind of answers I want.

Whatdoes this piece of paper from my school mean on its own?

I know my school was certified by the ABOTA,and has enough hours etc for them, however, I was wondering, as a new practioner, what steps I need to do with the State/town etc to insure that I am legal to practice and advertise.Also, I was wondering how to find out this info, in that I dont think I will practice in Mass forever, and will want to move elsewhere and set up shop so I would want to know how to do it wherever I live.

I also understand that the AOBTA doesnt license, and NCCAOM doesnt licence in my state.What then?

Any help will be greatly appreciated.


Your piece of paper from the school generally means nothing on its own, and in many cases your national certification is either not required or not used either. Massachusetts is unique (last time I checked) in that they license massage by city, not by the state like most places - but this may have (hopefully) changed. In the vast majority of states if you have your education, your national certification (better from the NCBTMB, not the NCCAOM which is better for acupuncturists and near useless for bodywork). Neither of these are used/required in MA. Each state has a massage licensing board that you will have to contact (easy search on the internet). For massachusetts this is here: MA Massage Board.

What you will find is that the laws cater to massage therapy programs not necessarily eastern bodywork programs. Often times, massage therapy programs are longer and the laws require that number of hours. You may have to either take additional courses or try to use hours from other college work you may have done (business courses, a and p, etc.) to make up the missing hours. The massage board in each area, however, will have all of the answers to these questions and usually have them all answered in faq's online.

Just search on google for "massage license board X" where X = the state you are interested in.


Thanks again Chad!

I still have some nagging questions though.

I looked at the law here in Mass, and it seems to say that Asian bodyworkers are not considered massage therapists by the law.Heres the quote from Massachusetts' otherwise draconian massage laws:

b) Nothing in this section shall prevent or restrict the practice of a person who uses touch, words or directed movement to deepen awareness of patterns of movement in the body, or the affectation of the human energy system or acupoints or Qi meridians of the human body while engaged within the scope of practice of a profession with established standards and ethics, but such services shall not be designated or implied to be massage or massage therapy. Such practices shall include, but not be limited to, the Feldenkrais Method; Reflexology; The Trager Approach; Ayurvedic Therapies, Rolf Structural Integration, Polarity or Polarity Therapy; Polarity Therapy Bodywork; Asian Bodywork Therapy that does not constitute massage as defined in this chapter; Acupressure; Jin Shin Do; Qi Gong; Tui Na; Shiatsu; Body-Mind Centering and Reiki. These exempt practitioners may use the terms "bodywork", "bodyworker" and "bodywork therapist" in their promotional literature.

So I doubt this means I dont need any certification/licenseing AT ALL here,it seems to allude to that, but ,living in Mass, I doubt it.

but it leaves me at a loss as to understanding what are my requiements in order to be legal.Any searches on Shiatsu and the law come up with nothing.Any more ideas?

I havn't the foggiest clue as to what department where to call where to ask the right questions too.

Also, it seems here , from you post, that you were going somewhere with this sentence and never finished.Would you please clarify?

"In the vast majority of states if you have your education, your national certification (better from the NCBTMB, not to the NCCAOM which is better for acupuncturists and near useless for bodyworkers"

thankyou SO much for your time.



You need a license to touch someone, period. Shiatsu falls under massage therapy or acupuncture licenses - massage therapy licenses being easier to obtain... You need to click on the link that I provided above, call them, and ask them all of these questions. No one but that office will have the answers to the questions that you have. I'm sorry but that is all I can offer. Good luck.

As an aside, primarily for others reading this, when you go to school all of these questions need to be answered before you spend a single cent on your education. Think of every place you would ever want to live and have all of these questions answered before you start school. The laws and qualifications vary widely from state to state and certainly country to country and there are many people who end up wasting their time and money and cannot practice without further education or even re-doing their entire program at an appropriate school.


The state law is clear in its exemption status.

Craig can practice legally with no problem.

I am a state rep for AOBTA/ MA.

Keep doing Shiatsu Craig, if you had chosen to be grandfathered in to the state massage licensure, you would be licensed in Swedish massage.

A lot of people are calling themselves bodyworkers, but if they don&#39t have COSP school training in Asian bodywork, the day will come when they will be shut down, you are free to practice.


Can you clarify or at least provide statutes. I&#39m certain you are not saying he doesn&#39t need a license at all to practice shiatsu? I clearly remember licensing being by the city in MA, not by the state with Cambridge requiring NCBTMB and schooling, as I remember anyway, and Boston, for example, only requiring you pay for a license (to cut down on prostitution primarily) and each other city either had no laws or would eventually defer to a state law.

Like Craig says above it is unlikely the meaning of the statute that he quoted is that if you simply call yourself a bodyworker rather than a massage therapist you can freely practice without a license.

Again, any actual statues you can provide would be much appreciated, which I&#39m sure, as the state rep, you have easy access to.


I don&#39t think there is any law of "license to touch". It may be one of those myth that spreads easily (because it sounds good). At least my research shows no legal base for any such supposed law.


Again, nice idea, but see my comment below about backing statements like that up. The vast majority of areas in the US at least require some type of license for working with people. While you could make the argument that you don&#39t need one for x,y,z procedures/techniques whatever, the very first time you get a lawsuit for something you have absolutely nothing to back you up on. Furthermore, if you are strattling some lines and you get caught up practicing "x" without a license you wouldn&#39t want the fines, legal actions and/or the hassles. The real issue is why would you want to do this even if you feel like you could get away with it -- like not paying taxes. Remember while not there may not be a rule against touching people per se, your are not just brushing up against them on the street, you are touching them under the auspices of doing "x" or treating "x" as a "x" practitioner. This is where the lines get crossed.


Suing is one thing, winning yet another. The issue is simple, were it ever come to a law suit: The plaintiff must proof that you are in violation of the law, i.e. cite crear and convincing evidence of the law of which one is in violation. For instance, there is no law (that I could find) requiring a "license to touch". Hence, if someone with the proper training and credentials practices a form of healing energy via touch (but not manipulation of tissue), there is no license requirement, unless so specifically stated in the respective statutes of a law. We live in a democratic system of legal equality, not at the whim of arbitrary government interpretation.


Hi Chad

I was glad to see the post come up on my email.

I had a license with the city of Quincy for 11 1/2 years, when the state law became enacted, I would answer to Quincy board of health, never had an incident or any disciplinary action against myself or my business in the 30 years I have been practising; when the law changed I stayed in business and due to clause 281 of the law, it is not required for me to

have licensure, I was asked if I would like to be grandfathered in as a massage therapist establishment, but knowing (through AOBTA meetings and also going to the pre law board meetings for the state,) that this grandfathering in would change my status from ABT to LMT and has NO affinity to any of the 14 forms of Asian Bodywork, as authorized by AOBTA, and is strictly a Swedish Licensure.

As I said I finished my 500 hour in 1986 and /750 hour clinical at Lemuel Shattuck Chronic Pain and Stress Relief Clinic (under the directorship of ted Kaptchuk in 87, and NEVER had any desire to study Swedish style massage, therefore I DECLINED any offer of grandfathering in, so to date my biggest &#39competitors&#39 in the &#39Bodywork&#39 modality are illegal and uncertifeid with no affiliation to anything sex trade has not been a picnic, but being &#39licensed&#39 in MA. is ONLY a license to be identified as a Swedish massage therapist, can&#39t wave your ABT flag under it.

But like all things this to is changing, NCCAOM does not offer ANY National certification in any way anymore, and there are BIG changes on the frontier as I have been told by Wayne Mylin, president of the AOBTA and will be contacting the legislative administrator soon to get the info on how to educate the citys and towns in MA. what it is to be a practitioner in MA.

ANYONE interested in being part of this &#39campaign to wake up&#39 this population, would be GREAT!

Get in touch with me and we can make something happen.

In the meantime if anyone wants to work from my establishment and you have the AOBTA (etc.) qualifications, I have space.


The problems are only anyone trying to get over on the state license CLAUSE 281, are illegals (unqualified, untrained) practising.

The AOBTA has the name address phone numbers of EVERY school in the WORLD, so anyone saying they studied an ABT in Timbuktoo, are REQUIRED to submit transcripts...

Chad I &#39think&#39 I clarified myself in my post, but no matter what you may believe, no one can sue me or throw me or any one else that has a legitimate ABT practice out of my/their establishment or keep me/them from aquiring a new establishment, they in fact, would be who is being one can &#39teach&#39 ABT without having a teachers certificate through AOBTA, they can&#39t lean on an NCCAOM credential for that...


Please understand how threads work in our forums (also post order).... an indentation is a -reply- to the post -directly- above it. This conversation is largely becoming misconstrued because fajian is adding comments and not replying to the post above and talking about broad US policy/global policy perhaps (by not specifying exactly) which is allowing Kim to push the discussion more wayward discussing matters entirely relevant only to the initial poster and MA. Chad&#39s response was a direct reply to fajian&#39s broad statements and was in no way intended to revive this old discussion.

To clarify this discussion (and close it) - fajian is talking about generalized statements that couldn&#39t possibly apply to all areas of the us or the world but each are entitled to their opinion. Which is what this is it until relevant court cases answer these types of questions clearly and/or specific laws are enacted that clearly spell out scopes of practice. And Kim is talking about the US state of MA does have a relevant statute and not the entire US/world.

And fajian please keep in mind that you are walking along a very touchy path. Which is not being called out for your sake per se, but for the global readership of this forum where we generally avoid blanket statements out of respect for relevance. Every day naturopaths for better or worse with lots of training are disallowed licensing, PT&#39s, MD&#39s and Chiro slowly start using acupuncture with or without training often in (initially at least) violation of their own scopes of practice, and on and on. These are all people with lots of schooling and in many states a reasonably strong legal status. Being out on the fringe doing energywork for example without any licensing or the support of any legal/political groups but mixing in other techniques such as those involving touch is something to be cautious of (which is not relevant to this posters original question anyhow). We all know this isn&#39t exactly a free and clear democracy that we live in and the landscape of health professions is changing on a daily basis.

Finally both of you are replying to a post that is over 3 years old - so please check the post date before you revive old discussions - thank you.

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