What really is a Licensed Massage Therapist, because it is not the same as a “Masseuse”

Some people are unaware of the great skill and knowledge that comprises a massage therapy education. I have had friends of mine express great surprise upon learning that I had to take anatomy, physiology, and other science-based classes during the course of my massage therapy education.  Sure a 600 hour education may not seem like a whole lot, but if you add in Continuing Education that is required on top of what additional educational background each massage therapist has…you might be surprised.


Ask your massage therapist to tell you about the extent of his or her massage school curriculum and completed courses.  So in my case, I went to massage school first and progressed on to get training as a Chiropractic Technician.  Proceeded to get my Undergrad in English, Psychology, Sociology, and Biology at Saint Ambrose University.  Then went on to the Doctorate program at Palmer College of Chiropractic, and did complete all their Undergrad program.  I also have done training as a Doula, 200 yoga instructor training, Vaginal Steaming facilitator, Aromatherapy, and working on my Death Doula training.


Most states regulate the practice of massage therapy with licenses, certificates, etc. Usually, the completion of a comprehensive examination is also required for state or national certification.  In the state of Iowa, I personally took the National Certification, because at that time the creation of MBLEX had not happened.

Continuing Education

Many states and professional organizations require massage therapists to complete continuing education courses each year. This ensures that therapists learn about emerging modalities and current issues pertinent to the field.  Recently the state of Iowa has changed their requirements to 16 hours, instead of the former 24 hours.  Since I am dual state licensed in Illinois as well, whose requirements are 24 hours…it is easier to just complete 24 hours for the two year licensure renewal period.

Professional Standards

Many massage therapists belong to professional organizations and commit to upholding rigorous standards of practice and codes of ethics.

Through stringent educational standards, state and national regulation, continuing education requirements, and professional affiliations, the massage therapy profession has evolved beyond the “basic back rub” stereotype into a well-respected healthcare modality.

In this instance, most liability insurance companies have a code of ethics/standards or at least the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) does.  I am currently a member of the Iowa AMTA Chapter, which fun fact is one of the most active and largest chapter in America.  You may not know that the AMTA often lobbies for Massage Therapist rights and issues.  Like right now we are really taking a stand against local government entities trying to deregulate Massage Therapy in attempt to help deter sex and human trafficking.  Deregulating Massage Therapy really hurts us Licensed Massage Therapists who not only pay taxes as small business owners/employees/independent contractors, but continuing education, liability, and licensure fees.  It does not burden or deter those that are involved with “massage parlors”.

More Than a Luxury

The misconception that massage therapy is just a luxury is also prevalent. Some people believe that massage therapy is either an indulgence for the wealthy or a “treat” for special occasions. Most therapists have some clients who only come in once a year, usually for a birthday or special holiday.

Often clients who have been influenced by others and made to feel guilty for spending money on a monthly massage session. These clients seem to think of massage therapy as a frivolity they don’t deserve. They will say: “I try to explain the benefits I get from massage therapy to my spouse [friend, family member, etc.], but all they can focus on is the money being spent on a ‘luxury.’”

Admittedly, massage therapy has a monetary cost, but that should be weighed against the benefits of the treatment—diminished stress, decreased pain, improved moods, etc.  I have had several clients who have shared that their primary care physicians often do not take the time to listen or have empathy to what is being shared.  It is of the upmost importance to meet each and every client at the point their story is at!  It is not my place to judge, but rather to hear what is shared and create with each client a new dialogue that allows progression.  I have happily worked with other care providers and Massage Therapists that care for a single client, and the results have been amazing!

You deserve this level of care and compassionate touch!  What is having a more functional body worth…or quality sleep…or you-time (maybe a different kind of date night?)?

Insurance Recognition and Employee Benefits

With the healthcare benefits of massage therapy increasingly being touted, many health insurance companies are choosing to include coverage for massage in their plans. Massage therapy is also included as a healthcare option in personal health savings accounts being offered to some employees, while many employers are providing coverage for various alternative health benefits, including massage. With this expanded recognition in the medical realm, massage therapy is definitely shedding its former perception as a luxury and embracing its new role: necessity!

The Bottom Line

Ultimately you do not need to be in pain or discomfort to benefit from massage therapy.  Massage Therapy serves several purposes.  It is up to you to recognize what your body requires…what sometimes your brain requires, and scheduling that appointment!