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Indiana Massage Licensure Changes

Did you know that the massage therapy field is changing?

When I first moved to Indiana I went through the licensing process for massage therapists and received my Indiana state license. I was previously licensed in Washington and North Carolina and provided those in addition to the long checklist of requirements. When talking to individuals on the internet about it, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about whether we were licensed or certified? This confused me quite a bit, as I knew my license had been processed through the Professional Licensing Agency of Indiana. It turned out that both were actually correct and didn’t know it!

In Indiana therapists were allowed to be either certified or licensed but both had different regulations. Certified therapists could not work independently from an office with an overseeing doctor or medical practitioner like a chiropractor in many cities including Hammond. They weren’t required to pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), didn’t need to take continuing education and couldn’t transfer their certificate out of state. All Certification required was an individual to graduate from a state approved school program.

Today, the Professional Licensing Agency in Indiana just announced that there will be a change to the licensure of massage therapists. Previously there was a choice to be certified or licensed with licensure being a higher bar to meet that included background checks. They have been working on rewriting the state licensure for the last two years to raise the standards to match other licensed states, as well as remove any confusion for licensees and the public. This means that all massage therapists are now required to be licensed.

Why does this matter? If you are a therapist, it matters to you wish to keep working in the field. Knowing the standards and scope of practice and the expectations of a licensee are important in maintaining a license in good standing and it’s important to know what it takes to do that.

Here are some of the new changes for those becoming licensed:

Therapists must go through a program with a minimum of 650 hours of education to qualify for a license; a transcript must be sent in with the application. They must pass one of 4 licensing exams approved by the board and submit the score. Fingerprints, a passport photo, and background check must be submitted with the application. Proof of professional insurance is also required. Click here for the checklist.

Our recent licensure shift now requires therapists to attend a minimum of 24 Continuing Education hours every 4 year renewal period. This includes 2 hours of ethics, and a maximum of 8 can be taken online.

A massage therapist must display their license in the place they work. The license number must be on all advertising from your website to your business cards and everything in between.

Health Histories and SOAP notes are now required for all clients. SOAP notes are a specific type of note that acknowledges: the date of the session, the client's current condition and reason for coming in, the therapist's treatment plan throughout the session, the therapist's observations and assessment, and optionally a plan for further sessions. The licensure does not say how detailed these notes need to be but the more details the better! I’ll go over the importance and more details of SOAP notes in another article.

Licensees must have additional certifications for a special population massage. There are so many conditions massage can treat and it’s important to know how to do so safely. For example if you work on someone who may be pregnant, you need a prenatal certification. If a client has cancer, you need an oncology massage class. If you are going to work with babies, you need an infant massage course. There are hundreds of specialties that have courses available for certification. While you won’t need one for every single condition, you will need them for the specific modalities that are broadly recognized and not covered in basic schooling. Specific criteria for certification and verification of credentials have not been announced.

Massage therapists are Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant in most states. Because we maintain health records for our clients, therapists are not allowed to share their information without consent. We are required to keep all our notes for a minimum of 6 years which means clients have time to request copies. The consent to share or attain a copy must be written by the client.

This requirement isn’t new but still worth saying. Therapists are required to provide an environment that is safe, clean, and comfortable. This means all sheets, robes, or linens must be laundered and sanitized between every client. The table and all equipment must also be sanitized between clients. Therapists are expected to observe hygienic practices and wash their hands and arms before and after every client.

While it seems like a lot of this is a no brainer when it comes to having a successful career in the field and providing educated and skilled massage, the importance of licensure can’t be overstated.

Our field is young and has struggled in the past to be recognized as the health care it is. Every step towards increasing the level of education and professionalism is a step in the right direction. It helps us protect our clients and our therapists while helping everyone understand exactly what we do!

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