Licensed, Certified, or Trained?

It’s important to discern the difference between “licensed”, “certified” and “trained.”  You want to know what you are paying for before you buy it.

I am a NY State licensed Massage Therapist.   New York State has a particularly stringent requirements to practice massage therapy.  So what is “Massage therapy’?  Here is the NYS Office of Professions definition:

The practice of the profession of massage therapy is defined as engaging in applying a scientific system of activity to the muscular structure of the human body by means of stroking, kneading, tapping and vibrating with the hands or vibrators for the purpose of improving muscle tone and circulation.

In a nutshell I am licensed to therapeutically knead you by the State of New York.  Don’t laugh.  It’s a felony to practice massage therapy  without proper license.   So if your spa advertises “massage,”  the masseur or masseuse has to be licensed.  It is the reason why most of your neighborhood massage place advertise it as Back Rub.

If you know other professions required to be NYS licensed, you might take us more seriously.  Your chiropractor, your Dentist, your Physician, your Nurse,  your pharmacist, your physical therapist, and your pet’s veterinarian, among others, all fall into the Licensed profession under the same NYS law.

You can expect me as a NYS LMT at least to

  • Have completed CPR course.
  • Speak/read/write/understand English
  • Have successfully graduated from a program that has a minimum of 1,000 hours.
  • Have passed a state licensing examination

Of course, being licensed by the State doesn’t necessarily warrant I am an awesome massage therapist.  It means I have a minimum training and knowledge so that at least I won’t danger your wellbeing.   It’s public safety issue.  So pick a LMT and subtract more than one above listed requirements, you will get a back rubber.

What it takes to become a LMT in NYS.

Ask your massage therapist which school he/she graduated from, and in NYC the answer is most likely Swedish Institute.  That’s the school I went to.  At least when I was a student, it was thought to be one of the best in the U.S. because their program was absolutely grueling.  It takes 16 months for a full-time student to graduate and another a couple of months to prepare for the state exam.  I was a part-time student and it took me almost 3 years to be licensed.  I didn’t have a social life during that period.

And the tuition and fees cost more than $30,000.  In addition, books and supplies and countless hours to practice (practically to give a free massage) on fellow students and willing friends and family members.   It’s a large investment we LMT made to get a license to knead you.

What we learn

When I decided to go to the school, I was like, “Sweet!  I will get a lot of massage for 3 years!!!”   Well, the reality was far from the massage heaven I expected.  Most of the classes were academic.   Anatomy and Physiology, Myology and Kinesiology, the dreadful Neurology everybody hates, Pathology, Assessment and Treatment, Clinical Internship… I can’t tell how many times I heard somebody cry out, “We are not going to be a doctor.  We are just a massage therapist.  Why do we need to learn this?”

Ultimately, we learned the common scientific language of medical/health care professions.  We can communicate with other health care professionals, such as physicians, physical therapists, etc. in a precise way.   We know when we need to refer clients to other professionals.

What we are not allowed to do.

As a licensed health care provider, I need to know my scope of practice.

  • Massage Therapists assess your condition, and analyze it to figure out the best way to treat the condition, but should not ever diagnose.   It’s M.D.s job.  When I suspect something serious I would suggest you to see M.D.   What do I know?  I am just a massage therapist.   However, I can say that your pec minors are shortened, which might be causing the neck pain.
  • Massage Therapists do not adjust your spine.  It’s your chiropractor’s job.  We are in charge of soft tissue.
  • And of course we are not allowed to touch genitalia!

“Certified” in what?

When something is trademarked, you need to be certified to use the title.   I am a Reiki II certified practitioner, because I took a weekend workshop and paid fee for certification.  I am a certified BodyDynamics™ educator because I apprenticed for more than a year and paid fee for certification.   I am a certified Helix Training™ practitioner, because I paid the tuition and graduated from the 4 year program.  None of them make it legal for me to practice massage therapy in NY State.

“Trained” in what?

I took a couple of myofascial release continuing education classes.  Swedish Institute offer a certification for myofascial release.  I haven’t completed the full certification course yet.  So I can’t say I have a Swedish Institute Certification of Myofascial Release.  It doesn’t mean I can’t use myofascial release technique.    I am trained in myofascial release.   I am trained in a lot of things.  When I am not trained in a certain modality and I think I am not qualified to practice the particular technique, such as manual lymph drainage, I will refer my clients out to the qualified/trained practitioner.