Department of Health Board of Massage Credentialing
P.O. Box 1099 P.O. Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98507-1099 Olympia, WA 98504-7877
The Washington State Board of Massage protects the public from harm and regulates the competency and quality of massage therapists. They establish the qualifications required to ensure that massage therapists are competent.
They work to evaluate and approve schools, programs in various schools and apprenticeship programs to ensure safety and competency. Schools must apply for, be approved and renew their approval throught the State Board of Massage and people must attend a board approved massage school in order to receive their massage therapy license in WA State. They will also look at other states licensing and educational requirements and see if they are equivalent to the amount required in WA State to ensure the competency of massage therapists moving to WA State.
Here is a list of approved schools.
“Effective September 1, 2021, the new requirements are a minimum of 625 hours to be completed in no fewer than 24 weeks and must consist of the following:
- 90 hours of anatomy and physiology
- 60 hours of kinesiology
- 70 hours of pathology
- 260 hours of theory, principles, and practice of massage
- 50 hours of student clinic. For those education and training programs beyond six hundred twenty-five hours, in no case may the number of student clinic hours exceed seventy-five hours.
- 55 hours of clinical/business practices
- 40 hours of professional ethics”
WAC 246-830-035 allows for licensure by endorsement if the applicant holds an active massage therapy license in good standing in another state, and the state’s education and training requirements are substantially equivalent to Washington State.
WA State Massage Laws
A statute or Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is written by the Washington State Legislature. Once legislation is signed by the governor, it becomes law.
A rule or Washington Administrative Code (WAC) is written to provide interpretive support for the individuals or entities to whom the rule applies. Department of Health rules are written and adopted by a board or commission, or the secretary of the Department of Health. Rules or WACs carry the full force of the law.
The scope of practice of massage therapists in WA State is stated in the RCW 18.108.010 Definitions:
“(6) “Massage” and “massage therapy” mean a health care service involving the external manipulation or pressure of soft tissue for therapeutic purposes. Massage therapy includes techniques such as tapping, compressions, friction, reflexology, Swedish gymnastics or movements, gliding, kneading, shaking, and fascial or connective tissue stretching, with or without the aids of superficial heat, cold, water, lubricants, or salts. Massage therapy does not include diagnosis or attempts to adjust or manipulate any articulations of the body or spine or mobilization of these articulations by the use of a thrusting force, nor does it include genital manipulation.”
Additional definitions show that massage apprenticeship programs are allowed in WA State. WAC 246-830-420 provides the guidelines and requirements for Approval of massage school, massage program, or apprenticeship program.
Another note of interest is the definition also includes the word evaluation which is different than what most other states allow.
WAC 246-830-005 (10) “Evaluation” means the assessment of soft tissue in order to facilitate decision making regarding effective forms and techniques of massage, and identifying cautions and contraindications to ensure client or patient safety. Evaluation does not mean diagnosis. This was added to the WAC’s with the help of the American Massage Therapy Associations WA Chapter and it ensures that massage therapists are able to evaluate clients/patients conditions in order to be successful when working with medical cases.
Massage therapists in WA State are also allowed to work in the mouth for issues with the Temporal Mandibular Joint and other jaw/face issues only if they have extra training. WAC 246-830-490 Intraoral massage education and training.
Massage therapists with extra training in working with animals -both large and small animals- are allowed to give massage to horses, dogs and other animals. Massage can be given for rehabilitation, performance enhancement and relaxation purposes. WAC 246-830-435 provides the regulations for Animal massage training.
Exemptions from Regular Massage Licensing
People who want to practice Reflexology alone and not full massage therapy are able to do so with the required Reflexology training courses and testing.
People who are taking traning in somatic education therapies such as ortho-bionomy and Feldenkrais have separate requirements:
WAC 246-830-485 Somatic education training program exemption.
“For purposes of this subsection (6), “somatic education” means: Using minimal touch, words, and directed movement to deepen awareness of existing patterns of movement and suggest new possibilities of movement; and using minimal touch over specific points of the body to facilitate balance in the nervous system. It includes: (i) Any somatic education training program approved by the secretary as of July 23, 2017; (ii) the practice of ortho-bionomy; and (iii) the Feldenkrais method of somatic education.” RCW 18.108.050
Continuing Education Requirements
WAC 246-830-475 https://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-830-475
Continuing education requirements.
(1) To renew a license, a massage therapist must complete twenty-four hours of continuing education every two years, as provided in chapter 246-12 WAC, Part 7. Continuing education must be provided by an individual who has at least three years of professional experience in the subject area being taught. Massage therapists have a duty to ensure the continuing education they complete meets the requirements in this section.
(2) The following categories of continuing education are mandatory:
(a) A minimum of eight hours must be in person and directly supervised involving the participation of the direct application of massage therapy as defined in RCW 18.108.010; and
(b) A minimum of four hours must be in professional ethics, client or patient communication, professional roles and boundaries, or Washington state massage laws and rules. Two of the four hours may be met by attending board of massage meetings in person. A maximum of one hour is allowed per board meeting; and
(c) Maintenance of certification in American Heart Association CPR or equivalent. A maximum of four hours is allowed per reporting period.
(3) For the purposes of this chapter, the remaining hours of continuing education are defined as any of the following activities reasonably related to massage therapy knowledge, skills, and business practices:
(a) Documented attendance at a local, state, national, or international continuing education class, program or conference;
(b) First aid certification or emergency related courses;
(c) Self-study through the use of multimedia devices or the study of books, research materials, or other publications.
The required documentation for this activity is a one page, single spaced, twelve point font synopsis of what was learned written by the licensee. The time spent writing the synopsis is not reportable. Two hours of credit is allowed per report, and no more than two separate reports may be submitted per reporting period;
(d) Teaching a course for the first time;
(e) Business and management courses;
(f) Distance learning. Distance learning includes, but is not limited to, correspondence course, multimedia or webinar, print, audio or video broadcasting, audio or video teleconferencing, computer aided instruction, e-learning or on-line-learning, or computer broadcasting or webcasting; or
(g) Active service on boards or participation in professional or government organizations specifically related to the practice of massage.
(4) A massage therapist must provide acceptable documentation of continuing education upon request or audit. Acceptable forms of documentation include, but are not limited to:
(b) A letter from the course instructor or the organization providing the continuing education;
(c) Certificate of attendance or completion; or
(d) Other formal documentation that includes the following:
(i) Participant’s name;
(ii) Course title;
(iii) Course description;
(iv) Date or dates of course;
(v) Number of hours;
(vi) Indication of being an in-person course, self-study as referenced in subsection (3)(c) of this section, or distance learning as referenced in subsection (3)(f) of this section;
(vii) Instructor’s name or sponsor organization name or names;
(viii) Instructor or sponsor contact information; and
(ix) Signature of the program sponsor or course instructor. The self-study allowed in subsection (3)(c) of this section is exempt from this requirement.
(5) Massage therapists who maintain an active status Washington state massage license must meet all continuing education requirements regardless of whether they reside or practice in Washington state.
The following penalties must be imposed upon an owner of a massage business or reflexology business where the unlicensed practice of massage therapy or reflexology has been committed:
(1) Any person who with knowledge or criminal negligence allows or permits the unlicensed practice of massage therapy or reflexology to be committed within his or her massage business or reflexology business by another is guilty of a misdemeanor for a single violation.
(2) Each subsequent violation, whether alleged in the same or in subsequent prosecutions, is a gross misdemeanor punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.