WA State is one of the most progressive states as far as massage therapy goes and has made remarkable progress in many ways. Massage Therapy has been covered by health insurance since the about 2000 and will pay for medically necessary massage – for conditions like back/neck pain that have a Loss of Function too. They do have very specific requirements for coverage. Because of this early adaptation of being covered by health insurance, the focus of many massage schools is clinical massage or working with the various medical conditions. Relaxation/Wellness massage is also found to be prevalant in WA State.
You can verify a Professionally Licensed Massage Therapists will on the Board of Massage Database.
Massage Therapists in WA State must have their massage license on the wall of their office and their license number on their website, business card and ALL marketing material. They must also carry ID with them that matches the massage licensing as per RCW 18.108.045 . (Some people at illicit massage businesses would have just one massage license on the wall and then say their workers did not have ID on them so law enforcement officials could not match the license to the person.)
WA State Licensed massage therapists have passed the required background checks to help ensure the massage therapist does not have a criminal past. RCW 18.130.064
Massage therapists in WA follow strict equipment and sanitation rules. Massage tables must be covered with impervious material for cleaning purposes. All sheets, blankets, towels and pillow covers must be washed after each use. WAC 246-830-500 (Yes there were actually massage therapists NOT doing that and there were also massage therapists stacking the sheets which is found across the US. Stacking the sheets is having layers of sheets put on the table at the beginning of the work day and just taking off the soiled sheets as they are used which exposes the set underneath)
Draping Requirements ensure the safety of the client and the therapist. There are very specific draping requirements in WA State for massage therapists WAC 246-830-560:
“The drape or drapes must be sufficient to ensure the genitals and the gluteal cleft distal to the coccyx, anus and rectum are not exposed, and the breast area is not exposed except as allowed in subsections (3) and (4) of this section. Safe, functional, and hygienic coverage and draping means:
(a) The massage therapist explains, maintains and respects coverage and draping boundaries;
(b) Massage or movement of the body does not expose genitals or gluteal cleft distal to the coccyx, anus and rectum, or does not expose the breast area except as allowed in subsections (3) and (4) of this section; and’
(c) All linens that are used with the client or patient are kept and maintained in accordance with WAC 246-830-500.
(3) With prior signed or initialed written and verbal informed consent from the client or patient, the gluteal cleft and breast drapes may be temporarily moved in order to perform therapeutic treatment of the area consistent with WAC 246-830-550, 246-830-555, and 246-830-557. In addition, with informed and written consent, a client or patient may choose to have their upper torso undraped during the entire massage.”
Along with the specific draping laws, massage therapists in WA state also have strict areas where massage can be performed. Here are the specifics in WAC 246-830-550 Standards of practice—Limitations. Massage therapists cannot massage any areas of the genitals or gluteal cleft. Breasts massage requires spedical training of the massage therapist under WAC 246-830-555. Breast Massage is often done for people recovering from breast cancer surgeries and other conditions and requires that the massage therapist have extra training according to WAC 246-830-555 . They must also (a) Acquire prior signed or initialed written and verbal informed consent from the client or patient. If the client or patient is under eighteen years of age, prior written consent must be obtained from a parent or legal guardian of the client or patient.
Massage inside the mouth also requires extra training accordance with WAC 246-830-490. Intraoral massage is often done for conditions like TMJ dysfunction, jaw pain, headaches and other conditions. When a massage therapist is working inside the mouth, it is required that they have an additional 16 hours of training and an itraoral endorsement. RCW 18.108.250
Animal Massage Therapists have a separate requirement under RCW 18.108.230 . There are separate designations for small animal massage (dogs/cats) and Large animal massage (Horses). Equine and dog massage are most popular.
Sexual misconduct. WAC 246-16-100
Even with all these things in place there are many brothels disgused as massage businesses here especially in the arena of foot massage places. Our WA State law has a specific requirement for providing Reflexology sessions which is more than just foot massage.
How can you tell if it is a brothel/sex work business?
Many in the community are surprised to learn that there are many sexually oriented businesses (SOB) disguising themselves as massage or spa places. The news will call places that are being investigated massage parlors when in fact they have nothing to do with massage making it seem like all of these places are just bad massage therapists. While you can never really know for sure whether or not it is really a SOB, there are some signs that often are different from a licensed massage therapists business. Learn some of the signs that may indicate it is a brothel and how to report suspicious activity.
Resources for Massage Therapists in WA State
Renewal requirementsMassage therapists must renew their license every year. Credentials expire on the therapist’s birthday and may be renewed within 90 days prior to the expiration date.
Continuing education requirementsTwenty-four hours of continuing education is due every two years on or before the practitioner’s birthday. Requirements are outlined in WAC 246-830-475
The change will come from within our local communities, cities, towns and states. Join one or all of these groups to get involved and create a movement to reclaim massage and advocate for massage therapists.
American Massage Therapy Association WA Chapter advocates for therapists at the state board of massage meetings and has a lobbyist to watch for bills and take action on behalf of the massage therapists in WA. The Board of Massage main job is to protect the public from harm.
WA State Massage Therapy Association another non-profit massage organization in WA State.
WA State Massage Therapists – https://www.facebook.com/groups/108400975908688
WA Massage Therapy Facebook Group – Great all around resource
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.
WA State Legislature – https://leg.wa.gov/ Find your state representative there and connect with them. Many have town halls and events where you can meet them in person. Start talking to them just to get to know them so you can start making requests in the laws. Find your specific district and find your state and congressional representative and then find them on Facebook and sign up for the email newsletters.
Start a Massage school or apprenticeship program. WAC 246-830-420 Approval of massage school, massage program, or apprenticeship program.
Join the LMT’s for Zero Tolerance Facebook Group