Certified To Licensed: What you need to know

In Massage therapy 101 by KellyLeave a Comment

In a industry that is constantly changing it is important to stay informed regarding your license requirements as they can and do change from time to time. In my 14 years as a massage therapist I have had to renew my license for both the state I lived in as well as my Board Certification a few times at this point.

It seems every time I go to fill out the paper work something has changed and there have been times I was not prepared and I had to scramble to get a few extra continuing education hours in a hurry so my license wouldn’t lapse.

If you have never taken massage therapy continuing education courses before then you may not know where to look to find companies that are reputable and deliver what they advertise. Up to this point I have taken nearly 800 hours of continuing education and I can tell you, not all CEU providers are equal.

Before I dive into the best and and worst CEU’s you can take, I want to talk about why it is important to embrace the changes of going from being classified as certified to licensed.

State’s changing classification from certified to licensed:

Is there a difference for massage therapist if they are classified as certified or licensed, if so what? For most states they have or are in the process of making the switch from certified to licensed. “Certified’ represents the past, it may not seen like it but not all that long ago there was little to no state regulations surrounding the massage therapy industry.

Meaning, in the not so distant past anyone could walk into a spa or health club and apply to be a massage therapist. Literally Joe Sh-mow with no knowledge of the body or have any understanding of what massage could actually do for the body could call themselves a massage therapist with little to no training.

Pretty scary if you ask me. Now I think it’s fair to assume many reputable companies would have required the applicant to have some form of training or many would do onsite training but this was not regulated and therefore the standard of practice was left up in the air to be interpret.

The shift that we are seeing now across the states is something that should have taken place a long time ago.

It was through organizations like the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation that helped bring our industry together and began the process of creating a standard of practice that hopefully soon all 50 states will adopt and then we will have a uniform front from state to state.

What does it mean to be a licensed massage therapist?

Since most states have or will be soon transiting to “licensed” it is important to keep up with the requirements of your state. Each state is different so be sure to do your due diligence and make sure you know how many continuing education hours are required and make sure there are not any specific requirements like ethics or needing to be CPR certified.

Just to give you an example of how one state could differ from another.  I started my massage therapy career in Saint Louis Missouri and now I am in Indiana. In Missouri as a massage therapist was required to have 12 CEU’s every 2 years.

Two credit hours needed to be in ethics and the other ten could be whatever you chose, you also needed to be CPR certified and in certain municipalities you also needed an additional background check by the local police dept.

Indiana on the other hand is for lack of a better word, under construction at the moment. Until this year (2018), Indiana had no requirements for continuing education what so ever. It was through the tireless efforts of our chapter AMTA president who pushed our local government to bring Indiana’s massage therapy standards up to date.

It has not been set in stone yet but the new requirements that should be rolling out soon are looking like they will be 24 hours of continuing education, with 2 hours of ethics, and 1 hour of jurisprudence ( the theory or philosophy of law).

 Why is this a big deal?

The word on the street around here when massage therapist think about the changes being made, is that it is a way to get more money out of then and that it doesn’t change anything except the lettering on their business cards. I am here to tell you changing our classification from certified to licensed is a big deal and will have a direct benefit to the massage therapist bottom line.

When a state is regulated like Indiana is doing right now, we are ensuring that anyone who is practicing massage therapy has met all the standard and requirements and has the documentation to back it up. If said person or company can not provide the appropriate documentation, they can and will be shut down!

These illegal individuals and companies are taking money out of yours and my pocket every single month. With the requirement of having to produce a licensed will help eliminate unlawful individuals and businesses from exploiting the massage industry we have worked so hard to enter.

Think about it, doesn’t it make you angry to think about businesses that offer massage therapy that haven’t gone to the lengths you have to obtain your license? You went to school and took on debt (student loans) to enter this field.

You spent 1-2 years in a classroom to learn how to give a safe and therapeutic massage, they have not! You had to take a nail biting exam to show the state you were qualified to practice massage therapy, they did not!

You have to pay for liability insurance and pay for a new state license ever 2-3 years (depending on your state) they do NONE of this!

Now you tell me, does this not anger you? Others are taking away your business and your money, the money you use to build your businesses, feed your children and someone else is just taking it away from you because they can…

Other benefits to consider when becoming licensed:

If you live in a state where you are classified as a licensed massage therapist you also have other liberties you may not be aware of. For example, the big thing is that you can now except insurance in your private practice. Think about the potential income stream you could tap into!

Yes this means more paperwork but think about how quickly you could double or triple your clientele over night. What you need to do in order to become a qualified health provider in your area:

  1. Figure out who are the biggest industries in your area (who employs the most people)
  2. Learn who is there insurance providers (i.e.Blue Cross, Anthem)
  3. Contact those providers directly
  4. Create a contract agreement with those companies
  5. Negotiate your rate with the provider
  6. Client will pay there copay at time of visit
  7. You submit all charges to the insurance company
  8. Then you will receive a potion of those fees you agreed on

Extra work up front will pay off in the long run:

Lets break down the above list, figuring  out the big industries in your area is pretty straight forward. I live in a area that has a lot of factory workers! One car manufacture in particular employees over 10,000 people and they have great insurance!

I know this company and they except Blue Cross Blue Shield and I also know that a massage therapist I used to worked along side with excepted there insurance and she got a TON of business from them! When you are first getting started with excepting insurance it takes a minute to get a flow going because it is a bit of paperwork and the insurance companies take a minute to pay out.

Once you get a steady stream of insurance claims coming in you will begin to have consistent income and lots of it! Contacting a insurance provider is also very simply. Simply call the direct line for example Blue Cross and tell them what you are trying to do and that is you want to become a provider.

They will direct you to a case working to being the paperwork, you will need to submit things like your massage licence number, maybe they will want a criminal background check, they might want your transcripts. It really depends on the company, all it takes is a phone call to get you started.

When negotiating your fees with the insurance companies you simply tell them what you charge per hour and they will tell you what they are will to pay you. It is unlawful to change an insurance company more then what you charge a non insurance client.

You don’t want to get tangled in a legal dispute with an insurance company, they will win every time. It’s best to keep your prices uniform across the board, if you are concerned the insurance company will not pay you want you want.

It might be wise to raise your prices to $85 an hour, that’s what my friend did when she switched to working with insurance companies and she now has a very profitable business with a steady income stream. 

When excepting a clients copay it is the same as a regular doctor visit, they will likely pay you the $10-$20 copay that day and 2-3 weeks later the insurance company will pay you the remaining amount.

Waiting to get paid doesn’t sound fun but again, once you get a steady stream going the 2-3 weeks becomes irrelevant because you will get tot a point where you are getting checks every single day.

To help keep your life simple and less stressful I recommend you submit insurance claims all at once on a day of your choosing.  At the end of each day have all your paperwork in order and filed away nice and neat then on for example Friday’s you submit all your paperwork.

The paperwork is not difficult, the insurance company will provide you with a worksheet that you will fill out. It will be your business information and all the information on the clients insurance card. Once you have rhythm down it will go fast it just takes time to learn the system.

After you submit everything the insurance company will pay you in 2-3 weeks usually, again this doesn’t sound awesome to wait to get paid but if you play your cards right it can turn into big bucks!

Professionalizon and respected:

A big problem many massage therapist run into is that fact they are not taken serious in the health industry. Changing our classification to license helps open the doors to other possibilities that till recently were not available to many massage therapist.

Now it is common place to see massage therapist in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and rehab facilities. These organisations are now able to employ massage therapist because of the classification change. Our accreditation changed and insurance companies can now recognize our services.

This change lead to more jobs and a higher demand for massage therapist. Not only more massage therapy jobs  but jobs in  safe reliable facilities that a massage therapist could be apart of a team and collaborate with other healthcare providers.

At the end of the day, I think I can speak for many of us massage therapist by saying we got into this industry because we want to help people and with the increase in massage therapy jobs we can do just that.

Continuing education to keep the standards high:

Continuing education should not be looked at as something you have to do but rather something you want to do. The worst thing in any field is the feeling of complacency. That rut feeling, the I don’t love what I do anymore feeling, did you know the average career expectancy of a massage therapist is 7 years?

For some you might not even have your student loans paid off in 7 years! I remember way back when I was in school my teachers told us, don’t get stuck in a routine. Routines lead to boredom and then bad body machines and eventually you just quit caring.

I have not only seen this pattern in other but it has happened to me. It’s easy to get in rut when your doing massage after massage and you never have any change. I am a firm believer that if we are not growing, we are dying. Continuing education gives us a opportunity to take a break from our routines and learn something new.  Trust me there is a course for just about anything.

Did you know you can learn how to massage animals; like dogs, cats, or horses. I met a women at a convention who taught dog massages, that’s all she did and she was profitable. My point is CEU’s give you a opportunity to squeeze your brain and try something new.

Just this year I learned Cupping massage

I was most defiantly in a rut, even though I have a successful massage therapy business I was getting bored. Since I primary do sport massage and deep tissue work I thought it would be most beneficial to me right now if I took a cupping massage class.

I also want to take a Lymphatic Drainage course eventually but for now that can wait. When I finished my certification in cupping massage I got so excited to start working with my new cups. My clients really liked the new modality I was adding into the mix and I was having again.

Different types of massage therapy continuing education:

If you have never taken a CEU course before, you can take classes both online or you can attend a seminar in person. I recommend you mix it up and do both. There is nothing better then going to a seminar or convention and talking with like minded people.

Seminar’s and conventions are awesome but they can be time consuming and costly, so I do recommend you mix them in but for the sake of time and your pocket-book, massage therapy courses online are by far the most convenient and cost efficient way to go.

Companies you can trust:

When looking for online for classes you can find great resources on AMTA’s website as well as ABMP and the NCBTMB site. There are other sites to consider as well when searching for online classes for massage like Allegra Learning Solution, LLC.  The biggest thing to be on the look out for when searching for classes online is to see the word “accredited”.

Accredited course will say in big bold letter that they are excepted my AMTA or the NCBTMB. You may also see the NCBTMB emblem, this would be a good indication the program or course you are looking at legit.

You might be thinking why do I need to take board certified classes if I am not board certified? I’m not saying you have to specifically talk NCBTMB course but you need to make sure the online courses meet your states regulations requirements for CEU’s.

It would be a pretty big bummer if you took a 16 credit hour class only to find out you can’t use that towards your hours needed to renew you license. I do know some Massage Therapist that love taking classes that simply interest them regardless if they are accredited or not.  This is fine as long as you understand you may not be able to count them.

How much do continuing education hours cost?

CEU’s will vary in cost depending on how advanced the topic is, for example lymphatic drainage certifications and cranial sacral therapy are pretty prices courses vs maybe a course on sports massage.

Massage therapy continuing education hours can be as low as $8 a credit hour and as much as $30 an hour it just depends on the course and instructor. The cost of classes can also fluctuate if a particular modality has gained in popularity like Cupping massage did in 2016. After the Olympics in 2016 Cupping course were all the rage and instructors where banking on it.

How to save money when signing up for online CEU’s:

Don’t ever be afraid to talk to your employer about CEU benefits. You might be surprised some companies will reimburse you up to a certain amount or if the particular course would directly benefit the company they may pay for the entire course. When I worked for Massage Envy they really wanted me to get my certification in hot stone massage since at that time they did not have any massage therapist that offered it.

So I said I would do it if you paid for the course and paid for my hours worked since I had to perform 6 sessions to complete my training. So I not only had a 12 hour continuing education class paid for I also was paid for my time while learning a new skill. Win Win for me!

Another way to save when it comes to online CEU’s be sure to check with whoever you have your liability insurance through.  I am with AMTA and they a wide variety of online courses at a discounted rate that you can look through.

I have little experience with AMTA courses, I did take a sports massage course through them earlier this year and I wasn’t really impressed with the course. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before and I didn’t like the no return policy.

I’m not trying to put AMTA down, I am a AMTA member and I think they are an amazing organization, it was just the course I picked didn’t knock my socks off.

Before I even opened my course I just purchased I attempted to get a refund because I found a better course on Allegra Learning Solution that I wanted to take instead, unfortunately  once you buy it, you own it.

So I took the course, got my credits and didn’t really learn anything so that was a bummer, lesson learned. Since that time when I look for new classes I check Allegra Learning Solution first as they are constantly adding new classes to there catalog and I think it’s better quality in my opinion.

Check you state to see what you need to stay up-to-date on CEU’s:

If you are unsure what your massage therapy state requirements are or just need a refresher please check out this free map below to verify what you need fast. If you have any questions about your license or have a question about continuing education please feel free ask in the comment section below. I hope you find this map useful.

What can you do right now to bring the love back into your career?

Continuing education is absolutely the first key, I don’t care where you get your courses from, just start now! Burn out is the No. 1 reason why massage therapist leave the industry. By taking CEU’s that excite you it will magnify your love and appreciation for this industry and what it can do for people.

You need to surround yourself with other like minded people to bounce ideas off of and trade massages whenever you can. You can join different massage groups on Facebook and you can subscribe to different free massage magazines.

Please don’t get in a rut, continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to meet other massage therapist from many different backgrounds. If you only take one thing away from this article, it is this.

Don’t forget why you became a massage therapist in the first place. Remember the love you had when you were in you’re program and how you felt the first time a client told you, that you helped them when others could not.

Remember you are a healer by nature, don’t let that passion leave you, not for one second!

Thanks for reading guys, if you have any question please feel free to leave them in the comment second below and if you really loved this article please share or link to it if you like. Knowledge should be shared to anyone who could benefit from it!

See ya on the flippy…

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Comment