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A Primer in Professionalism

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall, p. 2

Stunned disbelief is usually the first reaction of the reflexologist told that his or her work is now considered to be a form of massage practice with massage licensing required. Somehow it just doesn't seem right that the government would take away the legal right to practice what many consider their "calling" to practice a belief system. Others don't see why untrained and unregulated massage practitioners who are not aware of the reflexology culture should be allowed to exclusively provide services and benefit financially. Others are concerned that the idea will be harmed as individuals who don't know anything about it are legally mandated to carry it forward.

What do you do if you receive a notice that massage licensing is now required for your reflexology practice? What do you do if you are required to have massage licensing already? What do you do if you're just concerned?

The following series of articles is designed to give you an overview of procedures and vocabulary words you need to understand the processes of professionalism and regulation.

The Process of Professionalism Meets the Process of Regulation

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall, p. 2

Reflexology is emerging as a profession. The reflexologist has literally moved outside of his or her neighborhood into a widening marketplace. The rules have changed as informal standards of the neighborhood are increasingly augmented by the more stringent formal standards of a profession. Growth in the field has brought a competitive environment for reflexology practice that includes the process of regulation. The goals of professionalism and regulation are interlinked but each has its interests. Professionalism seeks to guarantee a quality of service. Regulation seeks to guarantee safety to the public.


The process of professionalism includes definition. A definition clearly and precisely signals to society as a whole what is special and unique to a professional practice. A "weak" profession emerges if definition is vague and if the resolve is lacking within the profession to see that practitioners practice within defined boundaries.

Definition becomes important in opening the door of official sanctioning to a profession. Licensing is granted to professions when its members show they offer a unique service whose regulation would benefit the public good. Definition serves as the basis for determining a legal perception of the performance of a professional. At issue, for example, when a doctor is being sued for malpractice is whether the doctor acted within the standards or defined practices of his or her profession during work with the patient. Definition thus serves as the basis for holding the professional liable for his or her actions.


In the broader community, the reflexologist takes on the responsibilities of a professional. Paramount among these responsibilities is protecting the safety of the consumer. Consumer safety is protected through defining professional practices, boundaries, and sanctions. A professional who fails to stay within boundaries can be found liable for his or her actions.

1. Standards of practice are established, usually by professional associations. They describe standard operating practices for the professional and provide a means to consider, compare, and judge the professional's services. An individual who is judged to have acted outside of the usual practices of the field is seen to have committed malpractice. The consumer is thus protected from harm through the ability to sue for malpractice.

2. States and cities confer official sanctioning of a profession by licensing its practice. A scope of practice legally defines the activities over which the license holder is trained and licensed to perform. In recent years, reflexology has been included in massage regulation as attorney generals and city attorneys issue "findings," creating a legal ruling. Massage laws fall into two categories: touching ordinances and title laws. A touching ordinance requires massage licensing of all those who "touch" another in professional practice. A title law creates regulation of those who use the title of a specific profession such as "massage therapist" or "massage practitioner." The consumer is protected by licensing through "Legislatively defined scopes of practice (that) ensure that practitioners confine their interventions to those that they are trained to offer."[1]

Educational Standards

Educational standards establish the body of knowledge over which the professional is judged to be competent. His or her competence is verified by professional associations or state licensing. Within the bodywork professions, certification of competency is granted to the individual who has: (1) completed of a course of study, (2) in a specific curriculum or from an approved school, (3) in a specific number of hours.[2]


The on-going work of the professional is policed by professional and licensing sanctions. A more modern economical approach to state regulation is a full and fair disclosure system. Under this system a practitioner registers a full and fair disclosure of his or her education and practice of specific bodywork modalities. A disclosure of this information is made available to the consumer through a notice posted in the workplace. The consumer serves as an informed adult in choosing the service and the practitioner. A process for processing consumer complaints to judge whether or not the practitioner should continue to be registered is included.

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ŠKunz and Kunz 2003
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