[Contents] [Index]NextBack

Why Massage Regulation of Reflexology is Malregulation

Kunz, Kevin and Kunz, Barbara, Reflexions, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer/Fall, 1997, P. 3

1. Are reflexology and massage the same thing? If reflexology and massage are the same thing, why aren't they the same thing? Reflexology is a unique practice, separate from massage. It has a well-defined set of techniques, theories, history, professional standards, definitions, codes of ethics, and a professional culture.

2. Safety to the public issues of massage practice: Massage laws are intended as anti-prostitution measures enacted to counter concerns about nude bodywork services. Why should reflexologists prove they are not prostitutes? If the consumer removes only his or her shoes and socks during a reflexology session, the principle massage safety to the public issue evaporates. Why should non-nude bodywork providers be educated, zoned, and licensed for nude services, paying the additional cost of being designated as non-prostitutes by the city or state?

3. Safety to the public issues of reflexology practice: Just as massage practice includes unique public safety issues, so does reflexology practice. How is the public protected if the reflexology public safety issues are not defined? There are public safety issues that have not been addressed by massage education such as a basic tenet of reflexology professionalism: do not diagnose, prescribe or treat for a specific illness.

4. No experience necessary: Massage therapists are legislatively mandated to provide

reflexology services with no guarantee to the consumer that the practitioner is educated or experienced in reflexology. Normally, "legislatively defined scopes of practice ensure that practitioners confine their interventions to those they are trained to offer."[3] The spectre is raised of a public put at risk by the state-mandated substandard reflexology service provider. In addition, it is possible that the state can be found to be liable if something goes wrong during services provided by an untrained individual who had been certified as competent by state licensing.

No education necessary: Educational standards exist for professions. Massage laws regulate the profession of reflexology with no educational requirements.

5. Consumer be aware: How can the consumer make an informed decision in the purchase of reflexology services? Consumers frequently ask "How do I buy reflexology services?" A state's Fair Practice Act provides consumer protection in the purchase of goods and services. If there is no definition of reflexology or educational requirements in the law, how does the consumer know that he or she will receive appropriate, safe, and ethical services that are within the standards of practice for the field?

6. Restraint of trade: The state has sanctioned the practice of a profession by those who do not meet the educational standards of the field. If reflexology practice is granted to members of other licensed professions with no requirements, is this restraint of free trade? The outcome to non-competitive licensing is higher cost to the consumer with no guarantee of quality or safety in the delivery of services. Aren't massage laws, laws that anti-trust attorneys haven't looked at yet? They give domaine of the entire bodywork field to those who are licensed for massage and not necessarily those educated or experienced to professional standards of specific bodywork fields.

7. Suppression of First Amendment Rights: If one profession is granted domaine over another, isn't this suppression of free speech? Reflexology is a distinct native healing tradition. The state-mandated control of the belief system is counter to court cases relating to first amendment rights. Why is the state mandating that a belief system be legally practiced only by those who are licensed for another profession?

Do massage laws that encompass reflexology follow the standards basic to licensing and regulating professions?

The following is a comparison between the typical regulation of reflexology by massage law and one state's criteria (State of New Mexico, "Sunrise Act," 12-9A-3: Criteria for licensure and regulation, effective February 1, 1994.)

Example of one state's criteria for licensing and regulation

Malregulation of reflexology?

"In determining whether to enact legislation to create a new board or commission to provide for licensure or regulation of a profession or occupation that is currently not subject to state licensure or regulation, the legislature shall consider whether the following criteria are met:

"A. unregulated practice of the profession or occupation will clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public, and the potential for harm is easily recognizable and not remote

The typical state massage law addresses safety issues of massage, a nude service, and imposes the mechanisms specific to those issues on reflexology practitioners. Reflexology is a non-nude service. The laws create no mechanism to address safety issues inherent to reflexology practice -- such as practicing medicine without a license.

"B. regulation of the profession or occupation does not impose significant new economic hardship on the public, significantly diminish the supply of qualified practitioners or otherwise create barriers to service that are not consistent with the public welfare or interest

In areas where such laws have been in effect over time, the cost of services has increased and the quality of services has decreased as experienced practitioners are forced out of business. The laws create state-mandated monopolies over reflexology practice to practitioners who are not required to have any qualifications to practice. The supply of qualified practitioners has been nearly eliminated in New York City by the state law.

A barrier is created for the individual who seeks to exercise his or her first amendment right to provide or have provided the health belief service of choice. Why is the state mandating that a belief system be professionally practiced only by those who are licensed for another profession? A barrier is erected for the experienced service provide who cannot afford the time or money to receive education in another profession to continue his or her established business. Higher regulatory fees are imposed on the reflexologist commiserate to the regulatory task of overseeing a nude bodywork service. (Chicago reflexologists pay the city massage licensing fee of $600 a year. Illinois nurses pay $10 a year for state licensing.)

"C. existing protections available to the consumer are insufficient, no alternatives to regulation will adequately protect the public and this licensure or regulation will provide that protection and mitigate the problems

A full and fair disclosure system of business regulation would more adequately protect the public and mitigate the problems of reflexology as a non-nude profession. The existing massage law imposed on reflexology practitioners creates more safety to the public problems than it solves. The existing laws do not exist the issue of clearly defining separate bodywork practices to ensure that fair practices acts are not violated and that the consumer receives the services he or she contracts for.

"D. functions and tasks of the occupation or profession are clearly defined and the occupation or profession is clearly distinguishable from others already licensed or regulated

The functions and tasks of a reflexologist and massage therapist are clearly defined in textbooks, education, and professional associations.

"E. the occupation or profession requires possession of knowledge, skills, abilities that are both teachable and testable and the practitioners operate independently and make decisions of consequence

A separate reflexology body of knowledge is detailed in twenty books and by two national organizations. The states have failed to prove that there is an overwhelming need to regulate reflexology and they have failed to show that it has adequately regulated reflexology.

The states are certifying the competency of bodywork professionals without following the educational standards established for bodywork professions: completion of a course of study in the professed field of study in a curriculum specific to the profession or from a credentialed school.

"F. the public needs and can reasonably be expected to benefit from the assurance from the state of initial and continuing professional competence; and



The laws include no educational requirements of reflexology providers. Normally, "legislatively defined scopes of practice ensure that practitioners confine their interventions to those they are trained to offer." Is the public put at risk by the state-mandated possibility of a substandard professional reflexology service provider? Is the state legally liable for actions resulting from the certification of competency of untrained individuals to practice a profession?

"G. the public cannot be effectively protected by other means in a more cost-effective manner."

A full and fair disclosure system would provide the information necessary for the consumer to make an informed decision in the purchase of services. A notice posted in the workplace would notify the consumer of public safety issues and means to comment on services.

[Contents] [Index]Next Back

ŠKunz and Kunz 2003
button chart

Visit Our Bookstore

Call Toll Free 1-877-344-9392 or email us Click Here


Register for Reflexology Research Project free email updates