Protecting our Right to Practice and Defining our Profession

This letter was sent to all ISMETA members alerting them to a need to speak out to insure our distinct professional identity as Somatic Movement Educators and Therapist and to protect our right to practice in the United States.


May 2017

Dear ISMETA Member:

ISMETA is honored to serve you in recognition of the valuable work you do in this world and for your region.  Recently on behalf of ISMETA and its members, our Executive Director Elisa Cotroneo, and Government Relations Consultant Mary Abrams, attended the annual meeting of the Federation of Therapeutic Massage, Bodywork, and Somatic Practice Organizations (Federation MBS). 

During this Federation MBS meeting, there was much discussion concerning recent actions and intentions of a different federation named: Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).  We write you now to inform you of some very detrimental actions by the FSMTB and to alert you to take action to protect your own rights to professional practice.

Somatic Movement Education and Therapy is not regulated by massage licensure, nor should it be.  However, because we use touch as part of our practice, it serves us to be educated on any licensure that could affect our profession.  Massage therapy licensure is one of these licenses and is a state by state process and not governed by a national dictate.  Most states in the USA have massage therapy licensure.  Please update yourself on your own state’s licensure and your exemption status.  For example go to: www.nameofyourstate.gov and search for massage licensing.

The FSMTB has stated in written documents (annual report and website) that it sees massage therapy, bodywork and somatic practices as ONE field, and therefore one profession to be regulated by the same exams and licensure process.  This perspective is inaccurate.  Massage therapy, bodywork, and somatic practices are many and very unique professions utilizing different principles, values, practices, and methods.  Each profession involves different educational requirements and standards of practice.  Any move, by any organization or individual that assumes to lump all these professions into one professional field requiring one form of licensure or regulation, is attempting to monopolize these professions to their own self-interest.  And, they undermine our legal rights to professional practice.

Given the actions we have witnessed by the FSMTB over the years it is our belief that they are trying to monopolize these different professions, including somatic movement practices by doing the following:

  • The creation of the Model Practice Act (MPA) which explicitly recommends the removal of the exemption language from state laws.
  • Suggesting that Continuing Education (CEs) requirements be limited to only 6 hours per year. Of which a portion of that will be ethics and hygiene – education that the FSMTB will be delivering.
  • Having the MBLEx as the only exam accepted for licensure in every state – even those states that regulate the “bodywork” professions – all of which have their own exam and standards.
  • State boards are now using the human trafficking epidemic as a basis to regulate bodyworkers.  There is no research data proving human trafficking or prostitution would be significantly impacted by a bodywork license.  Law enforcement already has means to arrest and shutdown these kinds of illegal businesses and activities.  More harsh persecution and stiffer fines would have more significant impact than regulating professionals who are running legitimate businesses and who pose no risk of harm to the public.

We alert you and advise you in the following ways:

If you are contacted by the FSMTB or your state’s massage therapy licensing board to participate in a Job Task Analysis process or survey, we advise you to decline participation and please state the following: As a somatic movement educator/therapist I do not practice the massage profession and my input on job tasks is irrelevant to a job task analysis for massage therapy for the FSMTB.

Stay abreast of what is going on with regards to your state’s massage therapy laws and Continuing Education requirements.  Encourage all your licensed massage therapy colleagues to protest diminishing CEs in anyway.  Encourage them to speak up for a diversity of offerings to fulfill CEs.  If you are a licensed massage therapist along with your RSME/T registration, speak up for both professions as distinct and different. Please state the following:  A reduction in CEs diminishes professional development and income opportunities among massage therapy professionals.  Limiting massage therapists to only one test provided by a single entity especially provided by the FSMTB is a Continuing Education Conflict of Interest and a monopoly within the profession.

If you hear that your state is moving to regulate bodywork as a separate profession or a combined profession with massage therapy, contact your legislators and speak out against this kind of impractical and illegal regulation. Please state the following: Bodywork is not a single profession.  There are many different professions that include the generic word bodywork to describe them.  There is no practical and realistic way to define bodywork and therefore licensing all of them as one profession, or as an inclusive profession with massage and somatic practices, would be unfair to all the different bodywork professions.

If you hear that your state is moving to regulate somatic practices as a separate profession or combined profession with massage therapy, contact your legislators and speak out against this kind of impractical, unnecessary, and illegal regulation.  Please state the following: Somatic practices show no risk of harm to the public, and the number of practitioners in any state, are so few that it is financially not viable for a state to set up a separate licensing board for so few individuals.  RSME/T is a self-regulating profession, and ISMETA is a professional membership organization upholding standards of education, practice, and ethics within the profession.

Remember ISMETA is working on your behalf to stay abreast of any legislative activities state by state and we do our best to inform you and advise you.  If you hear of any massage or bodywork legislation happening in your state, please let us know ASAP so we can take action with you.

Lastly, we wish to acknowledge the work of the Federation of Therapeutic Massage, Bodywork, & Somatic Practice Organizations (FederationMBS ) who honor somatic movement and other non-massage professions in their unique rights to practice.

Also, if you are a member of the American Bodywork & Massage Association (ABMP) we highly recommend you contact them and, respectfully request, as one of their members, they invest their financial resources in fighting the efforts of FSMTB to undermine and monopolize the professions of massage therapy and bodywork, and threaten the profession of somatic movement education and therapy. 

Together, we can all support, develop, and protect our profession and our legal rights for freedom of practice; and we can collectively support the rights of other massage, bodywork, and somatic practice professions to do the same.


Mary Abrams, Government Relations Consultant

Elisa Cotroneo, Executive Director

Beth Pettengill Riley, President

And the entire board of ISMETA


See more posts

Screen Shot 2023-10-27 at 9.01.48 AM

Wisdoms of Embodied Leadership

Scroll down for Spanish version! Desplácese hacia abajo para ver la versión en español! Wisdoms...
Cymatics piano pitches in water

Music, Sound, and Somatics

By Wendell Hanna Ph.D., ASMP, CHSE (Certified Hanna Somatic Educator) I am proud to share...

Elisa Cotroneo Announces Her Retirement after 15 Years Guiding ISMETA

April 27, 2023 Dear Friends and Colleagues, I cannot express what an honor and joy...