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Natural Awakenings Boston

Healing Practitioners Mobilize : Exempted Modalities Face Regulations and Licensure in Massachusetts

Sep 28, 2016 01:32PM ● By Gina Cronin

Leaders and practitioners of reflexology, reiki and other exempted modalities from the massage law are organizing to protect their right to work and volunteer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bill S2461 caused an uproar amongst healing practitioners in July, as it would arbitrarily define all holistic healthcare providers as “bodyworkers” and require they obtain 500 hours of in-class training at an accredited school for bodywork.

The original Bill, S872 An Act to Strengthen the Anti- human Trafficking Law, put emphasis on addressing criminal justice and public health and safety outreach in regards to human trafficking issues. The language about bodyworker licensure was added in amendment S2444 by the Senate Committee of Rules and maintained in amendment S2461. The language was added as a result of a national issue concerning certain sites of business posing as bodywork and healing centers, while in actuality conducting human trafficking activities.

“There are no accredited programs for reiki that would allow for 500 hours of in-class training,” says reiki master and practitioner Judy Bousquin, RMT. Practitioners of reiki and other modalities have their own standards of practice and proficiency in place that legitimize their work, therefore the passing of the bill could put highly trained and certified professionals out of business. “Many practitioners volunteer their time to cancer patients, hospice patients, veterans and others, who find the sessions to be healing, relaxing and inspiring in the areas of personal growth and development,” says Bousquin. The absence of reiki in the community would affect not only the practitioners, but the individuals who so deeply benefit from their service.

The bill would also affect the Trager approach, the Feldenkrais method, qigong, yoga, Pilates, Rolf structural integration andmany others. Clark Reddick, a stress relief and recovery specialist at The Boston Alphabiotic Center for Health and Wellness, says, “Practitioners may very well be forced to go to a bodywork school that will know nothing about the nuances of their modality, and ultimately be trained on something entirely unrelated to what they are doing and have been previously trained on.”

Another core concern is that these very different practitioners are all being lumped into the category of “bodyworkers”, which most of them do not identify with. “I don’t think there are any reiki practitioners that would use that word,” says Elise Brenner, Ph.D., a reiki practitioner and teacher. “We do not manipulate hard or soft tissue; we really do not need to touch the body at all. The most fundamental issue is that we are going to be defined by others in a misleading and inaccurate way.”

After receiving an influx of information from reflexology and reiki community leaders, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing made another amendment, H4595, that removes all bodyworker language. The committee was made aware that the terms didn’t properly track how the modalities operate, how one gets trained and how to prove legitimacy. Bill H4595 has received a house number and is currently filed in the House Committee on Ways and Means. Legislature rules require unanimous consent for bills to move during informal sessions, and as of July there will only be informal sessions for the rest of the legislative year. If the bill does move, it would need to be re-approved by the Senate. If the bill does not move before the end of the legislative year, the bill would need to be filed anew and go through the legislative process again over the next two-year legislative session.

“There are a variety of actions that can or cannot take place at this point in the committee process,” says Shannon Brisson, president of the Massachusetts Association of Reflexology, “if we don’t continue to mobilize among modalities, we won’t have the numbers to be recognized.” She urges practitioners of exempted modalities to stay active, stay informed and continue to contact the House Committee on Waysand Means at 617-722-2990 in support of amendment H4595 and duly note their concerns about the suggestions stated in S2461.

“I am proud of our efforts. Reflexologists couldn’t have done this alone and reiki practitioners couldn’t have done this alone,” says Brisson. “We all connect; all of us are coming to this issue in the spirit of health and wholeness. This process has been engaging, enlightening and has allowed practitioners to see that they matter and need to step up.”

The Massachusetts Association of Reflexology, along with practitioners across all modalities, supports the Commonwealth’s effort in addressing the scourge of human trafficking. “There needs to be standards,” says Brisson, “but legislators need to reach out to leaders in the modalities or associations being discussed, so they may help shape the law.”

To take action, call the House Committee on Ways and Means at 617-722-2990 and/or email the committee’s chair at [email protected]. Visit and search H4595 for bill updates.

Gina Cronin is a writer for Natural Awakenings magazine.

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