Potential Threats to an Indiana Massage Therapy License
When someone holds an Indiana massage therapy license, it’s safe to assume that they have invested a lot of time, money, and hard work towards reaching this point in their career. On top of that, their massage license may very well be the foundation of their livelihood; allowing them to practice their craft and provide for themselves and/or their family. While that’s all well and good, it’s important to keep in mind that all of that could go down the drain when a complaint is filed against their license; putting both their license and career at risk.
When faced with a potential threat to your massage therapy license in Indiana, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced professional license defense attorney. This will ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to protect your reputation, career, and livelihood.
The Indiana massage therapy license attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have extensive experience representing and defending Hoosiers in matters that threaten their professional license. We understand how to navigate the administrative processes associated with the State Board of Massage Therapy and can craft an optimal strategy aimed at protecting you, your reputation, and your livelihood.
Rules Governing an Indiana Massage Therapy License
Once a practitioner has obtained the required education and passed all relevant examinations, they may be awarded an Indiana massage therapy license. However, once they have that license, they’ll need to stay in compliance with the strict rules regulating the profession in order to maintain their ability to practice.
The rules regulating a massage therapy license in Indiana can be found in several places, including the Standards of Practice for Massage Therapists located in 847 IAC 1-2; the administrative rules governing a massage therapy license located in Indiana Code 25-21.8, and the Standards of Practice for all Professional License Holders, located in Indiana Code 25-1-11.
While staying in compliance with the rules and standards governing the practice of massage therapy in Indiana may seem easy and straightforward, it’s often more complicated and nuanced than many imagine. In Indiana, a single complaint against a license has the potential to derail a practitioner’s entire career, regardless of whether the allegation is rooted in any truth. Given this, and the complicated nature of navigating the State Board of Massage Therapy’s disciplinary process, it’s best for any massage therapist facing action by the board to retain the services of a professional license defense attorney in Indianapolis. They will have a better understanding of how the board operates and what is required to best protect a massage therapy license in Indiana.
Standards of Competent Practice for Massage Therapy
847 IAC 1-2 outlines the “Standards of Competent Practice,” for massage therapists in Indiana. These standards are rather straightforward, and touch on topics like client assessment and consent; client confidentiality; boundaries; ethical conduct; sexual misconduct; environment; and reporting violations. The standards of competent practice also address the scope of practice a licensed massage therapist may take on, and who may or may not practice massage in the state of Indiana.
Scope of Practice
Section 2 of this rule is clear that all licensed massage therapists in Indiana must practice within the scope of their education and training and may not misrepresent their professional qualifications. Furthermore, a person who holds an Indiana massage therapy license must practice massage therapy with a level of care, skill and treatment recognized by a reasonably prudent massage therapist as being “acceptable under similar circumstances or conditions;” an acknowledge the limitations and contradictions of massage therapy.
Section 2 also goes on to state that licensed massage therapists may not delegate any massage therapy duties to a person who is not qualified; or encourage or permit an unlicensed individual to use certain titles (like masseuse, body worker) or abbreviations (like CMT, LMT, etc.) that implies that they are a licensed massage therapist. Finally, this section of the Standards of Practice addresses proper advertising practices and rules on proof of licensure.
Client Assessment and Consent
Contained in Section 3 of 847 IAC 1-2 are a set of rules regarding client assessment and consent. These rules require a massage therapist to obtain certain information – such as health history, voluntary and informed consent, etc. – from clients prior to providing massage therapy. It also requires therapists to obtain parental consent prior to providing massage services to anyone under the age of 18; maintain documentation for each massage therapy session; and display or discuss fees with a client prior to providing services.
Furthermore, Section three states that a massage therapist MAY NOT massage the breasts of a female client unless the therapist has obtained training in techniques related to therapeutic massage of mammary tissue; and has obtained informed written or electronic consent for the treatment of the client. The same rule also applies to pregnancy massage and therapies done in the mouth or ears.
Rules and requirements regarding the confidentiality of client information can be found in section four of 847 AIC 1-2. Under this section, a person holding an Indiana massage therapy license is required to maintain the confidentiality of client information at all times and not disclose the client’s identity or other information, except under certain, specific circumstances. On top of that, massage therapists are required to maintain client files and business recordings (including financial records) for at least six years from the date of service; and must dispose of client records in a secure manner.
Boundaries, Ethical Conduct and Sexual Misconduct
As clearly stated in section 5 of 847 AIC 1-2, when providing massage therapy, a license holder shall do the following:
- Wearing clothing that is clean, modest, and professional
- Provide privacy for the client while the client is dressing and undressing
- Provide draping in a manner that ensures the safety, comfort, and privacy of the client
- Use draping so that the gluteal cleft and genital areas of male and female clients; and breasts of female clients are not exposed
Furthermore, the rule continues to state that a person holding an Indiana massage therapy license shall NOT do the following:
- Perform massage therapy while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances, for which the therapist is not legally prescribed
- Engage in any behavior with a client that is verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive
- Exert influence or take unfair advantage of a client for financial or other gain
- Exploit the client-massage therapist relationship
- Engage in sexual activity with a client or permit any other person to engage in sexual activity with a client (such as providing an erotic massage in Indiana) during a session; at an establishment where massage therapy is being conducted; or at any on-site location where massage therapy is being conducted
- Initiate, agree to, or ask the client to engage in sexual activity or behave verbally or nonverbally in a manner intended to solicit sexual activity with a client
- Expose, touch, or massage the genitalia of a client
- Enter a client’s bodily orifices, external body hole, or opening with any device, apparatus, tool, or body part at any time during a massage therapy session (with exception to mouth/ear therapy pursuant to client’s consent)
The rules regarding the type and standards of environment in which a person with an Indiana massage therapy license may practice are located in section six of 847 IAC 1-2. As prescribed in this section, a license holder must provide a safe, clean, and comfortable environment for clients and ensure that all facilities, equipment and products used in their practice are in a safe, clean, and sanitary condition. It also states that the license holder must comply with all relevant sanitation, health and safety requirements of the city, town or other jurisdiction where they practice.
Section six also outlines the minimum proper hygienic practices that must be upheld by all license holders. These practices include the washing of hands before and after each client; storing and dispensing products in a manner that prevents contamination; and using only materials that have been laundered and sanitized before each reuse or are single-use items.
Finally, under section 7 of 847 IAC 1-2, anyone who holds a massage therapy license in Indiana is required to notify the board or other appropriate authorities of any violations they may be aware of regarding the Standards of Competent Practice, or the rules set forth in Indiana Code 25-21.8, which regulate the profession. In other words, if a licensed massage therapist is aware of violations that have occurred in a studio or massage parlor where they’re employed, they are compelled to report those violations or risk disciplinary action by the Board.
Rules Regarding a Massage Therapy License in Indiana
The rules that specifically regulate who can obtain/maintain a massage therapy license in Indiana are located in Indiana Code 25-21.8-4 – Indiana Code 25-21.8-6. These rules provide a list of educational and competency requirements for all license applicants. They also state that a person who has been convicted prostitution, rape, sexual misconduct, or who is registered as a sex offender is not eligible to obtain a massage therapy license in Indiana. In addition, these rules state that a licensed massage therapist may not display or disseminate an advertisement, publicly or privately, for massage therapy that indicates or implies that massage therapy will be provided that includes sexual activity.
Another topic addressed in this chapter of the law is Indiana massage therapy license renewal. Per Indiana Code 25-21.8-6, a massage license in Indiana is valid for four years and shall expire at midnight on the date established by the licensing agency and every four years thereafter, unless renewed prior to the date. When renewing a license, the license holder must apply for the renewal in a manner compliant with Board rules; furnish evidence of successful completion of 24 continuing education hours; pay the renewal fee; and provide proof of professional liability insurance with a minimum coverage of $2,000,000 per claim and $6,000,000 in aggregate.
Finally, as stated in Indiana Code 25-21.8-7-3, a person who holds an active Indiana massage therapy license that is convicted of a crime is required to notify the State Board of Massage therapy. This notification must be made within 30 days of the conviction. In other words, if a massage therapist has been convicted of a crime, whether it’s a first-time DUI or a more serious conviction like prostitution in Indiana, their license will likely be at risk.
Indiana’s Professional Licensing Standards of Practice
Indiana’s professional licensing standards of practice, contained in Indiana Code 25-1-11, regulate ALL professional licenses, including massage therapy licenses in Indiana. Under section five of this chapter, all licensed professionals must comply with the standards of practice established by the Board regulating their profession or risk disciplinary action. Furthermore, disciplinary action may be taken if the board finds that the licensed professional has:
- Engaged in, or knowingly cooperated in, fraud or material deception in order to obtain a license to practice
- Engaged in fraud or material deception in the course of professional services or activities
- Advertised services or goods in a false or misleading manner
- Been convicted of a crime or assessed a civil penalty involving fraudulent billing practices
- Been convicted of a crime that has a direct bearing on the practitioner’s ability to continue to practice competently or is harmful to the public
- Has knowingly or intentionally violated a state statute or rule or federal statute or regulation regulating the profession for which the practitioner is licensed
- Has continued to practice although they have become unfit to practice
- Engaged in a course of lewd or immoral conduct in connection with the delivery of services to the public
- Allowed the practitioner’s name or license to be used in connection with a business who renders services beyond the scope of that individual’s or business’s training, experience, or competence
- Has had disciplinary action taken against the practitioner or the practitioner’s license to practice in any state or jurisdiction on grounds similar to those in this chapter
- Has assisted another person in committing an act that would constitute a ground for disciplinary sanction under this chapter
- Has allowed a license issued by a board to be used by another person or displayed to the public when the license has expired, is inactive, or has been revoked or suspended
Possible Sanctions Against a Massage Therapy License in Indiana
If a person is found to be in violation of the rules and regulations discussed thus far, Indiana Code 25-1-11-12 allows the State Board of Massage therapy to levy a handful of sanctions against their massage therapy license in Indiana. For less serious violations, common sanctions include censure, issuance of a letter of reprimand, or the assessment of a civil penalty for no more than $1,000 for each violation. More serious violations may result in the license holder being placed on probation. When this occurs, the license holder may be required to report regularly to the board; limit their practice; continue or renew continuing education; perform or refrain from performing any acts (like community restitution or service without compensation) the board deems appropriate; or satisfactorily complete a quality or peer review.
Under the most serious circumstances, such as providing erotic massage services in Indiana, the State Board may elect to suspend or permanently revoke a massage therapy license. When this occurs, the practitioner does have the ability to appeal the decision, but doing so is often very challenging and requires the assistance of an experienced Indiana massage license defense attorney.
Facing Sanctions Against Your Indiana Massage Therapy License? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.
If you’re currently facing sanctions against your Indiana massage therapy license, or a criminal offense poses a threat to your professional license, contact the professional license defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP.
Our Indianapolis-based law firm has extensive experience in both criminal and professional license defense. This means that we possess the litigation skills you need to protect your license and minimize any potential sanctions that may threaten your livelihood. On top of that, our firm can ably defend you in criminal matters that may threaten your ability to practice massage therapy in Indiana, well before you’re required to report the matter to the Board.