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Professional Ethics: Massage, Unlicensed Practice, Prostitution, Human Trafficking: What's Going On?

What are the largest segments of the massage industry in Washington? Massage as health care? Day spas? Home practice? Massage Envy-type franchises? It may surprise you to learn that one of the largest segments is illegitimate, unlicensed practice fronting as licensed, regulated massage. In 2018, legitimate, licensed massage therapy is facing complex, nuanced challenges from criminal enterprises engaged in everything from unlicensed practice to human trafficking. Although we would like to believe there is less confusion now than there used to be about who we are and what we do as LMTs, public confusion about what massage is has quietly gotten worse in the last several years–and our exposure to risk is increasing. 

While the vast majority of us have conscientiously gone about our work as massage therapists, others continually generate complaints related to unlicensed practice, sexually inappropriate behavior, and worse--all under our good name. The result? More rules, more regulations, more charting, new draping policies, and more costs for legitimate LMTs; not to mention continued confusion in the public's eye about who we are and what we do. What are the real concerns and issues with human trafficking and illegitimate massage in our communities, and how do they intersect with our actual needs and issues?

Many therapists and regulators fear that new federal legislation around online advertising of sexual services may drive more sketchy clients to seek sexual services from legitimate, licensed massage therapists, but is this really the case? And, more importantly, what practices do you have in place or need to shore up to counter this problem if and when it might happen? 

The 2017 Federation of State Massage Therapy Board’s Human Trafficking Task Force identified massage therapist safety as the most significant concern resulting from illicit massage businesses: “The most concerning impact of trafficking on the profession is that it endangers therapists and the public.” Understanding how this safety issue manifests itself in legitimate massage practices is critical, as is countering known practices typically used by sexually motivated consumers.

This 5-hour CE class, which meets the Washington State CE and NCBTMB requirements for professional ethics, takes an in-depth, candid look at these issues. This class will support you in protecting our profession and educating our clients in an environment that can be confusing and even dangerous. A portion of the class will also specifically address personal safety for massage practitioners, including basic self defense strategies and how to minimize interfacing with sketchy and/or dangerous clients. Your instructor, Lavon Watson, is a massage therapist and retired police detective who has been studying these issues since 2008.

The challenging situation we are facing is a perfect storm of legal, legislative, economic, cultural and law enforcement issues. This class is a call to action--our response will need to be organized, nuanced, and multifaceted if we are going to disentangle legitimate massage from illicit massage and prostitution. This course will help you to understand the threat to our profession, protect yourself, and recognize the power we have to make positive changes to turn this situation around.

"From the moment the class started, I felt that my perspective was challenged. I learned so much new information on a topic I thought I knew so much about already. I'm so glad that I took it." -Jennifer Day

"This subject is not addressed in depth anywhere else." -Kristopher Bondeson

"Best ethics class I've taken! Thanks!" -Robin Mayberry

Instructor: Lavon Watson, LMT, Retired Police Detective
CE hours: 5; meets WA State and NCBTMB Ethics requirements
Date and Time: Sunday, December 2nd, 9:30am-3:30pm
Location: Seattle (North Seattle area)

Tuition: $95.

Registration: A non-refundable $45 deposit is required to save your space. Click here to pay the deposit online. The balance is due at class, payable to the instructor, by cash or check only. If the link shows sold out, and you'd like to get on the waiting list, please contact