License Needed – Opinion or Fact?



In response to repeated searches on my site regarding the need for license to operate as a Massage Therapist in Trinidad and Tobago, I sigh.  I have verbally addressed this question which was couched in many different ways and asked by several persons.  Now I write.  This link advises that on Friday March 6, 1998 the Bill regarding the Massage Therapy Association of Trinidad and Tobago and matters relating thereto (e.g. the issuance of license) were read in the House of Representatives for the first time.  On a link from the Ministry of Legal Affairs dated December 31, 2010, the Massage Therapy Association of Trinidad and Tobago appears on page 21 of a long list of Omitted Acts of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago

What is a Bill?  This is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature which does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive.  This process sees the Bill going through a number of stages before it can become law, allowing for detailed debates and amendments so the final product is something that is agreed to.

To what does Act refer?   In this case the word ‘Act’ is the abbreviated form of ‘Act of Parliament’ which is synonymous with the word Bill, a draft Act of Parliament.

What is the meaning of Omit?   To leave out, to fail to mention, or include, to lay aside, to disregard, to let go…  The list goes on.

On April 8, 2011, the then Minister of National Security presented an order for the second reading of the Trafficking in Persons Bill and cited the reason for the Bill as exploitation.  He noted that “…trafficking in persons is a form of modern day slavery where persons are lured into purposes including sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices, or even the removal of organs.”  Further, he advised that “the support structure for the trafficking industry must be noted, as there are many common facilitators including institutions which appear to be legitimate on which traffickers frequently rely and which, of course, benefit handsomely such as hotels and motels, massage parlours, landlords, recruitment agencies, taxi services and transportation companies, banks and other financial services and companies.”

The purpose of legislature for Massage Therapy aims to acknowledge that this modality affects the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and allows for necessary regulations to protect the public from unqualified practitioners.  Standards would be set for qualifications, education, and training so that licensed Therapists are held to high standards of professional performance.  As yet, Massage Therapists are not clear on such legislature and are therefore guided by the code of conduct of the various institutions with which they have become affiliated.  “Massage parlours” finding their way into parliamentary discussions on Human Trafficking is one of many reasons to justify the need for licenses, but can such seriously provide guarantees when licensed establishments like hotels and banks are cashing in?

Years ago I had shared an article on opinions of several Massage Therapists, practicing in the USA, regarding licensing.  “One of the biggest controversies in the Massage profession has to do with the licensing and regulation of Massage Therapy.  Groups that advocate licensing state that the reasons for wanting licensing are to protect the public from harm, create more professional standards of education, reduce the number of prostitutes doing massage, to name a few.  What is the definition of harm?  Is it harmful to have a massage therapist who says they are doing Deep Tissue massage when it is really Swedish massage?  Is it harmful when a client leaves feeling sorer than when they came in?  Will any amount of education really influence the Massage Therapist’s skills and reduce the ability to do harm?  And how much harm does over the counter drugs do?  I just recently had a friend who had excruciating back and abdominal pain for over a year and it turns out it was an over the counter drug causing it.  Is that harmful?”

In response one Therapist has stated: “As a graduate of a 500 hour program, successful business owner, and one who has practiced actively since 1999, I see no reason for licensing other than institutions making money by having “us” PAY for the right to say we aren’t prostitutes, and giving a select few a warm fuzzy feeling by giving them a title that makes them feel more important or qualified than they really are.  I have let my license expire and will never again pay the government or these organizations to state what I already know…I am not a prostitute.  No other professional has to pay for that right, and I shouldn’t have to either.”

Another Therapist said: “I don’t remember the OIA (origin/insertion/action) of any muscles after 20 years of full time practice, and I never took any business classes, but my customer service skills are excellent from working in Customer Service before I went to Massage School.  Separating ourselves from sex workers won’t be solved with licensing.  Licensing just says that someone studied enough test questions to know how to pass a test.  I probably couldn’t pass a test today, but I am a very successful Massage Therapist.  Most of what I learned in my career is also contraindicated by Massage School standards, so I would probably fail there too.”

Wherever humans are found, there too we will find the intricacies of human behaviour.  We do what we need to do in fulfillment of our obligations.  And we do what we want to do when no one is watching.  So, do you need a license to practice Massage Therapy here in Trinidad and Tobago?  I cannot answer that for you, having long accepted that people believe what they want to believe.  You must decide whether a license require the Law for efficacy, and in the absence of Law if that license has any authority on which to stand, and most of all, the benefits that such license will accrue to you.



Dear Rinalda,

I have just read your article on License Needed , from what I can gather from the article, are you saying that this bill was never passed as it is listed in the omtted acts?

Can you expand on this?





Maybe you can try doing some research in directions I have overlooked. As at this moment, there is no Law in Trinidad and Tobago substantiating a Massage License. The process of issuance is misrepresenting, to say the least, but the average first year first semester Law student would tell you it is fraudulent as license cannot operate without Law. We tell a story long enough and it is eventually believed by some. That’s called a Myth, not a Law.

There are more than 1000 certified Therapists (mostly practicing part-time) who can rally together and picket Parliament if necessary to get relevant legislature, but we are too busy squabbling over who is trying to steal whose clients, and who has more certificates than whom, and who attended which international forum, etc. Our petty behaviour has us here, i.e. not being taken seriously by the Powers-That-Be. Meanwhile, the Powers-That-Be know better than to pass a Law when they are among those accessing the very colourful massage services.

So you see, we the practicing Therapists are all fine, very fine with…a Bill showing that some attempt was made at regulation. To impose that Bill on the up and coming Therapists telling them it is Law, is another story.