Massage therapists are designated by a variety of titles, some referring to state regulation and others to other forms of certification. Various counties and cities may also have ordinances regulating the practice of massage.
It should be noted that practitioners of many health care disciplines often learn some massage therapy techniques during the course of their training without necessarily having any of the following credentials. Thus they may practice massage therapy (and facilitate insurance coverage) under another kind of license or credential such as nursing, chiropractic, or the like.
The AMTA has recently begun to discourage practitioners from using initials after their names, feeling this may be confusing to the public because there is no standardization and such initials tend to mimic academic degrees. Instead the AMTA encourages practitioners to spell out what their credential is. In some states the use of initials is controlled (such as licensed massage therapist, L.M.T.), but in many states it is meaningless.
The most common titles for massage therapists are as follows:
Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. This title designates the person has completed the requirements for and passed the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (N.C.B.T.M.B.). This is the leading national certification exam.
Massage Practitioner (M.P.). This title is often used by practitioners whose training is less extensive than that required for certification by schools or by the AMTA as a massage therapist.
Certified Massage Therapist (C.M.T.). This is a voluntary, professional, non-governmental certification from organizations that can attest to the therapist's competency. This is granted by many massage therapy schools, which may or may not meet AMTA standards for training. Thus the quality of this credential depends on the quality of the certifier and its standards. (For example, even a person who has only taken an eight-hour course can claim to be certified.)
Registered Massage Therapist (R.M.T.). This is a form of voluntary licensing for the use of a specific professional title. Rarely used in the United States, some Canadian provinces use this to designate government licensing. At one time it also designated a special credential for members of the AMTA who had advanced training in therapeutic massage and passed a special exam, but this usage has been discontinued.
Licensed Massage Therapist (L.M.T.). This refers to occupational licensing by a state or local government. Nineteen states have licensing laws requiring massage therapists to meet minimum standards of training. The basic requirement is usually five hundred hours of classroom training with instructors present, followed by a written and practical exam. The following states have licensing laws: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington, D.C.
In states that do not require licensing, a good credential to seek is graduation from an AMTA-accredited program that meets the five hundred-hour standard. There are many schools of massage therapy and bodywork that require fewer hours of training (often one hundred to two hundred hours), so the extent of training is an important question in choosing a practitioner.