Free Market

Occupational Licensure: a Pain in the Neck for Bowenwork


If you suffer from back pain, fibromyalgia, or migraines, you may benefit from an alternative treatment method that doesn’t require heavy medications. The holistic treatment technique is called bowenwork, and its benefits and uses cover everything from respiratory to reproductive problems. Tom Bowen developed this therapy to help heal athletes and heavy laborers in Australia, but its success has found its way to the United States, where it is used today.

Unlike traditional forms of therapeutic massaging, bowenwork practitioners perform their work over the client’s clothing, meaning there’s no need to strip down for a stranger during a session. The process uses minimal and strategic touch without using oils, lotions, or heating. And it may just be the solution to your ailments. Want to try it out? Well, you’ll have to go to a licensed massage therapist for that, which will probably be pretty expensive.  

Even though bowenwork can be learned and certified through the American Bowen Academy, the state of Utah has taken it upon itself to require individuals to undergo far more extensive training to obtain a professional state-issued massage therapist license to perform the service for a fee. Bowenwork practitioners only need 340 hours for certification. But the state occupational licensing division? They decided bowenwork practitioners need 1,000 hours of practice in unrelated massage therapy before they can legally work in Utah.

The reason the state requires such a high amount of hours is not to ensure client safety or practitioner professionalism. Instead, it is a technicality error. Massage therapists are not the same as bowenwork, but because they are similar, the state has erroneously paired the two professions under the same regulations. This has made it extremely difficult for one to legally practice bowenwork in Utah—even if they can do so under the guidelines set by the national bowenwork academic standards.

Individuals who consider learning the method are disincentivized to do so under the current laws because they want to practice bowenwork—not massage therapy. Why would they subject themselves to hundreds of unnecessary and costly hours to learn things that have nothing to do with their profession? As ridiculous as it sounds, that’s exactly what they must endure under the current licensure laws.

Occupational licensure stops people from entering this profession, limiting the market for this healing art to have a chance to grow and thrive here in Utah.  This hurts economic potential for bowenwork practitioners, as well as those who want to receive the treatment. The government can and should change this by exempting bowenwork from the wrongful classification of massage therapy. They are different professions which should not be regulated and treated alike under the law.

In the 2018 legislative session, Representative Roberts agreed to sponsor House Bill 323 to exempt bowenwork practitioners from Utah’s massage therapy license laws. Unfortunately, the bill failed to receive a vote in the Senate before the session ended. Hopefully the bill will move forward into law during the upcoming session.

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