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Massage Therapy is not regulated?

Updated: Apr 18

massage therapy is not regulated?

Blog post written by Bonnie Rose Aherin, L6 BTEC, ACMT | 

Bonnie Rose Aherin, L6 BTEC, ACMT

Bonnie Rose is an Advanced Clinical & Sports Massage Therapist and yoga teacher located in Dunfermline, Scotland, UK. With Knotsology she works to help people with the management of their mental health and chronic pain.


You might be unaware that massage therapy as an industry is unregulated in the UK. If you complete the minimum training and obtain your certification, there is no further action you are required to do besides being insured. This is similar to the hair and beauty industry in the UK, which does have some overlap when it comes to 'beauty massage'.

In the UK they do have professional organisations that set their own standards and guidelines for their members with regard to ensuring the professionalism and quality of work of its members. There are many different professional organisations, each with their own list of what they require to become a member. Massage therapists in the UK have their choice of which organisations they want to join. I clarify that to say you do not have to join any of them, as they are stand alone private organisations.

As a comparison, in the United States, massage therapy is regulated and governed by the laws within each state. This means once you complete the required hours of schooling with a passing grade to get your certification, depending on the state, you may then have to sit for your state boards which may require a written and/or physical exam as well as a fee. Obtaining and holding a current state license to work in the field would require you to pay to renew your license every couple of years. Again every state has their own rules and regulations and that also includes the number of education hours required to even apply for a license.

Knotsology blog post on massage therapy

Why do I bring this all up? Massage is not the exact same qualification when doing just a two country side by side comparison. I think it is important to know in the UK why training is important as well as continual education and growth within the massage industry. Before I get ahead of myself with this story of massage therapy not being regulated in the UK, let me share my journey.

It was the Autumn of 2003 and I was a twenty year old newlywed living in the states. It was my sophomore year at Uni and I was a Theatre major. Inspired by my advanced theatre makeup class, I decided I also wanted to get my cosmetology license. I spent my days at Uni and my evenings at a beauty collage learning about hair, skin and nails.

It was there that I first found my love of massage. I remember some of my favourite times being in the esthetician room giving facials because I loved how relaxing massage could be. You could close out the world and just fully embrace the calm in treatment.

As a cosmetology student in the US, we learned how to massage hands, arms, feet, legs, head, face, neck and décolletage. I mention this fact because while beauty therapists in the UK learn a variety of skills from hair-styling, nail and skin care but also full body massage. Therein lies the difference.

In 2004 my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child and I balanced being a full time student at both schools and my pregnancy. Eventually I had to stop both schools as we welcomed our first child. My husband joined the military and we moved several times. In fact from 2004 to 2008 we had lived in five different states and we had two children in that time.

With that much uprooting and change it took me two different schools to finish my schooling for cosmetology. While living in Hawaii I was ready to get my license to work and realised they required more school hours than the states I had lived in previously. I ended up having to go back to school to get the extra hours before I could apply for my license.

Cosmetology and Beauty Therapy training photos
From 2003 to 2008 I lived in 5 different states, got married, had two kids and went to a few different schools .

My kids were very little when I was finally able to work as a hairdresser in Hawaii. I would have loved to be able to go back to school for massage at that point if I had been able. I put a 'pin in it' on that idea for the future. Hawaii became our first real home, both for myself and as a young military family. I like to think it has shaped and impacted who I am today and the ethos of Knotsology.

I moved back to the UK in 2011 with family, after about a decade of living in the US. There is not an exact job equivalent in the UK nor a regulator or licensing board as stated above. I was coming from what they call a ‘Cosmetologist’ in the US which covers hair, skin and nails to seeing how I fit in as a hair & beauty therapist in the UK. I came to realise all I needed was to show my school certificate of completion. It was through applying for jobs I made the realisation of how the same job differed between countries.

I was at a well known chain for a job and pointing out to a potential employer what I was trained and qualified to do and what I could not from my training in the US. I remember pointing out two things and one of them was body massage. I explained in the US that is a completely different industry with its own regulation and licensing board. The woman who was interviewing me mentioned Jing Massage, a local massage school where we were located. She suggested to go there, get massage added to my training, and then reapply.

Again it is all about timing. It was not not the right time in 2011.

knotsology quote massage therapy

Eight years later and we are now in another city in England and I just experienced the loss of my mother. She had worked as a massage therapist in the US as a second career in life. As I packed up her massage room, getting her house ready to sell, I decided to move her things back to the UK and finally go back to school to focus on massage therapy. My kids were now older and time was finally on my side. I would commit the next four years to getting the best training in massage therapy that I could receive in the UK.

I had forgotten about the school recommendation until another massage therapist who heard about my plans, talked to me and highly recommended Jing Advanced Massage School in Brighton. She explained it was a different school from the typical 'classical massage' schools I would find in the UK. That the founders of the school had worked in the US as massage therapists and were now trying to elevate the industry as a whole here in the UK.

In 2019 I did Body Work Beginnings with Jing in Edinburgh. This was a qualifying course for massage therapy that enables you to be able to work as a holistic and deep tissue massage therapist. I loved being able to use the Jing Method™, a multi-modal & East meets West fusion of techniques. With my future clients in mind, it was important to find somewhere I could get further and continual professional development as a bodyworker.

massage therapy books

From 2020 to 2023 I embarked on a further three years of education, after already being qualified as a massage therapist in the UK. I got my Advanced Clinical Massage Therapist (ACMT) qualification at the end of 2020 and the final two years were the BTEC Level 6 which included a 12 week research study, dissertation and research conference. The Jing Advanced Massage Institute in Brighton, England is the only school in all the UK to offer a BTEC level 6 Professional Diploma in Advanced Clinical Massage & Sports Massage, the highest level you can achieve.

So yes, the massage therapy industry in the UK is not regulated. This was the driving force for me to find the right school for me and get as much training and the best education that I can to set Knotsology apart from other beauty therapists. I came from a cosmetology or beauty therapy background and I am proud of that. Having invested so much time and finances into my current experience level, is why Knotsology is what it is today.

I have also gone on to train and get my certification as an Oncology Massage Therapist and add on continual education so that I can offer my clients services such as: hot & cold stone therapy, prenatal and postnatal massage and kinesio sports taping. Through the BTEC L6 qualification I am also certified in Advanced Myofascial Release and offering pre & rehab programmes for clients.

invest in massage a price breakdown

After so much training you would think the Knotsology service menu would be long and extensive. However I have simplified it to offer just three appointment lengths: 60 minutes, 90 minutes and 120 minutes. Every session is then tailored both to the individual and their treatment needs, no cookie cutter massage services offered.

What I love about these three sessions is everyone can have hot stones in their treatments if they want them and they all get taught self-care. The BTEC L6 quality of thorough consultations with orthopedic tests available mean that, with an outcome based approach, clients are able to work with me to work towards their goals.

Knotsology is about working with clients both in person and online to help the management of mental health and chronic pain. We do relaxing, ‘just take a break from it all’, type treatments too.

If you are interested in a discovery call or booking in your new client 90 minute consultation, get in touch today. Knotsology also offers online sessions and Yoga has just been added to my qualifications. Let's work together to make this year the best it can be.

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