Licensed massage therapists are speaking out to defend their occupation after recent news of misconduct at an Opry Mills business.
Mind Body Institute on Music Valley Drive offers training in the field of soft tissue manipulation, also known as massage therapy, including science-based classroom instruction and head-to-toe palpation, or hands-on learning.
Owner Maj-lis Nash wants to get it right.
"We feel it's important you understand the body from the inside out," Nash said.
On Wednesday, one man was accused of getting it wrong.
Wei Dong Wang, 45, was charged with sexual battery. A woman claimed Wang touched her inappropriately while she was getting a massage at "O'Chi Reflexology" at Opry Mills.
The business was licensed. Wang was not.
"This is not the norm for licensed massage therapists," said Nash.
Nash has owned Mind Body Institute for six years. She has maintained her massage therapy license for 16 years, and has served as the president of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Message Therapy Association for six years.
"I do it because I have an opportunity to help people feel better," she said. "I believe it's part of healthcare, and I love being a part of that research and that change that we can make in people's ability to care for themselves."
Massage therapy includes numerous modalities and techniques from pre-birth to geriatric.
While it is often used on the body to enhance function, aid in healing, and decrease tension, the therapeutic benefits continue to be researched and studied.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is one of the fastest growing professions that requires training, licenses and continuing education.
"If you want to become a licensed massage therapist in the state of Tennessee, you have to obtain 500 hours of education from a qualified school," said Nash. "You also have to pass an exam that's issued from two different agencies, fill out an application with extensive questions in it."
"There is a fee involved, a criminal background check. It's both a state and federal background check that's done," she added.
According to state guidelines, massage therapy establishments must be licensed by the state health department.
Each therapist in the establishment must be licensed with the department as well.
All licenses must be current and prominently displayed.
Nash and her staff at Mind Body Institute have licenses posted in the school's lobby, but she feels clients should be asking questions before they walk in the door.
"The best thing to do is start with the phone," Nash said. "Ask questions. If someone is unable to answer them or unwilling to answer them, hang up the phone."
Nash went so far as to create lapel buttons that read: "Ask me about my number."
"We mean our massage license number," Nash said. "My number is 988. And let me tell you what I had to do to get it, what I have to do maintain it, and what it means to me and the profession."
The state also offers the following tips for consumers:
Before treatment begins, clients can ask to see a massage therapist's license to ensure it is current.
Clients should have a conversation with the therapist before the massage session starts, covering exactly what treatment will be performed. During this conversation, the client should discuss any restrictions he or she wants to place on the session.
If at any point during the treatment the client feels uncomfortable, he/she should advise the therapist immediately. If the therapist disregards concerns, the patient should leave immediately.