Many licensed massage therapists would be reluctant to share that they had to take both their written and practical exams not once, but twice, in order to get licensed in the state of Oregon. But Melanie Morin is an exception and quick to tell you exactly why she thought it was worth her time and effort to face those two-time hurdles and then use the delay and obstacle as a compass to help chart her decades long career in bodywork.
The automatic failure on the practical exam came when she shook the hand of the proctor administering the test after he introduced himself to her. Turns out, that was a no-no. As for the written exam? She didn’t know that the massage room must be kept at 74 degrees, 24 inches off the ground and that your license expires on your birth month. According to the Oregon State Statutes in 1997, this was the law.
Now, more than 20 years later, Statutes is one of five classes that Melanie Morin teaches at Oregon School of Massage. Statutes refers to the Oregon State Board of Massage Therapists laws, rules and policies and Melanie has made it her business to know these regulations inside and out.
Doing Time on the Oregon State Board of Massage Therapists
Having recently completed five and a half years as a Member of Oregon State Board of Massage Therapists, Melanie has firsthand knowledge of how difficult compliance and enforcement can be. It has also made her a strong advocate for knowing your rights and responsibilities as a licensed practitioner in the state of Oregon.
In her Statutes class, she teaches the nuts and bolts of all the Oregon state regulations as pertains to massage. According to Morin, “Students need to learn everything about the Board, how to look things up in Statutes and most importantly, learn what would be a boundary violation before they become licensed. I also encourage my students to attend Board meetings and participate in the process.”
She’s been a strong advocate for clear policies and regulations that distinguish clinical, therapeutic massage from human trafficking activities taking place under the guise of massage. Melanie recounts that it was no mistake that she chose Oregon as the place to get licensed after completing massage school in Boulder, CO.
According to Melanie, back in 1997, Oregon was one of the few states that actually required a registered license as opposed to a school-issued certificate, and she purposely sought out that distinction which she felt was a validation that clearly set her apart from any dubious massage practices.
But like many out of state massage therapists looking to attain their license once they move to Oregon, Melanie found the path to licensure fraught with hurdles. For starters, out of state licensed or certified massage therapists coming to Oregon who may have been practicing for years, if not decades, find they are required to retrieve original transcripts from massage schools that have gone out of business or been rechartered. Not having the necessary documentation can be a roadblock to legitimate licensure for some.
Easing the rules of reciprocity for out of state therapists is one of several areas Melanie tried to facilitate in her time on the Board. But mostly, she said, “our job is to listen to complaints and read cases and police reports. We’d review 20-50 cases per meeting monthly and then eventually we met every other month. Often, documents could be 70-80 pages long. Meetings were scheduled all around the state and we could easily be there eight hours a day. But ultimately, the main purpose of the Board is public safety.”
Although the days could be long, Melanie is also quick to point out the advantages to serving as a Board member. “You really get to see how things are done. You watch the complaints come in and then follow the legal process in response.” To maintain that things are done within the parameters of state laws, she says the Assistant Attorney General sits in on every Board meeting.
Although a volunteer position, the road to Board member seat requires specific steps including an application of interest. Once accepted, the prospective member must appear for a hearing in Salem in front of a committee. If approved, each new Board member is sworn in by the Governor of Oregon.
Teaching at OSM
Teaching in Portland since 2004 and at Oregon School of Massage since 2018, Melanie offers multiple classes. Among them Health Sciences, Massage Upper and Lower, Statutes and APS or Advanced Practical Skills Seminar.
Structured something like an apprenticeship in an incubator, Melanie says “APS gives students the opportunity to see what it will be like, out on their own, but still within the safety net of the school. “ The students are required to go out and find four new clients and do 14 massage sessions within 10 weeks.
As the teacher and supervisor of the APS, Melanie puts these questions to the students up front: “What type of massage work do you want to do? What population of people do you want to work on?”
By making these choices initially, Melanie says the students are being guided to reach out to prospective clients who will likely stick with them after they are licensed as paying clients if it turns out to be a good fit. “It is hard work and it’s scary for the students, but that’s why we’re still tethered to them and meet with them to give feedback throughout the course.”
Managing Her Own Private Practice
Beyond her professional development as a teacher and a two term State Board of Massage Therapists member, Melanie has been a licensed massage therapist in Oregon since 1998. She has worked in many different settings including athletic development and performance therapy, chiropractic, private practice and wellness facilities.
She employs mixed modalities that she adopts for the various settings in which she works which range from sports massage, neuromuscular, myofascial, deep tissue and athletic massage to crystal work, energetic healing, aromatherapy and reiki. She says “I like to mix it up and keep things balanced.”
In 2016 Melanie realized her clients were needing more. “There was talk of Hakomi somatic method and various kinds of psychotherapy so I started shifting more to the deeper energy work to help people realize it’s not just a physiological anatomy system but a whole huge energetic body system we have.”
The recent loss of her mother has also caused her to shift her perspective and approach to body work. “When a parent dies, you really start looking at things differently, “ she says. For Melanie, the event has helped her refocus on what is important to her at this stage of her life. She resigned from the job she’s held for the last eight years at an athletic development and performance therapy company and is now focusing on her own private practice and developing her intellectual property that she plans to teach throughout Oregon. Naturally, all of her classes are pre-approved by the Oregon State Board of Massage Therapists.
Parting Words of Wisdom
Looking over her evolving career, I asked Melanie if there were anything she would do differently. Without missing a beat she said “fight for your worth. The industry standard for massage is often a 50 /50 split. I would say to my younger self: don’t settle for less. Whether employee or independent contractor, be smart, know your worth and do not sell yourself short.
And do something that you are passionate about! That’s the whole secret to life. So many people miss the boat on this, and that is unfortunate. That’s my goal as a teacher, to help enlist goals and dreams of the student and then make it something that feels effortless, uplifting and inspiring for them.”
Melanie Morin, LMT can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Howell writes about health, wellness, and sustainability. She can be contacted at email@example.com.