Why licensure of alternative and complementary care is a really bad idea

Perhaps you are aware that practitioners of Reiki and other forms of energy work are fighting against an effort to license our profession. What you might not understand is why this fight is so important. I include below my letter to the legislative committee that is currently considering a licensure bill in Massachusetts.

If you agree with me (and with the vast majority of clients, practitioners, and teachers) that licensure is a bad idea, I encourage you to email committee members now. Although the hearing is on December 13, written testimony is generally accepted for at least a week after the hearing. If you are not from Massachusetts, your testimony can still be helpful — you should be aware that this legislation is seen as a test case. If approved, other states will likely launch similar efforts.

Email should have the following subject line: Testimony in Opposition of S.221 and H.350, An Act Regulating Alternative Healing Therapies.

It should be sent to these addresses: jointcmte-consumerprotection@malegislature.gov, Michael.Brady@masenate.gov, brendan.crighton@masenate.gov, edward.kennedy@masenate.gov, Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov, Tackey.Chan@mahouse.gov, paul.feeney@masenate.gov, Mary.Keefe@mahouse.gov, Rady.Mom@mahouse.gov, david.leboeuf@mahouse.gov, Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.gov, Joan.Meschino@mahouse.gov, tami.gouveia@mahouse.gov, Danillo.Sena@mahouse.gov, Steven.Howitt@mahouse.gov, Jacob.Oliveira@mahouse.gov, joseph.mckenna@mahouse.gov, susan.moran@masenate.gov.

Links for more information:

Detailed information on sending email. https://reikiinmedicine.org/protect-reiki/massachusetts-state-hearing-on-licensing-reiki-and-other-holistic-practices/

Reiki Unified, an organization to oppose licensure across the United States. https://www.reikiunified.com/ They also have a FaceBook group that you can join and will keep you up-to-date. The licensure fight is not specific to Reiki, so any type of practitioner/client/student can join.

Change.org petition. https://www.change.org/p/protect-the-right-to-practice-teach-and-access-alternative-healing-therapies-in-ma?recruiter=1194838943&use_react=false&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_content=cl_sharecopy_28437779_en-US%3A7&utm_medium=copylink&utm_source=share_petition

My email to the legislative committee:

Dear Senators and Representatives,

I am asking you to oppose SB 221/HB 350 for the following reasons:

  • A profession should only be regulated because of the actions of its own practitioners.
  • Alternative healing practitioners do not need to be regulated. Harm is extremely rare.
  • Licensing alternative healing practitioners would not significantly affect sex trafficking.
  • Law enforcement can already easily distinguish between genuine practitioners and prostitution establishments.
  • A court challenge on this basis of freedom of religion is nearly inevitable.
  • Requiring state licensure of traditional practices with strong ethnic roots will be seen as discriminatory and an intrusion into cultural traditions.
  • The proposed Board and Advisory Council cannot adequately establish guidelines for this extremely diverse set of practices.
  • Each individual on the advisory board will have tremendous power over the discipline that they represent – power that could easily be abused.
  • The bill would prohibit volunteering except under strict supervision or with immediate family members; cutting off this source of help seems particularly cruel.
  • Burdensome licensing fees and procedures would cause many practitioners to close their businesses.
  • Hard-working and sincere practitioners would lose their source of income.
  • Supply would drop and prices would increase. Many clients would be priced out of receiving services.
  • Licensing these practices would do far more harm than good.

Please see below for a more detailed explanation:

A profession should only be regulated because of the actions of its own practitioners, not because of the behavior of criminals who are pretending to be members of the profession.

Alternative healing practitioners do not need to be regulated. Harm to clients is extremely unusual, as is made obvious by very low liability insurance rates (approximately $150 per year).

Licensing alternative healing practitioners would not significantly affect sex trafficking. Traffickers still attempt to use “massage” as camouflage, despite the fact that massage is licensed.

Law enforcement can already easily distinguish between genuine practitioners and prostitution establishments. There are clear signs that an establishment is providing sex (name, photos used in advertisement, descriptions used in advertisement, listings on sex-work websites, etc).

These disciplines are holistic. They address the whole person — body, mind and spirit. Many disciplines consider their work to be spiritual or even religious in nature (for example Christian laying on of hands or pagan healing ceremony). Because of this, attempts at regulation may very well cross a line into limiting freedom of religion. If this legislation passes, a court challenge on this basis of freedom of religion is nearly inevitable.

Some of these disciplines are specific to particular cultural groups. Requiring state licensure will be seen as discriminatory and an intrusion into cultural traditions (for example, Native American shamanic healing, Cuban Santeria, Roma divination and prayer). Claims of discrimination and a court challenge are likely.

These disciplines are numerous and diverse. Even within methods that call themselves by the same name, there is much diversity. A Board and Advisory Council cannot adequately establish guidelines for this extremely diverse set of practices. Also, each individual on the advisory board will have tremendous power over the discipline that they represent – power that could easily be abused.

The bill would prohibit volunteering except under supervision or with immediate family members. Many practitioners provide free treatment to friends or neighbors, and these treatments can be very beneficial. They are especially important to those who can’t afford to pay for treatment. Cutting off this source of help seems particularly cruel.

Burdensome licensing fees and procedures would cause many practitioners and especially practitioner/teachers to close their businesses. This would reduce supply and increase prices. Those who do continue practicing would need to pass the cost along to their clients/students – which would again raise prices.

Many hard-working practitioners who provide valuable services and reap only modest financial rewards would lose their source of income. The majority of practitioners are women, many of whom are supporting families.

Many people depend upon the help they receive from alternative healing practitioners. We are currently in a crisis of exorbitant healthcare costs and inadequate insurance coverage. We are also in the middle of a pandemic. There would never be a good time for this bill, but now is a particularly bad time.

Licensing these practices would do far more harm than good. This bill has been under consideration for quite a while. At every step of the way, there has been an outcry from clients and practitioners. Please listen to those of us who truly understand the field of alternative health. Please oppose SB221/HB350.

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