New York State (along with Nebraska) has the most rigorous education requirements for licensure as a massage therapist. Before a therapist can take a licensing exam, he or she must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of education. For me that translated to 16 months of full-time school (while I was working full-time).
What, you may ask, did I study besides your basic Swedish massage techniques? The curriculum was broad and intense. And we were tested constantly. We lost classmates every semester due to exam failures or simply dropping out due to time and energy constraints. This program was not for the weak. Among topics such as professional ethics and various electives (Thai massage, energy work, others), we studied:
Shiastu (massage modality developed in Japan) 1 & 2
Anatomy & Physiology 1 & 2
Myology & Kinesiology
Tools of Assessment
Clinical Strategies: East/West
In addition, we did 3 semesters of both on-site and off-site clinics in a variety of settings (cancer care centers, hospitals, sports events), where we worked with the public. In the 4th semester we worked with the same client over 12 weeks and developed a treatment plan for specific conditions. I was told that our training was comparable to the first year of medical school.
In an important development, New York State recently added the requirement of 36 hours of continuing education for every 3 year license renewal. This ensures that therapists are keeping up-to-date on the latest in massage therapy and are devoting time to their ongoing growth as professionals.
So, when you are looking for a therapist in New York State, look for the "LMT," and if you're not sure if a therapist is licensed, check him or her out at http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm. You can be assured that they have a solid foundation of how the body functions and how to treat it through massage.
(More on the importance of licensure for massage therapists in the future. And perhaps revelation of my GPA...)