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  • Denise Sosnowski

The Legitimacy of Massage Therapy Establishments

Updated: Apr 26

Something that has affected me deeply over the last 18 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist and small business owner. Illegal "massage parlors" that offer questionable services which are not appropriate in a professional massage therapy setting. As professionals, we request assistance in raising awareness about the lesser-known challenges we face in our daily work that should not be tolerated. Throughout my career as a Massage Therapist, I have felt ashamed and embarrassed when faced with inappropriate comments and jokes after disclosing my profession. It is disheartening when our profession is not taken seriously, with individuals often making unwarranted assumptions or asking inappropriate questions. This type of behavior not only belittles our dedication to providing quality therapeutic massages but also undermines our efforts to help others feel their best. We work hard to uphold our profession with hours of dedicated training and continued education only to be harassed daily by creepy men/women wanting s*xual favors during their "massage", this happens because of illicit "massage parlors" that offer inappropriate and illegal services. Many consumers are unaware of this and assume all massage places are the same. These "massage" establishments not only put consumers at risk of receiving inappropriate and ineffective massages, but they also endanger the safety and well-being of legitimate Massage Therapists. These unlicensed individuals do not have proper training or knowledge of anatomy, which can result in serious injury to clients. Additionally, the presence of human trafficking in these establishments is a grave concern, with victims being forced into exploitative situations under the guise of massage therapy. They often use the same massage linens and do not change them or disinfect between clients, placing you more at risk for infectious diseases. Over the years, I have had new clients actually surprised that we change our sheets and disinfect between massage sessions. I was absolutely shocked that it was even a question that had to be asked, but apparently it is a problem at the illicit parlors.

For professional Massage Therapists, the existence of these illegal businesses undermines the credibility and integrity of the entire industry. It perpetuates negative stereotypes and misconceptions about the nature of massage therapy, leading to decreased trust and respect for legitimate practitioners. Furthermore, the constant harassment and solicitation faced by Massage Therapists as a result of these illegal establishments can be emotionally and mentally draining, impacting their ability to provide quality care to their clients.

On a side note: We always prefer Massage Therapist as our title over masseuse which is now deemed inappropriate and dated. 


It is crucial for consumers to be vigilant and educated when seeking out massage therapy services. By supporting licensed and reputable establishments, you not only ensure your own safety and well-being, but you also contribute to the preservation of the integrity and professionalism of the massage therapy profession. Together, we can work towards eradicating illegal activities in the industry and promoting a culture of respect, safety, and ethical practice. Is important to do your research and check the legitimacy of a massage therapy establishment before booking an appointment to ensure that you are seeing a licensed, trained, and professional Massage Therapist. Every Massage establishment should have their individual Massage Therapists Licenses issued through the Alabama Board Of Massage in plain view. If you only see one License at an establishment that has multiple therapists, that is often a red flag and a guise to appear legitimate. Before you book a massage, you can look at your states Board of Massage Therapy website to look up businesses and see if the Massage Therapist or establishment in question is indeed trained and Licensed by the Board of Massage. In Alabama, you can go here: https://almtbd.alabama.gov/


Respect Massage

Respect Massage is a movement within the massage therapy community that aims to promote safety and professionalism in the industry. By raising awareness about the dangers of unlicensed and untrained individuals posing as Massage Therapists, we can work together to protect both clients and legitimate practitioners. Massage Therapists who are members of Respect Massage hold themselves to the highest standards of an ethical, boundary-driven practice. Respect Massage members have a zero-tolerance policy for solicitations of any kind. Jokes, innuendo, and inappropriate requests are taken seriously and will result in the swift termination of the massage session. When choosing a practice displaying the Respect Massage logo, you can have confidence in the safety and professionalism you will experience as a client. If you would like to learn more visit Respect Massage here: https://respectmassage.com/


If you come across an establishment that seems questionable or offers services that make you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and seek out a reputable and Licensed Massage Therapist for your care. It's not worth risking your safety and well-being for a cheap or sketchy massage. Stay informed, stay safe, and support the professionals who are dedicated to providing quality massage therapy. Additionally, you may file a report with the board of massage and the establishment and individual in question will be investigated and shut down. You can go here to file a complaint in Alabama: https://almtbd.alabama.gov/consumers/file-a-complaint/

Another thing worth mentioning is that reading google reviews can be extremely helpful in determining if the massage establishment is indeed legitimate by looking out for some of these red flags listed below.


Here are some common red flags to look out for:

-They don't speak English well or are hard to understand.

-The masseuses are usually of an asian descent.

-They advertise body massage, table massage or combo massage.

-Their prices of their services are significantly below average for the area.

-They are open late.

-Often times only one Massage License is displayed for several "Massage Therapists" at that establishment to appear legit.

-They have advertisements on their website or photos on google advertising they have young, beautiful asian women and seductive photos.

-The women masseuses seem stressed, tired, pushy or scared.

-The establishment doesn't appear clean, dirty sheets ect.

-They almost always beg for a tip and if you give one, are demanding more money.

-They answer the telephones or leave the "massage" room often during your "massage"

-They often don't give a quality "massage" and don't care if they are hurting you or they simply won't stop when you tell them you are in pain.

-Usually a male will be present to keep watch on these women.


*Please note: Not all asian Massage Therapists and establishments are illegal, but genuinely 95% of the time, that is the case.

I am not in any way discriminating any demographic about this, you can view complaints and actual reports from investigations from these illicit places and see them here: https://almtbd.alabama.gov/consumers/disciplinary-actions/


Thank you for your time, I hope that by sharing this information, you can make a more informed decision on how to seek out a professional massage. Often times, a consumer will receive their first "massage" from one of these illegitimate establishments and have a horrible experience, end up injured, violated and never try massage again. This saddens me because true massage therapy can be incredibly therapeutic and beneficial to your overall mental and physical well-being.


Stay well,

Denise Sosnowski, Owner and Licensed Massage Therapist AL#4927





If you are in need of help or know someone who is in danger, there are resources available:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE 

If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation:

  • Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking.

  • Text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733. Message and data rates may apply.

  • Chat the National Human Trafficking Hotline via humantraffickinghotline.org/chat.

Respect massage professionals
Educating the public on the dangers of illegal massage parlors


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