In Canada, regulation of the massage-therapy
industry is as varied as the country itself. In British Columbia,
a practitioner bearing the title registered massage therapist has
completed at least 3,000 hours of training. In Alberta, a therapist
need not have any formal training. Three provinces - British
Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland/Labrador
- have provincial standards for registered massage therapists; the
rest do not.
Some massage professionals see Canada’s
inconsistent provincial regulations as problematic - for the general
public, for medical professionals trying to refer patients for massage
therapy, and for the insurance companies that therapists bill. It
also proves difficult for therapists who move from one province
That’s why, in 2003, Canada’s
of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners (AMTWP) commissioned
a task force charged with, among other things, assessing public
policy related to the massage-therapy industry. The result of that
two-year effort is a proposed set of national, uniform standards
and regulation for the massage-therapy industry.
“We’re currently looking
at building a national accreditation model that would be the same
across Canada,” says Colleen MacDougall, AMTWP’s executive
The association proposes the creation
of a four-tiered system of certification for massage therapists.
MacDougall likens it to different levels of nursing, such as registered
nurse or licensed vocational nurse. Based on a therapist’s
level of education, training and scope of practice, she would be
certified within one of four categories: general or basic relaxation
massage; remedial massage, which would identify specialized therapists
who treat simple chronic and acute conditions; advanced remedial,
for therapists trained to treat more complex ailments and injuries;
and research, for therapists with bachelor’s degrees and on
a research track. The education requirements for each level range
from 500 hours for general to four years for research. However,
MacDougall says those numbers are not set in stone.
The categories would, according to
the AMTWP, offer guidance to clients looking for a particular type
of session, as well as physicians and other health-care professionals
who refer patients to massage therapists; and help health-insurance
companies identify therapeutic-massage practitioners.
Categorized national standards for
the massage industry, says AMTWP President Melanie Hayden, will
help the industry keep up with the times and play a prominent role
in Canadian health care.
“It takes a very broad term like
massage therapy and brings it into a perspective that there are
many types of services,” she says. “Massage therapy
is becoming more and more recognized, and we don’t want to
limit ourselves by putting ourselves in a box and saying, ‘OK,
this is the definition of a massage therapist, period.’”
The proposal is in its infancy, but
AMTWP is gearing up to promote it and get stakeholders on board.
This year the association plans to hold talks with massage schools,
provincial massage-therapy associations, regulatory agencies and
insurance companies to hammer out a proposal that works for everyone.
Since health care is regulated provincially in Canada, all 10 provinces
and the three territories would have to agree on and legislate the
The support may already be there. A
policy statement recently released by the Canadian Massage Therapist
Alliance (CMTA), a group of nine provincial massage-therapy associations,
promotes national regulations. The CMTA proposes a standard of 2,200
hours of education.
Sue Williams, a registered massage
therapist in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and former president of the
Ontario Massage Therapist Association, is concerned that any proposed
national standard not be less stringent than current provincial
standardsa likely situation under the categorized system envisioned
“I would not subscribe to national
standards that were below the provincial standards imposed in Ontario
and B.C.,” she says. “You don’t want national
standards that detract from the existing standards that are exemplary.”
- Laurel Chesky
to Laws & Regulations