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Massage professionalism

Seeking a professional massage therapist can be a confusing experience.

It is important that the public know and understand the difference between a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and a bodyworker or masseuse.

Most importantly, the RMT designation is a guarantee that the therapist is trained and monitored/regulated under BC’s Health Profession Act by the College of Massage Therapists of BC (CMTBC).

The mandate of the CMTBC is to ensure that RMTs have the same public safety ethics and accountability as health care professionals.

RMTs are trained to know and understand the muscle, joint and nervous systems of the body and patients can achieve relief from any number of physical ailments especially regarding the musculoskeletal system; go to a less qualified individual and the outcome may not be what you hoped for.

Unqualified masseuses and masseurs, who often operate in day spas or mall kiosks, may claim they can relieve and relax, but there’s a significant difference between someone who gives massages or simply rubs the skin, and a registered massage therapist.

Brenda Locke is the executive director of the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia. She says making sure you see a registered massage therapist is important not just because you’ll have a better health outcome and experience, but you also know you are seeing a regulated health care professional that brings with it a number of accountability measures.

Many people probably don’t realize the level of education RMTs take in order to receive their diploma and meet the legislated requirements for registration with their regulatory body—especially in British Columbia, where Locke says the bar to become an RMT is among the highest in the world.

In order to practice massage therapy in British Columbia, students have to first complete almost three years of education which includes 500 clinical hours . They then must pass both a written and practical exam before they are eligible for registration with their regulatory college.

Locke points out that RMTs have to learn such topics as anatomy and physiology “just like other health care professionals.” They also have to learn about how to work with patients with specific medical conditions.

“We’re really working in a healthcare mindset, as opposed to somebody who’s working for a different reason,” she says. RMT treatments are always done with the best interest of the patient at the forefront.

As mentioned earlier, RMTs in B.C. also have a regulating college, like most other healthcare professions, so patients who feel they’ve been mistreated have a governing body that will hold the RMT accountable.

Anyone who’s tried to claim a visit to a massage therapist for insurance purposes knows that because of this professionalism and their focus on medically necessary treatments means a lot to insurers, as well.

Locke points out that you can’t bill to your third-party insurer if you don’t see an RMT. That means organizations like ICBC, WorksafeBC, and personal work insurance won’t cover visits to non-registered “body workers.”

In the wake of recent news about a masseur accused of sexual assault, the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia has made an effort to be more visible.

All of the association’s members now display its logo, which Locke says will help people know when they’re seeing someone with the proper credentials.

“If a patient doesn’t see that logo, the person they’re going to is either not a member of ours, or may
not be a massage therapist at all,” she says.

About 80 per cent of registered massage therapists in the province are members of the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia, so most legitimate RMTs will display the logo.

Locke urges clients to ask for credentials whenever they visit someone who doesn't have the association’s logo on display.

A day spa’s body worker may be able to provide an excellent relaxation experience, and Locke says there’s no problem with going to one for a cosmetic experience.

“But if you actually want massage therapy, from a health care professional, you need to look for the logo, you need to make sure you’re seeing an RMT,” she says.

For more information on RMTs, visit the Registered Massage Therapists Association of British Columbia online.



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