Becoming a Massage Therapist
Still to this day, most people have very little idea how much hard work and talent is involved in becoming a massage therapist. Massage therapists must demonstrate a high degree of functionality in many areas, including:
- physical stamina and fine motor coordination
- clinical knowledge and judgment
- good communication and interpersonal skills
- trustworthiness and professionalism
Problems in any of these areas may prevent an individual from becoming registered as a massage therapist or maintaining a successful practice. The type of person who chooses to become a massage therapist is someone who combines an interest in people and health, a commitment to community service and people-centred alternatives, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Many of Sutherland-Chan’s students are making career changes, having found that they prefer to have more control over their work and more opportunities to help affect meaningful change in people’s lives.
Ontario’s Regulatory Body: the CMTO
The profession of massage therapy in Ontario is governed under the Regulated Health Professions Act and the Massage Therapy Act. This legislation mandates a regulatory body, called the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO), to oversee the practice of massage therapy in our province. It is made up of six professional members elected by all of the active registered massage therapists (RMTs) in Ontario, and five public members appointed by the provincial government.
One way the CMTO regulates massage therapy is by mandating a set of core competencies for schools to utilize as a framework and on which the provincial certification exams are based. The competencies document establishes clear expectations for what Ontario massage therapy graduates will have learned while still allowing massage schools:
- to design their own program and delivery methods
- to pursue their own particular areas of excellence
For example, Sutherland-Chan offers elective courses and an extensive on-site and off-site specialty program which exceed core competency expectations.
The CMTO’s primary mandate is to protect the public. It does so by conducting entry-to-practice examinations for massage therapy school graduates and offshore applicants who wish to become registered to practice massage therapy in Ontario. Once you have completed your schooling, passing these certification examinations is the final step before becoming registered. The CMTO also conducts regular evaluations of massage therapy practitioners via its quality assurance program, and disciplines massage therapists if necessary. You can visit their website at CMTO.
The RMTAO: Our Professional Organization in Ontario
The Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario (RMTAO) is a professional organization whose mandate is to represent and advocate for its members and the massage therapy profession, for example by:
- maintaining a referral list of RMTAO members for general public inquiries
- providing insurance for practising massage therapists
- conducting conferences and educationals
- producing a journal and a newsletter
- representing member interests in interactions with the CMTO, government bodies, the insurance industry, and so on.
The RMTAO offers a free student membership, and provides various types of advice and practical support for new practitioners as they become practicing RMTs. You can visit the RMTAO’s web site at RMTAO.
The Portability and Flexibility of Your Massage Therapy Education
You may be wondering about the portability of massage therapy, in other words, how easy it is to move and set up practice in other jurisdictions. Massage therapy is a wonderful profession in that it can meet the needs of the person who wants to settle into a stable practice as well as those who want to travel the world on a cruise ship or with a sports team.
In North America, massage therapy is typically regulated by province or state, and each one has its own set of requirements. Ontario graduates, who have completed one of the most extensive programs in North America, generally find that the requirements of other jurisdictions are easily met. Portability within Canada is usually a simple process of presenting one’s Ontario credentials, but there may be some minor additional steps to complete in some of the provinces.
Massage therapy educational programs in the United States range between 100-1500 hours. In some cases Ontario graduates can get immediate reciprocity; in others straightforward examinations must be passed. The United States also has a licencing examination called the MBLEx, that is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards in 42 states. For more information, you can visit their website at FSMTB.
Massage therapy is a growing profession with an exciting future. In addition to our traditional arenas of employment (private and group practices, fitness and health clubs, hotels and spas, chiropractic and naturopathic offices, athletic venues) we are seeing expansion of work opportunities into direct medical care environments such as hospitals, rehabilitation centres, chronic care facilities, and medical practices.