Why We Need Regulation in Alberta

Good morning everyone!

If you follow us on instagram, or Facebook - you’ve probably seen posts regarding the need for regulation of Massage Therapy here in Alberta. This topic is extremely near and dear to my heart. Let me explain the ins and outs of this topic for you.

First it would be good for some background knowledge. As many of you know, I chose to return to Ontario to complete my massage education. I did this after learning that I would never be able to practice in Ontario or BC if I did not successfully complete the Board Examinations these provinces required in order to be deemed “Registered”. I was living in Banff at this time, and it absolutely would have been easier to commute to Calgary for school. But being someone who doesn’t support mediocracy, that just wasn’t an option for me.

So I packed my bags and started off on what would become a mind-bending, tear invoking, anxiety ridden journey. Yes, it was that hard. Between memorizing every origin, insertion and action of each muscle in the body, to learning three binders worth of pathological diseases, and successfully completing both a harrowing written and oral practical board exam - I did it, I passed. I have never been prouder of myself than the moment I received an email confirming I was able to call myself a “Registered Massage Therapist”.

That glory shortly faded when I returned to Alberta, and realized some therapists I was working with, who also had to ability to refer to themselves as RMTs, knew little of the necessary ethical and scientific information required of me to practice. No, I am not attacking these RMT’s with this post - I am simply educating YOU, the client of what you should and could be expecting from your RMT if we were to regulate this profession.

Like doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists, RMT’s in Ontario, BC and other provinces are held the incredibly high standards. They must adhere to Standards of Practice set forth by their College. They must act ethically. They are mentored and overseen by said College, with the goal to be to ensure PUBLIC SAFETY. Here in Alberta, as long as a massage therapist holds a 2,200HR Diploma, they are able to become part of the association of their choice, and bill receipts to insurance companies as a Registered Massage Therapist.

There are over four associations that said therapist can choose to be part of . Some do hold their members to high standards much like the CMTO in Ontario. Others, not so much. In fact, while checking out an associations website last month, I noticed that they suggest to tip your RMT. In Ontario, tipping is absolutely frowned upon. I ask you this - would you tip your chiropractor or doctor? Of course not - you do not tip for health care services. So why is this not mandatory in Alberta? Because there are no hard or fast rules - if an RMT does not like the cost of membership, the rules set forth by the association or the Scope of Practice required of them - they can simply move to another association and do as they please.

Another huge issue we are dealing with at the moment is sexual assault in the massage world. Over five different therapists have been the subject of sexual assault complaints in the last few years in Alberta. The number of victims involved in each separate complaint is appalling. These therapists completely disregarded their ethical obligation and used their position of power over their client’s in the worst way. The media has reported on this, but I would like you, the public to know that there IS something that can be done to help prevent this.

In a recent incident, a victim who was subjected to sexual assault contacted me, they didn’t know who else to call. This is a major problem. A person has been sexually assaulted - and after the police, they didn’t know who to call. With over four associations in Alberta, how on earth is a member of the public supposed to report this incident before someone else becomes a victim? By having one regulatory body, this would have been simple - you email or call the College. That therapist would immediately be restricted from practice once an investigation or charge has been made. It took me, a therapist myself, over an hour to figure out which association to call and exactly how to proceed with a complaint. It wasn’t user friendly, the situation was horrible and to be honest - it made me sick.

I cannot claim that regulating the profession would be any means stop this appalling act from happening. I can only suggest that it would decrease the amount of sexual assaults, as the creation of an overseeing “College of Massage Therapists” would make it substantially harder to acquire the credentials in order to practice. Again, all a “therapist” needs at the this time is a diploma stating that they have completed 2,200HR of training. That’s it, and I can assure you that their “2,200HR” of training is not very difficult to acquire at some colleges here in Alberta. I have seen therapists come out of programs unaware of what is safe and what is unsafe. They are not properly trained in the ethics of health care professions. They are simply pushed through the system and graduate because “they paid the tuition”.

If we were to implement mandatory Board Examinations, many of these therapists would be required to hold a much higher knowledge base, would be committed to providing better and safer care, and in my opinion would not go through such a hard journey just to sexually assault a client and lose their credentials. That is my opinion. I’m sure it would not completely stop the chance of sexual assault occurring in the profession, but it sure would make it a lot harder to obtain the credentials to do so. And don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely fabulous schools in Alberta, and I thank them for their commitment to proper education in our profession. But at the moment there are 46 schools which provide massage therapy programs, and I can count three or four that I believe hold the standards high enough.

So is it fair what you, the public are being exposed to? Improper training of therapists, students being able to practice after their first year, sexual assaults becoming absurdly common - you deserve better. I’m sure I will see backlash on this post, but the number of times I have thought how much easier it would be to simply move to a regulated province has forced me to write this. I believe our profession deserves better, more respect and higher standards. I believe you, the public and patients, deserve a LOT more from us. I believe you deserve more from your government, the only ones who can make this change.

In conclusion, I URGE YOU to contact your MLA and ask why they haven't regulated massage therapy. Ask questions - where did your RMT go to school? Check out your intake form - is it thorough? Are you being drapped properly during your massage? Is your massage therapist reaching their goals in treating you? Is the massage effective in treating your condition? Does your therapist have a good knowledge base on what is bothering you? Massage is not meant to be a rub down with some oil under a towel. It is meant to be a therapeutic treatment which can alleviate physical issues as well as stress. And PLEASE, if you have ever been a victim of inappropriate care during a massage, PLEASE reach out to me.