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Continuing Education and Massage Therapy

Professionals in an increasing number of fields are required to pursue continuing education in order to maintain licensure. This is particularly true of those in health-care disciplines where knowledge evolves at an astounding rate and keeping abreast of new developments is an integral component of offering safe and high-quality care.

August 4, 2011  By Maria DiDanieli

Professionals in an increasing number of fields are required to pursue continuing education in order to maintain licensure. This is particularly true of those in health-care disciplines where knowledge evolves at an astounding rate and keeping abreast of new developments is an integral component of offering safe and high-quality care. But aside from simply keeping one “legal,” evidence shows that lifelong learning also keeps one’s work fresh and alive, thus maintaining one’s interest and attention – and, concomitantly, a higher calibre of performance – while boosting the credibility of a profession as a whole.

In most professions, lifelong learning is offered in a variety of formats including seminars and workshops that may be presented in-person or over the Internet. Reading certain accredited articles or publications may also qualify for credit (often dubbed continuing education units, or CEUs/CEs). Congresses – actual or virtual – held by well-known bodies within the profession are excellent vehicles for accessing high volumes of relevant information and often include trade shows that feature products and services to enhance one’s practice or business.

Attendees at the Massage Therapists’ Association of Nova Scotia conference enjoyed smaller sessions and workshops, with breaks that allowed for informal roundtable discussions.

Arguably, for those in health care, the best form of learning is in-person and hands-on. The opportunity to interface with peers makes this format most rewarding, especially for those who do not work in circumstances where they have ready access to colleagues to consult with. However, attending a workshop or conference can also be the most expensive – bordering on cost-prohibitive – form of continuing education. Tuitions can be high, travel and hotel expenses need to be considered, and so forth. This is where emerging opportunities for on-line continuing education might be able to provide an alternative for many health care professionals.


Realistically, professionals need to examine their personal goals as well as their clinic or company visions and mandates in order to choose which events will be most worth their time and money. They also need to survey budgets and schedules  prior to deciding whether the best bet is an online course, a reading series, or to attend a conference in person.

LifeLong learning in the massage therapy profession
As stated above, although requirements for continuing education may seem arduous – and are often expensive – maintaining them boosts the credibility of a profession and its members.

Massage therapy is one of the professions with continuing education requirements  in most jurisdictions. Many bodies within the profession support their members in meeting these requirements in a variety of ways including partnering with organizations that offer training, keeping members abreast of available courses, and so forth. Also, representative groups, including provincial associations and specialty colleges may themselves curate educational events for their members to attend at reduced rates. Again, the event(s) a therapist chooses will depend on a number of factors, but the profession is rife with lifelong learning offerings in a number of topic areas.

This article will present a brief overview of three types of massage therapy continuing education events from the past year. The intent is to begin to provide a cross-section of continuing education choices available to RMTs and also to highlight some of the differences between each genre that might make a particular event more relevant, or desirable to, an individual therapist.

The all-encompassing, national conference
From Nov. 5-7, 2010, the Canadian Massage Conference held in Burlington, Ont., brought together hundreds of RMTs from across the country as well as a large gathering of product and service providers for the profession in a large trade show that was open throughout the weekend.

The conference comprised one-hour lectures and three- hour hands-on workshops, all given by prominent specialists in the profession of massage therapy in Canada. Instructors were given ample time to develop their ideas and demonstrate their techniques and innovations to therapists. Topics ranged from orthopedic assessment to post-mastectomy breast massage to women’s health to mind-body-spirit areas that benefit patients while enriching the therapist as a healer and as a person. The conference, an annual event, offered over 120 hours of continuing education for RMTs as well as social gatherings to enhance the already ample opportunities for networking.

The trade show featured product suppliers for every type of massage therapy practice as well as an array of services including coaching, digitally-based practice management tools, insurance and investing, therapeutic music, professional publications and more.

For the therapist searching for a broad array of information in order to remain abreast of developments within the profession as a whole – or ideas for expanding one’s practice, either in scope or volume – this type of event offers an excellent overview and showcases several directions for patient-centred practice, therapist longevity and business opportunities.

The provincial association event – why bother going?
In many fields, including massage therapy, provincial bodies often assist members in their continuing education by holding an annual conference in conjunction with the, usually mandated, annual general meeting (AGM). The value of these events is three-fold: although sessions based on a wide variety of specializations reflecting the activities of the membership may be offered, featured topics are usually quite pertinent to practitioners within that jurisdiction; issues open to discussion are often directly relevant to the delegates’ practices or businesses; members have an opportunity to support their representative body while exercising their voices within their profession.

Massage Therapists’ Association of Nova Scotia. On May 6-8 of this year, the Massage Therapists’ Association of Nova Scotia (MTANS) held its annual conference and AGM in Halifax. Now in its fourth year, the event drew approximately 70 massage therapists from across the province.

“Massage therapists can be so isolated from each other, in their practices,” notes Peg McMartin, chair of the MTANS conference and trade show committee. “A conference like this gives them an opportunity to come together as a community. Topics were chosen through feedback that participants provided at previous conferences as well as by the association connecting with individual therapists.”

The topics offered at the conference presented a surprising variation and scope. Sessions included the massage therapist as a birth support practitioner, use of social media for the massage therapy practice, awakening the healer, yoga for the massage therapist and more. Hands-on workshops in a variety of techniques were also offered. A trade show was available for delegates to explore local options for inclusion within their practices. As is often the case, social events were held in order to enhance the building of community – in this case, a pub night inadvertently showcasing attendees’ talents in the performing arts was the event’s “smash hit.” This sense of community was added to throughout the breaks between or within sessions. These provided perfect opportunities for therapists to “roundtable” on a variety of elements and issues directly impacting their practices.

The AGM, comprised of association business and discussions of the profession in the province, was productive and informative, and will be helpful as the association moves into one more year of representing its members.

Specialty groups and targeted education
For the professional who is seeking very targeted advanced training, courses offered by a number of educational groups or specialty colleges might be the most efficient use of time and money.

Meetings offering instruction in specific techniques, practice management or business training, and other topics might themselves be business ventures initiated by RMTs with special qualifications or extensive experience in a particular area, or might be hosted by research societies, schools or other professional interest groups. These courses are fine, but RMTs are cautioned to ensure that the group is credible and accredited for continuing education units. (If an RMT is interested in a course, and is aware that no CEUs are offered for it, that’s still fine, but the RMT should not hesitate, nonetheless, to research the course’s credibility and the instructor’s qualifications.)

Specialty colleges and associations often offer targeted instruction, usually aimed at its members who already hold advanced certification or licensure in their area of practice. Courses held by these groups are always accredited for CEUs. Like provincial associations, specialty groups (for example, sport massage therapists) may offer targeted minor events throughout the year, and one major, often two-or-three-day, annual event. These events can be similar to a provincial association conference in that attendees have the opportunity to receive education – and boost CEU counts – while exercising one’s voice (if a member) within the organization. The difference with events held by specialty groups is that delegates will receive very specific instruction in a specialized field, often at an advanced level, that may or may not be relevant to a general practice.

Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association
On Oct. 22-24, 2010, the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association (CSMTA) held its annual conference and AGM in Edmonton. The CSMTA is the certifying body for sport massage therapists in Canada. Certification allows members to be selected and work within Canadian Health Care Teams at major games, such as the Olympics. The association requires its members to maintain their certification through continuing education and supports them in doing so, by offering educational conferences as well as a series of distance education courses.

Their main annual event is geared to providing up-to-date and pertinent topics for certified members – and CSMTA members who are working towards certification – but also welcomes attendees who might be interested in sport massage therapy or simply wish to broaden their knowledge of massage therapy in general. This year, the event was most interesting in that organizers formulated a multi-disciplinary program in order to give sport RMTs an in-depth perspective of working within a health team structure. The featured topic was working as a massage therapist with post-joint replacement patients, especially athletes, and included presentations by an orthopaedic surgeon, a physiotherapist and a massage therapist, all geared to an interdisciplinary approach to pre-operative preparation for surgery and post-operative recovery and care. Hands-on sessions on specific techniques were presented by experienced Canadian RMTs throughout the weekend. This gave attendees advanced level training in their area of expertise (sport massage) from a Canadian perspective and according to Canadian standards.

A banquet was held during this event.  Athletes from various sports and levels of competition were invited to describe how massage therapy had supported them in their sport. This was instrumental in rounding out therapists’ perspectives of how their work benefits and enhances the clients they service – a feature that boosts professional morale by inspiring professionals to continue to offer their expertise.

These are a few examples of continuing education available to RMTs in Canada. A plan including participation in at least one continuing education event a year – preferably, for the health care professional, in person – might be worth considering, and, despite the initial accounting, could work out to be highly cost-effective in the long run. Furthermore, if you are an employer, this plan should accommodate each employee as well. Not only will this boost employees’ performance – a result that will, in turn, benefit your business – it will also send your employees the message that you esteem and value them enough to support them in their careers. This too, may serve your business – and, more importantly, your clients – well, in the long term.

For more information on the events mentioned in this article please see the following websites:

Canadian Massage Conference –

MTANS Annual Conference and AGM –

CSMTA Annual Conference –

For more information regarding continuing education requirements in your area, please check with your local jurisdiction.

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