Massage Therapy Canada

Health News
Dream on the Horizon

The longtime hope of registered massage therapists across Canada is looking like a dream on the horizon in British Columbia. B.C. offers a three-year, and more importantly 3,000-hour curriculum, (a three-year program may not necessarily consist of 3,000 hours of instruction), the highest level of training, at least in terms of numbers of hours, in North America.


September 16, 2009
By Cidalia Paiva phd
  • Are you a registered massage therapist seeking to obtain transfer credit for course work taken in B.C.’s private accredited massage colleges?
  • Are you looking to make a lateral career change into another health care stream?
  • Are you interested in doing research in massage therapy or participating in graduate level studies that will be acknowledged and recognized in the public post-secondary education system? 
  • Do you think massage therapy should have the same level of credibility and recognition that physiotherapists, chiropractors and naturopaths enjoy? 
  • If you have answered yes to any of the above then you may be interested in a potential new offering by the West Coast College of Massage Therapy in partnership with Kwantlen University College.

The longtime hope of registered massage therapists across Canada is looking like a dream on the horizon in British Columbia. B.C. offers a three-year, and more importantly 3,000-hour curriculum, (a three-year program may not necessarily consist of 3,000 hours of instruction), the highest level of training, at least in terms of numbers of hours, in North America.

In order to be able to offer a fourth year of study leading to a BSMT, B.C. graduates of WCCMT must meet Kwantlen’s residency requirements which are imposed on all Kwantlen degrees.

The three years of study offered at WCCMT offer a comprehensive program with substantial health science curriculum comparable in intensity and rigour to degree nursing, physiotherapy or chiropractic.

The fourth year of study would essentially consist of liberal arts course work. Tentatively, this would include Research and Statistics, Issues and Trends in Integrative Health Care, Entrepreneurial and Business Skills, a Massage Therapy Research Paper on a selected topic in massage therapy, and strengthening reading, writing and analysis skills.

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Additionally, a further prerequisite for all Kwantlen degrees is a university level English course which must be taken prior to entering the fourth year of study. WCCMT students may also be granted course credits for liberal arts programming which is deemed as equivalent to Kwantlen University College course work.

The fourth year of study at Kwantlen is an optional year to be available to eligible graduates seeking to further their education. B.C. graduates will potentially have the best of both worlds: the opportunity to continue to attend a three year program and upon graduation write licensing examinations to practice in B.C., and an optional fourth year of study to be offered to those interested in furthering their education and pursuing graduate studies.

Canadian consumer health care polls strongly demonstrate that there is an active interest and demand for services of massage therapists in British Columbia and across Canada.  As North Americans live longer, they will continue to search for therapeutic modalities that will enable them to live better and improve their quality of health and well-being.

In the field of manual medicine, massage therapists have demonstrated the efficacy of massage therapy for the treatment of soft tissue conditions and complaints, and are generally respected by Allopathic (medical) doctors. As many as 70 per cent of patients treated by massage therapists in British Columbia are, in fact, doctoral referrals.

However, the future growth of this profession, and its continued ability to serve and improve the quality of its service to British Columbians, is limited by several factors. 

Firstly, massage therapy education (despite the reality of a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum) is perceived by some as diminished as a result of the fact that graduates of massage therapy colleges in British Columbia are awarded diplomas from private career colleges instead of diplomas and degrees from public colleges, university colleges or universities. 

Secondly, the students of massage therapy today are youthful (20-35 years old) and want to ensure that a career in massage therapy will offer continuing education, career opportunities and mobility in the health sciences. At present, a graduate of a private massage college in Canada is unable to further his or her education in health sciences given the non-transferability of courses or the lack of higher level credentials into which a transfer might be feasible.

Thirdly, if the profession of massage therapy is to successfully educate the public on the benefits
of massage therapy and continue to develop the skill set of manual medicine, massage therapists must be able to participate in research and create profession-generated literature. 

At this point the participation of massage therapists in research and publication is limited. In order to ensure that massage therapists are vitally involved in monitoring, developing, assessing and recording the benefits of massage therapy, the profession will require access to public education and advanced skill sets (research, critical thinking and writing skills) available in credible public post-secondary institutions like Kwantlen University College,

While there is considerable talk, and has been for the last several years about the need for research in massage therapy, the reality of the matter is that today, and perhaps even tomorrow, without access to graduate level training for massage therapists, massage therapy research is conducted and published by non-RMTs. This is not to undervalue or diminish the contributions of the numerous individuals who have been vital collaborators, or the continued need for scholarship and scientific partnerships between massage therapists and the academic community.

However, in order for a profession to grow and own its emerging profession status some members of that profession must be able to participate in building the body of knowledge
of that profession.

Massage therapy must acquire the skill sets necessary to ensure that they are able to participate in profession-generated research and publication.

The advancement of knowledge in a profession is largely the job or role of that profession. How can we fulfill this role without the tools which are the skill sets we will require?

In fact, the very definition of what it means to be a professional requires the building and advancement of an expert knowledge base. 

How can massage therapists accomplish this goal within the present context? To participate in research we must be actively involved in creating, implementing, monitoring and publishing research.

It is encouraging and timely that Canadian and American organizations such as the OMTA and the AMTA are providing research grants and awards to eligible candidates. The critical questions remains however: “How are registered massage therapists becoming directly involved in doing research?” The first door that must be unlocked is the creation of a BSMT and access to graduate level study that will enable us to build our body of knowledge.

In anticipation of successful completion of degree requirements WCCMT will be creating upgrade options for in province and out of province graduates who may be interested in pursuing the BSMT.

For more information, please visit our website at www.wccmt.edu. 


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