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Funny you should say that

Our profession can be guilty of floating some pretty novel notions. As a practitioner, practice manager, lecturer, trainer and previous assessor in the auto-insurance realm, I have seen convictions RMTs treat as factual – even gospel – without critically examining their plausibility.  


December 21, 2015
By Don Quinn Dillon

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Our profession can be guilty of floating some pretty novel notions.

I have contributed to that culture of convictions myself, carrying over ideas passed down to me by well-meaning colleagues who probably didn’t think them through when they adopted them from other predecessors. It’s understandable the student or unseasoned practitioner would accept the information passed down by a mentor or the RMT culture as hard fact without much reflection.

Because these convictions can have serious implications for the business of practice, I tackle a few in this column.

 “Don’t pay more than ‘x’ per cent.” Practitioners are often counselled they should expect and demand the lion’s share of the service fee. The person brokering the practice opportunity may be painted as a money-grabbing exploiter, charging too much rent. In my consultations with many RMTs-turned-practice-brokers, it’s the business owner who is squeezed when rent paid is insufficient – leaving the business open to risk and financial instability.  

Practitioners must realize they need to bring value to the table to expect more. A practitioner is more valuable if she possesses the four Cs: capital to invest in the business, contacts to solicit for appointments, actual business competence, and the commitment to manage or contribute to operations. Whatever the practitioner doesn’t possess they must pay for. In my experience, I have found that many practitioners who work as employee or contractors fail to appreciate the true costs of running a business, and RMTs-turned-practice-brokers don’t appreciate the value of the opportunity they’re providing.

“The CMTO says…” The regulatory body gets shouldered with many imagined policies. For example, RMTs have been told to “…avoid working cross-body.” Yet, the college’s standards, policies or position statements don’t reflect these assertions.

If you wonder about the validity of something you’ve heard or read, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) provides online resources for standards of practice/code of ethics, policies and position statements. In addition, the professional practice advisor is available by phone or email and is very helpful. You don’t need to fear the CMTO. It works hard to help you attain compliance with regulations and continues to do so.

“Massage therapy is ‘health care’.” Massage therapists are currently regulated in four Canadian provinces, but are not typically employed in health-care facilities. Their services are not funded in any of the provincial government-sanctioned health-care plans (Massage therapy services are still covered under British Columbia’s provincial health-care plan for persons with low income. The plan, which previously covered massage therapy for all B.C. residents, was cut back in 2004.)

Despite almost 90 years of regulation in Ontario – the last quarter century under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) – massage therapists are not treated as health-care providers. Massage therapy is subject to the goods and services tax HST (many other health professions are exempt) and there remains no Medicare funding. 

While being perceived as working within health care is a desired objective for many massage therapists, from a government, insurer, gatekeeper health discipline and public/media perspective, massage therapy remains adjunctive – even alternative – funded out-of-pocket or by employers through workplace benefit plans.

By extension, “health care” represents only part of the marketplace massage therapists serve.  Practitioners work in spas, rehab or multidisciplinary centres, in private practice, on-site in corporate workplace wellness programs, on resorts and cruise ships, athletic/fitness facilities, and other situations where people use massage for well-being. These markets demonstrate the diversity that massage is delivered, thus massage cannot be relegated to a health care context alone.

“Regulation/accreditation/research will solve all our problems.” While regulation has provided some value to the profession and its practitioners, it has not been successful in positioning massage therapists alongside other health disciplines in provincial health care funding, HST exemption, nor provided the hoped-for legitimacy with government, insurers, gatekeeper health disciplines and the public/media. The call for accreditation of massage training schools and research literacy have also promised credibility in the eyes of these aforementioned authorities.

While regulation, school accreditation and research literacy are important and necessary objectives, they cannot by themselves achieve the credibility assigned to them. Relationships must be cultivated with the mentioned stakeholders using considerable professional resources to incur influence and upgrade the profession’s position.

Observe how the naturopathic and acupuncture professions – both smaller and arguably more alternative than massage therapy – zoomed past our profession in 2014 to acquire regulation and HST exemption, even while their regulatory colleges were still forming in Ontario. Such a victory required cross-profession collaboration, a clear target, time and money. We should emulate their example.

Before you adopt or support anything you hear in the isolation of your practice, I encourage you to critically examine adopted RMT cultural convictions. Generate discussion, adopt practical applications only when you prove them to be true yourself.

Write me at don@MassageTherapistPractice.com and share what antiquated convictions you would like to see put out to pasture.


Don Quinn Dillon, is a registered massage therapist, speaker and mentor.  Find him at MassageTherapistPractice.com.


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