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National accreditation for massage therapy education coming soon

Oct. 9, 2013 — Plans are underway to develop a national accreditation system for massage therapy education, and the proposed new accreditation body may be incorporated as early as the beginning of 2014.

This was revealed at a workshop held on Oct. 8, in Toronto, hosted by the national accreditation planning committee, where close to 70 representatives from various massage therapy schools and organizations participated.

October 9, 2013  By Mari-Len De

In their presentation, members of the planning committee stressed
collaboration among the stakeholders in the massage therapy profession –
regulators, educators and professional associations – is important to
achieve an effective and successful national accreditation program.
National accreditation indicates that an education program meets
pre-defined national standards and will allow labour mobility across
Canada for graduates of that accredited program.

accreditation is going to happen because the profession wants it and the
profession is going to drive it,” said David Cane, consultant for the
national accreditation planning committee and experienced in the area of
competency-based workplace standards.

“The only successful model for accreditation will be a collaborative model,” said Cane.

initiative to develop a national accreditation system for massage
therapy education started in 2009, according to Annette Ruitenbeek,
deputy registrar with the College of Massage Therapists of British
Columbia and a member of the national accreditation planning committee.


toward developing a national standard for massage therapy education
“speaks to how massage therapy in Canada is gelling as a component of
health-care,” said Ruitenbeek.

Since 2009, work has been
undertaken to create a single document that will merge massage therapy
competency standards across the three regulated provinces – British
Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. By 2012, the
Inter-Jurisdictional Practice Competencies and Performance Indicators
for Massage Therapists at Entry-to-Practice was completed and approved
by the Massage Therapy Consortium, comprised of the College of Massage
Therapists of British Columbia, College of Massage Therapists of
Newfoundland & Labrador, and the College of Massage Therapists of

This document was one of the “must-haves” for the
massage therapy national accreditation, according to Randy Ellingson,
also a member of the planning committee representing the Canadian
Council of Massage Therapy Schools. The Inter-Jurisdictional Practice
Competencies and Performance Indicators will serve as the blueprint for
developing the proposed national accreditation standards.

of the planning committee proposed the establishment of an independent
accreditation body, the Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation, with a
governing board of directors comprised of stakeholder representatives.
Under the planning committee recommendations, the eight-member board
will be composed of:

–    two representatives from the Federation
of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC),
representing the regulators
–    two representatives from the Canadian Council of Massage Therapy Schools, representing the educators
–    two from the Canadian Massage Therapy Alliance (CMTA), representing the professional associations
–    one member who is experienced in governance in accreditation
–    one member who is an experienced educator in a profession other than massage therapy

of the audience pointed out concerns that this proposed set-up may
leave out Ontario, with its large amount of massage therapists, as well
as Quebec and Manitoba unrepresented in the council, as massage therapy
professional associations in these provinces are not members of the

Cane said the planning committee is “aware that not all
professional associations are a member of the CMTA,” but the proposed
board selection “does not preclude (the association) from electing
someone who is not a member.”

Marilyn Sparling, chair of the
CMTA, who was present at the workshop stressed the CMTA has been “trying
to create the ability to collaborate.” She said the efforts are a “work
in progress as we try to be clear and inclusive.”

Funding for
the proposed accreditation council was also discussed. Members of the
audience expressed concerns about where the funding will come from and
whether it’s sustainable.

The planning committee estimated that
at full capacity – maintaining 120 accredited programs – the council
will incur a yearly operational cost of about $500,000. The initial
three years, however, will be less than that amount as the council
implements a phased-in accreditation process. Based on committee
estimates, the council will accredit only four programs in the first
year, 10 in the second year, and 20 each during the third year, fourth
year and fifth year.

The planning committee has proposed several
revenue options for the council. One option will see the educational
institutions paying an annual fee to the accreditation council. The
planning committee estimated that annual cost at about $4,200 per

The second revenue option is based on “per
practitioner” fee, in which massage therapists will pay an annual fee –
either through their professional associations or through their
regulatory licenses – to help fund the council. In this scenario, the
planning committee estimated that fee at around $30 per practitioner per

The third option is a blended model, in which the cost is shared between the practitioners and the massage therapy schools.

most of those attending the workshop agreed that creating a national
accreditation body is a good initiative and will propel the profession
forward, many of the concerns centred on the financial implications of
the initiative.

One participant is concerned about the
significant cost it would entail for massage therapy schools with
several programs and campuses. Others felt the numbers don’t quite add
up and asked the planning committee to explore the financial aspects
some more.

Cane, however, pointed out all that were presented by
the planning committee are simply recommendations and that the would-be
accreditation council will be tasked with developing and implementing
the final policies and processes, including the revenue model.

some in the audience have expressed optimism about the proposed
national accreditation system, despite the challenges that may come
along the way.

“I think the only way we can move forward as a
profession is if we get the schools accredited so that the therapists
that are coming out are of a consistent quality,” said Sara Sexton, an
RMT, who attended the workshop on behalf of the Newfoundland and
Labrador Massage Therapy Association.

Sexton said while she
appreciates the concerns expressed about the cost a national
accreditation program would entail, an accredited massage program would
also make schools more attractive to students.

“For the
discerning customer, i.e. the prospective massage therapy students, they
want to go to a school that is going to give them the best quality of
education and that is the only way as a profession, I believe, we can
move forward,” she added.

Wayne Baiton, principal owner of
Western College of Remedial Massage Therapies, a massage therapy school
in Regina, said an accreditation body would ensure that schools in
unregulated provinces like Saskatchewan are at par with national
standards in massage therapy education.

He also supports
educational accreditation because it would open up bigger opportunities
for practice for his massage therapy students.

“If my school can
become accredited, which I am confident it can be, it will give my
students, and my future students, the comfort and peace of mind that
even coming from a small population or area in the country does not mean
they won’t have the ability to move anywhere nationally and still
practice. So I am looking forward to that on behalf of my students and
future students,” Baiton said.

The planning committee said it
hopes to have the new Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation
established and incorporated by early 2014. What follows would be the
initial tasks of appointing the board of directors, developing the
bylaws and recruiting the chief executive officer. The CEO and the board
will then go through the process of establishing the policies and
accreditation requirements, according to Cane.

The planning committee estimates the council will be able to start reviewing applications by the latter part of 2015.

(Watch for the Winter 2013 issue of Massage Therapy Canada magazine for a more in-depth look at this story.)

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