Massage Therapy Canada

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The “sports” RMT: Challenges of a speciality designation


May 25, 2020
By Jonathan Maister on behalf of the Executive of CSMTA
© GioRez / Adobe Stock

In the past one and a half years, the question of the official designation of “Certified Sport Massage Therapist” has come under discussion. The discourse arose initially with the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia. Subsequently the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario has been in an ongoing dialogue with the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association about the use of this term.

Further clarification is in order.

These Colleges (BC and Ontario) voiced their concern about the title “Certified Sport Massage Therapist.” As previously remarked, Massage Therapy, Massage Therapist, Registered Massage Therapist, MT, RMT, Massotherapeute, Massotherapeute Inscrit(e), Massotherapie, Massage Therapeutique as well as any variation or abbreviations are all protected titles and trademarked by the regulatory bodies. This legal precedent makes a clear distinction for the public to differentiate someone who has been suitably trained, from an unregulated bodyworker with unknown or non-standardized training and no official ethics standard.

It’s argued that the title of “Sport Massage Therapist” and designations of SMT(C) and SMT (cc), after the therapist’s name are in violation of the Ontario Regulated Health Professions Act. In point of fact this is not just a perception. With best of intentions by all, an official and legal title has been inadvertently misapplied. The Colleges function with close regard for legalities and legislation, and dealing with this is within their mandate as governing bodies while ensuring absolute clarity for the public. The term Certified Sport Massage Therapist unfortunately muddies the waters. The public must have absolute clarity, and this is the concern of the Regulatory Colleges.

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To give some historical context, the Canadian Sport Massage Association, as it was initially known, was founded in 1987. This predated The Regulated Health Professions Act by 4 years so this discussion was clearly not a consideration. The RHPA was passed in Ontario in 1991. In 1998 the CSMA changed it’s name to the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association (CSMTA). As CSMTA evolved, membership was defined by levels: Level 1, 2 and 3 which clearly bore no significance to the RHPA or the respective regulatory Colleges. This then changed to Certified Sport Massage Therapist and Certification Candidate to reflect the evolution of our education and training protocols which are recognized as comprehensive, and are standard nationwide. However, in all innocence, this designation subsequently came under scrutiny for the reasons given. As stated, the professional designations under discussion evolved at a time when this was not under consideration by the various Colleges; but this has since changed. Present circumstances indicate that CSMTA has reached a certain national profile and all our policies and procedures, mandates, Core Competencies and Professional Designations must line up with all legalities and professional criteria.

Health care professionals, especially those immersed in sport medicine, are fully aware of the term sport massage therapist and the training associated with it, the public is not. The training, subsequent qualification and skill set associated with those who practice sport massage must however be reflected in a designation that does not disturb the title “Massage Therapist”. In fact, having consulted with an intellectual property lawyer, it was confirmed that CSMTA cannot trademark the term “Sport Massage Therapist”. As stated, the term “Massage Therapist” and all derivatives thereof, are trademarked and protected by the Regulatory Bodies.

The recent letter and survey to the membership in this regard that had been distributed by CSMTA was not so much done in haste, but rather reflected a process that was required to be performed and completed within a fairly short timeline; it was a procedure that had to begin without delay. This survey was a process of consultation with our members. The executive, being well aware of the legislative and legal considerations, had to act decisively (not wait for their AGM for an example) but did so in with consideration of the membership. Our dialogue with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario stressed the urgency of this matter and we proceeded forthwith. CSMTA’s relationship with various parallel organizations has always been excellent, and our actions and procedures must meet the needs of these organizations and be in concert with our established reputation of goodwill. Our survey listed designation options to address the present challenges. The titles that were suggested in the survey were a reflection of what other expert groups are designating themselves so we will be in line with their titles. Professional designations that were deemed unacceptable had already been pruned from the submitted options by the CSMTA executive.

Sport massage cannot be regulated separately. We are a national organization and regulation occurs provincially. The colleges have no desire to regulate sport massage nor would such an arrangement suit us. Hence, for the sake of an adjustment to how we self define, this otherwise intractable situation can be obviated. This is the solution that suits both CSMTA and the various colleges. And we are grateful that they are willing to assist us through the process. As an entity CSMTA is provider of health care, not a legislated body with a mandate to manage the various details associated with this. We welcome their partnership in this journey.

All initiatives associated with this process will ensure the perpetuation of CSMTA as a nationally recognized and respected provider organization of sport medicine to the public and athletic population. This initiative ensures it occurs within all the legislative and regulatory statutes. At present five provinces have a regulatory body overseeing massage therapy; this will grow in the future. The profile of CSMTA has risen nationally and internationally – note our membership with WFATT (https://www.wfatt.org/). For all these reasons this means our professional designations cannot be casually defined (which was the case up until now, albeit well recognized and accepted for some two decades), but these must now line up fully with these statutes. In essence it’s an indication that this organization has “Come of Age”.

As inconvenient as this process may be, it’s a reflection of our excellent work as health care practitioners and that our raison d’etre has been well met.


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