Massage Therapy Canada

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Trends in Alberta

Alberta has long been an attractive location for residency due in part to the great economy that abounds in the province.
Practitioners from across Canada are drawn to the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains as well as the laid-back “Alberta way of life.”

September 29, 2009  By Christy Pritchard CAE

Alberta has long been an attractive location for residency due in part to the great economy that abounds in the province.

Practitioners from across Canada are drawn to the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains as well as the laid-back “Alberta way of life.”

The new and unique strategies the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta (MTAA) has developed over the past number of years are based on the unique free market environment in the province and the influx of massage therapists from across the country.
The MTAA, incorporated in 1953, is one of the oldest massage therapy associations in Canada and its members work diligently to assure the public of their continuing commitment for professional growth and public safety.

The MTAA represents massage therapists exclusively and has consistently taken a leading role in the pursuit of regulating the profession of massage therapy in the province of Alberta.


Regulatory Body
Currently, there is no absolute regulatory body for the profession of Massage Therapy within Alberta. As is the trend Canada-wide, member associations of the Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance support and advocate for an environment where there is an absolute agency holding massage therapists accountable for their actions. Alberta is no different and has for years been trying to regulate the profession.

The last few years has seen another determined surge of commitment to obtaining an environment where the public interest is served by being granted the privilege to self regulate massage therapists, this time under Alberta’s new Health Professions Act. As is the trend in the other unregulated provinces, the Alberta government received a barrage of advocacy to prevent this from occurring.

The MTAA believes in the process that Alberta’s Health Professions Act has in place and in the belief that massage therapy should take its place as a regulated health profession.

As a result, the Alberta public remain in an entirely “buyer beware” market. The free enterprise environment allows for numerous and diverse training institutions to offer programs anywhere from 250 hours combined massage and reflexology or related instruction, to 2200-hour programs, the Nationally recognized standard of training for Massage Therapy. The MTAA supports those educational programs that train to an accepted competency, but also require successful completion of a peer-administered examination to qualify for membership.

Membership Eligibility

Despite the unregulated environment that currently exists in Alberta, the MTAA maintains a leadership role
in the profession and obligates the following membership eligibility requirements of all Full and Inactive members as per association bylaws:

  • Hold a Diploma or Certificate from a Massage training program.
  • Successfully complete an Admissions Examination*
  • Hold valid First Aid/CPR Certificate
  • Disclose any criminal convictions

*This examination is based on a 2200-hour equivalency of education and is psychometrically evaluated to maintain validity and reliability. Overall, this process enables the Association to promote and uphold our accepted standards.

In recognition of the changing environment and the influx of practitioners to the province, the MTAA Board of Directors realized a number of years ago that there are numerous individuals who have previously completed either a voluntary Provincial Association Admissions Examination or a Provincial Board Examination administered by the regulatory college of massage therapy within a regulated environment.

Recognizing that these individuals have already proven competency in their chosen career, the MTAA implemented policies allowing for a transfer of these practitioners to the association without having to re-write the competency examination here in Alberta.

The current environment within Alberta is highly competitive for member-service based organizations within the massage therapy profession, which brings with it a need to deliver superior benefits to practitioner members.

The MTAA has worked hard over the last several years to listen to the massage therapists in Alberta – not only our own members, but also students and members currently with other member services organizations.

In response to feedback from students enrolled in massage therapy training programs around Alberta, the MTAA has worked diligently to prepare a Competency Preparation Program to assist in heightening the understanding of the Alberta Admissions Examination procedure and ease the anxiety surrounding the entire examination procedure.

The MTAA recognizes that this examination process is entirely the practitioners’ choice and therefore not dedicated to assist in the transition from being a student to becoming a successful practitioner and a member of our professional organization.

This program has been extended to those practitioners who have been actively practicing and who are interested in membership with the MTAA, but have not written an Admissions Examination previously.

The MTAA has responded to the need for credentialing these practitioners who desire an alternative to their current member services provider. To be in compliance with Bylaws, MTAA members are required to prove their competency through an examination process.

The MTAA is pleased to announce the opportunity for these practitioners to challenge the newly created Alberta Existing Practitioners Examination, that will test within the same psychometrically sound examination process, but on material relevant to the practitioner with years in the field.

To provide additional member services to students who are completing their educational training, the MTAA Board of Directors recognized that there is a need to “bridge the gap” for Student Members from the time that they graduate until they can write the Alberta Massage Therapy Admissions Examination.

The Board of Directors has established criteria under which student members may qualify for a Conditional Membership Number in compliance with MTAA Bylaws.

Approximately two years ago, there was a significant shift in the insurance carriers’ willingness to maintain the breadth of coverage to the massage therapy industry that the MTAA believes is necessary to adequately cover our members. The MTAA works diligently to canvas the insurance industry to obtain the best insurance available for our members. There are only a handful of insurance companies in Canada that can handle the insurance needs of the MTAA, due to our request of having an “Occurrence Based” policy.

Professional liability often referred to as “Malpractice” insurance covers compensatory damages due to an injury arising out of the rendering of, or failure to render, professional services in the practice of massage therapy. Our policy also includes Commercial General Liability coverage at no additional cost, which is inclusive of Tenants Legal Liability, Medical Expense coverage, non-Owned Automobile coverage and Legal Expense coverage. Commercial General Liability is the GREATEST exposure that a massage therapist has. According to our brokerage, over 60 per cent of all liability claims fall under General Liability coverage.

The MTAA believes education and training is a priority for its members. Through the formation of the “Supported Education Program,” the MTAA is able to assist all members in their awareness of available Continuing Education opportunities.

This will benefit the individual member by remaining current in their practice and guaranteeing quality educational opportunities.

Members who participate in MTAA supported education courses are eligible for registration discounts. Members have continual access to a listing of those presenters who are participants in the program. Members are able to complete their Continuing Education hours through courses directly related to the practice of massage therapy. The availability of these courses leads to an increase in the value of an MTAA membership.

Effective October 1, 2004, new protocols that are part of the MVA Treatment Reforms, came into place for Alberta. The MTAA played an integral part in the discussions of the changes and what they would mean to massage therapists within the province.

The first notable change is that there are now two main options for a person injured in a car accident. They can be treated “inside” or “outside” of the Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols. To be treated within the protocols means that the injured person will first need to be assessed by a Primary Health Care Practitioner which can be an Medical Doctor, Chiropractor or Physical Therapist. Massage therapists are not currently considered to be Primary Health Care Practitioners due in part to the unregulated status of the profession within the province.

If the patient is not responding to treatment, they may be referred to an Injury Management Consultant (IMC) for a further assessment and report. The IMC will review all relevant information on the case, including all treatment notes, and make recommendation for further treatment or evaluation.

Under the new Reforms, it is important that massage therapists provide effective treatment and communicate with the insurer and other health care providers. Primary Health Care Practitioners, who refer to massage, will expect to see positive results in their patients and quality treatment notes on the completion of the protocols. They are expected to assess effectiveness by way of concrete outcome measures on an ongoing basis and provide feedback to the Senior Medical Advisor. This means that massage treatments and reports will also be regularly reviewed during the process of dealing with an injured party.

The new protocols were designed around evidence-based medicine, meaning the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best practice in making decisions about the care of the patient, integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. The information will be monitored on an ongoing basis to track outcomes for patients and effectiveness of the treating in accordance with the protocols.

If massage does not prove effective, we may lose the opportunity to participate in future funding schemes for treatments of WAD injuries. Ongoing compilation of treatment information along with
concerns from the insurers, health care practitioners and patients will help identify some aspects of the processes that may need to be modified.

This is an opportunity for massage therapists to prove our efficacy. We must finely tune our assessment skills, follow the most proven techniques available to us and then accurately document the results in a manner that can be included in the data collection and analysis process.

This pool of data will be reviewed on an ongoing basis by the government to evaluate the efficacy and cost-efficiency of the care provided.

It is important that we all can be confident that our colleagues are able to provide high quality assessment, treatment and useful reports written in proper terminology if MTAA is to promote its mission and vision in representing professional massage therapists.

The primary health care practitioners must have confidence that massage therapy treatment is effective, and it is their duty to only recommend treatments and practitioners to their patients that are working within the established protocols.

Consistency is key at this sensitive time and the MTAA is supportive of providing every one of our members the opportunity to be working from the same information and best practices.

It is up to each individual therapist to make a positive impact on your own career, in addition to the profession of massage therapy and embrace this opportunity.

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