Massage Therapy in Canada: A Different Practice by Province

Massage therapy in Canada – Relaxation, pain relief, relaxation of muscle tension, better circulation of energy through the body. There are many benefits of massage. However, training for massage therapists and the process of validating their skills varies from one province to the other. How do you get there?

Massage therapy is defined as the manipulation of soft tissues (e.g., muscles, tendons) in order to relieve pain or promote health. So in order to provide their clients with care which is effective, safe and appropriate to their condition, massage therapists must first acquire in-depth knowledge of anatomy, as well as mastering one or more massage techniques (e.g., Swedish, Shiatsu, Californian, etc.). However, there are different requirements in Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia.

Non-uniform regulation

The practise of massage therapy in Canada is provincially regulated. It is therefore up to each province to determine the training required and the standards of practice for the profession on its territory.

Only four provinces regulate massage therapy in Canada: British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and New Brunswick. To exercise the profession in one of these territories, a massage therapist must:

  • Complete a recognized training program of approximately 2,200 hours over two to three years (the duration varies significantly from province to province);
  • Have his/her skills validated by the professional order of the province in which he studied;
  • Obtain a license issued by the order that covers massage therapists in that province.

In 2009, the four provinces that regulate massage therapy adopted the Interprovincial Competency Standards and Performance Indicators for Candidates for the Practice of Massage Therapist (in 2012 for New Brunswick). This document, which standardizes skill requirements, greatly facilitates the movement of massage therapists, who can now more easily practice their profession in other jurisdictions. 

In provinces where the profession is not regulated, massage therapists have the opportunity to become members of an association of other touch professionals. The number of organizations which the massage therapist can choose to join and the training requirements vary from province to province.

Due to the lack of consistency among associations, particularly with respect to membership requirements, the skills of massage therapists vary enormously in Canada. In Quebec, for example, the Quebec Federation of Massage Therapists requires a minimum of 400 hours of training to become a member, while the Association of Massage Therapists of Alberta requires completion of a 2,200 hour program.  Affiliation with one of these associations, however, is not required to practice massage therapy in a province where the profession is not regulated.

Some of the associations of massage therapists in non-regulated provinces:

Career prospects for massage therapists:

  • Health and Wellness Centres
  • Health facilities
  • Sports centres
  • Private enterprise
  • Teaching
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