How to Find a Massage Therapist
Consumers’ expectations vary when seeking massage treatments. Some people receive massage therapy for medical reasons, such as for rehabilitation after sprains. Some other people receive massage for relaxation or occasional “pampering.” Many others are seeking a combination of the two. It is important to choose the right massage therapist and practice environment for your needs and desires.
The massage industry in Canada and the U.S. is mixed, containing both licensed and unlicensed therapists with a wide variety of training backgrounds and qualifications. Canadian massage licensing is very different from licensing in the U.S. Currently, Ontario and Newfoundland-Labrador require 2,200 hours of training, while British Columbia requires 3,000 hours of training (most states in the U.S. require only about 500 hours of training; New York, which requires 1,000 hours, has the most stringent licensing requirements in the U.S.). Whether you are seeking massage for therapeutic or relaxation purposes, it is essential that you receive proper care from licensed providers. In Ontario, this means seeking care from a registered massage therapist (RMT).
In Ontario, massage therapy is regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act. Only members of the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario are permitted to use the title Massage Therapist or Registered Massage Therapist, or the designation of RMT.
Registered massage therapists can be searched online at rmtfind.com, a site operated by the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario (RMTAO).
Tips for Finding the Right Massage Therapist and Environment
Ask your friends or co-workers
When looking for a massage therapist, you may want to get some referrals from friends, co-workers, or relatives that have had experience with a particular therapist or practice.
Ask a professional
Another great source for referrals is your doctor or another health care practitioner.
Check the location
If you plan to visit a massage therapist on a regular basis, you may want to find a therapist close to work or home.
Think about practice settings
Massage services are provided in a wide variety of practice settings, including the following:
- Massage therapy clinic
- Wellness center
- Doctor’s office
- Rehab center/physiotherapy clinic
- Fitness club
- Chiropractic clinic
- Hair salon
- Therapist’s own home or apartment
Your massage experience can vary greatly not only with your choice of therapist or modality, but also with your choice of environment. For example, massage therapy at a rehab or physiotherapy clinic can be strictly therapeutic, focusing on just one or two areas of your body. In some rehab or physiotherapy clinics, massage may be provided in the corner of a large training area separated from the main area only by drapes or a small partition. Receiving a massage at a high-end spa can be more relaxing; however, you will likely pay a premium for the comforting environment.
If you are elderly or have a physical disability, it is a good idea to check the accessibility of the facility you are considering. Does the facility have stairs but no elevator? Is it wheelchair-accessible? In some cases, you may want to consider choosing a therapist who does house calls so that you can receive massage therapy in the comfort of your own home without traveling.
Most registered massage clinics and facilities in Ontario follow the RMTAO’s fee guidelines.
As a result, massage therapy fees in Ontario are generally fairly consistent across clinics. Many spas and salons, however, set their own fee schedules for massage services, and these prices can be significantly higher than ordinary massage fees.
Consider also additional costs:
Tax: In Ontario, massage services are subject to HST (13%). Registered massage therapy may become HST-exempt in future, but at this time (January 2011), HST applies to massage services, regardless of whether or not the provider is registered.
Tips: Registered Massage Therapists are the ONLY licensed healthcare practitioners in Ontario that receive tips. Currently, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario does not prohibit its members from accepting tips. Whether and how much to tip is the consumer’s choice. In general, tipping is the norm if you receive registered massage services at a spa, salon, or hotel, while tipping is not customary at medical clinics and therapeutically oriented massage clinics. Some RMTs who consider themselves professional healthcare providers do not accept tips by their own choice.
Massage therapy, when conducted by an RMT, is covered under many extended health plans. A doctor’s note is not always required. Coverage eligibility and requirements vary per policy. Please check with your insurance company.
Therapist Gender and Experience
If you have a preference for a male or female therapist, do not hesitate to ask for whichever you prefer while booking your appointment. At the same time, you can inquire about the therapist’s number of years of hands-on experience in massage therapy. It is impossible to develop mastery and fluency in the art of massage from classroom training alone. Many essential elements of massage can only be learned through years of clinical practice.