By JOSH ALDRICH
Chandra Kastern is a Red Deer massage therapist on a mission: regulation of the industry in Alberta.
Massage therapy is unregulated in the province with four different associations, all with their own different set of standards and bylaws.
This lack of government oversight has created a number of issues from insurance coverage to safety of the clientèle.
Regulation would help legitimize the profession in the same way as physiotherapy and athletic therapy.
“The profession at large refers to themselves as a profession, but we’re not because we’re not regulated, and the practitioners themselves utilize the title ‘registered massage therapist.’ The term ‘registered’ is actually a protected term under the Health Practitioners Act . . . and nobody is in Alberta,” said Kastern, communications co-ordinator for the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta.
She is spending the next the few weeks travelling the province, holding open houses to get the conversation going and to get information out to as many of the approximately 8,000 massage therapists in Alberta that she can.
Part of the problem is the public does not realize the industry has no regulatory body. This affects many different aspects from insurance billing — only certain therapists are approved by certain insurance companies, unbeknownst to the clients — to educational standards for the therapists.
Massage therapy is only regulated in B.C., Ontario, Newfoundland Labrador and New Brunswick, creating major issues if massage therapists from Alberta want to transfer to one of those provinces.
The biggest reason for regulation is patient safety, said Kastern.
This is to protect clients, from masseuses using improper techniques and may inadvertently be causing injury to those they’re trying to help, and from criminal activity and sexual abuse.
Kastern has her own practice in Red Deer and has been in the industry for 14 years.
“The very nature of the therapeutic relationship — the massage therapist is fully clothed, standing upright over the patient while the patient is naked on the table in a dimly lit room … to me it should be a qualified person that’s in that position.”
Though she says the will seems to be there for regulation, there are still some major stumbling blocks, chief among them education.
Many therapists are concerned that they will have to go back to school and shut down their business in the meantime to reach standards on paper, despite already being in the industry for a number of years.
“The reality of it, when the minister set out his recommendations in 2009, it was made abundantly clear that there had to be a plan to transition the entire existing profession … into the new regulatory body. It’s patently false that their livelihood will be affected.”
The process for regulation really began in 2008 when the Health Profession’s Advisory Board recommended it, but it has been a long drawn out process since with little progress.
At this point, the plan is to get correct information out to practitioners and then for the government to poll the profession at large, away from the associations, with the hope they will self-regulate.
Tamina Gravelle, a local practitioner with 10 years of experience, said, “If everybody would educate themselves on the facts of it all, they would see it’s not quite so scary. We’re not out to put anyone out of work … but no one is paying attention to the greater good, they’re more paying attention to themselves and that’s going to be hard for them.”