In keeping with the legacy of its founders, the FQM has always stayed true to its vision of professionalizing the practice of massage therapy in Quebec. To meet this objective, massage therapy must be recognized on a therapeutic level and given its rightful place in the health sector. Relaxation constitutes a point of departure – a stage in the evolution of the profession – though not an end in itself. Consequently, we firmly believe in the creation of a professional order. Since massage therapists are health professionals, and since most health professions are governed by a professional order, we believe that the massage therapy community must also benefit from a similar regulatory body. For this reason, we tabled a memorandum to that effect with the ministère de la Justice and the Office des professions du Québec (OPQ).
Above and beyond the FQM’s official position, it’s no secret that the majority of massage therapists practicing in Quebec would like to gain professional recognition within the health sector through the creation of a professional order, as indicated by a 2010 Léger Marketing survey commissioned by the Comité sectoriel de la main-d’œuvre des services de soins personnels. Carried out with a sample of 325 Quebec-based massage therapists, the survey revealed that, in the view of the massage therapists surveyed, the absence of official recognition by government authorities and the non-recognition by other health professionals are (respectively) the first and third leading problems faced by practicing massage therapists. What’s more, in 2011 the firm Écho Sondage carried out a telephone survey with a random sample of 803 Quebec adults: Some 85% of respondents said it was important to have the practice of massage therapy governed by a professional order.
The FQM memo was tabled at an opportune time, therefore, and it was consistent with the development of massage therapy in Quebec from the outset. Once viewed as a leisure activity meant to promote personal welfare, massage therapy is now recognized as a form of health care. Massage therapists have assumed their rightful place on multidisciplinary clinical care teams alongside physiotherapists, occupational therapists and osteopaths, and in the public health network (in hospitals and residential and palliative care facilities).
For purposes of public safety, the profession of massage therapy is in urgent need of oversight in Quebec. At present this oversight is non-existent; and since training, therefore, is not standardized, anyone can tout themselves as a massage therapist without holding the necessary competencies. This regulatory vacuum opens the door to improvisers and charlatans – and even the malintentioned and, in many cases, those with criminal intentions.
The creation of a professional order of massage therapists would also serve to put Quebec on par with other Canadian provinces. Indeed, belonging to a professional order will promote the mobility of Quebec-based massage therapists hoping to be recognized outside the province. After all, massage therapists in Ontario (the College of Massage Therapists) and British Colombia have long had a professional order, Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit a decade ago, and other Canadian provinces are moving in the same direction.
To enjoy greater trust from other health professionals such as oncologists, general practitioners and nurses, massage therapists and the patients and kin they serve must be held to higher standards. The creation of a professional order will serve to reassure our clients, patients and their loved ones as well as facilitate the integration of competent and properly supervised massage therapists into the circle of health professionals involved in treatment.
Massage therapists have everything to gain from the oversight of a professional order, though it is the general public, more importantly, who stand to benefit the most.