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Taking Advancement Of The Profession Into Our Own Hands

Taking Advancement Of The Profession Into Our Own Hands

What do you get when you have a group of PT’s, MT’s and Trainers from the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia drinking beer in a hot tub?

A lengthy discussion on what’s wrong with our profession.

And I use the term “our” profession even though all of us have a different scope of practice, because to my surprise, we’re all facing the same issues. At every level there is an issue with education, regulatory bodies, our peers and even some associations.

You see the problem in all of these industries is a lack of change.

The schools have too much invested within themselves to make changes that would help improve the profession. They are still stuck in research from 20-30 years ago, and well, change is difficult.

The regulatory bodies are concerned (as well they should be, as it’s their role) about protecting the public. All too often they err on the side of caution and ignore new developments in research and practice, which in turn harms the profession. And when I say harms the profession, I find it shocking just how badly it can harm the profession. This is exactly what I love to hear.  

Little did I know the extent it was happening in our industry until the above conversation.

When regulatory bodies ignore things like mental health and the biopsychosocial approach, but still promote and teach research and science that is long outdated, not only do we suffer as therapists but unfortunately so does the public, which these regulatory bodies are supposed to be protecting.  By their very definition they need to adopt new standards or they are strongly in breach of their core duty.

As the frustration grows among therapists who are trying to do right by their patients (and their profession), it is beginning to become apparent that we have no choice.

It’s time to take things into our own hands.

Creating CEC’s

Where this can be a bit of a problem, is the lack of therapists who want to get involved. Like it or not we are a fairly apathetic group. We tend to get lost in just going to work doing our treatments and shutting down at the end of the day. Then we are usually scrambling at the end of the year to fulfill our CECs.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that (well actually I guess I am), I used to be one of those therapists. I wouldn’t bother going to a college or an association AGM, wouldn’t bother to vote on anything, and would take whatever CEC’s came to town, just to fill the quota. But as time went on, started to realize change was needed, not only in myself but also in the profession.

Since it’s apparent that nothing is going to change when it comes to entry to practice standards, if we want change it’s going to be up to us.  The best way to change our profession and influence practice standards is to have a critical mass of therapists lobbying and demanding change.

This can be a bit tricky.

Since entry to practice won’t change, we look to continuing education to help shape our careers. Tania Velasquez wrote a great piece on Modalities vs Concepts and not getting caught up in the modality empires. Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning a new modality, in fact through most regulatory bodies it’s encouraged. However what we need to do, is be careful not to get caught up in the bias’ that usually go with some of those classes and make sure they’re backed by sound research and encourage critical thinking. Part of the problem is that there aren’t a lot of courses that encourage this.

So, what do we do in cases like this?

It’s time to start developing our own. If we truly care about the advancement of our profession, it’s high time we start breaking the mold of what is being offered and rely on each other to develop continuing education. Over the past couple of years (and I’ve wrote about it on here) I’ve started attending more conferences for my CECs instead of just hands on manual courses. For each conference I’ve been to, it has been amazing to meet like minded therapists from, not only different countries, but also different backgrounds and certification levels who all want to improve their profession.

And the beauty of it all…they’re all willing to work together.

We all have different strengths that would lend itself to quality CEC courses. In the last two weeks alone I’ve had discussions with other therapists on possibilities for courses on motivational interviewing, pain science introduction, DNM, assessment and of course first aid. The more we can collaborate and work together to develop the education happening after college, the bigger change we can make in bettering ourselves and the profession.


Photo by: Unsplash


There are a few ways we can make this happen.

Typically when we think of a mentor, we think of a one on one coaching type dynamic. While this is a great option and should be highly sought after, it can also be difficult to find an agreement that works for both parties.

Our local association encourages a mentorship program in which a more experienced therapist takes a less experienced practitioner and gives them tips and advice when starting out. This is a great way for a new grad to learn the ropes and build confidence. However if this is something you’re thinking of, there should be compensation (I don’t know if our association encourages that or not) given to the mentor. Years of experience and of course their time should only be given away if they choose to allow that, but it would be a wise investment on the part of a new grad.

Online there are several ways to gain mentorship. Joining several of the Facebook groups out there, you can learn a ton just by watching the comments and interaction among other therapists. But just like anything else, you have to choose wisely. Just like when choosing your CEC course, make sure the group(s) you decide to follow are quality and backed by research and science, or at least promote those two topics.

You can also create meet-ups in your area, to see if other therapists would like to get together and just talk shop. I’ve learned more from going out for a couple pints with other practitioners to pick their brain about what they’re good at (and probably forgot a lot of it) than I can ever pay back to them. You’d be amazed if you just put a request out how many therapists would be willing to do this. But don’t keep it to just Massage Therapists, meet up with ATs, Chiros, Physios and Personal Trainers, they all have knowledge you can learn from.

Blogs. Start following some good quality blogs, there are a ton out there! However the same caution I talked about earlier should be applied when deciding which ones to follow. Find the ones who cite quality research, give advice and focus on patient centred care. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of the bloggers that I follow and every time have been amazed at their humility. While some of them charge for products on their sites, they are usually quite willing to give away lots of free content. If you can use some of their paid content as CECs all the better (and easier) for you to learn from.

As therapists, there is no end to the amount of things we can learn. But we do have a choice in what we learn. Shaping your career and profession is all of our responsibility, not to be left up to the regulatory bodies. When you go take new courses that give you quality information, there is also a responsibility on your part to share that information in your community with other practitioners. There are some therapists out there doing some pretty amazing things, but we can make greater change as a group than we can flying solo.

As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.

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Jamie Johnston

Founder at The MTDC
As the creator of the site, I hope you like what you’re reading. I’m a Registered Massage Therapist in Victoria BC, former Massage college clinical supervisor, First Responder instructor, hockey fan and volunteer firefighter. Come hang out on the facebook page, where we can share some ideas about how to improve the perception of the Massage Therapy industry.
Jamie Johnston
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  1. Tania Velasquez March 21, 2017

    YOU NAILED IT, Jamie!

    Thank you for the work you do and thank you for the mention 😉 It’s a nice relief knowing I wasn’t the only one frustrated, crazy, and determined enough to start a website inspired by the exact points you mentioned hahaha. I believe we are reaching that critical mass and it’s good joining forces with troopers like you to make that change happen. The sooner we can pivot the direction of this profession, the more the general population will benefit over all. THIS is another way we can truly help people. Rock on!

    • Jamie Johnston March 23, 2017

      Thanks Tania, I think you’re right on reaching critical mass, it’s happening!! Keep up the great work.

  2. Rick Merriam (@rickmerraim) March 21, 2017

    You made some great points here, Jamie.

    If we’re being honest, most massage therapists are in a position where they aren’t capable of providing enough value.

    Enough value, to where clients feel like the work that’s being done is worth (much!?) more than what the average is for the field. This is a BIG problem! And it’s not going to go away with the same thinking that put massage therapists in this position in the first place.

    Therefore, having the right mindset and skillset to earn more while not working as many hours has never been more important than it is right now!

    The reality is, providing massage as a way to make a living requires a tremendous amount of physicality.

    Since that’s the case, here’s a question worth asking: What are the *real* reasons why the majority of massage therapists aren’t capable of putting themselves in a position where they can make more per session? (While working not working as many hours.)

    One of the biggest lies that’s prevalent across many fields is that years of experience and more education are the answer.

    In other words, saying and doing the same things for more years than a massage therapist that’s been saying and doing things with what is relatively the same thought process for less years, doesn’t equate to one practitioner possessing more expertise than another.

    I’m sure there are many people who feel that getting a certain amount of CEC’s per year is important. And because of that thought process, they’re in favor of keeping CEC’s mandatory.

    Meanwhile, on a day to day basis, most massage therapists are faced with more challenges than ever before.

    Having taught classes where CEC’s are attached for many years, I know it’s not possible to go into much depth in the amount of time that’s required.

    At this point in time, having seen what we’ve seen throughout the years, I doubt there’s any data to show that the approved CEC’s for massage have made anything better.

    One major reason: by only requiring CEC’s that have been approved for massage, most massage therapists are only going to do enough to meet the requirement in their state.

    Which is another way of saying, they’re only going to spend time and money on the bare minimum!

    If we just look at the financial piece, by locking massage therapists into only getting CEC’s that are approved, they’re not only pursuing what everybody else in their field is pursuing, they’re also *unknowingly* thinking in the same way that everybody else in their field is. Which may or not be flawed. Nonetheless, when massage therapists are left to choose from what they’re left to choose from, the case could be made that it’s difficult to see the difference.

    If CEC’s for massage weren’t a requirement, the massage therapists that are *learners* are going to spend money on education – regardless.

    With money to spend in any field that has the potential to benefit them the most, not only are they likely to stand out from the crowd, they’ve also put themselves in a position where they could make more money per session.

    • Jamie Johnston March 23, 2017

      I think I see what you’re saying Rick, what if CEC’s were mandatory, but you got to choose whatever education you took, rather than what was “approved”?

      As far as money goes, should we switch to something more like they physical therapists, where a session isn’t based on time, but treatment? So go from say $X per session as opposed to $X for 30, 45, 60 min?

  3. Rick Merriam (@rickmerraim) March 21, 2017

    *(While not working as many hours.)

  4. Brie Timings March 27, 2017

    Hi Jamie, Thank you for your opinion, observations, and passion about the advancement of our field. As the Associate Director of a Canadian Massage School, I am curious how you feel we could improve when you say, “they are still stuck in the research of 20-30 years ago.” I would love to hear more about how you see the education sector improving 🙂

    • Jamie Johnston March 27, 2017

      Hi Brie, thanks for the comment.

      There is a long list of things that are still being taught at the schools here in BC (I’m not sure about the curriculum at wellington college) that have been outdated for some time.

      1. Massage releases toxins, so patient has to drink water immediately after treatment.
      2. Trigger points are “knots”in a muscle.
      3. Massage increases circulation.
      4. Massage “lengthens”a muscle.

      Just to name a few, I’d love to chat more with you about it, if you’d like to Skype sometime.

      • Andrea April 19, 2017

        Hi Jamie and Brie,

        As a massage therapy student in Canada who is about to graduate in a couple of weeks, this comment REALLY hits home. Though I feel incredibly privileged and grateful for the overall education I have been receiving, I know that current students receive more than our fair share of outdated or non evidence-informed information and ideas in our programs around the country. Sadly, this often comes with unfortunate practical and ethical consequences, and our traditional professional culture often makes conversations about this feel threatening– making meaningful change that much harder.
        I am hoping to dedicate as much time as possible outside of practice to contribute to idea-sharing with respect to this problem, and hopefully also to support curriculum updates and reforms in whatever way I can. In recent weeks, I have been looking to connect with as many people as I can who have similar interests, especially anyone who works within or has in interest in our education system. If anyone would like to get in touch with me or suggest any organizations I may be able contact/join, please feel more than welcome to do so. Thanks!

        • Jamie Johnston April 27, 2017

          Thanks for the comment Andrea. I would say a good start is to connect with your provincial massage therapy association. They are hopefully promoting science based courses and research to help advance the profession. There are several good groups on Facebook that you can learn a lot from, just by watching the comments and threads from some “skeptical”therapists. Which province are you in?


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