“What do massage therapy associations even do?” I get this question all the time.
We’re not an insurance company, although we do offer insurance, and we’re not a union, although we do represent Massage Therapists. We’re not lobbyists, although we do promote massage therapy to government and stakeholders, and we’re not a money grab because we put every single penny back towards working for you.
We’re an association.
We’re a group of like-minded individuals with a common goal.
So why would you want to give your hard earned money to your professional association? What’s the benefit for you? What do you get for your money? In addition to the obvious benefits like preferred rates for insurance, continuing education opportunities, networking opportunities, access to research, and referral services, we provide insight and guidance, programs and services, tools and resources. But there is a much larger long-term benefit.
We Advocate For You
Advocacy, in its most basic form, means to speak in favour of something.
So, your association speaks in favour of the profession of massage therapy. We promote massage therapy as a part of primary health care to government, the insurance industry, the general public, and other stakeholders. We make people aware of what it is that massage therapists can do, how well you do it, and why it works. We make sure that massage therapy is an important part of the healthcare landscape.
We work for you.
Advocacy is often seen as “big picture work”. Sometimes it’s complicated and often takes a long time, but it also has a direct and practical impact on your career as an RMT. It impacts how you practice, how patients find you, and how you’re viewed. It’s not only your professional association that can make a difference – you can too.
There are really two ‘yous’ when it comes to advocacy. There is the ‘smaller you’ and the ‘larger you’. The ‘smaller you’ is each individual health professional (that’s you!). You demonstrate a commitment to professional practice, ongoing education and continuous improvement. You are the health professional that people point to and say “they are the reason that massage therapy is a valuable health care profession”. You are dedicated to your profession and are able to easily articulate why you have chosen massage therapy and why it works.
The day-to-day interactions with patients and the way you present yourself professionally are ways that you advocate for the profession – perhaps without even knowing you’re doing it. This is advocacy on an individual level and is incredibly important.
It is, in fact, the basis of all advocacy.
The ‘larger you’ is all Massage Therapists combined. It is a “coming together” as an association with a common purpose. It is team work, co-operation and collaboration combined, and that team work has the power to make a real difference. A large group with a common goal can do things that individuals can’t. Doors are open for associations that are not open for individuals. Together, the ‘larger you’ has a louder voice.
The “larger you”, the association, amplifies that voice and directs it towards the appropriate people and organizations. We get the right message to the people who are in a position to make change happen. There’s power in numbers, and numbers get people in a position of power to take notice.
A rising tide lifts all boats. Whatever the association achieves for Massage Therapists will affect you whether you’re a member of the association or not. I get it – it’s easier to save your money, put your head down, and do your job. But as part of the association, you get a say in the way the wind is blowing and how the boat is steered. When you’re not a part of the association, you’re along for the ride whether you like it or not.
Associations reach out to their members to get feedback. We want to know what you need, when you need it and how we can make it happen.
Most, if not all, RMTs think we should have access to extended healthcare benefits. They want to be respected as a primary health care provider. They expect and deserve to earn a suitable income.
Massage therapy associations are the groups that make sure massage therapy is a viable, respected and accessible profession. We want to make it easier for Massage Therapists to do their jobs. You already know how to get a patient back to optimal health. Our job is to make sure that you can provide your professional healthcare services and earn a living so that you can continue to do so.
Increasing Credibility Of Our Profession
Massage therapy associations are run by a board of your peers, chosen by you, who identify the issues and trends that will impact the profession and what we should do about it.
The board does extensive research to ensure they are representing the profession and the issues that are current to the day. They talk with members – the people these decisions will directly affect – and determine the way to position the profession for maximum success and the steps that should be taken in order to achieve the vision for the profession.
Massage therapy associations are run by Massage Therapists, for Massage Therapists. We keep a finger on the pulse of the profession and the landscape in which it operates.
Massage therapy associations work for the profession, and massage therapy regulatory bodies are primarily concerned with the public interest. Although these two groups may seem to be opposites, they are really two sides of the same coin. We both work in the best interest of the patient by making sure they are able to access massage therapy receive proper and appropriate care from Massage Therapists.
Both the association and the college must communicate with each other to work towards our separate mandates and our common goals. We both want Massage Therapists to be able to positively contribute to the health of Canadians.
RMTs are working with doctors, physiotherapists and chiropractors, in palliative care, and in hospitals – situations that may not have seemed possible in the early years of the profession. Massage therapy is now seen more often as a valuable healthcare option, which was made possible through years of advocacy undertaken by associations.
I suppose that provides an example of the answer to that frequently asked question ‘what do massage therapy associations even do?’ Associations determine the direction this profession should be heading, determine what we need to do to get it there, and then we actually do it.
The credibility of the profession has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks in part to the work of associations. Massage therapy remains the most utilized paramedical benefit in Canada behind drugs and vision care.
But we still have work to do.
Advocacy takes time. To make a significant change takes time. Developing the argument with the inescapable conclusion that massage therapy is an effective and critical piece of the healthcare puzzle is how we spend a large part of our time.
But this is time well spent.
It will ensure that massage therapy is and remains a solid and respected part of the health care landscape. It will ensure that you are appropriately rewarded for your time and effort. It will bring new patients to you because they will be aware of what massage therapy is and how it can help them, and it will ensure that you remain valued as a healthcare professional.
Canada is searching for solutions to the impending healthcare crisis. Massage Therapists are a part of that solution. It is the dedication and passion of Massage Therapists, which can be amplified by professional associations, which ensures massage therapy can remain an important part of health care. In your own community, and through your day-to-day professional life, you can advocate for the profession by the way you practice and the way you communicate that practice.As the larger you, your professional association is part of the important conversations, the important decisions, and the necessary actions now and in the future. Check out what your association is doing about the issues that affect you and your profession. It’s your profession and your association.