My colleagues and I graduated from West Coast College of Massage Therapy just before Christmas. It was a subdued affair on Zoom due to COVID restrictions. In fact, if I am being honest, it was a non-event for me, given the amount of blood, sweat and tears we had all given to get to through the myriad of courses, unending exams and evaluations to finally reach our chosen careers as Registered Massage Therapists. It was what it was; as health professionals, it is part of our duty of care to follow the Provincial guidelines around social distancing. In some ways, we were more fortunate than other post-secondary students – where we were allowed to attend classes under strict social distancing rules to complete our training, Camosun and UVic were on lockdown, with classes presented in on-line format only. But it was also a non-event because, for me at least, the work was not done. There was still a legal requirement to pass three Provincial Board examinations, and a performance evaluation conducted by members of the College of Massage Therapists of BC. Those exams are complete and we are now awaiting our results to come in.
The CMTBC’s job is to protect the public. As such, the terms “Massage Therapist”, “Massage Therapy”, and “Registered Massage Therapist” are protected terms; although we as graduates of WCCMT have passed all of our courses with the CMTBC-mandated minimum of 70% or higher, although we have completed 550+hours (both direct and indirect) we cannot legally use the terms listed above without being in good standing as a member of our governing college. Both BC and Ontario have the highest requirements of graduating RMT’s in the country in terms of education and supervised clinical hours. It may surprise you to know that, as of this writing, these qualifications are not uniform across Canada, although there is a ground-swell movement to unify requirements nationally. Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec have no Provincial board exams at all and lower supervised clinic-hour requirements for entry to practice. Employees performing massage in BC spas are not legally required to have any training in Massage Therapy at all. (This is not to say that spa workers are not good or exceptional at what they do!) The term “RMT” is used to differentiate us as a specific, clinical health profession and prevents those who have not met the requirements from potentially harming their clients. As such, until we are accepted by our College, we use terms to describe ourselves like “bodyworker” – it’s less specific, yet still encompasses what we do in treatment sufficiently.
It cannot be understated that our educational path to the RMT designation is intense. You have to want to be there. Not to go all Tom Myers on you, but you have to want to know the science of the human body, to explore that strange, cosmic universe inside us that is the sum total of evolutionary DNA of every ancestor we ever had, refined to the most useful and purposeful form. (Psst…that most useful form? It’s you, right now.)
You’re saying, “All that’s well and good, Seth, but so what?” Well, it puts us as graduates in a bit of a limbo position when trying to build a new practice. Without an RMT designation in BC, I cannot bill your health insurance for what I do in a clinical setting. This unfortunately translates to you paying out of pocket, which I definitely understand can be a limitation; even at a slightly lower rate than RMT’s in clinic, $80 per treatment can add up in a hurry. But if your current RMT is booked, your right shoulder is sore, you’re stressed out, or you just can’t get a good night’s sleep (wow that turned into a country song really fast!) then a newly graduated bodyworker (me) might just be the exact thing you need at the moment. My calendar always has open spots and I am not averse to someone calling in to the clinic asking for last minute availability. I’m not trying to suggest that you replace your current practitioner or glean clients from other RMT’s – what I am suggesting is that if I can augment what they are doing for you now until they become available, I would love to help. So, if it’s 5pm and you want a massage to help you relax in the evening before bed, call the clinic because there’s a good chance I am available.
No RMT designation also means that I cannot say I offer “therapy” and brackets my work into the context of a “relaxation” massage. However, that term is fairly ambiguous and encompasses a lot of variables. Strictly speaking, relaxation massage is typically slow, using General Swedish Massage techniques in varying depths of pressure and encompasses the whole body as a unit. It is non-specific in its intent and is generally indicated for people who, well…want to relax! A synonymous term, and one that I personally prefer, is “restorative rest”, or “wellness massage”. Yes, it’s relaxing, but it’s relaxing with intent and addresses what we call a Primary Chief Complaint, if that makes sense. So, if you come in and say, “Seth, the right side of my neck is really sore! Help me out!” then I can guide my work with you to reduce that discomfort or restricted movement pattern by adding passive, slow stretching, or even deep tissue work to that area. Typically, I would not encompass the legs in this scenario, directing my focus to the area you so perfectly pointed out. As an aside: People often assume that because of my size and lifting/boxing background that I do heavy, deep work. I’m always happy to do that work where indicated (I have the big Scottish mitts for it!), but it may surprise you to know that I had originally undertook the process of becoming an RMT to work with children with severe Cerebral Palsy. (If you want, you can visit the WCCMT website and see my “story” there on their blog). I purposefully set out to from the outset of school to use gentle work to relieve the pain many of these kids live with every day. I believe that gentle touch can sometimes be just as effective in calming to the sympathetic nervous system (your “fight-flight” response) as other, specific neuro-facilitative techniques.
So – to sum up what we called in journalism school “a long mallard”: while I may not be able to directly bill your insurance as a bodyworker, I am available on short notice and what I can do is calm the nervous system down and put your body in a relaxed state. A relaxed state can translate to better sleep, reduced stress levels and an overall sense of wellness. Which, really, is something we can all use, lately, right!? I look forward to seeing you soon!