Massage therapy is only regulated in three provinces in Canada: British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland / Labrador. Typically the required training is 2200 hours for these provinces. In this context, regulated means that there is only one organization in the province that can issue permits and license massage therapists.
In other provinces, such as in Quebec, massage therapy is not regulated by one single group, but according to the standards of approximately 20 Associations, each with slightly different requirements in hours. Some Associations date by to the 1970’s, however in many cases these Associations have not required their members to upgrade their skill set, therefore many massage therapists in Quebec may have 80 hours of training but 15 years of experience. In more recent years the standard has been closer to 400 hours, a statement that will supported in our next article, which will summarize a provincial-wide market study of massage therapy in Quebec using data provided by schools that operate in Quebec.
Massage therapists typically join an Association in an unregulated province to benefit from the lower cost for liability insurance and to obtain receipts that large insurance companies reimburse their insured who have group benefits plans. Many Quebec residents are treated with 80% off the cost of the massage, assuming an 80% coinsurance in their plan! In regulated provinces one must join the single regulatory body to practice massage therapy. For the purposes of income taxes, massage therapists in unregulated provinces cannot claim the massage cost as a medical expense. In the following link you can see which provinces are regulated for massage therapy (located near the middle) in addition to other health providers.
In Quebec there is also a general lack of consistency between schools that teach massage therapy, as schools are not regulated either. Understandably Thai Yoga Massage differs from Swedish massage or for massage for pregnant women. A wide variety of techniques and approaches can be found on MassageSchool.org.
It should also be noted that there is a growing trend towards 1000 hours and even speculation of 2200 hours, but currently Quebec lacks the educational framework in which this could be realized. New curriculum and new schools or new colleges would have to be put in place throughout Quebec, which spans 1,365,128 kilometers squared. More details will be provided in future articles.
AQTN, the acronym for Alliance Québécoise des Thérapeutes Naturels (there is no English name at this time), was founded with the goal of improving access to qualified therapists by the public and to create barriers to entry for the practice of massage therapy. At the time of this writing, it is the only Association that opens claims that all members meet their requirements set for massage therapy and made public on their website, and is one of few that position itself as a regulatory body for massage therapy in Quebec.