By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun
Massage therapy is on a roll in Ontario. Private clinics, spas, resorts, rehabilitation and maternity hospitals and long-term care facilities are just some of the places registered massage therapists now practice, most frequently as independent contractors.
7,000 in Ontario
There are 7,000 RMTs in Ontario and 27 public and private schools across the province training more. That wasn't always the case, even though the profession has been a provincially regulated health discipline since 1919. For the record, Shiatsu massage is not regulated in Ontario -- and no one should ever confuse RMTs, who study full time for two or three years and have to write certification exams, with sin bins that place ads in the backs of newspapers.
At Sutherland Chan Clinic in Toronto it usually takes two years to complete the RMT program, although there's a compressed course that students can finish in about 18 months.
The only public college teaching massage therapy in Toronto is Centennial, which admits up to 70 students a year for its three-year program, says Trish Dryden, co-ordinator of massage therapy research and development.
About two-thirds of Centennial's intake is female, says Dryden, "but we're seeing increasing numbers of men coming into the program, and it's increasingly (ethnically) diverse."
Many of the Centennial students come straight from high school, so their age range starts in the higher teens, she continues, but the college also attracts its fair share of career changers and others who have some university or college education.
At Sutherland Chan Clinic, one of the most established private schools in the city, it usually takes two years to complete the RMT program, although there's a compressed course that students can finish in about 18 months.
Debra Curties, executive director and part-owner of Sutherland Chan, says she seldom gets students right out of high school. The age range tends to be 20 to 50, with about a third of them having a university background and a decent number of students who are career changers.
The gender balance at Sutherland Chan, however, reflects Centennial's. Curties says up to 30% of her students are men. "That number has really increased in the last 10 to 15 years," she says, and because of it her teaching staff is split 50-50 men and women.
There are 27 schools in Ontario that offer massage therapy training.
Massage therapy is a health care discipline and provincially regulated in Ontario.
All newly graduated RMTs must write certification exams.
Hourly fees for RMTs start at about $65.
The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario website is www.cmto.com.
Tuition at Centennial and Sutherland Chan varies, with the latter charging more. However, as Curties points out, her students need less time to complete their studies. Sutherland Chan fees are $7,800 a year; Centennial costs $2,079.
Wherever they train, all RMTs in the province must pass a certification exam. The written and practical tests administered by the College of Registered Massage Therapists of Ontario cost a combined $575.
One RMT, Amanda Baskwill, who graduated from Centennial last year, has a unique perspective on the profession. Baskwill trained for 15 years to be a dancer and spent two years at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school. At 16, she sustained a lower leg injury and it was an RMT who got her back on her feet, so to speak. That, plus her attraction to holistic treatment, steered her into massage therapy.
Nevertheless, Baskwill wasn't entirely prepared for what came next. "I didn't know it was a health care profession," she candidly admits.
Baskwill, who works at a spa in Kleinburg and as a backup RMT at the National Ballet School here in the city, says she was surprised at how easy it was to find a job when she graduated, although she points out finding a job and finding a good job are two different things.
True, but good job or not, employment figures for RMTs are comparable with most other health professions with employment rates in the 90% range, Dryden says. The pay isn't bad either. The College recommends a fee of $70 an hour.
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