What is in a name? Massage therapy or Therapeutic Massage Therapy?
On several occasions in the past, InTouch has reported on the issue of what we, as registered massage therapists, should be called. Thanks to the official structures we have been saddled with the unwieldy title of Therapeutic Massage Therapy (What would we do without the autotext facility on Word!). In everyday speech we mostly refer to ourselves as massage therapists and this is not incorrect as these two terms actually refer to the same thing - the action of using ones hands to stroke or knead the body. But here lies the rub – so do beauty therapists and everyone else who does stand-alone massage treatments but has not necessarily submitted to the scrutiny of the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa as regulator of the profession.
Many registered therapists feel our profession, and often our income, is being undermined by people who are not accountable to anyone and whose actions are not regulated and certainly not curtailed by council. Members often complain to MTA that these people can practise where they please, they can advertise as they please. Meanwhile the law abiding ones are restricted by rules and regulations that limit the way we ply our trade and market ourselves. And for this we have to pay a fortune in registration fees!
MTA as the only professional association representing massage therapists has often aired its members’ reservations about the term therapeutic massage therapy to the council and at other relevant forums. MTA is of the opinion that the distinction between a massage therapist and a therapeutic massage therapist presents a loophole for therapists to practise massage without being accountable to the Department of Health, the council and by implication to the public. This ambiguity around what exactly therapeutic massage therapy is, is magnified by the large numbers of massage therapy students that graduate at the end of an academic year yet do not apply for registration with the council.
- There is a glut of advertising in the print and electronic media for massage therapists, massage courses that allow you to earn immediately on completion of the course as well as franchise opportunities for massage training programmes. Yet there are less than 300 registered therapeutic massage therapists in the country.
- More and more members of the public and sports groupings are showing interest in massage yet one of South Africa’s most successful national sports teams employs a non-registered person (At least on national television he is referred to as a masseur and not a massage therapist!)
CHANGE THE LABEL
This anomaly exists as individuals are under the mistaken belief that registering with the AHPCSA is a matter of choice. Unfortunately training institutions perpetuate this misreading of the law. By merely giving yourself a different label or not using the word therapeutic in front of your title they maintain, you are able to place yourself outside the group of therapeutic massage therapists and by implication unaccountable to the AHPCSA and other healthcare related legislation.
In the light of this continuing debate, it is perhaps appropriate to look at the definition of Therapeutic Massage Therapy as well as other terminology that is bandied about in press articles and the marketing material of training institutions both legal and illegal.