find a massage therapist

Paul Cramer(RMT): 5 Simple Steps To Help Choose the Right Massage Therapist For You

So you’ve finally decided you’d like to try massage therapy, or you have an injury that needs treatment, or perhaps your regular massage therapist has just retired and moved to the coast. Whatever the reason, you find yourself in the unenviable position of needing to find a good massage therapist in a sea of possibilities. 

What to do and where to begin? I’ve seen a few tactics in this endeavor that may seem a bit daunting. First, you can google- best massage therapist near me. Great! You’ve now narrowed it down to about 100 people who do about 20 different types of massage.  However, you still have no idea if they are right for you or what the heck myofascial release cupping is for that matter. 

Hmmm ok, next up -is make a post on facebook -it’s true, I’ve seen it. This might narrow it down to about 20 people and each one has been put forward as the absolute best massage therapist in the world. Well, we’re getting there at least. 

Last but not least is to ask one or two people you trust who at least know a bit about you and why you might need massage therapy in the first place. This last tactic often gives the best results as long as they have similar needs and requirements. 

This might be a slightly humorous look at the process but it highlights the key elements that will be helpful in narrowing down your search. I’ll list out the key elements and then address each one individually.

5 Key Elements to finding a good massage therapist for you

  1. Be clear about what you need massage therapy for (stress, relaxation, treatment)
  2. Make sure they are licensed through a recognized governing organization and  confirm their qualifications and experience. If treatment will be part of a multi-discipline approach(physician, physio, chiropractor, etc) -can they refer you to someone with the qualifications and experience?
  3. What are the costs -both financial and time?: Is the fee structure clearly stated? Can treatments be covered through some kind of insurance or health spending account? Can the therapist bill this directly? Is it convenient for you to get there during hours that you have available?.
  4. Can you book a “discovery session/consultation” to find out if they can answer questions about their approach and experience in treating your concern?
  5. Do they provide an assessment and outline a treatment plan to resolve your condition in plain language?


Massage Therapist

  1. Be clear about what you need massage therapy for (pampering, stress, relaxation, treatment).

This might seem obvious but it’s a good idea to begin with identifying what you are hoping to get out of the session in order to help you narrow down your search. The main reason for this is that there are a broad range of practices that fall under the umbrella of “massage”. If we look at it as a spectrum, it covers everything from a spa treatment at a resort, a general treatment at a local clinic, all the way to an orthopedic treatment to address a specific injury. This carries with it some challenges both for clients seeking treatment but also for Massage Therapists who specialize in specific therapeutic treatments. The good news is we are making headway in this.

If you’re just looking to relax and have a massage, you should be able to find a well-established location in your area. If you are in need of treatment for an injury or condition, now is the time to find a qualified Massage Therapist. I’ll focus on this for the rest of the article.

Massage Therapy has come a long way in the last few years. It is part of an ever growing “paramedical” interdisciplinary approach to dealing with health conditions.  Here is a short definition of Massage Therapy from a national licensing organization:

”Massage Therapy is the assessment of the soft tissue and joints of the body and the treatment and prevention of physical dysfunction and pain of the soft tissue and joints by manipulation to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function, or relieve pain.” (Scope of Practice for Massage Therapy -Natural Health Practitioners of Canada) practice-standards-massage-therapy.pdf (

To become a massage therapist, students must study in a program that takes roughly 2 years and includes 2200 hours of study and practice in the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries or conditions. This is good news for those seeking treatment because it means finding a qualified practitioner is getting easier to identify. Essentially, they will belong to a licensing body that has ensured they are fully qualified Massage Therapists.

  1. Make sure they are licensed through a recognized governing organization and  confirm their qualifications and experience.

Different provinces have different regulations regarding Massage Therapy so it is important to check. For example in Alberta, Massage Therapy is not currently regulated under the Health Practitioner’s Act -though this is in the works and progress is being made in this regard. However Massage Therapists must be licenced through a governing organization and demonstrate competency after having completed the required training. Current standards are the equivalent of a 2 year degree and 2200 hours. 

More and more, healthcare professionals such  physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and dentists (to name a few) are recognizing the improved standards and qualifications of Massage Therapists and the benefits they provide in treatment strategies. With this recognition, more patents are being referred to Massage Therapists as part of the treatment protocol. This means that they may be able to refer you to a qualified therapist that they know has the experience to help with your specific concern. It’s good to ask.

  1. What are the costs? Are treatments being covered through some kind of insurance or health spending account? Can the therapist bill this directly? Is it convenient for you to get there and what is their schedule like?

When choosing a Massage Therapist, it is a good idea to consider the costs -and not just the monetary costs. Is it reasonably close to you with the amenities you need -i.e. easy to find parking and to book appointment times that are convenient for you. This just helps you with keeping appointments and staying on track with the treatment plan. Another good thing to check is does the Massage Therapist have available appointments for you. They may be a great therapist but if they can’t see you for 4 weeks, that may be an important consideration.

Health insurance, health spending accounts and other insurance considerations. Massage Therapy is now a widely accepted form of treatment and is covered by many “extended health benefit” plans. Additionally for things like motor vehicle accidents, insurance companies will cover a number of treatments to help overcome the effects of an accident. Find out up front if your insurance will cover your treatments, how much they will cover, and what procedures need to be followed to have the payments made. Many massage therapy clinics will be able to bill the insurance company directly.

  1. Can you book a “discovery session/consultation” to find out if they can answer questions about their approach and experience in treating your concern? 

Discovery or consultation appointments are becoming more commonplace -With video conferencing or a simple phone call, many therapists offer this as an option to answer some of your questions and to provide you with more information. This is a great opportunity to ask the Massage Therapist if they have experience in treating your specific condition. Not all Massage Therapists will be a good fit for you. Discovery sessions help you get a sense of how it will be working with the therapist. Can they listen to your specific concerns? 

  1. Will they complete an assessment and provide an outline of a treatment plan that considers your condition and your unique situation in plain language?

This is an important consideration. One of the signs of a good Massage Therapist is that they ask a lot of questions in order to begin the assessment process. You should have the opportunity to provide background info on your condition, how long the condition has been a concern, how it is affecting you, and what challenges you are experiencing in having the condition resolved. Are you also seeing other health care professionals? Do you have medical imaging reports? Do you have a diagnosis/report from another health care professional? Do you have an understanding of your condition?  As they ask questions and gather information, this all factors into an assessment, plan and expected outcomes that are tailored to your specific requirements and situation. 

A simple 4 step procedure many Massage Therapists follow breaks this down for you.

  1. Information gathering and physical assessment
  2. Decide on a course of treatment and a forming a plan
  3. Provide treatment
  4. Adjust the plan and convey the requirements to you in plain language

A good Massage Therapist will be able to adjust their approach to treatment to consider what is best for you. You shouldn’t have to fit into their protocol.

As you can see there are some clear guidelines to at least narrow things down a bit with your search for the right Massage Therapist. I hope this will prove helpful for you. One important consideration that I’ve left out just because it’s a whole topic on its own is -which kind of Massage Therapy would be best to address your condition/injury. I will address this in another article aimed at explaining massage therapy techniques in plain language.

Keep moving to keep healthy!


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