What to Look for in a Therapist
What to look for when seeking a Massage Therapist or Practitioner
There are numerous choices out there when one begins a search for a massage and opening up the yellow pages to the massage section can be eye-opening when you see the range of services. Several facts that the general public are usually unaware of are the titles used by bodyworkers in the field.
You frequently see Massage, Massage Practitioner, Bodyworker, Bodywork Practitioner, Massage Therapist and many many more. What do they all mean? To help you find exactly what you are seeking, keep the following in mind while searching...
In Virginia, and other states, there is a difference in the use of the titles of Massage Therapist vs. Massage Practitioner and all others.
"Massage Therapist" can only be used by those who have completed at least 500 hours of training and have passed required certification exams and licensing requirements.
In Virginia, professional Massage Therapists must license with the Va State Board of Nursing and must hold a National level certification as well. You'll often see the nationally certified credentials expressed with NCTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) following a persons name or CMT or LMT for certified/licensed massage therapist.
To maintain these licenses and certification, the therapist must also successfully complete an additional 50 continuing education hours for each licensing period: usually every 4 years.
When you see the CMT, LMT or Massage Therapist following a name, this should indicate that the person has had specialized training at a reputable or accredited facility. Make sure that any bodyworker you are seeing is certified and licensed and not practicing illegally. Many massage and bodywork practitioners are not following state and local requirements and do not have formal eduction or the skills needed to work effectively on specific conditions. Techniques used improperly can cause harm or exacerbate a condition.
Other abbreviations seen following your therapist's name are ABMT, AMTA and others represent associations that a licensed therapist is a member of. Most of these associations have strict requirements as well.
Looking in the phone book yellow pages, you'll see separate categories for "Massage" and "Massage Therapy" sections. Massage can include therapists, but also all NON-certified practitioners including escort services. Using the title or advertising under Massage Therapist assures you that the person has had specialized training at a school with the minimum hours required to practice legally as a therapist. This means they should have a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology, ethics and professionalism, various bodywork techniques, specialized modalities of bodywork to pathology and specific conditions that massage can help as well as contraindications (symptoms to avoid therapy).
If you are seeking specific types of bodywork for therapeutic reasons such as relaxation, stress-relief, injury, pain relief, rehab, fibromyalgia, arthritis, trauma, high blood pressure, injury prevention or treatment of specific issues, you want to make sure you are entrusting your health to someone who has trained in techniques that can help rather than potentially harm. Ask questions about the specific types of therapy you are seeking and the persons credentials to make sure you are finding the right person for your needs.
For more questions on bodywork terminology, please see the history and terminology pages as well.