What to look for in a therapist.
Here at Hands from Heaven we understand that it’s not always possible to see our great therapists every time you need a treatment. You might work away with frequency, or you might be away on holidays, or you might even be relocating to another city or state, and you still need to find a therapist who can help maintain the great work we do here. Many people have asked us over the years who we recommend, or how they can find another therapist as good as us, and while we always help as much as possible we recognise it can be a challenge to find another therapist or clinic that you feel you can trust … after all – we are a tough act to follow 😊
Now that our Blogs have been publishing for a couple of months – and we know you all follow us fervently, hanging on every word we print – we thought it about time we give you some useful advice and handy hints to help you find another therapist when you need one. There should be many things you want to consider when looking for a new or different therapist, but some of the ‘Big Ticket items’ you should look for include …
Is this therapist a member of a recognised Professional Association?
Professional Associations are not unique to the massage industry. They are part of the framework that regulates and guides every industry with relation to Professional Standards, (industry specific) Education & Training, and Continued Development & Quality Assurance. To secure membership to a Professional Association within the Therapeutic Massage Industry a therapist must provide current evidence of:
- Nationally recognised and accredited Qualification – currently the Diploma of Remedial Massage is the minimum qualification accepted.
- Current Professional & Public Liability Insurance.
- Nationally recognised and accredited First Aid.
Securing membership is only part of the process though because a therapist’s membership is contingent on them maintaining specific standards and requirements, namely:
- Continued Insurance coverage and currency with First Aid – these are not allowed to lapse or run-out.
- Continuing Professional Development – that is continued study and/or research connected to the massage industry, the volume and/or content of which needs to satisfy specific indicators and/or volume of content.
Membership with a Professional Association ensures therapists abide by the industry professional standards and guidelines, making sure all treatments provided are current and performed as they should be.
It is quite important to understand however that in Australia it is not an absolute requirement for therapists to be a member of a Professional Association … but if the therapist you are considering doesn’t have Association Membership, you need at ask yourself what else don’t they have? … Formal Qualification … appropriate Insurance Coverage … Professional Ethics …???… You will be able to identify if your therapist has Association Membership or not because they need to display their Membership Certificate in their clinical space. If you can’t see it – ask them to show it to you … if they can’t, they probably don’t have it.
Qualifications … Certificate IV V’s Diploma V’s Degree
Some people may be aware, others may not, but there are a few different levels of qualification you can achieve in the Therapeutic Massage Industry – namely Certificate IV in Massage Therapy, Diploma of Remedial Massage or a Bachelor’s Degree in either Musculoskeletal Therapy or Myotherapy.
What is the difference, and how can you make an informed decision on a therapist based on their level of qualification? As a base line you can follow these simple facts:
- A Certificate IV in Massage Therapy is usually a 9-month course that qualifies a person to use Swedish Relaxation Massage with a therapeutic intention. This level of qualification is usually not in-depth enough to allow the therapist to be a member of a Professional Association and will not be enough training to give a therapist eligibility to offer Private Health Insurance (Health Fund)
- A Diploma of Remedial Massage is usually 18-24-month course that covers not only Remedial Massage techniques, but also effective Assessment Protocols enough to allow the therapist to have Association Membership and offer Health Fund Rebates.
- A Bachelor’s Degree is usually 3 years study or longer – the Musculoskeletal Therapy degree was the original and was superseded by the Myotherapy Degree because nobody understood what Musculoskeletal Therapy was. This qualification can be recognised as the degree extension of the Remedial Diploma – obviously if the diploma allows association membership and health fund rebates, so does the degree.
- Is a therapist with a degree any better than a therapist with a diploma? … not necessarily – because study and qualification level indicate how academic someone might be, but when it comes to the better therapist it should always come down to their practical hand skills and how they go about treating you as their client.
Professional Associations also require members to display their qualifications in their clinical space and/or treatment room. Again, if you can’t easily see your therapist’s qualification you have every right as the client to ask to see it. This will help you identify that your therapist is qualified for the job and not someone using another therapist’s health fund numbers (Which unfortunately still happens in some less than desirable places).
The Assessment Protocols & Pain aspects of your treatment …
These have already been talked about in some of our earlier blog posts – specifically blogs 3, 4, 5 & 6 – but a quick refresh here & now to keep the intention of this blog flowing.
Assessment Protocols include:
- Observation – watching how you move and use your body, measured against established ranges and mobility patterns. If you are limping – if you are moving rigidly – if you cannot sit down in the waiting room … these are all things we can observe that give us indicators about what might need treatment.
- Conversation – listening to how you explain how you feel and describe your pain/discomfort. A skilled therapist will be able to correlate how you speak to help identify how they can help you feel better.
- Palpation – feeling your muscles and soft tissues to identify what feels tight, rigid, or not as pliable as it should be. This could also include passive joint mobility to feel how smoothly a joint can move to help identify concerns associated with them.
- Orthopaedic/Clinical Testing – these are tests designed to identify specific muscles that may be causing pain/discomfort or mobility issues and are commonly used by Physios or Doctors.
Pain during Treatment:
Please remember that just because your massage is remedial, does not mean it also needs to be painful. Pain is a warning system for the body to alert you that something is wrong and needs to be stopped or fixed, and this applies to massage treatment as much as anything else. When you feel pain, the body’s automatic response is to tighten up and brace against the cause … if you do that during a treatment, your session is no longer treatment but more a battle between your therapist’s intention and your body’s response – and that wont achieve anything beneficial to anyone.
If a technique starts to hurt – speak with your therapist … a good therapist will be able to work through the problem with you to achieve the required result more comfortably.
And how does this information help you identify a good therapist? … Simple – a good therapist will be open to communication throughout your session.
Treatment notes …
Every time you have a remedial treatment by a qualified therapist, they are required to record Treatment Notes explaining specific aspects concerning:
- How you presented – ie: what you came in for, how you were feeling, what your pain scale was, etc;
- What Assessment Protocol was used to establish a Treatment Plan for the session;
- What Treatment Techniques were used, and what the immediate responses to those techniques were; and
- What the outcome of the treatment was including any follow-up advice – ie: did you feel different from when you came in, was your pain reduced, was your mobility increased, when should you come back, etc.
This is not only an association requirement, but it is also helpful for the therapist to ensure improvement for your muscle function and keep track of your treatment progress in conjunction with any health concerns. If your therapist doesn’t keep Treatment Notes you should probably look to find someone else who does.
It is also good to remember that you have access to your Treatment Notes. So, if you are travelling and will need a treatment from another therapist you can ask for a copy of your most recent treatment note to take with you.