If you have visited a massage therapist in the last week, you will have had to sign a new written consent form if your treatment included the gluteals, inner thigh, or chest wall/breast tissues, due to a recent change to the Standards of Practice for Massage Therapists, as published by their regulatory body, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO). This new Standard was put in effect on September 22nd, 2017, and is required of all Registered Massage Therapists who practice in Ontario. The revision of this Standard comes as a reaction to Bill 87, introduced in Ontario as the Protection of Patients Act, which, among other things, calls for stricter protection of the personal information, well-being, human rights, and safety of patients receiving care by Registered Health Professionals.
This form will be required every time a client requests assessment and/or treatment of one of these ‘sensitive’ areas, even if it has been previously consented to, as part of an ongoing effort by the CMTO to protect patients from unwanted or non-consensual touch. This change will unfortunately take away from the hands-on portion of your treatment, as these forms must be filled out following discussion and intake with your therapist, where you will decide together which areas of the body will be treated in order to meet your goals. At each treatment, you will need to review and sign a new consent form. While this is merely a small fraction of the total time you will spend with your therapist, Anatomica’s therapists will endeavour to make this process as seamless as possible.
Part of any treatment with a trusted RMT includes informed consent, mutual understanding, and feedback. Clients are required to complete their health history form, which details their reasons for treatment, and any health concerns that may need to be taken into account by their therapist. As a routine part of intake, treatment, and assessment, the therapist communicates the client’s rights: to be offered alternative treatment options, to be informed of any risks and benefits, to take an active role in their treatment plan, and the fact that they retain, at all times, the right to withdraw or alter their consent. Informed consent is an ethical and professional standard that Registered Health Professionals must maintain, which was previously permitted to be obtained verbally.
While we take the protection, comfort, and security of our clients very seriously, and are committed to upholding each and all of the Standards of Practice for our profession, this revision has caused much concern about how, and if, this will benefit or protect our clients in any way.
The definition around which areas are ‘sensitive’ is vague, uses non-anatomical language, and leaves each RMT in Ontario to determine their own boundaries. The CMTO, not the client, decides which areas are sensitive, which may cause embarrassment by unnecessarily sexualizing or attaching stigma to treatment of these areas. There is nothing sexual about a professional RMT treatment, just as there is nothing sexual about a visit to your Doctor, Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, or Gynecologist. In the rare and terrible event that an abusive RMT does cross boundaries, the written consent may discourage their victim from coming forward or filing charges.
Anatomica founder Alycia Duff-Bergeron’s open letter to the CMTO regarding these recent changes outlines these concerns in more detail. If you support the amendment of this revised Standard, please consider signing our 10,000 name petition here. We encourage constructive comments about how you feel that this may affect you as a client.
To send your feedback directly to the CMTO, please email the President of the CMTO Council, Lisa Tucker RMT.