Conducting Public Education Classes

Background

Education of the public through the use of community educational opportunities is recognized as a valuable mechanism to improve public health. These classes are often conducted by health professionals on a voluntary basis as part of the individual professional’s public service or for a nominal fee. Massage therapists are often asked to participate in classes offered through fitness centres, public health departments and community centres.

Position

The College does not believe that members of a public education class are clients of the Massage Therapist. This is because no health history is taken, no individual assessment or treatment is provided and no health record is maintained.

Guidelines

Massage therapists who conduct public education classes need to consider the following:

  • The difference between the education provided to individuals during a treatment encounter and the education provided to consumers in a classroom setting;
  • The type of programme that they are offering; and
  • The expectations of the participants regarding the information they have obtained.

Individual Versus Group Education

The information provided in a public education class should be general in nature. It may be related to the management of a particular condition i.e. stress or pregnancy, but should not pertain to the consumer’s specific medical condition. Class members need to be advised of this prior to participation in the class and should be directed to their healthcare professional if they ask questions specifically relating to their condition.

The Type of Programme Being Offered

Massage therapists must be clear about the type of class they are conducting.

The most common types of classes include:

  • Educational seminars of a general nature focusing on such topics as wellness or stress management; and
  • Instruction in basic Massage Therapy techniques offered to couples as an adjunct to pre-natal education or to new mothers who wish to use Massage Therapy techniques on their babies.

Massage therapists who offer any courses that provide instruction in specific Massage Therapy techniques should advise participants that these techniques are for use on family and/or friends only. The public should understand that the instruction they are receiving does not qualify them to call themselves a Massage Therapist or use the information for commercial purposes.

Massage therapists should not offer a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the course as this may lead participants to believe that they are now qualified to practise Massage Therapy. The certificate could also be used to mislead the public.

Massage therapists should have information on more formal Massage Therapy training available if participants show an interest in obtaining further education.

Expectations of Participants

The Massage Therapist, in any written literature about the class and as part of the introduction to the session, should clearly identify:

  • Their qualifications and relationship to the sponsoring agency; and
  • The learning objectives for the programme.

Scenario

Nancy is a Massage Therapist who operates a practice in a suburban area near a large city. One of her clients (Joan) is a recreation co-ordinator at the local community centre. Part of Joan’s job is to come up with new ideas for public education classes. Joan tells Nancy that the community centre offers various parenting courses for new mothers and their babies. The programme provides health, educational and fitness information to the participants. Joan asks Nancy if she would consider incorporating Massage Therapy techniques into the programme. Nancy believes that Massage Therapy techniques are an excellent way for mothers to bond with their babies. In addition, she decides that this would be a good opportunity to become better known in the community.

During the spring session, Nancy teaches three sessions on Massage Therapy and relaxation techniques as part of the course. She is quite pleased with the response from the mothers. A couple of months later, Nancy is in the community centre and notices a flyer on the bulletin board. One of the participants in the parenting programme, is offering her services in Massage Therapy to new mothers.

Nancy is quite distressed. She calls the College and confirms that this individual is not a Massage Therapist. In conducting the class, it was never Nancy’s intention to have course participants believe that they had received training as Massage Therapists and that they could offer their services commercially.

Conclusion

Nancy had the best of intentions in offering the Massage Therapy instruction as part of the parenting programme. She did not expect that the information would be used in this way. It is very hard for Nancy or any other instructor to control what participants do with the information they receive in a class.

In future, however, Nancy will ensure that she tells participants that the techniques they are learning are some components of Massage Therapy practice, and that they are to be used only on family and friends. She will explain that the practice of Massage Therapy is regulated in Ontario, and if asked, will have information available on the educational institutions in her area that offer training in Massage Therapy.

 

Approved: November 19, 1999