Choosing a Qualified Practitioner

CURE, Spring 2005, Volume 4, Issue 1

Interested in touch therapy but not sure where to find a qualified practitioner? First, be aware that each state has its own rules and regulations about licensing, education and certification of those who practice massage and other touch therapies. In some states, anyone can call themselves a massage therapist, for instance, with no licensing or education at all.

Currently, 33 states regulate massage therapists, with any regulation in other states left to municipalities. Some municipalities have no massage training standards and only require a basic business license to practice. Even the different disciplines may have their own certification organization or code of ethics to follow.

> Be upfront. First, talk openly with your own doctor about your interests. Because some complementary and alternative medicine therapies can be harmful or interfere with your standard treatment, your doctor needs to know what other therapies you’re pursuing.

> Check with your insurer. Don’t be caught off-guard by potentially high out-of-pocket expenses. Depending on where you live, fees for massage, reiki, healing touch and other practices can run from $25 to nearly $100 for each 30- to 90-minute session. Although some health insurance companies cover traditional massage therapy, most don’t cover other forms. Know what your coverage is before you go.

> Get a trusted opinion. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional, family members, friends, a professional association or local medical schools or hospitals if they can refer you to a qualified practitioner.

> Ask lots of questions. Once you’ve come up with some potential practitioners, ask lots of questions. If possible, have a brief phone consult first. Find out what training, education, certification or licensure they have, and make sure it matches your state’s laws. Ask if they specialize in certain diseases or conditions, and how much experience they have in working with cancer patients. Ask how many people they see in a day and what a typical session is like. Ask what benefits you can expect and what the risks are, if any.

> Assess your match. Review your first visit and regularly assess follow-up visits. Are you at ease during sessions? Does the practitioner willingly answer your questions? Did he or she seem knowledgeable about your condition? Do you come away feeling better? Don’t be lured by lofty claims of cures or miracle treatments. If a practitioner promises to cure your cancer or prevent a recurrence, or suggests that you don’t need conventional medical care, it’s time to find a new one—quickly.