Note: This post was published in 2021. Vicars School is now a fully accredited program. For more information about CMTCA Accreditation and what it will mean for your massage career, check out this post from summer 2023 or this page on our website!
Vicars School of Massage Therapy is proud to announce that we have been granted Preliminary Accreditation status from the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation.
This status is an important milestone for our school, our students, and the massage therapy profession in Alberta.
“I’m so proud of our faculty and staff,” says Maryhelen Vicars, the school’s founder and president. “We have been working towards this goal for several years, and the high score we achieved at this stage is a welcome confirmation of the quality of our program.”
What is CMTCA accreditation? What is preliminary accreditation?
The Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation (CMTCA) is an independent agency that evaluates massage programs across the country to determine whether they meet rigorous curriculum and delivery standards.
The CMTCA evaluation rates a school’s performance in seven important categories: curriculum content; faculty and learning; student support; leadership and administration; human resources; resources and infrastructure; and quality improvement. Each category is broken down further into multiple criteria—95 in total.
Schools start by applying for preliminary accreditation. This is a rigorous process that involves gathering documentation and evidence for all the criteria. The school’s written submission is then independently reviewed by three trained CMTCA surveyors.
Now that we have preliminary accreditation status, the next step is full accreditation, which involves a scheduled site visit from CMTCA surveyors. We are one of only two private massage therapy colleges in Alberta to have earned preliminary accreditation status. The massage therapy program at Lethbridge College, a publicly funded college, is the only massage program in Alberta with full accreditation.
Preparing the application was a team effort led by Executive Director Sarah Ward-Bakken and Curriculum Coordinator Linda McGeachy. The whole team spent many hundreds of hours on the project, reviewing each standard and gathering detailed evidence of how our program meets the criteria.
“Applying for accreditation gave us the opportunity to examine each aspect of the program in great depth and detail,” says Linda. “Receiving preliminary accreditation has made me more confident than ever that the school is offering comprehensive, well-rounded training that is second-to-none in Canada.
“Accreditation is about making sure that best practices in massage therapy education are upheld, and that schools continue to invest in quality improvement,” Sarah added. “It ensures that graduates are knowledgeable, competent, safe, and ethical.”
Why does CMTCA accreditation matter?
Program accreditation through the CMTCA is a way for massage therapy programs to demonstrate that they meet Canada’s national program standards. In provinces where massage therapy is a regulated health care profession, standards are mandatory and so accreditation is essential.
Massage therapy is not regulated in Alberta and there’s no universal education standard. But in our eyes, that makes independent approval processes like CMTCA accreditation and the MTAA school approval program list more important, not less.
“We have never been about meeting minimum requirements,” says Maryhelen. “It’s unfortunate for the profession, and for Alberta massage students, that this kind of consistent, evidence-based education isn’t already mandatory for Alberta massage schools. But I’m proud to be able to offer it for our students.
“From the very beginning, our school has been committed to meeting the highest standards of massage therapy education,” she says. “Back in 2012 when the regulated provinces first agreed on a standard for what all students should learn before they are ready to practice, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. In many areas, we were already compliant. Where the expectations were higher, we spent the time and money needed to make sure we met them.
“We had the same attitude when the CMTCA started accepting applications from Alberta schools. We jumped at the chance to prove ourselves.”
The more schools that choose to get accredited, the higher the quality of massage education in Alberta will be overall. This will improve outcomes for clients and help strengthen the reputation of massage as a valuable health care profession.
What does this mean for current and future Vicars students?
The most important thing for current and future Vicars students to take away from today’s news is that their massage education meets the highest national standards, and that they can be confident that they are on their way to becoming skilled, effective, and successful health care professionals. The day-to-day experience of being a Vicars student hasn’t changed. This new status from the CMTCA is simply recognition from independent experts that what we’re doing works.
There will be practical benefits, too, of course: many clients and employers already show preferences for therapists from specific schools, and this will set our graduates apart even more.
We expect that the accreditation process will have the greatest impact on our students who plan to work in regulated provinces after they graduate. The details will depend on when we are able to schedule our site visit for full accreditation, and on the policies of the regulatory college in question. Overall, we expect that our current status, and eventual full accreditation status, will open many doors for our students in other jurisdictions.