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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 12, 2019

“I am a healthcare practitioner”: A qualitative exploration of massage therapists’ professional identity

Amanda Baskwill, Meredith Vanstone, Del Harnish and Kelly Dore



A division has been described among massage therapists, some who identify as healthcare providers while others identify as service providers. The perceived division creates confusion about what it means to be a massage therapist.


This qualitative study answered, “How do massage therapists in Ontario describe their professional identity?”


Qualitative description (QD) was used and data were collected from 33 massage therapists using semi-structured interviews.


The resulting description of massage therapists’ identity in Ontario is the first of its kind. The identity described includes passion as professional motivation in practice, the importance of confidence and competence, a focus on the therapeutic relationship, individualized care, and patient empowerment, and a desire to be recognized for their role within the healthcare system.


There is still much to be investigated about massage therapists’ identity. Future research will explore whether this description resonates with a larger sample of massage therapists in Ontario.

The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Anne Wong, MD, PhD, and Mitchell Levine, MD, MSc, as members of the primary author’s PhD committee, and Trish Dryden, MEd, RMT, whose comments during the writing process enhanced the results of this study.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None declared.

  3. Employment or leadership: None declared.

  4. Honorarium: None declared.

  5. Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Received: 2019-03-10
Accepted: 2019-06-24
Published Online: 2019-09-12

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston