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When a Doctor Recommends an Unregulated Massage Therapist

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
March 27, 2015

Question: My mother's doctor referred her to an unregulated massage therapist. Should I be concerned?

Answer: Thank you for writing.  

When you say “unregulated,” I assume you mean the massage therapist is not certified. You want a massage therapist who is properly trained and has significant experience. To find a certified massage therapist, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has a search engine on their site to help you locate certified massage therapists in your area (or mother’s area if she does not live near you).  This is the link:


Your mother’s doctor made a referral to a massage therapist; however your mother is not obligated to see this specific person.  Ask family members and friends for referrals. However, for any referral do check the AMTA site to be sure the person is certified.

Also, it is important to know the reason your mother was referred to a massage therapist. Stress reduction? Muscle issues? Pain? Other reason?  Once the reason is determined, now you can find a massage therapist who is the best fit.  It is also important to think about insurance reimbursement, if that is a concern.

Finding a massage therapist is like finding any other healthcare professional; there has to be the right fit. Your mother has to feel at ease with the person. An initial phone call helps to determine if the person is friendly and willing to meet your specific needs. The first visit is the test drive.  

Unfortunately, there are many shady people who claim to be massage therapists. Be cautious about relying solely on websites, phone book listings and magazine / newspaper advertisements. Do the necessary research to find a certified massage therapist.

Good luck to you and your mother.

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Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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