Is there really a difference between a registered massage therapists, certified massage practitioners and a masseuse in Ontario?
In practicality, no. They all refer to someone who has studied to perform different types of massage. But in reputation and image? Yes.
The term “masseuse” originated in France in the late 1800s. It just means a woman who performs massage; the male counterpart is “masseur”. If you were French, then masseuse or masseur would absolutely be the correct terms to use.
However, over here, massage spas unfortunately gained an unsavory reputation. Try as we might, the therapeutic massage industry has a difficult time getting away from cultural assumptions that puts many therapists in danger.
Consider for a moment, being a female massage therapist in her own private practice: You rent a room or two to see your clients and a client comes in who thinks he might like to get a "happy ending". Now, most therapists have already been trained to deal with this, to those that did not, say:
“I do not provide sexual services. I’m ending this session. You need to get up, get dressed, pay, and leave!”
The chances are slim that anything particularly dangerous will happen, but they can, and that’s what makes the term masseuse undesirable, so the recommendation for all practitioners is to attain certification (not necessarily RMT, unless insurance billing is vital to your practice) and use the term Certified Massage Practitioner, because what we perform is therapy. It’s beneficial for the health and well being of our clients.
Ultimately, while the terms mean the same thing, it is worth educating everyone on the differences and their safety implications.