Dubai Massage Therapy regulations set to be relaxed?

Massage therapists who might have been put off the idea of working in Dubai following the recent implementation of overly strict regulations could be pleased to learn that things are likely to get easier in the future.

Last year, in a crackdown on less professional areas of the Dubai massage industry; the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) put strict new regulations in place for all massage therapists.  The somewhat draconian measures mean that as it stands currently, in order to practice as a massage therapist you will need to undergo 500 hours of education-based training. You’ll have to undertake 200 hours of massage instruction, 100 hours of clinical practice, 125 hours of anatomy and physiology theory, 40 hours of general pathology, 25 hours of ethics and 25 hours of business practice. There is also a mandatory prometric test – which campaigners have been fighting to have dropped from the requirements because they think it’s too medical for the role of a massage therapist.

Even with all the theory, in order to practice you’ll still need to prove that you have at least two years of post-qualification experience – signed off by your previous employers.

Holistic business owner Anne Cook and Daniella Russell, director of spa consultancy dR Global, have met with Dr David Riley, head of licensing at the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) to discuss redrafting the regulations.

The prometric testing was formulated for medical massage such as physiotherapists rather than spa massage therapists,” said Anne Cook, “No exam is required now but therapists must have the correct qualifications. This is still a challenge due to the two years post-qualification experience required.

To get around the healthcare rules, it’s likely that a Massage Assistant Licence will need to be created, allowing a newly qualified therapist to work under supervision – the only way to gain the work experience needed to become a fully licenced massage therapist.

The 500 hours of training rule is also considered by the experts to be too strict, and they have recommended that the hours aren’t solely undertaken at educational establishments, who might struggle to provide so many hours of training, but can be supplemented with in-work training.

The massage licences only apply to therapists working in massage centres or alone; the luxury hotels in Dubai with top class spas employing their own massage staff aren’t obliged to stick to the regulations. Cook and Russell believe that in order to keep up with the rest of the industry, however, the rules should also be incorporated by hotels.

Meetings have been taking place in August to resolve the issues.

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