Reflexology Certification

Emerging Standards or Uncharted Waters?

It's not easy trying to explain the American system of reflexology certification to aspiring students, members of the medical community or overseas reflexology practitioners. For example, members of the medical community assume that reflexologists have acquired a professionalism system somewhat akin to their own. Educational parameters, training programs, journals, peer review, and licensing requirements are a part of any profession, but, because of history and politics, these things exist only sketchily in American reflexology.

As a result, the simple question of "How do I become a certified reflexologist" is difficult to answer. A better question may be "What can I do personally to acquire the credentials for the career that I want in reflexology ?" While no clear-cut answers exist, trends are emerging as the medical community starts to take a serious look at reflexology.

Where do you want to work?

Jobs for reflexologists are being developed in the medical community. The question for the aspiring reflexologist is "How do I make myself an attractive candidate as a reflexologist within the medical community?" The obvious answer is to acquire credentials that will meet the standards of the medical community. Those standards will be higher than those currently applied by state massage laws or reflexology professional organizations.

The system

Liability is a major concern for HMO's and hospitals which must protect their patients or face the consequences. As a result, the medical community has an interest in creating legally defendable standards to counter the possibility of liability in reference to employees. An example of potential problems, consider the impact of a "rogue" practitioner in a medical setting. Individuals practicing outside the standards of any profession can harm the reputation of the medical staff and the institution. All sorts of economic consequences can result.

To get an idea of what happens when alternative health meets modern medicine, consider our recent experience in searching for reflexologists to participate in research at a major university. The goal of finding qualified reflexology practitioners paired with the potential spectre of substandard reflexology practice created a daunting task. In taking the responsibility of certifying the competency of the reflexologists, we turned to the standards of the bodywork profession.(See boxed item.) The standards provided the best blueprint for accountability of alternative health practitioners within the medical community.

To date, an adequate pool of candidates has not been formed to staff a research project. At issue: the state law and hospital policy precludes the use of any reflexologist who does not have a massage or other professional license. Yet, the state law sets no standards for the practice of reflexology. While the state deems any massage license holder to be a competent reflexology practitioner, we had to recommend higher standards. For example, no reflexology training is required in the state law; we recommended the standard of professional bodywork, completion of a course of study in reflexology in a specific curriculum. It has been difficult finding individuals who meet the higher standards.

Where do I find training in reflexology?

The introduction of alternative health therapies into traditional medicine has brought to light an ugly little secret. Thanks to antiquated state laws and still-forming professional organizations, finding expert services or developing expertise yourself may not be easy. The bottom line for consumers of training programs or members of the medical community seeking bodywork practitioners is a buyer-be-aware attitude.

When evaluating a reflexologist, be aware of the practitioner's educational background and experience. (See boxed item.) As a prospective student, be aware of the value the educational system. Will you be able to legally practice in your city or state following the completion of the course of study? Will you be taught skills that comprise the standard of the field? (See boxed item.)


Job trends in reflexology show increasing employment potential Training in reflexology should include the opportunity to complete a course of study in a specific curriculum.

This has emerged as a standard requirement of bodywork professionals. As simple as this may seem, it has been resisted in the field. A portion of the field has preferred to impose the less rigorous requirement of hours of study in undefined areas. Those who acquire certification but do not complete a course of study may not be pursuing a course toward professional practice within the medical community.

Content of the curriculum has emerged as an issue. Is it specific enough to reflexology? Is it within the standard of the profession?

The above-mentioned research protocol included the specific test of thumb walking technique. In seeking reflexologists to participate in the study, education and experience in thumb walking technique were key factors. In addition, a specific standard of reflexology practice has been accepted by three national reflexology organizations over the years. (Reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure to the feet and hands with techniques that do not utilize cream, lotion or oil, assessed in zones and reflex areas with a premise that such work creates a physical change in the body.) Training in reflexology should meet industry standards or be within a philosophy that you consider personally fulfilling. Consider whether you are seeking employability or an independent practice.

Ask if the school meets the state requirements for educational institutions. The states of Pennsylvania and California now require that any certificate-grating organization be linked to a state-approved educational institution, usually for post-secondary education.

The future

A systematic educational means will emerge for reflexology as a result of demands from prospective students and employers. The student-consumers should demand education that meets their needs and helps them overcome the lack of standards implemented in state laws and professional associations.

Antiquated laws will become obsolete as HMO's and hospitals become aware of their lack of sense and failure to actually certify competency. The true legal liability of alternative practice is emerging. Issues such as malpractice, substandard practice, and scope of practice are emerging as basis for law suits.

Failure to implement professional standards may result in some other profession taking a role in the future of the practice. Self-regulation may be an idea of the past unless an active professional debate takes place.

ŠKunz and Kunz 2004
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