Though online training programs in reflexology exist, they may not meet the certification requirements set forth by the American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB), which requires a specified amount of hands-on training. Online programs may only offer online coursework and exams, or their experience requirements may fall short of what is necessary for certification. However, students may supplement an online program with supervised experience.
The ARCB recommends those seeking education in reflexology look for ARCB-certified instructors; potential students may want to seek programs accredited by the American Commission for Accreditation of Reflexology Education and Training. Reflexology falls under the broader category of massage therapy, which requires licensure in 43 states. Prospective students should check their states' requirements before making a decision concerning educational pursuits. Prior to enrollment in a reflexology program students need a high school diploma and proficiency in the sciences.
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Reflexologists practice a traditional Chinese medical discipline in which pressure is applied to various points on a person's palms, feet and outer ear to prevent or alleviate discomfort or medical conditions. Practitioners then massage these reflex points to direct the person's internal energies to the afflicted areas in order to encourage self-healing.
The ARCB requires certification candidates to complete a program that includes significant hands-on learning and experience (www.arcb.net). Reflexology programs offered via distance-learning do not provide supervision of hands-on work, and offer little assistance to students seeking clinical practice situations. Some online training programs offer certificates of completion to students who complete their courses and pass examinations, but these certificates may not qualify graduates to sit for the ARCB certification exam.
Training programs may focus exclusively on reflexology, or they can include reflexology as part of a program of training for several massage modalities. Some practitioners make a distinction between reflexology as a diagnostic and therapeutic system and massage programs that are misidentified as reflexology but simply concentrate on techniques to massage the feet and hands.
Applicants to an online reflexology program should have a high school diploma or its equivalent, as well as proficiency in the sciences. Distance-learning courses may be delivered via videotape, DVD or the Web. Some online programs ask students to document over 100 hours of unsupervised hands-on foot manipulation with written logs and two 1-hour videotapes, but this approach falls short of ARCB certification requirements.
The ARCB recommends a minimum of 110 hours of accredited instruction consisting of 40 hours of reflexology history and theory, 55 hours of anatomy and physiology, five hours of business ethics and standards, and ten hours of supervised clinical practice. A further 90 hours of documented post-graduate clinical practice is also required. Much of the anatomy and physiology coursework and all of the clinical practice requires hands-on patient contact and supervision that cannot be fulfilled through distance-learning courses.
Distance-learning students may prefer to supplement an online program with separate hands-on classes in reflexology. Or they may choose to arrange for their own preceptor and clinical practice at a nearby health spa, holistic health practice or chiropractic center. Doing so means gaining supervised training while gathering the experience needed to obtain certification. Courses required for certification include:
Zones and Meridians
Reflexology, like acupuncture and acupressure, follows the guidelines of energy traveling through the body along 12 meridians. The distal surfaces of the feet and hands are divided into zones, each of which corresponds to a body part or organ system.
Anatomy and Physiology
Reviews the physiological structure of the body and teaches the locations of reflex points and how to identify different palpated textures. Concepts are presented in the contexts of modern Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.
Pain Relief Through Reflexology
Students learn techniques to massage reflex points for the purpose of relieving pain throughout the body. The class also compares reflexology to other forms of massage and zone therapy.
Safety Issues in Reflexology
Although reflexology involves little risk, this course covers situations in which some reflexology practices are contraindicated. Massage in areas with blood clotting, weak bones or healing wounds should be avoided. It also discusses a variety of conditions that require special care.
Hand and Ear Reflexology
Foot reflexology is the primary focus of initial reflexology certification, which focuses on hand and ear reflex points and the most effective ways to use them.
As of 2011, 43 U.S. states had laws regulating massage therapy. Reflexology was exempt from the more stringent massage regulations in 29 states. Practice often requires licensing, though requirements widely vary. Some locales require that reflexologists have a massage license while a few require an adult entertainment license. However, programs offered solely online generally do not fulfill the requirements for licensure in any state.
Reflexologists may practice independently, but many find work in sport and fitness centers, health spas, hospitals or nursing homes. They may also partner with other alternative or homeopathic medicine practitioners. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, massage therapists in general earned a median annual salary of $38,040 as of May 2015 (www.bls.com).
Certification and Licensing
The ARCB reflexology exam is open to graduates of accredited programs, or students who have accumulated 110 hours of reflexology coursework in addition to supervised clinical practice. The exam consists of a practical test to evaluate physical knowledge and manipulation technique, 300 written questions and a review of 90 documented hours of post-graduate reflexology client sessions. Certified reflexologists who have taken an additional 30 hours of hand reflexology courses and documented 20 clinical hours of hand sessions can take the ARCB examination to earn additional hand reflexology certification.
Both certifications remain valid for two years, during which practitioners must earn 12 continuing-education credits to remain certified. Many of the courses offered by online reflexology schools are approved for continuing-education credits.
While the course work required to become a massage therapist can be obtained from an online reflexology certificate, requirements for licensure require students to have a number of hands-on experience hours that can only be completed in person. This experience may be supplemented with supervised experience after earning the certificate.