About S.T.A.O.

About S.T.A.O.

The S.T.A.O. is a non-profit organization that represents professionally trained Certified Shiatsu Therapists (TM) (CST®) in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally.

The association is a self-regulating body mandated to protect the interests of the public by setting the highest standards of training and practice in shiatsu therapy in North America. A CST is your assurance of the most highly trained shiatsu therapist in Canada and North America.

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The S.T.A.O. was established in 1983 as a non-profit professional organization.
The primary objective of the S.T.A.O. is to protect the public by prescribing high educational standards and standards of practice. The S.T.A.O. demands a high standard of ethical conduct for its members, encourages professional development and maintains comprehensive complaints and disciplinary protocols. The association also serves to educate the public and health care professionals about the therapeutic benefits of shiatsu therapy and the standard of training available to shiatsu therapists.

Canada is fortunate enough to have the most extensive shiatsu training available outside Japan. Only those who have undertaken 2200 hours of training (3-year academic equivalent) are eligible for membership in the S.T.A.O. The association maintains an annual registry of Certified Shiatsu Therapists to help consumers locate a qualified therapist in Canada and internationally.

Another objective of the S.T.A.O. is to pursue government regulation of shiatsu therapy in Ontario in order to serve the interests of the public. The S.T.A.O. aims to raise the profile of shiatsu therapy as a distinct therapy with high standards of practice and as an effective rehabilitative and preventative health care discipline.


1. To foster the traditional ideas, principles and practice of shiatsu therapy.

2. To foster high standards of education in shiatsu therapy through adherence to stringent membership eligibility qualifications.

3. To prescribe for its member, and to maintain in the public interest, a high standard of professional and ethical conduct.

4. To work to establish and support a national shiatsu therapy association.

5. To encourage and undertake public education concerning the aims, principles and practice of shiatsu therapy.

6. To promote communication and consultation among those practicing shiatsu therapy.

7. To promote communication and co-operation between shiatsu therapists and other individuals and organizations involved in the healing arts.

8. To promote and assist in the development of legislation by provincial government for the good of the pubic and of the shiatsu profession.

9. To encourage the professional development of those practicing shiatsu therapy.

10. To maintain contact with shiatsu educators and encourage the development of programs and activities which provide a high standard of instruction.

11. To maintain a registry of members.

12. To encourage research into shiatsu theory and practice.


There are three categories of membership* for which you can apply:

1. CST® - Certified Shiatsu Therapist

Those who are eligible are those who have earned a diploma in shiatsu therapy (2200-hour program) at a government accredited private vocational school in Ontario, or those who have equivalent training.

CST applicants are required to provide educational documentation and graduating certificates. CSTs receive full benefits including the use of the CST designation, professional liability insurance and commercial general liability insurance, marketing and networking opportunities, certification, referrals, registry listing, discounts on S.T.A.O. seminars and voting privileges.

2. Non-practicing member

A non-practicing member is one who qualifies as a Certified Shiatsu Therapist and who temporarily is not practicing shiatsu therapy and therefore does not require the benefits of being a Certified Shiatsu Therapist.

Non-practicing members are not entitled to referrals, registry listing or voting privileges and discounts on S.T.A.O. seminars.

3. Friend member

A friend of the association is open to any person who is interested in supporting the professional practice of shiatsu therapy and in promoting the aims of the S.T.A.O.

Friends receive a subscription to our newsletter, Pressure Points and discounts on S.T.A.O. seminars.

Code of Ethics

1. The first consideration of the shiatsu therapist shall be the health and well-being of the patient/client.
2. The shiatsu therapist shall recognize the patient/client’s human dignity and right to confidentiality.
3. The shiatsu therapist shall not refuse any patient/client on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital or family status, handicap, sexual orientation, the receipt of public assistance or record of offences.
4. The shiatsu therapist shall respect the patient/client’s right to accept or refuse any form of treatment.
5. The shiatsu therapist has a duty not to refuse or withdraw services without justifiable cause.
6. The shiatsu therapist shall recognize the special relationship which exists with the patient/client, and shall ensure that his/her professional conduct is above reproach, and will take neither physical, emotional, nor financial advantage of the patient/client.
7. The shiatsu therapist shall continually strive to improve his/her knowledge and professional skills.
8. The shiatsu therapist shall encourage and educate the patient/client in the development of a health-enhancing lifestyle.
9. The shiatsu therapist shall, when indicated, recommend to the patient/client that additional opinions and services be obtained, and shall cooperate with others who may assist in the care of the patient/client.
10. The shiatsu therapist shall recognize the patient/client’s right to be treated in a truthful manner.

Complaints & Discipline


The Complaints Committee serves to protect members of the general public against any professional misconduct committed by a CST member of the association. Protocols that adhere to the guidelines outlined in Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) are in place for dealing with complaints. The committee is responsible for investigating the allegation and if warranted, the complaint will be passed on to the Discipline Committee for further action.


The Discipline Committee’s responsibility is to review all documentation and facts brought into evidence against a CST member from the complaints process. If the committee finds that a CST member has committed an act or acts contrary to the association’s code of ethics, disciplinary action will be taken. This action may include limitations, conditions, suspension or revocation of membership and certification.

Scope & Practice


“The practice of shiatsu therapy is the assessment of physical function and dysfunction, and the meridian system of the body, and the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of physical dysfunction and the relief of pain by manipulation of soft tissues and joints as appropriate for affecting the meridian system to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function or relieve pain.

Treatment modalities primarily involve the application of pressure, but also include the application of heat, cupping, or energy and other means of affecting the meridian system.”

Board & Committee Members

Board and Committee Members

The S.T.A.O. is governed by a constitution, bylaws and objectives. The volunteer Board of Directors is elected at the Annual General Meeting in September of each year. The board consists of the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and three directors who meet on a regular basis to discuss and vote on matters of the association. The public sections of the board meetings are open to all interested members, as well as student representatives from the professional training schools.

The S.T.A.O. has a number of standing and ad-hoc committees including the following: 

  • Membership  
  • Marketing
  • Discipline 
  • Regulation
  • Complaints
  • Insurance
  • Examinations
  • Newsletter
  • CST Violations
  • Student liaison
  • Bylaw & policy review

Board of Directors and Committee Chairs 2023-2024

President Rotating Board members  
Secretary Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459
Treasurer Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459
Director Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459
Director Melissa Kramer 519 622-7283
Director Carlos Praniauskas 416 788-3187

Past Presidents

11/12/13                Chris Thompson


09/10       Carlos Praniauskas 416 788-3187
08/09 Ralf Rohrich 416 406-2985


The administrator of the S.T.A.O. professional liability and commercial general liability insurance plan is:

Haley Hoffman of Broker Linc formerly, Lackner, McLennan Insurance Ltd.
818 Victoria St. N. Kitchener,Ontario N2B 3C1.
Phone: 1 800 265-2625  

Contact List

Office Administrator: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Complaints: All Board

CST Violations: All Board 

Discipline: All Board

Continuing Education: All Board

Marketing: All Board 

Elections: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Insurance Liaison & Website: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Insurance (Quest for Coverage): Carlos Praniauskas

Exams: STAO Board

Membership: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Newsletter: all Board members

Toronto Licensing: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Receipts: Carolyn Kozole 416 333-7459

Regulation: All Board

Student Liaison: Carlos Praniauskas 

Telephone: Carolyn Kozole

Outgoing Call Team: all Board members

STAO History

1982 – 1986

The S.T.A.O. officially began its existence with incorporation as a non-profit organization in Ontario in August 1983 after a long period of dreams, discussions, debates and lots of hard work. 

In early 1982, students at Kikkawa College who were nearing graduation joined with already established shiatsu therapists to set up an association. Many meetings were held to discuss issues such as the name of the association, objectives and membership requirements. 

At this time, the Government of Ontario announced that it would be reviewing legislation governing health care in Ontario. It was decided that shiatsu therapists should make a submission and seek licensing. This decision was a powerful stimulus to the creation of the S.T.A.O. since everyone realized that a submission would have to come from a unified group to have any validity. 

Finally in August 1983, word came that the S.T.A.O. was a legally existing body. The first formal general meeting with 22 members was then held to elect the first board–Norman Feldman, President; Mitsuki Kikkawa, Vice-President; Linda Cuan Lim, Secretary; Kensen Saito, Treasurer; Alf Walker, Ann Smith-Beckett, and Lawrence Martin (replaced by Diane Bruni when he moved to Edmonton), Directors.

The aims and objectives of the S.T.A.O. were to: 


  • establish shiatsu licensing under the Drugless Practitioners Act (replaced in 1994 with the Regulated Health Professions Act, RHPA)
  • educate the public to the value of shiatsu
  • provide educational information to members
  • establish and maintain association standards

1987 – 1991

These years were pivotal for the S.T.A.O. Our original goal of becoming an independently regulated profession was challenged by the possibility of establishing a combined College of Massage and Shiatsu under the proposed new legislation (RHPA). 

The membership adopted the principle that shiatsu therapists needed to maintain an independent identity both as a profession and as an association. 


The association was restructured to emulate a regulated profession:

  • the constitution and by-laws were overhauled 
  •  membership categories and requirements were refined
  • the registered trademark “CST” (Certified Shiatsu Therapist) was formally adopted
  • official minimum education standards were established
  • entrance examinations were implemented for 1992 applicants
  • duties and protocols for the new Complaints and Discipline Committees were formalized

1982 – 1986

During these years, more changes were made to support our focus on regulation. Professional Liability Insurance became a requirement for CSTs and the Scope of Practice was approved for insurance purposes.

The board was restructured, to better serve a growing organization, to a four-person executive and three directors. Continuing education seminars were held yearly and marketing efforts continued with redesigned brochures and Yellow Pages advertising.

We started lobbying insurance companies to cover shiatsu treatments when done by a CST® (Certified Shiatsu Therapist™, practicing member of the S.T.A.O.).



After years of working from volunteers’ homes, the S.T.A.O. obtained its own office space and secured a special phone number (416-923-STAO) and a toll free number (1-877-923-STAO) to increase exposure and accessibility to consumers outside Toronto. 

To reflect current regulatory requirements, and in order to ensure that graduates of all accredited shiatsu programs were eligible for membership in the S.T.A.O., the bylaw governing educational requirements for membership was amended. The S.T.A.O. entrance examinations were revised to reflect these changes. 

The association also:

  • created an information package that is used to promote the S.T.A.O. and CSTs to consumers, insurance companies, health care professionals and government agencies. 
  • initiated a consumer letter campaign
  • completed form letters to insurance companies and human resources managers to assist in promoting the CST designation and to help obtain insurance coverage of shiatsu therapy when performed by a CST
  • participated in the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s (CLHIA) annual conferences



416-923-STAO (7826)

Toll-free (Canada):
1-877-923-STAO (7826)

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