Thousands of Albertans just can’t afford to go grocery shopping the way they used to, and our food banks are feeling the pressure.

Food Banks Alberta is calling it a state of emergency, and it is hard to argue with that. The provincial association of 113 food banks and food insecurity organizations reports that food bank use throughout Alberta—from Blairmore to Wabasca—had risen 73 per cent between 2019 and 2022.

Click Here to Join our June Giving Clinics

The 2023 numbers have not yet been published on the association’s website, but food banks have seen the crisis continue into 2024 because of inflation, higher interest rates affecting mortgages, rental and retail food price increases, all of which translates into less purchasing power for individuals and families.

Diminishing social assistance resources in Alberta is also a big factor, and those affected are not just those at the lowest income levels. There has been a sharp increase in employed people who are struggling to make ends meet. One-third of program recipients are children.

“We’re witnessing an astronomical rise in food bank usage in the post-COVID years,” says Tamisan Bencz-Knight, Manager of Strategic Relationships & Partnerships at Edmonton’s Food Bank. “From April 2023 to April 2024, we’ve seen an increase of more than 35 percent in the use of our food hamper program.”

In June, Vicars School has chosen food banks to receive the proceeds of our Giving Clinic days—June 17 in Edmonton and June 27 in Calgary—in the two communities where our clinics are located.

Edmonton’s Food Bank, the first food bank in Canada, was created more than four decades ago as a donation centre for food gleaned (salvaged) from farmers, retailers, and grocery stores to be distributed to those in need. Today, the organization continues the gleaning operations, along with donated food and money, which is used to for operations and to purchase food to round out the selection food available.

With more than five million kilograms of food redistributed throughout the community, key infrastructure is needed. The newest warehouse opened last June on Indigenous People’s Day and is named NISO, meaning “two” in Cree, as it sits between the two existing warehouses.

The Edmonton warehouses enable food distribution to over 75,000 people annually and thousands more through 350 soup kitchens, shelters, schools, and community organizations. Clients access food hampers over the phone (780-425-4190) or through the on-line form on Edmonton’s Food Bank’s website. The organization’s Beyond Food Program offers job readiness support, referrals, safety ticket acquisition, one-on-one supports, and much more. The Beyond Food Program is intended to address the root causes of food insecurity – poverty.

Despite the generosity of the community and the success of Edmonton’s Food Bank, the unprecedented volume of need is outpacing food supplies which often run low between major food drives and festivals such as the annual Heritage Festival. The organization relies on donations of both food and money, to keep warehouses stocked.

The Calgary Food Bank is experiencing similar pressures. The Calgary Food Bank was started in 1982 by four volunteers in a church basement just when Alberta experienced an economic downturn that resulted in thousands of oil industry workers losing their jobs. The Calgary Food Bank brokered partnerships with food-related industries, probably the most significant with trucking and food distribution companies, that helped divert safe usable food from landfills to those in need.

The Calgary Food Bank’s Food Industry Advisory Committee of food industry leaders helped create an infrastructure for the reliable redirection of nutritious food away from waste to the charity. In 2023, 91 per cent of the charity’s food donations came from their 360 food industry partners.

Despite this continuing support, the Calgary operation responded to more than double the requests for their emergency food hampers during and after the pandemic.

Last year, the Calgary Food Bank gave out more than 141,000 food hampers, the highest number ever. This year, the demand is higher. “We’ve seen a 35 per cent increase in demand for food support during the first three months of 2024 compared to the same time span in 2023,” says Cassandra Woods, its communications coordinator. “Most days, we distribute 700 emergency food hampers.”

As with other food banks in Alberta and throughout Canada, there’s an increase in clients who are working and are not able to stretch their paychecks to cover basic necessities. “We have a wish list for donation of food and other items on our website,” says Cassandra. To help those most in need, the Calgary Food Bank welcomes food and monetary donations.

Vicars School of Massage Therapy will be donating the gross proceeds of one day of our student massage clinics at each campus to their closest food bank. For our monthly Giving Clinics, we choose what we predict to be the busiest days to maximize the donation we can make. This month, that is June 17 for Edmonton and June 27 for Calgary. At Vicars student massage clinics, massage therapists in training are supervised by faculty and offer massages to the public at $35 per session.

While this fundraiser is directed to those serving Calgary and Edmonton, where Vicars has campuses, if you are reading this in Squamish, High Level, La Ronge, or anywhere else in Canada, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation to your nearest food bank. You won’t have to look far, sadly: there are 113 within the Alberta Food Banks association alone, and they could all use your help.

Every month, Vicars School of Massage Therapy donates one day’s gross proceeds from the public massage clinics offered by supervised students-in-training and held at the school’s Edmonton and Calgary campuses. We’re pleased to announce that May’s recipient charities are a pair of women’s emergency shelters in Edmonton and Calgary who do amazing work.

On May 13th, the day after Mother’s Day, when many of us are thinking of the women and children in our lives, Vicars’ donations will go to WIN House in Edmonton and Awo Taan Healing Lodge in Calgary. Both groups provide essential, life-saving services and support for women and children flee domestic violence.

Click here to book your appointment for May 13th while there are still spots available!

WIN: Five Decades of Life-Saving Care in Edmonton

WIN (Women In Need) House was founded in 1970 by a group of Edmontonians concerned for the safety of young girls and women, particularly young indigenous girls and women who were arriving alone to the city with no place to stay. Five decades later, WIN house operates two emergency shelters and a transitional housing shelter offering safety to single women, women with children, and non-binary and transgender individuals.

WIN House accommodates up to 70 women and children at a time for 21-day stays with wrap-around services including meals, clothes, nurses, crisis intervention support, child support, pet care, and valuable links to housing, legal, employment and educational services and numerous post-shelter goods and services. In 2023, WIN House gave essential support and shelter to more than 500 adults and children, and the need is increasing. While WIN House staff took almost 2800 calls to their crisis lines last year, they had to turn away close to 1800 people because of lack of space or capacity in their shelters.

WIN House has several partners in the Edmonton community. One partnership with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society provides on-site indigenous cultural teachings and experiences. Another partnership with Goodwill ensures that donations made to Goodwill, explicitly on behalf of WIN House, are tracked and gift cards issued for WIN House residents.

“Community involvement is vital as it not only brings much-needed awareness to the challenges faced by women and children in vulnerable situations but also fuels our ability to provide them with essential support,” says Britni Brady, WIN House director of development. “Every contribution, big or small, directly impacts lives and fosters a safer, more supportive environment for our residents.”

WIN House operates with funding from government and other grants, fundraising, and individual donations from members of the public. In addition to donations made to Goodwill on behalf of WIN House, monetary donations to WIN House can be made using this link or through CanadaHelps.Org. WIN House also welcomes those interested in volunteering.

Awo Taan: Culturally Informed Healing in Calgary

Indigenous women are three times more likely than non-indigenous women to be victims of violence. Calgary’s Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society Women’s Emergency Shelter is the only women’s shelter in Alberta specifically for indigenous women and children. Founded in 1986 by Ruth Scalp Lock and other leaders, the vision was to create a shelter where women and children could be sheltered in a uniquely indigenous environment. A dedicated committee of people from the indigenous community, the Alberta government, the school system, the police service, and the private sector established the facility and raised the funds necessary for Awo Taan to open its doors.

Guided by cultural practices and traditional teachings such as those of the Medicine Wheel, smudging, and healing circles, Awo Taan—the name means shield in Blackfoot language—offers shelter and services to vulnerable and at-risk women and families. The 32 bed, full-service shelter is open 24-7 with counsellors available at all times. Awo Taan provides comprehensive services to support women’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual healing. Women and children can stay up to three weeks, and Awo Taan ensures that they are accommodated after that time through stay extensions and referrals to other agencies.

One hundred percent of Awo Taan Healing Lodge’s budget comes from fundraising, which includes support from corporations, multi-year funding agreements, public organization, and individual donations.

To support Awo Taan directly, visit this link, or call 403-531-1970, Ext 200.

Vicars welcomes clients of all different health backgrounds to our Edmonton and Calgary public clinics. You must book online to experience a massage at our clinics. A session lasts 75 minutes, including 15 minutes for assessment, and costs $35.00.

The Edmonton Public Clinic is located at 2824A Calgary Trail Northwest, Edmonton. The Calgary Public Clinic is located at 200 Country Hills Landing NW, Calgary.

Mat Cardinal’s a bit obsessed with second chances. After all, he’s had two of his own: a second chance at a good career and a second chance at life itself.

We talked to Mat in April 2024 just before he and his hit country music band The Prairie States held a benefit concert, called Second Chance Songs, to help the University of Alberta Transplant Program give other Canadians second chances of their own.

Love good music and a good cause? Pick up your tickets to Second Chance Songs!

Mat Cardinal was near the end of his massage therapy education at Vicars School of Massage Therapy when Covid hit. The class of 2020 graduated a bit later than planned. Most went on to establish their careers as massage therapists. For Mat, though, the path was more challenging.

By the time Mat was 10, he had developed kidney disease, something he shared with his older brother Eli. To cope, the brothers focused on songwriting and making music together. But the disease worsened for both of them. Mat was in his early 20s in 2012 when his kidneys failed, and he spent a year on dialysis.

Mat’s father Robert turned out to be a match for Mat for a living kidney donor transplant through the University of Alberta’s Transplant Program. While Mat got his second chance, Eli, who had developed severe anemia after years of chemo to treat his kidney disease, passed away in 2014. After Eli’s death, Mat vowed to keep writing and playing music. In 2017, he formed a band with some good friends called The Prairie States.

Because Mat has to take immunosuppression medications for the rest of his life, during the pandemic he was under strict orders from his medical team to not leave his house.

“I was very happy about graduating from Vicars, but I wasn’t able to continue being a massage therapist because of my kidney transplant,” says Mat. “I couldn’t risk getting Covid.”

Music became even more important in Mat’s life while he was housebound, and the band’s recognition grew. Mat got vaccinated as soon as he could and, as the pandemic was winding down, the band’s fortunes took off. They were signed to a label and a new path opened up for Mat.

The band’s name, The Prairie States comes from a Walt Whitman poem about bringing the old country into the new, something Mat is praised for in his songwriting and singing. Mat has been honoured by the Edmonton Arts Council, and the band has won 11 Country Music Alberta awards, including 2023 top group/duo. If you listen to country, you’ll already know them from their songs “Waiting On You,” which hit #28 on Canadian country radio, or their breakout single “Rebel Phase.”

“Last year, we went to Nashville for a song-writing workshop with top names in the business which led to our fourth album, ‘Trouble Is,’ released this year,” Mat explains.

The Prairie States’ success, along with the kidney transplant that made it all possible, is the inspiration for the fundraiser when the band played at Edmonton’s Cook County Saloon. Cook County’s owners are big supporters of the band. Popular Edmonton brewery Sea Change had created a special “Second Chance” lager for the event. All proceeds from the evening will go to the University of Alberta Transplant Program.

“For such a long time, when I was a kid, I was just in survival mode,” says Mat. “I wasn’t really living because there were so many hospital visits, and I was going from being sick to not being sick to being sick again.”

“Thanks to my mom Tracy, my dad Robert, and the Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, I have a new life,” says Mat. “The surgical team is fantastic, and I have nothing but respect for the nurses who have been caring for and supporting me for a long time.”

“My message to anyone who is going through what I went through is don’t give up. It’s hard but I’m living proof that there’s a second chance,” says Mat. “And for those who are considering donating a kidney, it’s such a gift to give. You’re giving life to someone else so that they can continue theirs.”

Vicars School donated one day’s massage fees from the Edmonton and Calgary supervised student massage clinics to the program. At Vicars student massage clinics, students offer massages to the public as part of their practicum. The day’s clinics were fully booked and the money raised was donated to the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation in the name of Mat’s benefit.

The University of Alberta Hospital offers the most comprehensive organ and tissue transplant program in Canada, and provides life-saving care to Canadians in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, BC, Nunavut, Yukon, and NWT.

“I’m so appreciative of what Vicars is doing,” says Mat. “It’s just amazing for Vicars to use its platform to support the transplant community.”

Happy baby getting an infant massage

This is the first in a series about pediatric massage: massage therapy for children ranging from infants to adolescents. In this first post, you’ll learn about massage therapy for infants, including its potential benefits for both parents and child and the science that assesses those benefits.

Pediatric massage has been practised around the world for millennia and is foundational to child-rearing in many cultures.

In Europe, Canada, and elsewhere in North America, pediatric massage is rapidly gaining popularity. Because of the vulnerability of children (age, physical sensitivity, immature language skills), professionals and parents must ensure massage therapy will help, not harm. Massage therapy research provides non-biased evidence that can be used by parents, massage therapists, and within healthcare facilities.

Of course, like any research into any complementary and alternative medicine, massage research is a challenge: funding is scarce, and it is hard to get definitive results in a study where double-blind studies are impossible.

One of the leading researchers in the field of touch therapy is psychologist Tiffany Field. Dr. Field has led ground-breaking clinical research over the past four decades that gives a greater understanding of the effects of pediatric massage. She is an award-winning professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine where she founded the Touch Research Institute. One of her goals to provide a scientific rationale and understanding of pediatric massage therapy to inform practice and policy.

“Touch is critical for children’s growth, development, and health,” writes Dr. Tiffany Field of the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute.

In her graduate training, Dr. Field worked on a neonatal intensive care unit looking for ways to improve weight gain in premature infants (preemies), so that they could be released from hospital sooner. The preemies were on feeding tubes and Field found that when they were given nipples to suck on, they gained weight. She proposed that if mouth stimulation could benefit the babies, then whole body stimulation—massage—would also benefit.

Happy baby getting an infant massage

Infant massage therapy helps parents and baby bond, and offers many physical benefits to the baby

She was proven right: massaged preemies thrived when regular massage was added to their care. They showed significant weight gain and were able to go home to their families several days earlier than non-massaged preemies. When her own daughter was born prematurely, Dr. Field used her in her massage therapy research. Since then, investigating the potential of touch to improve health became the foundation for Dr. Field’s career.

In 1986, she and her research colleagues developed a moderate pressure massage protocol for their research studies on hospitalized preemies that has been used globally. Dr. Field’s pioneering work in hundreds of studies resulted in her authorship of dozens of books and hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers.

A scientist looks at infant massage therapy

One of Dr. Field’s seminal papers was a review in 2019 of all academic pediatric massage therapy studies published between 2008 and 2018 that investigated the effects of massage on various pediatric health conditions. In addition to faster weight gain and shorter hospital stays, premature infant massage therapy resulted in reduction of infection, better pain tolerance and immune function, better developmental scores for babies born of mothers with HIV or cocaine addiction, and reduction of parental stress.

Getting to the “how it works”

Dr. Field’s review also considered the bodily mechanism—how it works—that are thought to lead to the physiological responses to massage therapy. For example, the mechanisms behind premature babies’ weight gain after massage therapy are thought to be increased gastric motility (movement of food through the gut) and stimulation of the vagus nerve, which regulates bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and stress hormones.

Massage also leads to increases in levels of insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, and increases in natural killer cell activity, an important defence against infection in an infant’s immature immune system. But Dr. Field says that validating how and which bodily mechanisms are activated by massage requires additional research.

Massage therapy effects on full-term newborns were also included in Dr. Field’s review, with reported results similar to those found when the small subjects had been born prematurely. In both groups, results included decreases in bilirubin (jaundice) levels, sleep disturbances, irritability, colic, crying, and facilitation of infant development and reduction of stress in parents.

Parental stress and anxiety interfere with the attachment that is vital between parents and their infants. Maternal infant bonding increases self-confidence in mothers and positive mental health in later life for infants. A 2019 UK literature review by community practitioners, spanning 36 years of publications, showed that in some of the studies, massage therapy performed by mothers on their babies showed improved maternal infant bonding, with higher levels of improvement for mothers who experienced moderate mental health issues.

Another systematic review of five years of massage therapy studies, representing more than 1400 participating newborns (under the age of one year), was undertaken by Swedish researchers and published in Maternal, New-Born and Child Health in 2022. While the review focused on health benefits to infants attributed to massage, it highlighted the effect of parent-given massage in significantly reducing post-partum depression experienced by both parents.

Other research, including a study published in 2011 in Journal of Perinatal Education, found that during the early postpartum period, infant massage conducted by fathers “significantly decreased paternal stress” and increased bonding with their babies. As with most massage therapy research, the caveats apply: more research is needed to fully understand and verify the mechanisms behind massage therapy’s effects.

Growing popularity of pediatric massage therapy

Evidence produced by researchers like Dr. Field is helping to establish the legitimacy of pediatric massage therapy in clinical settings such as neonatal intensive care wards. Outside hospital settings, the popularity of pediatric massage therapy is growing because of its observable emotional, social, and health benefits for the children, but also for the caregivers or parents who give the therapy.

Pediatric massage therapy training

Graduates of Vicars School of Massage Therapy receive an introduction to pediatric massage as part of the curriculum. All Vicars graduates can conduct safe, nurturing massages on people of any age, including infants and children, but some go on to enroll in continuing education to obtain a post-grad professional certificate in infant massage.

For full-term babies or premature infants who are home from hospital, infant massage is generally performed at home as an enjoyable and health-promoting part of baby’s care.

RMTs with infant-massage training  often conduct workshops or give individual training to new parents to help them learn an effective and safe massage routine. Many communities offer parent-child massage workshops and courses as well.

If you cannot find a class near you, there are excellent online resources to guide you in delivering a simple, short and playful massage to your child. These videos are a great place to start:

Still to come in our blog series: Research on the effects of massage on conditions in older children, the benefits of massage in strengthening the parent-child relationship beyond infancy, and a conversation with a Vicars grad about why she loves providing infant massage training in her practice.

Kathleen Thurber is a health and science writer. She lives in Edmonton.

Dear Vicars graduates,

For the past two years, we have had the honour of working alongside you as your instructors, clinic supervisors, and all-around school support team. This weekend, we will have the great pleasure to welcome you fully into the massage therapy profession—as colleagues.

This is a milestone in your career, and in your lives. And it’s the result of countless large and small accomplishments along the way. So as you celebrate with your family and friends this weekend, we hope that you won’t just be celebrating the end of final exams. We hope you’ll be giving yourself credit for all the work you’ve done and all the obstacles you’ve overcome along the way.

Celebrate the moment you decided to stop dreaming about a new career and start doing something about it. Celebrate getting through that first day of school, when you were nervous and excited in equal measure. Celebrate reviewing flashcards while waiting to pick up your kids after school, and the time you went grocery shopping with origins and insertions drawn all over your arms in Magic Marker. Celebrate your first few practicum shifts, as you learned to trust yourself and your skills in a real-world clinic environment. Celebrate the first time you saw a client with a condition you’d learned about in your textbooks, and were able to reduce their symptoms. Celebrate the sacrifices you and your family had to make at home in order for you to concentrate on school.

It’s these little moments that got you here today. It took bravery, compassion, humour, patience, and determination.

And that’s why you should be celebrating this weekend. Not the piece of paper you’re going to get, but the strength that it took to earn it.

There’s no limit to what you can accomplish next. Some of you will go on to open your own massage therapy clinics and eventually hire other RMTs, others will choose to join existing practices and thrive alongside new colleagues. Many of you already have positions lined up for after graduation!

No matter where your practice takes you—a dedicated massage clinic, a gym, a spa, a home clinic, or any of the countless other options available to you as Registered Massage Therapists—we know you’ll do us proud.

Congratulations, and good luck!


The entire Vicars School family

Are you dreaming of becoming a massage therapist, but feeling a little hesitant about jumping right into a two-year program? We’ve got you covered.

Massage for Beginners is a 2-day hands-on introduction to the world of massage. The workshop gets rave reviews from people want a short, safe, preview of what it’s really like attend massage school and build a massage career. We also get a lot of curious folks who want to learn the basics of massage to work on friends and family members (and to guarantee that they’ll be the most popular person on the group ski trip!).

Spend the weekend learning hands-on massage skills from a real MH Vicars instructor, using our professional equipment!

Why is Massage for Beginners so valuable?

When students first begin hands-on work, everyone is nervous about getting on and off the table and staying draped, touching, and being touched. Linda McGeachy, MH Vicars director of curriculum, says she can see the difference in the first few classes between those who have taken the workshop and those who haven’t: “Module One can be overwhelming, but those who have had the workshop do much better. They have so much more confidence.”

If you are interested in becoming a massage therapist, a beginners’ workshop is the best way to be secure about your decision and to be prepared and confident for the first day of class. And if you come away from the workshop feeling like massage therapy isn’t for you after all, that’s just as valuable. Massage is not the career for everyone. No reputable massage school wants to enroll students who are not going to thrive.

While many schools make their introductory session mandatory, Vicars does not because so many of our students are from out of town or out of province.

But we do strongly encourage prospective students to attend—and even refund the $250 course fee for everyone who goes on to attend our massage program!

From Workshop Student to Workshop Instructor

When Corliss Robertson was considering whether to train at Vicars for her new massage career, she was keen to sign up for the introductory weekend. Although she already thought she was making the right career choice, she wanted to make sure: “I thought if I was going to invest two years of my life in massage training, I might as well make sure it was really right for me, and the workshop seemed like a great way to give it a try.”

Corliss, who graduated in 2015, has built a successful career and eventually returned to the school as an instructor. As well as teaching classes, she now teaches many of the Massage for Beginners workshops at the Calgary campus.

No matter what brings our beginners in, they all find it wonderful—and empowering—to be able to do a simple and effective one-hour massage by the end of the two-day workshop. It’s an intense two days, Corliss says, but stress-free. Participants are free to explore the work without any stress or academic expectations.

“There is no judgement. It’s a relaxed environment in which to test the work,” she says.

Each workshop opens with a presentation on how to keep both therapist and massage subjects safe. They learn how to set up the equipment, what makes a good massage table, and how to keep a treatment space clean. Students learn to check with their clients for contraindications to massage. And they learn to keep themselves safe through practicing good body mechanics as they work. Careful draping techniques are taught and practiced, so that both parties feel comfortable.

The group works in pairs as the instructor demonstrates each of the techniques that together form the skill set of a basic relaxation massage, including effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement. They learn the overall principles of massage, the rules that make these techniques safe and effective.

But for everyone, the best part of the weekend is the last afternoon, when the instructor leads the class as they take turns giving and receiving a whole-body massage, timing the different steps so that each pair works at the same pace, and everyone completes the treatment in one hour. At the end of the workshop, each student takes home their learning materials so they can continue to learn and practice their new skills on friends and family once they get home.

The reviews are in!

Here’s a sampling of the feedback we’ve received from past workshop participants:

“It was so cool.”

“The course is very well set up.”

“I can’t believe all that I was able to learn in such a short time.”

“There was just enough structure, but it was never rigid.”

“We really got a better understanding about what it means to be a massage therapist.”

“Having Stan [one of the school’s anatomy skeletons] was helpful. He helped show what the bony landmarks looked like.”

And this one, which we suspect was written by a reluctant pal who signed up to support their friend: “I came into this not expecting to like it and I loved it.” 

Click here to learn more about Massage for Beginners and sign up for a future workshop. The fee is $250 per person, or $350 for both if you bring a friend.

MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy logo
In light of recent changes to COVID-19 public health orders in Alberta, we have updated our on-campus COVID protocols. The new policies are as follows:
  • Masks are mandatory in all shared spaces on campus. This rule applies to students, staff, clinic clients, and any other campus visitors.
  • All students, staff, clients, and visitors must complete a symptom and exposure screening form prior to entering campus.
  • Proof of vaccination will no longer be required.
  • Proof of negative test will no longer be required.
These rules apply to both our Edmonton and Calgary campuses, including our public massage clinics, effective Thursday February 17 2022.
Our goal has always been to operate a space that is as safe as possible for our students, clients, and employees. Achieving this is a shared responsibility.
We strongly encourage everyone to take all available precautions to keep themselves and their communities healthy. This includes getting vaccinated against communicable diseases like COVID-19 and the flu, staying home when unwell, and wearing masks where appropriate.
Thank you for your continued understanding and cooperation.
happy new year 2022 from MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy

Here’s to a brand new year full of health and happiness!

We considered opening this year-end message by acknowledging that 2021 has been another complicated and stressful year for our students and staff. But then we thought—focusing on the negative is hardly in the holiday spirit, is it?

And it’s a bit passé, anyway. Reminiscing about the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and saying “good riddance” to the old year is sooo 2020.

So instead of listing the challenges that we’ve all faced in 2021, I’m going to use my final blog post of the year to celebrate the things that brought us joy in the last 12 months.

MH Vicars School Celebrates 20 Years by Earning CMTCA Accreditation

At the beginning of the year, we thought that the biggest news of 2021 was going to be our 20th Anniversary celebrations. We were looking forward to the opportunity to reminisce about the past and catch up with 20 years’ worth of successful massage therapists. After all, two decades (and counting) of providing exceptional massage therapy education to adult learners in Western Canada is worth making a fuss about!

But—alas—the pandemic marched on and bumped “party planning” off the top of our to-do list. And instead of spending the year thinking about the past, we got to do something even better: dream about the future.

Because the biggest news of 2021 is that we earned preliminary accreditation status from the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation.

This is a huge accomplishment, and many years in the making. It’s a big deal for us as a school, and for our current and future students. It’s also a new high water mark for massage therapy education in this province; MH Vicars School is one of only two private massage therapy colleges in Alberta to have made it onto this prestigious list.

To learn more about accreditation and what it means, read this blog post from July!

Public Clinic Returns!

We had to adapt our program in a lot of big and little ways to keep our community as safe as possible during the pandemic, especially before life-saving vaccines became widely available. These changes were essential, but we really missed the way things used to be. The hardest change to get used to was the temporary closure of our public clinics.

We continued to offer hands-on practical experience for our students, and our faculty and supervisors did an incredible job of turning the student-only practicum shifts into dynamic learning opportunities.

But we missed the real thing: the excitement of running a massage therapy clinic and the satisfaction of treating our clients’ pain and stress.

So we were beyond thrilled to reopen our doors to the public this fall, with appropriate health precautions in place for both clients and therapists.

You can click here to book a massage from one of our talented student therapists.

New and Improved Online Booking for Clinic Clients

Were you wondering why you heard shouts of joy and relief coming from the vicinity of our Calgary and Edmonton campuses in mid-November? We can answer in one word: Jane.

That’s the name of the online booking and scheduling software that we began using for or student clinics this fall. It has already made life easier for our clients, students, and staff.

We’re getting great feedback on the new system, especially from some our long-time regular clients who have been with us through all the ups and downs of our previous booking systems.

Haven’t used Jane to book an appointment yet? You can watch a quick video tutorial here.

New Weekly Class Schedule Provides Flexibility for January Students

Our goal has always been to make massage therapy education accessible to as many people as possible. One of the ways we do that is through our innovative blended-learning program delivery with the choice of either weekly or monthly schedule options. Another is to offer both September and January start dates.

But until this year, January students didn’t have as much choice as students who began in September. The weekly schedule wasn’t available for them.

Starting in January 2020, though, we now offer weekly and monthly classes in both September and January. (Of course, the options may still vary between campuses, based on student interest).

More variety means more flexibility, and for some people can even make the difference between starting their dream career and putting school on hold for another year.

We’re looking forward to greeting a new crew of both weekly and monthly students in a few weeks!

This year wasn’t easy, but you made it great!

Thank you to all of our students, clients, and incredible faculty and staff for all that you did in 2021. The compassion, patience, hard work, and positivity that we’ve seen around us this year has been incredibly inspiring. It’s a joy to be a part of your lives.


From all of us at MH Vicars School,

Happy New Year.

questions and answers before massage therapy

Your Most “Pressing” Massage Therapy Questions, Answered!

Making an appointment for a therapeutic massage treatment from a professional RMT is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Massage therapy has proven benefits for your physical and mental health. If you’ve never had a professional massage before, though, it can also be a daunting prospect!  

To help you prepare for your first massage—or maybe give you the confidence boost you need to pick up the phone and make an appointment—we’ve created this cheat sheet. It’s based on some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from new clients at our student massage clinics in Edmonton and Calgary.   

How long is a massage? How much time will the appointment take?

Most massage therapy treatments are 60 minutes, though some RMTs will offer 30-minute, 45-minute, or 90-minute treatments.  

But regardless of the treatment length, the actual appointment will take longer than that. That’s because there’s more to a massage therapy appointment than just the time you spend on the table.  

The steps of a typical therapeutic massage appointment are: 

  • Filling out a health history form and any other new-client paperwork 
  • Interview and assessment. Before you get on the table, your massage therapist should check in with you about your goals for the session, review your health history, and discuss their treatment plan, and get your consent for the massage. Depending on your needs, they may perform a non-invasive physical assessment. They might assess your posture or gait, test your range of motion, or palpate (gently touch) parts of your body.  
  • The massage itself. The best part!  
  • Homecare consultation. After you’ve gotten dressed and are off the table, your RMT will give you personalized advice on how to maintain the benefits of your treatment. They may show you some stretches or simple exercises, or even self-massage techniques that you can use at home.  
  • Payment and rebooking.  

 To help you plan out your day, ask about the length of the appointment when you’re booking.  

Can I keep my clothes on during the massage?

If you want to!  

Before you get on the table, your massage therapist will explain what areas of your body they’re going to treat that day. They will ask you to undress to your level of comfort, and then leave the room while you undress and get under the sheet or blanket. Most people take off all their clothes, or leave on only underwear, but it’s up to you. It’s your massage! 

Of course, any clothes you’re wearing will impact your massage experience. Your massage therapist may not be able to perform some techniques through fabric, or the techniques may not be as effective.  

If you plan to leave your clothes on over an area of your body that is going to be massaged, it’s a good idea to mention this to your RMT during the interview. That will allow them to adapt their treatment plan to meet your needs.  

Please keep in mind that any clothes that you wear during the massage may come in contact with the massage lotion, oil, or gel that your RMT is using. These products can also transfer to your other clothes when you get dressed after the massage, so it’s best to wear casual, machine-washable clothes to your appointment.  

Will my body be covered during the massage?

Yes! When you are on the massage table, you will stay covered by a sheet, towel, or blanket. Your RMT will only uncover the area of the body that they’re currently working on. The rest of your body will remain securely covered. Extra care is taken to shield your body when you turn over, and when draping around sensitive areas like your glutes, chest, and abdomen. 

If you get cold during your massage, mention this your therapist. They can provide extra blankets or even give you a heating pad.  

How do I choose a massage therapist in my community?

There are lots of great massage therapists out there but finding the right RMT for you takes more than a quick Google search.  

It’s worth taking a few minutes to do some simple research before you book an appointment with a professional massage therapist. Start by thinking about what your goals are for the massage. Do you want a relaxation massage, or are you looking for a treatment that will target a specific issue like TMJD, back pain, scoliosis, or arthritis? Do you want to combine your massage treatment with other therapeutic modalities like cupping or manual lymphatic drainage? What’s your budget? Do you have insurance coverage? 

Once you have a little bit more of an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start your search.  

The best way to find the right RMT for you is to ask around! Ask your friends and family if they have a therapist they like (and why). Other health care professionals can also be great sources of recommendations. Many physiotherapists, chiropractors, and even family doctors have a list of RMTs and clinics that they regularly refer their patients to.  

You can also search the therapist directories of your province’s professional associations or regulatory college, such as the MTAA and NHPC in Alberta, and the CMTBC in British Columbia. These directories usually let you search by name or location, which is very convenient.  

It’s important that any massage therapist you visit is qualified and licensed or registered in your province, and checking with a provincial college or association is a good way to make sure your RMT meets the minimum training standards required where you live.  

If you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or another province where massage therapy (and massage therapy education) aren’t standardized and regulated by the government, it’s important to ask your RMT where they went to school.  

Of course, we recommend finding a Vicars therapist! But if you’re not lucky enough to have one of our grads in your community (or if they’re simply too busy to take on new clients), try to find an RMT who was trained at a CMTCA Accredited program, or a college on the MTAA Approved Schools list.  

If you live in Calgary or Edmonton, give one of our teaching clinics a try!  Your therapist will be a first- or second-year massage student, and there is a Vicars faculty supervisor there to support them. Some of our regular clients visit our clinic in between appointments with their fully trained RMT, but the student clinics are also a great way for beginners to give massage a try for a lower price than a traditional clinic.  


Wherever you go, we hope you enjoy your massage—we’re sure it will be the first of many! 

The Coldest Night of the Year is a walk that raises money for folks in our communities who are experiencing homelessness, hunger, and other hardships this winter. This year, the walk has gone virtual – which means that you can participate no matter where you are!
Join the MH Vicars School team and choose a participating charity in your own community to raise money for! There’s no fee to sign up, but you can donate or ask your friends and family to pitch in! Last year, over 26,000 walkers across Canada joined this event, raising just under $6.5 million dollars – it’s Canada’s National Walk for Homelessness.
You can choose your own walking distance and route, and then on February 20 you can put your boots on join thousands of Canadians across the country as we walk together – apart!