Vicars School instructor Janine Borger gets up close and personal with “Stan”

Few people who have been in a profession for 25 years still speak about it with enthusiasm. Luckily for Vicars School of Massage Therapy, her colleagues, and the entire massage community, Janine Borger is one of those rare individuals.

For more than 20 of the 25 years that she’s been an RMT, Janine has been a valued instructor at Vicars in the classroom and, in recent years, the dedicated Edmonton instructor of Anatomy & Physiology and Pathology, courses Vicars students take online. She is also the faculty liaison on the Edmonton campus, helping to keep instructors abreast of changes to the Vicars curriculum made in response to positive changes in the profession over the years.

“We’ve seen the viewpoint of massage therapy change from that of a pampering treatment to a complementary health therapy,” Janine says. “We’ve seen acceptance in the medical field for physicians and other professionals to refer their patients for massage therapy, and we’ve seen insurance companies allowing more access to coverage under extended benefits.”

Industry changes are reflected in rising standards in the quality of massage education nationally and in Alberta. Janine is very much part of the change, both in her role at Vicars in ensuring the delivery of the highest level of education for students, and in her work with the Massage Therapy Association of Alberta in the area of massage education.

“It’s really worthwhile to stay connected to our professional body and to keep up with the latest information and initiatives,” she says.

Her dedication to keeping up with the latest research and information has been a hallmark of Janine’s career at Vicars. In fact, when she was first hired, she enrolled in the second year of the Vicars program, “just to solidify what I knew and to understand the Vicars approach to curriculum delivery,” she says. At the time she had four children at home, owned and operated a large massage clinic in Lacombe, and was very involved in local minor hockey.

Again, Janine brings those experiences to her teaching: “I think a little of my forte is that I can relate to the pressures of going back to school when you’re no longer 18 and have been out of the educational system,” says Janine. “I feel I can encourage students to learn material that is within their grasp and show them how to leap forward.”

The two years of training at Vicars means that some students go through huge changes.

“I love my profession and so I love it when I connect with students and can help them through the hard parts,” Janine says. “For some, the two years at Vicars can be life-changing and I can shine a light along the way.”

While the mix of several different generations, often in one class, keeps her thinking young, there are challenges as well. Staying current with the changing needs of students in a challenging global environment means that there are more mental and emotional aspects of student support than ever before. “It’s become a much more complex world and people are affected by that,” she says. “Students don’t just sit in a classroom and absorb; they internalize their world, and it becomes part of their learning.”

For Janine, guiding students along the path to becoming professional massage therapists is grounded in connections with people. From ethics to marketing and business, she says every aspect of the curriculum is about that.

“Helping people and showing them how you can help them benefit from massage therapy comes up again and again,” she says. “And when students first start in the public clinic, when they meet their first clients, we ensure that they are in a safe place and have the tools and support to work through the challenges of interacting in an intimate way with strangers.”

More recently, Janine has taken on an administrative role as faculty liaison between campuses, working closely with Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy and Executive Director Sarah Ward. To ensure that Vicars upholds the standards that are required of accredited massage schools, everything from curriculum, policies and procedures, and responses to student issues and concerns must be consistent across the two campuses.

Janine works with instructors to keep them up to current accreditation standards, which includes new approaches to curriculum delivery, new material for the curriculum, and keeping up with current research.

“One of the best things about Janine is that she holds my feet to the fire and never has an issue asking a direct question to gain clarity about the reason or direction that we’re going,” says Sarah. “She’s exceptional in her role and a huge support to me.”

Janine comes from a family of academics and medical professionals but didn’t discover her love of anatomy and physiology until she worked in a hospital brain injury unit years ago. That interest led her to pursue massage therapy training, which she completed in 1995. She joined Vicars School of Massage Therapy as an instructor in 2002, shortly after it was founded by Maryhelen Vicars. By then Janine had several years’ experience running her own clinic.

Janine continued her work at her clinic for several more years while teaching at Vicars. When her children were grown, she sold the clinic. Like all Vicars instructors, she continues to practice massage, and brings that day-to-day experience to the classroom: “Being on the front line with all kinds of clients really is important in describing experiences and potential situations to students,” she says. “It also helps prepare them for when they do their training in our school’s public clinics.”

Her years of practice are core to Janine’s teaching, but so are her relationships with other health professionals, made easier in a small town than in a larger city. She feels strongly that Vicars students who come from small towns and rural areas have an advantage over students from urban areas. “There are many opportunities to meet with other health professionals in a smaller community whether it’s at a sports arena or a community meeting,” she says. “And those can turn into opportunities to discuss the commonalities in how you can help their patients.”

Because she knew so many other health professionals and was invited to different events and sessions that they held, she was able to bring that collaboration to her work at Vicars. “Those cross-disciplinary collaborations create advocates for the massage therapy profession,” Janine says.

Looking back over her career as a therapist and an instructor, Janine sees her time at Vicars has really been beneficial to her personal life, her career and to the people she’s met along the way.

“There is so much joy in showing people what you love about your profession,” she says. “I attribute my teaching to being able to be a massage therapist for as long as I want. It’s something I’m very grateful to Vicars for.”

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!

Move over, Oscars. Take a seat, Golden Globes. This awards season, we’re only interested in the Best of YEG Fitness awards – because three of the nominees for “Best Massage Therapist” are Vicars graduates!

Kory Ring, Andrea Yacyshyn, and Dustin Ring (no relation to Kory) are among the top five finalists for the award, which is determined entirely by public votes.

The awards are presented by YEG Fitness magazine, a local publication that highlights all areas of the local fitness and wellness community.

“We view fitness as healthy living, and it’s all about balance. It’s about taking care of your body: nutrition, different kinds of activity and training, and having physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists working with you to both prevent and treat injury if you need it,” explained TJ Sadler, the magazine’s editor. “The awards are a way for us to showcase those people who are doing great things.”

Discovering that so many of their clients considered them among the city’s massage elite was a great feeling for the three Vicars grads.

“I’m so grateful to all of my clients and everyone who voted for me for this,” said Dustin, who graduated in 2017. “I never thought that I would make a list like this so close to coming out of school.”

“I was so honoured that enough people typed my name – and I have a hard-to-spell last name! It was incredibly validating as I love this work so much,” said Andrea.

Being included on lists does more than just boost a therapist’s confidence. It can have a significant impact on future business. So what can fellow Vicars graduates learn from Andrea, Dustin, and Kory’s success?

A good massage begins before the client is on the table

I asked all three of the nominees to try to identify what it was about their treatments that made clients so excited that they’d go online and vote. I expected to hear about their hands-on expertise and specialized techniques – and I did – but the first thing that each therapist highlighted about themselves was how they try to listen to and relate to their clients off the table.

“The thing my clients have consistently said to me is that they feel like I listen to them, I care, and I don’t rush them,” Andrea said.

“I’ve been told by a lot of clients that they like that I actually take the time to listen and do a proper assessment and address their concerns – just like we were taught to do in school,” Kory agreed. “And they get the results that they’re looking for, a lot of the time.”

And once your clients love your practice, they’ll keep coming back. And they’ll tell their friends.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!

“I actually don’t accept tips at my practice at all, and when people do try to tip me I tell them that if they want to pay me a compliment they can just tell their friends and family about me, or leave a Google review,” said Kory. “Ninety-nine per cent of my clients come from referrals, I’d say.”

No one knows how amazing you are – or is as excited to talk about why – like the clients who keep coming back to you. By encouraging your current clients to recommend you to others, you’re getting your name out there in a more authentic and efficient way than any ad could ever deliver. And, you’ll attract the kind of client who is most likely to fit in well at your practice, which means they’ll keep coming back (and refer friends of their own).

It doesn’t hurt to offer a small thank-you in return.

“I offer a $10 referral [gift] when someone sends me a new client,” explained Andrea. “A client I had from school referred another client, who then referred her sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and multiple friends. And then those clients referred people to me. It was a huge domino effect that really paid off and landed me with 10 new regular clients rather quickly.”

Don’t just tell clients about your practice – tell everyone!

One of the ways that Dustin was able to become so successful so quickly after graduating was by tapping into the professional connections that he already had as a yoga teacher. These clients and colleagues became his first cheerleaders.

“By being in the yoga community and immersing myself in different aspects of the fitness industry I’ve developed an ongoing clientele that I never thought that I would have this early in my career,” he said. “I also did a lot of volunteer events. If you’re good, people are going to tell other people.”

Some of your most important connections as a therapist aren’t with clients, but with other health care professionals. Being a source of trustworthy referrals for your clients adds value to your services at the same time as it helps clients get the care they need.

Kory’s clinic is located within Evolve Strength, a downtown gym. This mixed clinical environment has helped him make connections with other professionals.

“There’s a good referral network within the gym,” he explained. “The athletic world, I’ve come to realize, is a pretty tight-knit community in this city.”

Andrea’s practice is in her home, but that hasn’t stopped her from developing an extensive referral list of her own.

“I have a chiropractor, 3 massage therapists, an acupuncturist, a physiotherapist, a Pilates studio, a [naturopathic doctor], a medical clinic, and a pelvic floor specialist that I refer to,” said Andrea. “I have their cards in my treatment room and some of their profiles on my website. By working with them and sending them my clients, they up sending me theirs and we create a collaborative health network for our clients.”

The winners of this year’s Best of YEG Fitness awards will be announced at a ceremony on February 6, 2019.

In 2011, Bree Skiba had been out of school for four years and was already head of a mini massage empire: her company Balance Massage had two Edmonton locations and had just opened a third in Kelowna. I interviewed her then about her experiences as a student, and her career so far.

Watch that video here:

It’s now six years later, and both Balance Massage and the school have grown and changed. After reconnecting at our recent Edmonton Networking Night, I took the opportunity to catch up with Bree.

“I’m still doing well!” she says. “We’re almost 10 years at our original location at Moksha Yoga West, so that’s super exciting. I have a lot of regular clients who have stuck with me through the years, even through when I had a baby and came back.

The two original Edmonton locations are still going strong, and a third clinic is opening this month within TNP Fitness Studio. Bree sold the Kelowna location a few years ago.

“I have 8 therapists now, and I’ll be looking to hire more in the next couple of months. I’ve had a couple therapists now who’ve been with me for quite a while, and I’ve had lots of Vicars grads come through my door,” she says. “I also have one Vicars student on staff right now.”

Her journey has not been without challenges, however. The industry has changed over the last decade, and she and her therapists have had to work hard to keep up.

“What I’ve noticed is the saturation of massage therapy companies in the Edmonton area,” Bree says. “There are a few very large big box companies coming out of the States that have made it harder for small business owners. Those big places, they underpay their therapists, and as a business owner who pays out a good percentage to my therapists, it’s really frustrating to see.”

To thrive with this increasing competition, Bree and her colleagues have had to get back to basics: providing consistent, high-quality treatments that her clients can count on.

“I think if you’re a good therapist, and you know what your clients want, they will always, always, always come back to you,” she says. “My bread and butter is my regular clientele. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy, because they stick around.”

And a decade in, Bree has no plans to slow down.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. Being a massage therapist—I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m a single mum of a four-year-old, and I can still spend a ton of time with him and take clients in the evenings. It’s just so versatile.”

To learn more about Bree, read her bio on Balance Massage here.

To learn more about Balance Massage, visit their website.