For many of us, physical aches and pains are the trigger for making an appointment for massage. It’s well-known that massage therapy can speed our recovery from injury, and even help us live better with chronic pain.

But did you know that massage can also help with the pain of living with depression, anxiety, trauma, or stress?

Massage therapy can be a valuable addition to almost anyone’s wellness regimen, whether they’re living with a mental illness, experiencing the psychological effects of a physical condition, or just feeling run down by the stresses of day-to-day life. Massage is not a replacement for specialized mental health treatment from a medical professional. But increasingly, it is a welcome adjunct or complementary therapy. 

Some mental illnesses have physical symptoms. And it’s common for people who are suffering from pain and physical ailments to experience depression, stress, trauma, and other mental-health symptoms as a result. This helps us understand why many of the physical effects of massage therapy can improve mental well-being. These include managing pain, improving sleep, and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the “rest and digest” response, it’s the calming counterpart to the “fight or flight” response).   

Tessa Burns, a Calgary psychologist and owner of a multidisciplinary wellness centre, uses an approach in her practice called integrated body psychotherapy. Simply put, it’s understanding how the mind and the body are interconnected. That approach evolved into Serenity Now Wellness, an integrated therapeutic centre offering counseling, and physical therapies such as acupuncture, nutrition, naturopathy, and massage. The RMT on staff at Serenity Now is Laura Dunlop, a Vicars School of Massage Therapy graduate.  

Tessa says that in counseling, sometimes a roadblock can happen when a patient is delving into stress or trauma. The feedback between brain and body manifests itself physiologically. 

“The patient will be holding their shoulders tight and stiff, for example, because the body is reacting to their brain telling them it isn’t safe,” says Tessa.  

Helping patients relax helps with receptivity in counseling. She’s also found that when the body is physically manipulated, as with massage therapy, patients can get a more profound result from counseling and feel the benefits more wholistically.  

“A lot of the work that we do will be very challenging and there will be a natural tension when you are doing really emotional work.” 

In her practice, she encourages patients to have a massage after a counseling session, to help relieve that tension. 

She cites books by physician Gabor Mate and the late neuroscientist and pharmacologist—and discoverer of the opiate receptor in the brain—Candace Pert as excellent sources for research and experiences in mind-body connections.  

While there are centres specializing in physical health that will bring in counselors on occasion to help patients, Tessa approaches things from the other direction.

“Because I’m a psychologist I see everything from the mental health lens,” she says. “I focus on the benefits of touch therapy because I want to address the physical aspect of mental health.”  

The mechanisms and effects of massage therapy are not yet as well researched as those of other disciplines, such as physical therapy, have been. Victoria-based writer, educator, and consultant Eric Purves is trying to address that. With years of experience as an RMT and with a master’s degree in rehabilitation medicine, Eric’s specialty is the biopsychosocial science of pain in massage therapy, where the emphasis is on facilitating and supporting a person rather than “curing” their disorder.  

His focus over the past decade is contributing to and synthesizing the massage therapy research that does exist and incorporating it into massage therapy practice. He translates research evidence into practical applications through workshops, courses, and seminars intended for professionals who treat people with touch or movement techniques.  

When it comes to massage therapy’s benefits, research by such leaders as Dr. Tiffany Field, who founded the Touch Research Institute, validates that massage therapy can reduce certain types of pain, decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, and even  promote weight gain in premature babies. But the specific biochemical and biomechanical reasons that this occurs remain elusive. For example, a 2011 literature review of research on massage therapy’s effect on the stress hormone cortisol showed that there isn’t conclusive evidence that can link the two. Author Christopher Moyer of the University of Wisconsin has written that “…other causal mechanisms, which are still to be identified, must be responsible for massage therapy’s clinical benefits.”  

But those benefits are real, and there’s research to back it up. An earlier paper by Dr. Moyer, published in The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, notes the parallels between the therapeutic alliance in massage and the private interpersonal contact between a psychotherapist and patient as an area for future research to explore. He wrote that the effects of massage therapy “on anxiety and depression, when quantified, are similar in magnitude to the effects observed in hundreds of psychotherapy studies.”  

Eric Purves’ knowledge and experience confirms the importance of the therapeutic alliance, the positive relationship between client and clinician. He says it is one of two components important for the mental health benefits of massage and is the foundation of every successful massage treatment. There’s evidence that the intangible aspects of getting a massage—the empathy, trust, and respect between client and therapist—have tangible benefits for the client’s mental health.  

The second important component is person-centered care. In his former clinical practice and now in his workshops, Eric stresses the importance of listening to and validating a client’s concerns as the first step in person-centred care.  

“We want to move the focus from treating a particular condition to treating the person who has the condition so that we are treating the whole person,” Eric says.  

Eric has also found that that validation is often a transition point for clients. When clients feel that someone is listening to them and believing them, it helps them begin a journey towards living well.

“They are able to move from an ‘I’m trying to fix you’ to ‘I’m here to support you’ situation,” he says. “It makes a huge difference in helping them learn to manage their condition and live well with what they are experiencing.  

“There is a lot of data that suggests that the person-centered care approach in massage therapy, particularly for people with chronic conditions, whether it’s mental health or a systemic disease or a pain problem, tends to work. And clients get better not because they are being fixed, but because they’re learning to live well with what they have.”  

Eric recently joined Vicars School as a curriculum advisor. He has been working with  Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy to help ensure the school continues to meets a high standards of educational excellence, as required by national accreditation. 

Students who train at Vicars follow an intensive two-year curriculum that incorporates knowledge and techniques addressing whole-body conditions. Part of that curriculum focuses on how to be part of an effective health team managing mental health conditions.   

At the very start of the students’ first-year classes is an introduction to the different pathologies of the body, including the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and mental health. 

“The concepts in the pathology course are built on throughout the full two years of training,” Linda says. “The theory is reinforced in the clinical setting, where students will work with clients with a range of conditions and disorders, including mental health issues.”  

Linda also arranges for mental health experts to speak with students in coffee chats so that students will know where and how to refer clients if necessary. Other speakers from societies representing neurodiverse populations, such as those living with ADHD or autism, also come in to share their knowledge with Vicars students.  

Vicars training is based on person-centered care and the therapeutic alliance.

“We don’t look at the disorder by itself,” says Linda. “We focus on building empathy and trust so that there’s a healthy relationship with the client.”  

At Vicars, effective massage treatment is always a collaboration between the client and the therapist. A well-trained massage therapist never performs a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, the therapist begins with a thorough interview and assessment and develops a customized treatment plan based on the client’s needs and goals.  

“It’s important to understand what some of the manifestations of these conditions could be, so that the therapist can then be aware,” Linda says.  

A Vicars-trained RMT will work with the client to ensure that they create a safe, calm, and welcoming treatment environment, where there’s no pressure, judgement, or stress. The RMT will explain the treatment plan before they begin and continue to check in throughout the appointment. They’ll also pay attention to non-verbal cues like muscle tension and breathing patterns to make sure that their client stays in their comfort zone. Throughout the treatments, the RMT will help their clients maintain healthy boundaries and will remain within their own scope of practice as well.  

Vicars School students have been going to see physical therapists, social workers, chiropractors, and psychologists a lot lately.

But don’t worry—they’re fine!

Our students aren’t unwell. What’s going on is that this is the time of year that our second-year students start an assignment that brings them into contact with their colleagues in health care. It’s a practical way for them to learn about other health care professionals, to learn more about what they do, how they do it, and how their profession works with ours. It is part of our community collaboration initiative.

Community collaboration: Teaming up for client care

No one profession has all the answers. It’s important for our students to learn the value of professional collaboration with their peers in other health care occupations, so they know where to refer their clients, and how to encourage others to refer patients to reputable massage therapists when that is appropriate.

Each health-care profession is a discipline with an approved scope of practice: the treatments and procedures that individuals in that discipline are trained for and expected to provide effectively. If a treatment falls outside their scope, they make referrals. Dentists don’t remove tonsils. Massage therapists don’t treat broken bones.

Referrals between professionals have always happened. In massage, we learn to keep detailed and clear records of each client’s health history, treatment plans, and results. Within our practices, we use that information to refer to as we prepare for their next appointment. When we get a referral, these records are used to make a report to the referring professional.

At Vicars, our community collaboration initiative brings our students together with other professionals in several ways.

The first is the simplest: throughout the year, qualified individuals are invited to be a guest for a massage at one of our supervised public clinics. The colleague meets their student therapist and the clinic supervisor, asks questions, and shares insights about how massage therapy complements their practice or profession, and then gives feedback about the treatment they received. Everyone learns something, and the encounter helps to break down barriers between different, but related, fields.

The second part of the initiative is the community collaboration assignment that students begin early in second year. Over the course of eight weeks, students connect with a health care colleague and begin to foster a professional relationship.

Each student reaches out to a professional who may refer clients or patients for massage therapy and who may hire massage therapists to work in their clinics—such as chiropractors, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. The student sets up a meeting, during which they tour the facility and have a conversation. If time and space permits, the student will give the practitioner a massage on site.

The assignment concludes with the student later sharing what they have learned in an essay and with their fellow students in class. Instructors ensure that different students meet and report on as wide a range of health professionals as possible to contribute to the class’s shared knowledge.

As the third part of our community collaboration work, Vicars School is building a roster of multidisciplinary employers with which we have a more formal relationship. At time of writing, these include Massage Addict, with more than 100 owner-operated clinics across the country, including Edmonton and Calgary; ProActive Health Group, which works with elite and competitive athletes in their two clinics and one mobile unit in Calgary; and Serenity Now Wellness, a Calgary-based counselling service that also employs massage therapists.

These businesses are encouraged to invite Vicars students on site to shadow and learn about the organization, and to host talks on campus. At these coffee chats, students hear from community collaborators about their real-life multidisciplinary experiences, especially as it relates to massage therapy. These talks also contribute to the students’ training about the challenges and rewards of massage as a business.

Some multidisciplinary clinics, explains chiropractor Greg Uchacz, founder of ProActive Health Group, take the interprofessional arrangement further than just sharing space and facilitating connections. He says his group is an example of an integrative centre where experts work together as a team to solve problems.

“The barriers between professional designations fall away and each person plays to their strengths,” when you get professionals all around the same table to address an issue, he says. “In the sports world, this is very well established.”

Massage therapists, chiropractors, athletic therapists, and sport physicians work together to bring out the best performance from elite athletes and teams.

Working together is a win-win

At Vicars, we appreciate the time and energy put in by the partner businesses who are part of this initiative. And we’re happy to say that so far, our partners are getting as much benefit from the program as our students are.

Vicars School graduate Maggie Bruce, who secured her first RMT job through the Community Collaboration Initiative.

With their involvement, they get an inside track on meeting and hiring Vicars grads. We don’t mean to be immodest, but we know that Vicars grads are in great demand all around the province. They’re a bit like cookies at the holidays: when you have hired one or two, you go looking for one more.

Calgary grad Maggie Bruce is a perfect example of how this relationship works as a win-win for students and community partners. Maggie went in October for a day at ProActive and shadowed a physiotherapist, the front office staff about the business side of the practice, and Dr. Uchacz, a chiropractor.

“It was cool to glimpse the world of a few different professions, and to see how other therapists operate.

“I have never been to a chiropractor before, so I was interested. I saw how he incorporated some of the stuff I do. He warmed up with some massage and then did some myofascial work,” similar to what she had learned at Vicars.

Dr. Uchasz was so impressed by how Maggie interacted with patients and staff, that at the end of the day he offered her a job. She says she is looking forward to starting in the new year, and that the visit reinforced her ongoing interest in working with teams and athletes.

This 3-part blog series is all about the advantages and challenges of starting a massage therapy career later in life. We’ll find out why it’s such an attractive career for people in their forties, fifties, and beyond and the special skills that mature students bring to the classroom. We’ll also feature the stories of some special Vicars graduates and current students who came to massage therapy as a second career. 

Linda McGeachy knows what it takes to be a successful massage therapist. After all, she’s been an RMT for almost 30 years, a massage therapy educator for 25, and is currently the curriculum director at Vicars School.

“You have to like people a lot, and be able to listen well in order to decide what’s going to work best for that person,” she says. “You need to be empathetic, but also maintain the proper boundaries that are going to keep you effective. It’s about being open, well-rounded, and curious.”

It may come as a surprise to some people that her list didn’t include “young and well-muscled.” One of the most common misconceptions about massage therapy is that it’s a young person’s career.

But nothing could be further from the truth: it’s possible to be an effective and successful RMT no matter how old you are or when you start your career. We have more than 20 years’ worth of graduates to prove it!

In fact, starting a massage therapy career a little bit later in life can actually be an advantage.

“When you go back to school later in life, you know what you want and you’re not afraid to work for it. You are often more focused on your goals than you were when you were younger,” says the school’s founder Maryhelen Vicars. “You know yourself better, and that makes you a better student and a better massage therapist.”

Maryhelen speaks from experience: she went back to school at age 48 to train for a new career as an RMT. She had spent 25 years as a journalist, writer, and editor. She had extensive experience developing educational materials for adults, but she hadn’t been a student herself since her early 20s.

When she had the opportunity to create a new type of massage school a couple of years later, she had the needs of mature learners solidly in mind. Students would be treated like adults, and always with respect, she declared. The first consideration in any decision made by the school about curriculum or policy would be how it would affect the students.

Those promises still stand and are at the core of how the school operates today, she says. The result is a combination of a comprehensive, treatment-focused massage curriculum and a blended-learning schedule that allows students to balance school with their other responsibilities. Because mature students always have other responsibilities.

The guiding principles may have stayed the same for more than 20 years, but the curriculum and how it is delivered has definitely evolved. Linda works hard to make sure that Vicars is at the cutting edge of massage therapy education, from incorporating the latest research to using the best online learning tools. Don’t just take our word for it: Vicars is accredited by the CMTCA and an MTAA Approved Program).

The program attracts students at all stages of life but is especially popular with students in their mid-30s and beyond: people who are ready to leave their old career and make a new start, parents who can finally go back to school now that their children are old enough, and even retirees who want a flexible part-time vocation after decades of working 9-5.

Because they’re a part of a program that’s set up for their success, mature students at Vicars can let their strengths shine through.

“Mature students have experience managing family and career responsibilities,” Linda explains. “That’s very important for good time management.”

Mature students can also bring their broad life experience to bear when it comes to short- and long-term treatment planning.

“Each client has a different story and so many things can affect their wellbeing,” Linda says. “When the therapist can understand a person’s life situation because of their own experience, that puts the therapist in a better place.

She uses the example of chronic pain management, an area of growing interest in an aging population. In pain management, the emphasis is on techniques to stimulate the nervous system’s pathways, rather than those used to manipulate muscles. Different approaches are also required to understand chronic pain clients.

“The term ‘biopsychosocial’ is used to describe hearing and treating the whole person, rather than just focusing on specific injuries or complaints in isolation,” she says. “Older therapists with their life experience and, in some cases even their own chronic pain, can understand a person’s life situation better than a younger person who might be just starting to understand that.”

Take the next step on your career journey by signing up for an online or in-person open house event!

Vicars School of Massage Therapy is proud to announce that we have been granted full national accreditation status for both our Edmonton and Calgary campuses.

By granting full accreditation status to both, the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation is recognizing that Vicars School of Massage Therapy meets Canada’s highest standards for massage therapy education.

The CMTCA is the independent agency that evaluates massage programs across the country to determine whether they meet rigorous curriculum and delivery standards.

Why does accreditation matter, and who benefits?

“This is a major achievement for our school,” says Maryhelen Vicars, the school’s president. “It will have significant long-term benefits for our students, our clients, and the massage therapy profession in Alberta.”

We expect that future Vicars graduates will be in even greater demand because of this announcement. Holding a diploma from an accredited program will help them stand out to employers and clients who want an RMT with a comprehensive and competency-based massage therapy education.

The announcement is also great news for people who are still dreaming of beginning a career in massage therapy, and are trying to decide which of Alberta’s massage therapy programs is the right choice for them.

“People shouldn’t only have to rely on what the admissions reps from each school tell them when they’re researching a new career,” says Vicars admissions coordinator Corrina Cornforth. “Being able to rely on unbiased sources like the CMTCA nationally and the MTAA locally means they can be confident about their choice of school.”

What is national accreditation and how did we get there?

“Becoming accredited is a landmark for our school,” says Maryhelen. “This is the result of more than two decades of commitment to providing the most up-to-date and effective massage therapy education possible.”

To determine whether they deserve to be accredited, the CMTCA evaluates a school’s performance in seven important categories: curriculum content; faculty and learning; student support; resources and infrastructure; leadership and administration; human resources; and quality improvement.

The curriculum standard is based on national standards for massage education in regulated provinces. The first version of these standards was published in 2012, just after Vicars School celebrated its 10th anniversary. We immediately took the opportunity to update our curriculum to meet these standards (though there weren’t too many changes needed, we’re proud to say). We did the same thing in 2016, when the standards were revised. Our curriculum is updated every year to make sure our students are learning the most up-to-date information and have access to the best resources.

This latest recognition from the CMTCA is a vindication of our commitment to our students, over and above what we’re required to do in Alberta.

“This kind of objective assessment—from an expert organization like the CMTCA—would be an important stamp of approval for any Canadian massage program,” explains Maryhelen. “But it’s even more important here in Alberta where massage therapy and massage education are not regulated by the government.”

In some Canadian provinces (such as BC and Newfoundland) massage therapy is a regulated health care profession, and massage therapists and massage schools are governed by a regulatory authority (called a professional college). Those regulatory groups work with accrediting agencies like the CMTCA to ensure that all schools in their province meet the national standards.

In non-regulated provinces like Alberta, however, there isn’t a professional college. Schools don’t have to meet any massage-specific curriculum or quality standards. Some of the professional associations that oversee RMTs—like the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta—have created education benchmarks, but they are not mandatory.

The absence of regulation has meant that the content and quality of massage therapy education in Alberta varies widely. This has made it very difficult for prospective massage students to know if a particular school will prepare them for a modern, successful massage therapy career.

What’s next?

Now that Vicars school has achieved accreditation, we will continue to support efforts toward the regulation of massage therapy in Alberta.

“The reason that we applied for accreditation in the first place is that having national standards is important,” says Maryhelen. “They exist to keep our clients and students safe, and to elevate our profession. We don’t think that any school should be able to opt out of meeting them—which is why they should be enforced at a provincial level.

“And in the meantime, we’re pleased to have earned this latest badge of quality from the CMTCA.”

What is sports massage and how is it different from the type of massage therapy that most people are familiar with? Can someone who isn’t a professional athlete benefit from a sports massage? How does a massage therapist become a sports massage specialist?

To answer those questions, we spoke with three registered massage therapists (RMTs), all of whom teach at Vicars School of Massage Therapy, and who have made sports massage an important part of their practice.

Tonia Vipler teaches at our Calgary campus. She has always been interested in body mechanics and athletic recovery—she’s a life-long athlete and trained as a kinesiologist before becoming an RMT—so incorporating sports massage into her practice was a natural fit. She has noticed that the general public (and even some athletes) are often uncertain of just what sports massage. So she explains it to her clients as a massage treatment that is specifically focused on the muscles and muscle areas that are most commonly used by athletes in their sport.

Earlier in her massage career, Tonia worked both as a massage therapist and personal trainer, with clients overlapping between the two disciplines. That’s when her work in sports massage started. Nowadays, her practice is with ‘everyday athletes,’ such as people who are training for a marathon, Iron Man, or cycling trip.

A big part of Tonia’s practice is educating clients about their bodies, and why it’s important to incorporate massage into their training schedule. Rather than coming to her for the first time when they are injured, Tonia wants to make people aware that massage is a tool that can be incorporated into their athletic schedule from the start, in the same way they would optimize their diet and sleep to maximize performance and prevent injury.

“I like to remind people who aren’t professional athletes that sports massage could be part of their journey to prevent any injuries,” she says. She also offers mobile massage and finds her clientele is shifting to include more families with younger athletes. “Right now, I work with younger kids, teaching them that massage is a really good tool for their athletic journey throughout their lives.”

Tonia describes the techniques used in sports massage as the same techniques that students learn at Vicars School of Massage Therapy. The key is how, and when, techniques are used. Sports massage often requires more dynamic movement in the massage than a relaxation massage, using more vigorous muscle stripping, stretching, and myofascial techniques.

Edmonton instructor Kerri Wagensveld agrees.

“The techniques I use are not specific to sports massage,” she says. “For example, compressions, which I use as an opening technique to help relax my client and prepare their muscles for deeper work, is a very foundational technique that we teach our first-year students.”

Kerri has always been interested in sports massage. After she graduated from Vicars, she was mentored by sports massage specialist Kip Petch at St. Albert’s Active Life Centre. She still works there, as well as at Active Physioworks Magrath in South Edmonton, where her clientele includes many types of athletes, among them ultramarathoners like herself. She is a member of the Canadian Sports Massage Therapist Association (CSMTA), a nationally recognized organization that offers courses and conferences for ongoing learning in the specialty. Joining the CSMTA requires RMT certification, a Standard First Aid certificate with CPR, completion of the CSMTA Advanced Sport Massage Course, among other requirements. Members of CSMTA are often selected to be part of the core medical team serving athletes at major sporting events such as the Olympics.

For Kerri, a huge part of practicing sports massage is understanding that it’s not only about the needs of the physical body.

“It’s knowing how to respond to an athlete to help them prepare mentally and being part of their team in preparation for their performance,” she says.

While most Kerri’s practice is in the clinic, she loves being out in the sports field whenever she can. But that’s not for everyone: “At a sporting event, you’re constantly dealing with dirt and sweat, depending on the sport you’re working with,” she says. “It can be a messy, stinky situation so you have to be OK working with that and being prepared to do a lot of cleaning of both you, your environment, and your equipment.”

At Vicars, we try to introduce our students to as many different facets of the massage therapy profession. That includes organizing outreach opportunities at sporting events.

Instructor Marci Terpsma has been the main organizer of our Edmonton outreach program for many years.

“We take the students off campus to 10K and 5K runs and ultramarathons to expose them to different aspects of our job,” she says. “When they’re on the field they have to think critically and quickly and take what they learned in class and put that knowledge into practice in the moment.”

That quick decision-making is more important, in Marci’s experience, than the potential physical mismatch between an RMT and an athlete. “You can be the tiniest of therapists dealing with the strongest of men and it’s all about the RMT assessing what needs to be done and just doing it,” she says. Sports massage often concentrates on a target muscle group. “If it’s a softball player, I’m more focused on shoulders and arms and if it’s a hockey player, then the legs,” she says. “And if it’s a pre-event massage it’s very focused on a specific area for 10 to 15 minutes.”

Marci runs REVIVE Health & Wellness Studio in Beaumont, where 15 of the 16 RMTs are Vicars graduates. Outside of the clinic, she works with higher level athletes on sports teams, including a competitive girls’ softball team who travel to competitions around Canada. Most of her work is maintaining the athletes’ bodies, preparing them pre-event to increase flexibility and range of motion, and working with injuries and recovery. Echoing Tonia and Kerri, Marci says the same principles of massage are involved whether she’s giving a relaxation or deep tissue massage.

As the age of competitive athletes is getting younger, Marci is finding that the parents of these athletes are much more educated about the benefits of massage to their children’s athletic goals and overall health, than parents were a decade ago. As sports massage therapy carves out a place for itself alongside other components of an athlete’s program, Marci finds herself in a fortunate position.

“I am always right up there with my knowledge thanks to our curriculum at Vicars,” she says. “What I learn is exactly what I am teaching students.” She’s the go-to person at her clinic for questions about particular approaches or treatment modality for clients because of her up-to-date knowledge.

While research on sports massage and its physiological benefits lags far behind the field’s burgeoning popularity, all three RMTs passionately endorse its benefits to athletic wellbeing that they have observed and experienced. And their passion directly benefits Vicars students.

“The quality of education at Vicars is second to none, largely because the instructors are passionate about what they do,” says Marci. “That’s easy to convey to students and that leads to a level of education where we expect the best from students.”

Does helping marathon runners, volleyball teams, or rock climbers achieve their goals sound like your dream career? Contact our friendly admissions team by calling us toll-free at 1-866-491-0574, or sign up for a virtual open house! And if you’re an athlete looking to stay healthy and improve your recovery, you can book an appointment at our student clinic.

This is the third post in our series about pediatric massage. So far in the series, we’ve looked at research in the field of infant massage and talked to an RMT who teaches infant and child massage to her clients. Today, we’re reviewing the research into the effects of massage therapy on older children.

When Edmonton-based teacher Carla C. began going to a registered massage therapist (RMT) in 2021, she took her four-year-old son, Lincoln, with her. For the first few visits, Lincoln played quietly in a corner of the room or nestled himself between his mother’s legs while she was being massaged. On one visit, Lincoln announced that he too wanted a massage.

Carla supported his decision. Lincoln had been born with serious health conditions, necessitating open heart surgery when he was only a few weeks old. While Carla had given Lincoln massages since his birth, stroking his arms and legs and back, she had avoided the scar on his chest. She thought touching it would be too much of a reminder for both of them of those fraught early years.

The RMT guided Lincoln through all aspects of the massage treatment that day, which given his age and size was only about 15 minutes long. She asked him if it was OK for her to touch his legs and arms and talked to him about the sensations he was feeling. When she came to his chest, she explained how important it was to massage his scar. “Treat it like a twisty little snake,” she said, “and roll it between your fingers to smooth it out and make it softer and less sticky.”

Carla realized that by encouraging Lincoln to massage his scar, the RMT was also giving him an important message: that the scar was his, part of his body, an important part of his story, and not something to be ignored or feared.

Carla and Lincoln both started regularly massaging his scar.  Several months later, Carla says that it is noticeably more pliable and has less profile on his chest.

The benefits of pediatric massage are backed by research

Stories like Carla and Lincoln’s show the wholistic effects of massage in young people, encompassing mind and body. This is something that pioneering touch therapy researcher and psychologist Dr. Tiffany Field has spent her career investigating. Dr. Field is internationally renowned for her the quality of her research on the effects of massage on infants. (Her research has shown that massage therapy led to faster weight gain and discharge from hospital for infants born prematurely, and that for full-term babies the benefits include relieving jaundice, better sleep, reduced stress in parents, and strengthening infant-parent bonding. Read all about it in the first post in our series).

Dr. Field conducted a comprehensive review of research that has been done on the effects of massage therapy in older children (between a year of age and adolescence), and in children with psychological and mental health conditions. The results make a very strong case for pediatric massage therapy.

Children with autism spectrum or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders were reported to have greater attentiveness, fewer sleep problems, and decreased hyperactivity after a month of regular short massages.

Preschoolers to adolescents with psychological difficulties including aggression, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed improvements in their symptoms and a decrease in the levels of stress hormones in their bodies. As an example, child survivors of Hurricane Andrew who were experiencing severe PTSD showed much lower PTSD symptoms after a month of daily massage treatments. Studies on children with anorexia and bulimia experienced increases in dopamine and improved management of their eating disorders.

In children with symptoms resulting from a number of physical conditions, massage therapy—often delivered by parents—resulted in reductions of gastrointestinal problems from diarrhea or constipation; spasticity from cerebral palsy and hypotonicity (flaccidity) from Down’s Syndrome; and increased motor development in children with motor development delays. Children with painful diseases, with conditions such as burns, or who had undergone painful procedures, experienced pain relief, better sleep, and reduced anxiety after massage therapy.

Why is massage therapy so good for children and teens?

The common thread running through the majority of the assessed studies is the calming effect resulting from reduction of stress hormones and increased production of “happy” hormones such as dopamine, purported to be results of massage therapy. Dr. Field and other researchers have identified the possible bodily mechanisms that are “translating” massage into these physiological and other effects. Earlier in this series, we outlined some of the potential mechanisms activated by massage in preterm infants: the vagus nerve, responsible for controlling stress hormone release, activates the gastric system, which enables digestion.

Additional mechanisms were seen in the studies on older children. Dr. Field has proposed that the reason massage therapy has such an effective role in pain management is that it engages the body’s touch receptors. These nerves are longer and more insulated than pain receptors—but once activated, their signals reach the brain faster and can “drown out” the messages being sent by the pain receptors.

In the broader context of the nervous system, Dr. Field posits that massage potentially has an effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the “rest and digest” functions in the body including heartbeat, vagus nerve activity, and digestion. When activated by moderate-pressure massage, the parasympathetic nervous system “overrides” the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system, decreasing the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and increasing the release of immune fighter cells and anti-pain chemicals such as serotonin.

When parents are involved in massaging their children, they also benefit. Several studies by Dr. Field and others investigated the effects of parent-given infant and child massage on child-parent attachment and attunement, the receptiveness between caregiver and child. Parents reported less stress, improved wellbeing, a greater sense of competency with their parenting skills, and for those with moderate mental health issues, reduced symptoms of depression.

This effect doesn’t seem to be restricted to direct parent-child relationships : grandparents and other trusted caregivers can benefit as well. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, older adults were given massages for a month and then gave massages to infants over a month. Measurement of cortisol from saliva samples showed they were calmer and more relaxed after massaging the infants.

All of the studies were conducted over short term periods, and Dr. Field and other researchers stress the need for further high-quality, longer-term research in order to produce evidence that can be used by decision-makers on funding and policy changes. While research is vital to ensure pediatric massage is accepted as a valid clinical tool, its popularity continues to grow.

And as Carla says, “It’s important that as my son grows, he sees massage therapy as another important therapy with a trusted professional alongside the other therapies he receives.”

This is the second instalment in a series about pediatric massage: massage therapy for children ranging from infants to adolescents. Check out the first post to learn about massage therapy for infants, including its potential benefits for both parents and child and the science that assesses those benefits. Today’s post is a conversation with an experienced Vicars graduate who has incorporated infant massage into her practice.

Shannon Collum, RMT, is a Vicars graduate who lives and works in Duncan, BC. She owns Maple Bay Massage Therapy there. As part of her general therapeutic practice, Shannon also has training in infant massage education, and offers one-on-one and group sessions with parents and their babies.

Shannon Collum, RMT

I recently talked to Shannon about this part of her practice.

Robin: Can you give me a brief overview of your experience with infant massage?


Early in my career, I found I was working with a lot of pregnant clients. It just happened by word of mouth—I think it helped that a lot of my friends were at the right age to start having babies!

As I went on, I realized I wanted to offer even more services in this area. We had learned the fundamentals of infant massage in school, but I knew there was more to learn.

I found a continuing education course for RMTs on infant massage and at the same time I trained as a doula, learning how to give support to mothers during and after childbirth. I was fascinated by it and knew there were at least some of my clients who would be interested.

I’ve been a massage therapist for more than 18 years now. Teaching infant massage has been a bigger part of my practice at some points than others. But it’s something I enjoy and that I’m glad I can offer to my clients.

There are so many different continuing education options out there for massage therapists—so many different directions and areas of practice for people to choose from. Would you recommend taking infant massage, and pregnancy massage?

When new grads ask me for continuing ed recommendations, I always say that it depends on what resonates with you. What are you interested in? Because if you’re not really engaged with whatever it is, you’re not going to make a success of it.

For me, I’ve always had a connection with babies and children—it’s always been a part of my life. If an RMT feels the same way, furthering your education by taking ongoing training in pregnancy massage and training new parents may be a good choice for you.

And you have to be practical too, of course. Think about the focus of your practice, where you work, and your current and potential clientele. If you’re based in more a retirement community this will obviously be less of a focus in your practice!

How do you introduce the idea of infant massage to pregnant clients?

I have it listed on my website as something I have experience in, and so some of my clients bring it up to me themselves or even find me that way. But usually it will organically come up in a conversation with them about what they’re experiencing, their hopes or even what they’re nervous about.

The last time it came up was I was working on a woman who was quite far along in her pregnancy. I was performing abdominal massage, and I was explaining to her how we do the strokes in a specific direction around the abdomen to promote digestion. I explained that this is also what we do with babies, and she says, “Wait, we can do massage on babies?!?!”

Do you find that do you usually get that surprised reaction? In your experience, do parents know that this is an option?

Some do, some don’t. And some are confused—some think that I do the massage; that they bring the baby into the clinic. But I explain that it involves teaching the parents what to do and how to do it in a way that is comfortable, safe, and joyful. And for most people, I find, that’s a lot more appealing.

So how do these sessions work?

I like to set up a class, either one-on-one or in a group setting, outside the clinic. It’s usually a set of four short sessions. That way, baby isn’t overwhelmed by a new environment and the parents are able to practice with the child between sessions. My goal with these sessions is for the babies and the parents to feel relaxed and have fun together, and for the parents to leave feeling confident and excited about having learned a new way to connect with their baby.

I normally don’t teach the classes for babies younger than two months. Before that, massage can be overwhelming and too stimulating. Babies still don’t understand the world, and they are getting bombarded with new information every second, so we wait until they’re a little more settled.

Earlier, you were telling me about a recent client you had for infant massage that was a bit of an exception to this rule. Can you share that story?

Of course. That experience was exceptional in a few ways: it was only one session, it was at my clinic, her baby was a newborn, and we fit it in after I had just given the mother a full massage!

This woman was living and working in a very small community up north on Vancouver Island. Because of the remoteness and lack of medical care, her employer transferred her down here to Duncan for a month or so before her due date, and for a couple of weeks to recover postpartum. She booked a few prenatal massages for herself while she was in town. Because I saw her regularly for a few weeks, we developed a rapport and had lots of conversations about her pregnancy and upcoming baby, and we ended up talking about infant massage in a general sort of way.

Not long after she gave birth, she came in for a last massage before heading home. She then revealed that the doctor had told them their baby had significant torticollis and she wondered if I could help. They weren’t going to be in town long enough for that, and baby needed some specific help as soon as possible, so we arranged for baby and dad to arrive at the end of her next appointment. I ended up working with them for about 15 minutes in the treatment room, laying baby on the warm massage table in front of us. I demonstrated a few techniques specifically for that issue and had them try them out and walked them through a few other things. I was able to start the process of improving his positioning and they felt more confident taking him back up north without an RMT nearby. Everybody was happy.

What sticks out to me about this story is that this was a therapeutic massage, essentially. I usually think of infant massage as being about helping the baby sleep better, helping with bonding, helping with digestion…

But when you think about it, babies have just gone through a quite physically demanding experience! Especially in that case, as he was very newly born. But even after that, they’re constantly building muscles that have never been used before.

But you’re right, a lot of times people don’t realize that something like torticollis can happen to babies. Extreme versions don’t happen a lot. Usually, it’s mild and corrects itself over time. But in this case, it was extreme, and he wasn’t able to keep his head straight.

The infant massage outcome that is probably most well known is how it strengthens bonding between parents and baby, helps babies sleep, and can help with things like colic and digestive issues. What people don’t always think about is that it can help alleviate postnatal depression for both parents. It seems most effective when massage is built into their daily routine. For infants, massage sessions should be short but frequent; a little quiet time after baby’s bath is great.

But there can be more direct physical benefits, too. I remind parents that birth is hard for babies too. As newborns, they’re not moving much and they’re often end up facing in one direction for long periods in car seats, carriers, and strollers. It’s a tough life!

And, of course, as babies get bigger they turn into active children, and children’s bodies are going through a lot, too. Starting massage at a young age can really help as they age and start getting growing pains and other bumps and bruises. Because they’re starting life with more body awareness, they’re more likely to be able to communicate about what is happening in their bodies when they need help.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with infant massage! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I almost forgot to mention, although it is really important to me, is that learning how to give a massage to your baby or child can actually help them start to understand bodily autonomy, consent, and the concept of healthy touch. Those are big concepts, but understanding them starts with day-to-day routines like this.

One of the things that we teach parents is to make sure that they’re only massaging when baby consents. This is more nebulous when they’re very young and you’re just starting out, but you start to learn your baby’s body language. You can tell when they’re up for it and when they’re not. And when they’re not, you just hang out with them so they’re still getting one-on-one time and see that their refusal doesn’t equal rejection from their loved one.

It’s showing kids, from a young age, that they have a say in what happens to their body. And that’s a really huge thing, in my opinion.

Still to come in our blog series: Research on the effects of massage on conditions in older children and the benefits of massage in strengthening the parent-child relationship beyond infancy.

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

a career in massage therapy

When you’re a massage therapist, getting injured on the job hurts more than just your body. Taking time off to recover from an injury means loss of income, and even potential loss of clients.

The best way for an RMT to deal with workplace injury is to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the first place. And that means a focus on body mechanics—the right way to move—so that soft tissue and joints stay injury free.

The path to a long injury-free massage career

In 2001, Vicars School of Massage Therapy was founded, there was a prevalent myth that massage was a very short career.

“The idea was that injury was inevitable, but we knew that was just not true,” says founder Maryhelen Vicars. “There was lots of evidence that students who had early and consistent training in correct body mechanics and self-care had a huge advantage in staying safe and pain free.

“From the first, our program was modelled after the curriculum in Ontario, one of the first provinces to regulate massage therapy education. For decades, massage schools in regulated provinces have incorporated safety and injury prevention in their practical training.”

So the Vicars curriculum did the same.

“From the first day of instruction, students learn body mechanics in our core science courses of anatomy and physiology,” says Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy. “And they put that knowledge into practice in class. During hands-on instruction and practice, students are monitored by instructors not just for technique, but for attention to their own body mechanics.”

At Vicars School, body mechanics is a structured part of the curriculum, and includes techniques for core stability, keeping joints in straight alignment and applying pressure appropriately. “There isn’t just one way of doing anything,” says McGeachy. “Instructors correct for stance, posture and pressure, and they also encourage students to listen to their own bodies.”

Different body shapes and sizes mean that students need to be able to adapt a theoretical “perfect form” into positions that work for their own bodies.

Preventing overuse

The most common injuries directly result from overuse and such injuries are the most preventable, says McGeachy. “Hands, elbows and shoulders are subject to overuse if we don’t use our bodies properly,” she says. “In addition to listening to their bodies, RMTs need to ensure they don’t overuse their bodies by booking too many clients in a day, especially when they first start their careers.”

Awareness of strengths, coordination and mobility are vital, as is the need to adjust techniques depending on the client. She also points out that new information resulting from research and outcomes-based approaches to attitudes about what massage should be, are informing awareness of injury prevention.

With practical experience comes knowledge about not overloading muscles and joints and using “relative rest”—a recovery technique that protects and rests the injured area while continuing to be active with other parts of your body.

Less is more

We’ve all seen memes of massage therapists reducing their clients to tears and whimpers. But that is as outdated as the idea of “no pain, no gain” in gyms and sports fields.

One of the most important changes, says McGeachy, is that the concept of a heavy, load-bearing workout on tissue as the only way to get results has lost its credence. “It’s more about understanding how to work on tissue rather than simply pushing down hard on it,” she says. “Understanding physiology and what tissue is, means that we don’t have to create pain in order to get results.”

Quite the opposite, in fact. Current knowledge about massage’s benefits reinforces a pain-management approach to therapeutic massage.

RMTs are educated about repetitive strain injury and overuse and they in turn educate their clients. Key to that education, says McGeachy, is movement. “If you are planning to do a physical activity, then do the movements of it as a warm-up.” She points out that any exercise will carry restrictions for someone, depending on their body. “It’s not that the exercise—whether it’s yoga or tennis or gardening—is harmful; it’s that you have to be aware of your body and when something hurts, move away from that position,” she says.

Using brain power for body power

Using a research-based curriculum, instructors at Vicars School encourage students to build on their understanding of body mechanics and principles with critical thinking skills. “This means students have confidence acting on their own understanding of when something doesn’t feel good, and how to adjust their technique by using a different position that feels better,” says McGeachy. “From our school perspective, even if a student’s body mechanics aren’t ‘textbook’, the important thing is that they are learning to prevent injuring themselves.”

Piloting a new movement course

Building on the importance of movement as foundational for injury prevention and career health, the Vicars School curriculum will be piloting a new course in September, based on a resource called Trail Guide to Movement.

“We already have rich material on movement, including orthopedic assessment courses and gait analysis,” says Linda McGeachy. “But this will really augment our existing curriculum and delve into movement as core in keeping a health body and promoting longevity in our careers.”

written by Kathleen Thurber

Start your long and successful massage therapy career at Vicars School! We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and schedules that are designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or sign up for an online open house!

Massage is a hands-on profession, and at MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, our emphasis is on developing hands-on skills.

But there’s a lot more to being a successful and effective registered massage therapist than knowing how to perform all the massage strokes and sequences.

Welcome to a new blog series—the Massage Therapy Curriculum Spotlight! In this semi-regular series, we will highlight a subject, assignment, or course that we teach here at MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy.
Our curriculum includes a wide range of subjects and courses. As a result, Vicars graduates have all the skills and knowledge that they need to begin a successful career as an effective therapist. Courses include assessment, kinesiology, anatomy and physiology, hydrotherapy, pathology, ethics and the therapeutic relationship, and massage business best practices. Students learn these subjects in person as well as through online lectures and assignments. Click here to see our full course list and to learn why it’s important to attend a school that follows the national curriculum standard.

We’re kicking off the blog series with an in-depth look at the interactive online Diversity and Inclusion assignment our students complete in second year. This assignment is a perennial favourite among instructors and—once they’ve completed it—among students as well.

For the Diversity and Inclusion project, each student must research and write a short paper and then post it to their class’s forum on the Vicars online learning platform, Moodle. In their papers, they need to explain what the concepts of “diversity” and “inclusion” mean to them, their relevance to the massage therapy profession, and how they plan to promote them in their future business and practice.

“I love reading what the students have to say in this assignment,” says Linda McGeachy, Director of Curriculum at Vicars. “It always fills me with so much faith in our students, and in what kind of therapists they’re going to be. If these are the values that they have, then obviously they’re going to do a good job, on all levels.”

The second part of the assignment is to read their classmates’ submissions, ask questions, and provide feedback. For Linda, that’s one of the most valuable parts of this assignment.

“The comments and support that the students offer to each other are so heartfelt, and so thoughtful,” she says.

To help illustrate the level of care and creativity that our students pour into this assignment, we’ve assembled a selection of excerpts from of this year’s submissions. When you read them, we have no doubt you’ll be just as impressed by our students as we are—and if you are thinking of a career in massage therapy, you’ll have a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a Vicars student.

Here’s how Sarah Hornett described the difference between “diversity” and “inclusion” in her own words:

Diversity is the seen and unseen differences among individuals in an environment that encompass not only the obvious physical attributes that characterize a person, but also the intellectual, spiritual, personal, and ethical factors that make each of us unique. Inclusion therefore relates to creating and maintaining processes that allow various individuals to coexist in that same environment while establishing a culture of safety, togetherness, and belonging.

Maria Semeniuk, on how these concepts are central to why she chose to go to massage school:

I believe diversity and  inclusion are of great importance to my practice. Every person is entitled to the best quality of care, regardless of their unique circumstances, ethnicity, gender, or age. This is my main motivation to study massage therapy. I have a passion for helping and volunteering as much as possible at hospitals and hospices. Massage therapy brings value to what I offer as a volunteer: being able to recognize, respect, and accept diversity and being able to practice with inclusion are vital skills for this role. 

Elisha Fox explained how, thanks to this assignment, she’s already taking action to make sure that she can create an inclusive practice:

It is very important to me to help as many individuals as possible. I recognize that I live in a diverse community, so how can I incorporate inclusion into my practice?

I believe self-awareness can be the first step towards understanding, compassion and acceptance. So I took a few of the “Harvard Implicit Association Tests.” I found them on the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion website. I thought the tests were interesting and may give possible insight on recognizing one’s own internal biases. Which we may or may not be aware of ourselves, right?

I’m also committed to continuing my education by taking classes, reading forums, and associating with people who are part of different groups to familiarize myself with proper titles and different perspectives.

In addition to sending out a rallying cry to her classmates, Amy Sawka pointed out that it’s as important to seek out diversity within one’s own environment as it is to try to attract a diverse clientele:

If I were to work exclusively with other therapists or modality practitioners who have similar socio-economic backgrounds to me, or who identify similarly, I would be less able to learn and expand my own horizons and the more I am likely to be blinded by bias. I intend to maintain an inclusive and diverse practice in which I stay curious, listen to other’s requests, and provide concessions and modifications to those who require it.

It is integral that we, as Vicars therapists, innovate and set the standard for diversity and inclusion in our massage practices as we pave the way for the next generation who will follow in our footsteps. The more of the map we are able to see, the more places we are able to go! Together!

Melissa Jensen was one of many students who gave concrete examples of how they can ensure that their business is welcoming and supportive of everyone:

With the existing power differential already existing in massage therapy and other somatic healing practices, inclusive practices will help build confidence and trust from the initial contact on. Some ways to help clients to feel included could include:

  • Connecting with clients about how they would like to be contacted or reminded of appointments could alleviate stress from hearing, visual, or possible language barriers.
  • Having an easily accessible facility with clear directions on how to enter the building will help those who may have physical impairments.
  • Sending informed consent forms and asking for health histories prior to meeting with clients so that they can have time to provide information without feeling rushed or embarrassed.
  • Including questions about preferred names and pronouns.
  • Having a gender-neutral washroom with a change table and feminine hygiene products available.
  • Using language that puts clients at ease in making the choice that they feel most comfortable with (e.g., rather than say “Undress to your level of comfort” I could say “Some clients choose to leave garments on”).

Working on this assignment wasn’t the first time that Hayley Emro had thought about the importance of diversity and inclusion in her own life:

Why are diversity and inclusion important for my business, and my personal life? To be blunt and honest, because I want to be anti-racist and non-discriminatory.

Over the past five years I have become increasingly aware of whose voices I am listening to and reading; this includes seeking out books, social media, movies, and educational material from people with different identities. This is important to me because I want to connect to a diverse range of human experiences that accurately reflect the world.

Diversity happens when there is difference within a setting that benefits from a range of human experiences. People are not diverse, their experiences are. Inclusion places values on these experiences and builds to meet the needs of these experiences.

Inclusion doesn’t happen without designing for it. Learning from and listening to the people we design our workspace for allows us to create appropriate policies, processes, physical spaces, and products for people to feel valued and included.

Melissa Strom is a Pilates teacher, and made this issue real for everyone sharing a lesson she’d learned when she had tried—and initially failed—to create a more inclusive environment in her classes:

Every Thursday, six individuals come to the studio for their weekly Pilates equipment class. They have two things in common: they all love cross-country skiing, and they are all legally blind.

The group came to be at the studio due to the limitations set upon one of the members at another Pilates studio. Due to his visual impairment, he was restricted to beginner mat classes. However, he wanted the ability to take group equipment classes and progress.

Due to our max class size of eight at the studio, I felt I would be up to the challenge and be able to keep him safe through class. I wanted diversity in my studio and for clients to feel included.

I was naive. In a group class setting, I quickly realized I had to be selective about what exercises we did, and I stayed close to the client that had the visual impairment. Essentially, I was offering a private in a group class setting.

It came to the point I had to have a conversation with the client. He was angry: he emphasized how much he modified what he did during class to make sure he kept up, and I emphasized how much I modified the class to make sure he was still included.

I realized that to have the client within the existing classes, I was aiming for equality. I was giving him the same resources and opportunities as everyone else. Unfortunately, this is not equity. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and needs different allocations of the resources and opportunities to reach the same/equal outcome. To truly have inclusion, you need equity. So, we decided to recruit more visually impaired individuals to create their own group class. In this new class, the clients felt comfortable and were able to communicate with me, and I was able to design a class specific to their needs.

Just because I added a visually impaired person to my group classes to show that the studio was inclusive, didn’t mean I was producing benefits for that client (or others at the studio).

But when we worked together and communicated, it did create benefits. The client got a class specifically for people with similar needs. And teaching a class who can’t follow visual cues helped me develop more concise instructions and made me a better instructor.

I have used this learning opportunity in other scenarios, such as with a group of Hutterite women and a group of very devout Islamic women. In these instances, I structured the set-up of the classes (and the resources of the studio) to be conducive to them and their needs. It needs to be recognized that diversity encompasses race, culture, education, socio-economic status, physical and mental ability, etc. Sometimes that meant I was paid in cucumbers, sometimes that meant locking the studio doors to give the clients a sense of privacy.

The Massage Therapy Program at Vicars could be the pathway to your ideal career. We have campuses in Calgary and Edmonton and a schedule that is designed to work with your lifestyle. For more information and to speak with our friendly admissions team, call us toll-free 1-866-491-0574 or sign up for an online open house!