At MH Vicars School, we often say that a massage therapy career can be whatever you want it to be. Carly Turner and Gwen Evans are a great example of this. Carly and Gwen were classmates at Vicars, and graduated in 2018. They now work together at Theralleve Therapeutic Massage and Wellness Clinic in Calgary, which Carly owns. Both Carly and Gwen offer a wide range of therapeutic massage treatments, but what really makes their clinic stand out is how clearly the two of them have been able to develop and communicate their professional philosophies. They both have a very clear idea of what kind of massage therapists they want to be. This important because it not only motivates them, but helps them find and retain clients who share the same goals.

Our Edmonton Director Robin Collum recently had the opportunity to talk with Carly and Gwen, and they were having such a good time that they couldn’t bear to cut it short! So we’ve broken the conversation into two parts.

Part 2, the three of us talked about the business of massage, opening your own clinic during a pandemic, and they offered some wise words to current and future Vicars students! Watch the video of our conversation, or read it below.

Robin

Carly, you’re the owner of Theralleve Calgary. Can you tell us a little bit about the clinic?

Carly

We’re relatively new: we opened in February 2020.

Robin

Oh, good timing!

Carly

Yeah, perfect timing! It was like, “Oh, the economy’s kind of bad…let’s just add in a pandemic!”

So we did end up closing for a little bit, but we reopened our doors in July and we’ve been going ever since. And it’s been a really amazing, interesting, big experience for me especially.

It’s something that has always been on my radar as something I wanted to do, and there was an opportunity in 2019 to kind of get things going and open up a clinic.

Gwen and I had gone to school together and created a really strong friendship, and we were just kind of like, “You know, let’s take this and run with it.”

And now here we are.

Robin

Had you planned on opening your own clinic back when you were in school? Did you always have dreams of being an entrepreneur as well as an RMT?

Carly

With our school curriculum, we had the added bonus of doing that business assignment, where it’s essentially plotting out how you would open a business. I remember that mine was very specific to cancer-related massage. But I had definitely thought of it as a “five years later” kind of plan.

So this kind of came a little bit sooner than expected, I would say.

But I’ve always had a very big entrepreneurial spirit. So taking something on like this, knowing that I interact very well with other people, I kind of rallied up that response of “What do we need to do?” and doing the research and the planning behind it…I’m certainly not afraid of that kind of hard work.

It was taking advantage of an opportunity mixed with, “Ok, well, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it!”

That’s why it’s been such an experience, because it wasn’t something for me that was necessarily planned so soon. But, you know, here I am doing it!

Robin

It sounds like it’s been a baptism by fire.

Carly

Kind of, yeah. But it’s been great. And I’ve had such wonderful people surrounding me and supporting me, including Gwen. I can only really be as good as my team and my team is pretty awesome!

Robin

Do you have any wisdom or advice to share with anyone who might be considering a career massage therapy?

Gwen

It is very much a “You get what you give” career. If you don’t put any work into it, you’re not going to get a lot of out of it. And it’s not the easiest one, but it is probably one of the most rewarding. So stick with it, get through it. The curriculum is worth it.

And just be ready to be a bit self-starting. Even if you’re working under an employee contract instead of being an independent contractor, you’re still going to have to try and reach out and prospect for those clients. So just be ready to do that a bit too.

Robin

Anything to add to that, Carly?

Carly

So succinct!

Gwen knows this, because as I said we were first year together, but I cried a lot in first year. I was frustrated. I just was like, “I don’t get this. I’m not sure I’m getting it properly.” Because there’s just so many nuances involved with massage. Nobody’s going to tell you “This is the exact pressure you need” or “That’s the exact symptom that’s going to correlate to that exact cause and effect,” and everything else.

I definitely agree with Gwen that you get what you give. Because there’s going to be a lot of challenge in it, in terms of just making sure that you are putting in the time and that you’re trying to study all of those muscle groups, and you are trying to learn what is out there, and what is being given to you.

And I mean, at MH Vicars, you’ll have amazing, amazing teachers. So that really helped.

I was just actually telling Gwen recently, it’s amazing how much has stuck and how much has deepened in our knowledge base for what we’re working with, each time we massage.

So, I mean, yes, you have to be personable in order to be a massage therapist. That’s kind of a given, but it’s amazing how much you can really learn and then eventually you can just trust the process.

And then as you’re working, you know, you might not remember all the Latin origins and insertions, but you know what you’re working on. And you know how to affect that muscle and what you can do about it if something happens. And that’s the beauty of it! Just acknowledging that you will get there.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of our conversation, in which Carly and Gwen talked about their approaches to massage therapy.

Maureen de Sosa Kalas, RMT
Maureen de Sosa Kalas, RMT

Maureen de Sosa Kalas, RMT

Maureen de Sosa Kalas is a lot of things: a healer, entrepreneur, an athlete, and an adventurer. And an MH Vicars graduate, of course.
In the decade since she completed the two-year diploma program at MH Vicars School in Calgary, Maureen has built a successful massage therapy career that has allowed her to combine everything she loves to do.
She owns MassageWorks Cochrane & Chiropractic Care, a multi-therapist clinic in Cochrane, Alberta, where she specializes in sports massage and treating clients with injuries and chronic conditions. Maureen took the time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions about being an RMT and running her own business.

Tell us about your massage practice!

I was a teacher by trade and decided to pursue a career in health and wellness and in a more therapeutic, caring aspect of it. I love being physically active and enjoy getting tangible results.
My focus going into massage therapy education was in the sports side of treatment as I enjoy the outdoors, and was interested in sports injuries and rehab overall. With that in mind, the focus of my practice has been in the sports and therapeutic side. After graduating from MH Vicars, I took extra courses with the Canadian Sports Massage Therapists Association in Toronto, and various other sports massage courses.

What’s the best thing about being a massage therapist?
I love the instant, tangible result or improvement when I work on someone that comes in with an injury or chronic issues. Especially when they have been so desperate in getting help and no one has figured out how to treat them, and then I’m able to help them.

What are the biggest challenge of being a massage therapist? 
I find the biggest challenge with being a RMT is having a home-life balance. Sometimes, when you are sought-after, it’s hard to take time off. But it is necessary to decompress and recharge one’s sanity, mental clarity, and wellness. My way of decompressing is through running, hiking, climbing, and cooking. Living close to the mountains affords me that lifestyle and a great client base who followed me throughout these years.

What do you think it takes to be a good massage therapist?
Having a great skill set. Not just knowing your stuff, but being a good listener, compassionate, and down-to-earth.
And having great biomechanics is essential to having a long term career in this industry. I’ve been fortunate that I am very aware of my own body mechanics, and never had any injuries such as repetitive strain injuries. I always advise any RMT to master this skill as this is not a long-term career once injuries starts happening.

What advice can you offer for someone considering a career in massage?

Take the time to know the industry. I’ve hired and interviewed so many RMTs and I find that for the most part people get into the industry because they want to help someone, which is intrinsic for most of us. But knowing what it takes to grow and build your client base and all the practical skills that comes with it, takes skill and experience and the willingness to learn. Money is not all of it but at the same time, we have to compensate ourselves well for what we do. And getting compensated well is a result of having a good skill set, including the business skills. Because as RMTs, we are a walking business entity.

Why did you choose MH Vicars for your massage education?
It was a great school, and the program was suited to what I needed at that time. It had a great reputation as well—I knew that MH Vicars produced quality graduates.

What has been the biggest accomplishment of your massage career so far? What are you most proud of, professionally?
I am most proud of the many people that I have met along the way that are now friends. I have been to their high and lows in their life, from marriages, to births, divorces, and raising kids – and I’ve treated their families – and I am still very much connected to them. I love that over the years I’ve seen them and know their story and history.

What are your professional goals right now?
My professional goal is to grow and expand our practice. I want to venture into other businesses, mentor other RMTs, and continue doing massage.

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.

“Looking back now, I’m definitely glad I went the Newfoundland route. It’s been a long process, but I’m finally there!”

That’s Jenna Kluthe, who graduated from MH Vicars School’s Edmonton campus in 2017. She was one of nearly a dozen Vicars grads who travelled to Newfoundland to write that province’s entry-to-practice exam with the final goal of becoming RMTs in BC. Jenna now practices in Nanaimo.

Tyler Shortridge, Karen Goforth, Jenna Kluthe, and their classmates celebrate together after writing the CMTNL exams. Photo courtesy Karen Goforth.

Jenna and her classmates chose Newfoundland because the process to apply for the exam was simpler, faster, and less expensive than going directly to BC. The College of Massage Therapists of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognizes the Vicars program, while the BC College requires applicants to pay for a “prior learning assessment” before they can take their test. (Read more about why Vicars grads are choosing Newfoundland and New Brunswick here).

The journey to become RMTs in BC began in the spring of 2017.

“I was going to go the BC route, because I didn’t know anything about Newfoundland, but about a month before we graduated someone mentioned it and we were all curious,” said Tyler Shortridge, who lives in Cranbrook and attended the Calgary campus. “[CMTNL] were really good. They answered emails fast, they answered phone calls. It was easy to get the answers I needed, and the paperwork was simple. I think I waited two weeks to hear whether we were accepted to write the exam. They had no issues with our program.”

The Newfoundland entry-to-practice exam has two parts. The multiple-choice exam covers massage theory, ethics, and law, including regulations specific to Newfoundland. The practical exam, which consists of seven separate stations, evaluates the therapist’s academic knowledge, hands-on techniques, and problem-solving skills.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” said Jenna. “You walk into the room and there were two examiners, just sitting off to the side, and there’s the body. The examiners don’t say anything, they don’t acknowledge you, they don’t smile, they don’t do anything. You just walk in and do your thing.”

The College publishes a detailed outline of the exam structure and contents to help therapists prepare, and the Vicars grad felt that the exams were well-organized and fair.

“It was fairly straightforward. You just have to make sure that you’re confident in your answers,” said Karen Goforth, who lives and works in Creston, BC.

Nonetheless, they all felt very prepared.

“The hardest part was waiting for the results,” said Tyler. “I took the exam in August, and by the end of October I was registered in Newfoundland. The end of January is when I was able to work in BC as an RMT.”

All the time and effort was worth it.

“Being a massage therapist is awesome, I love it. I have the freedom to do whatever I want with my schedule, and I like helping people,” said Tyler. “You see a lot of different people, and it’s really nice to connect with them.”

If you’re a Vicars student or grad interested in more information about moving to a regulated province, please contact the school and we’d be happy to help.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

This morning when I sat down at my desk, coffee in hand, the first thing that I did was open up Facebook. It’s the first thing I do every morning.

This isn’t a confession that I’m slacking off on the job—quite the opposite, in fact!

As Communications Coordinator, it’s my job to promote the School, share what’s happening on campus, and answer questions from clients and prospective (and current) students. And one of the ways I do this is by using social media.

Hence the morning Facebook-and-coffee ritual each morning. I log in to Facebook and navigate to the MH Vicars School business page (resisting the temptation to check my own notifications…usually!) and see how the online community has been interacting with the School.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

I check the messaging inbox—recent messages have included questions about class schedules, job postings, and continuing education – and reply to comments. I also go behind the scenes to check out the analytic data on recent posts—information that’s available on business pages but not personal profiles. This allows me to learn about what our Facebook community likes, so I can create even more relevant and enjoyable content for them in the future.

I check back in with Facebook—and our Instagram account—once or twice during the day. I’ll write new posts and either publish them immediately or schedule them for later. I try to post at least once a day for the school, being careful not to spam peoples’ timelines or neglect my other responsibilities.

Relatively speaking, it’s a small part of my job. But it’s an incredibly important one. These days, it’s vital for businesses to have a social media presence. And though massage therapy is an offline profession, it’s no exception.

As an RMT, you are your own business, and your own brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employee of another clinic, or run your own practice, or even if you’re a student just starting to build a network of potential clients. No matter your practice, your customers are online. They expect you to have a responsive web presence, and social media is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to meet that need.

Your daily social media doesn’t need to look like mine, but if you want to grow your client base, manage your personal brand, and communicate with your clients, you should really be on social media.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer a wide range of tools specifically for businesses. They allow you to separate your personal and professional identities online, communicate with your clients, and build your ideal audience. But these tools can be complex, they aren’t always intuitive, and they’re regularly being updated. I’ve been using Facebook for business for years, and every few months I make a point to check out what new features are available.

If you don’t already have a Facebook business page, now’s the time. But you don’t have to learn how to do it alone. To learn how to set up your page, or make sure that you’re using it to the best potential, I recommend you attend the one-day social media marketing course we’re holding at the end of the month:


Building Your Massage Business
(Level I): Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

When: November 25, 2017
Where: Edmonton Campus

Sign Up


A group of MH Vicars students sitting around the coffee table, discussing lessons.

As an RMT, you’ve chosen to dedicate your career to helping and connecting with others. So, networking should come as second nature. But too many massage therapists write off the idea entirely without realizing its value. Maybe the term brings to mind images of midlevel executives in uncomfortable suits exchanging superficial pleasantries along with their business cards. Maybe it just doesn’t seem necessary for someone who’s self-employed, or has a full client list.

If that’s been your attitude towards networking, it’s time to think again! Networking is an essential tool for RMTs at all stages of their careers. Authentic, meaningful networking isn’t about impressing your peers, or keeping up appearances. It’s about making connections and building communities.

Don’t believe me yet? Keep reading for our top 6 benefits of networking.

#1: Keep up with trends and innovations in the industry

A group of MH Vicars students sitting around the coffee table, discussing lessons.How do you stay on top of the latest massage news? If the answer is that you chat with your clients and fellow RMTs, then congratulations: you’re networking already!

While massage as a healing discipline is thousands of years old, as a modern career it’s experiencing rapid growth and change. From developments in regulation and school accreditation, to innovative treatments and modalities, there’s always something new to learn. By cultivating connections with other therapists and health professionals, you can keep up with all the latest news in this dynamic field.

#2: Make important referral contacts

Maybe you’re so busy that you have to turn potential clients away. Maybe you want to be able to recommend someone you trust when you have to refer your clients to another practitioner. In either case, it’s very helpful to know the therapists and health professionals in your area. Your clients trust you with their health when they’re on your table, and you owe it to them to be knowledgeable about their treatment options beyond your clinic walls.
And of course, making this type of connection pays off in both directions. Wellness professionals like physiotherapists, coaches, and chiropractors are often called upon to recommend massage to their clients and patients. By getting to know them, you’ll both benefit – and so will your clients.

#3: Get motivated

No matter how much you love your job – and we hope you adore it! – it’s still work. It’s natural for your drive and enthusiasm to ebb and flow.

One sure-fire way to jumpstart your passion for the career is to meet with fellow RMTs and talk about the job! Sharing ideas, tips, funny stories, and lessons learned can remind you why you chose this career in the first place, and will leave you re-energized about your practice.

#4: It’s an opportunity to find or become a mentor

I wouldn’t be where I am today – with a fulfilling job that I love – without the help and advice of a lot of different people, and I expect the same is true for you. Interestingly, I didn’t connect with the people whom I consider my most important mentors and teachers through formal mentorship programs. Rather, they’ve been bosses, professors, senior colleagues, and even friends who simply took the time to share their thoughts and experiences with me. It may have been a small thing to them, but it has been precious to me. I hope that someday, I can play a similar role in someone else’s life.

And these casual, organic mentor relationships are just as important for RMTs as they are for writers like me. By connecting with the rest of the massage community, you can meet people to learn from, and people to teach. Because we’re never too old to do either!

#5: Look for a new job, or find new employees

If I were writing this for another school’s blog, I would probably have put this one at the top of the list. It’s the most obvious benefit of formal networking. But if your clinic is fully booked, or you happily work for yourself, it might be the benefit you’re most likely to discount. If you’re not actively looking to switch jobs or hire anyone, cultivating employment contacts might be pretty low on your to-do list. And fair enough!

But this is an important strategy for students and new graduates, and those of you who are still building their practice. And even if you’re comfortable where you are right now: the right time to have this kind of connection is before you need it.

#6: Socialize and have fun!

This one isn’t an afterthought, I promise! Massage therapists are good people (and I’d know!). All the RMTs that I know are in this business because they care about others, and want to have a positive influence on the world. And who wouldn’t want to hang out with people like that?

When it comes down to it, “networking” is just connecting with other RMTs and wellness professionals. It’s spending time with people, be they old classmates or new friends, with whom you have a lot in common—and helping your career at the same time. What could be better?

Can you think of any benefits to networking that I’ve missed? What have been your best networking experiences so far? Please share them in the comments!

We got a very exciting letter in the mail today! Our first exclusive continuing education course has been approved for continuing education credits by the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta!

When you take Building Your Business (Level 1)—Using Social Media to Build Your Brand at the Calgary campus this July, you will earn 4 Secondary Credits from MTAA. 

For many years, we have partnered with qualified instructors and organizations to offer continuing education at our Edmonton and Calgary locations. But this course is the first time we’ve developed homegrown exclusive continuing education classes! It’s in Calgary first, and will be repeated in Edmonton later this year.

This workshop will teach you  how to create and execute a communications strategy that meets your needs. Using a practical, hands-on approach, you’ll learn how to use traditional communication avenues and social media to promote yourself and your practice.
The course will cover the importance of a good social media strategy and demonstrate actionable steps you can take to develop a sustainable, measurable and scalable social media marketing plan tailored to your own needs and goals. Ultimately, this will help you create more awareness, relationships and leads for your brand and business.
You will go through social-media exercises and real-world case
studies, putting what you’ve learned into practice throughout the day.
The key topics that we’ll cover include:
  • How to build a voice and values around your brand-Be a Brand Ambassador!
  • The right channels for you-which social media channels should you use?
  • How to craft and grow your online “ecosystem” to build your network & business
  • The balance of a good content strategy, listening, and engagement tactics
  • Setting goals and measuring your social media growth
During the workshop, you’ll set up your own Facebook Business Page (or perfect the one you already have)!
This course is specifically designed for massage therapists, and will offer techniques and advice for both sole practitioners and those working in multi-therapist environments.
In order to fully participate in this workshop, we request that you bring a laptop or tablet.
Cost: For MH Vicars students and graduates: $195 (+gst)
For general public: $245 (+gst)

Building Your Massage Business (Level I):
Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

June 18 2016, Calgary Campus

Register Now!