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There’s big news for massage in Canada’s smallest province! Prince Edward Island has added massage therapy to its list of Regulated Health Professions.Flag of PEI

Please join us in congratulating the Prince Edward Island Massage Therapy Association (PEIMTA) for this achievement. Those of us working toward regulation in Alberta know just how much work it has taken for PEI’s massage therapists to meet this goal. PEI is now the fifth regulated province in Canada, after BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. A Regulatory College is currently being formed.

Regulation is good for both clients and therapists. It ensures that all therapists practicing in a province must meet a high standard of knowledge and skill. This means that no matter where a client goes for a massage in PEI, they can trust that their registered massage therapist will be able to treat them safely and effectively.

MH Vicars School has been advocating for regulation in Alberta since we opened. We look forward to continuing to work with the provincial associations and other reputable schools in the province toward that goal so that all therapists and clients in Alberta can enjoy the same benefits as our friends in PEI.

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


 

International Womens Day logo

International Women’s Day, March 8, is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Like so many health and caring professions, massage therapy is dominated by women. At MH Vicars School, we are proud to work with so many strong, smart, caring, funny, driven women every day—both students and staff.

When Maryhelen founded the school, one of her goals was to create a space where women could improve their lives by getting a great education that prepared them for a successful career, while still being able to fulfill their many responsibilities. Sixteen years later, and we’re as dedicated to that dream as ever.

Please join us today in honouring the women in your life who inspire you. For us, it’s all of you.

It feels so good to see a dream coming true!

Last night we held our first ever community-building event. We wanted it to be a night of connection and inspiration; between graduates, current students, and professionals from the wider wellness community. It’s something I’ve always wished for…and it worked!!Everyone at the networking event participating in a group exercise, with all their hands up in the air

It was a great night! We had lots of yummy food and beverages, lots of stimulating conversation, lots of hugs from our wonderful alumni and big smiles from our current students. This is such a vibrant community to be a part of!

Geha Gonthier gave an inspiring lecture on holistic wellness through the lens of Oriental Medicine, mainly the practice of Shiatsu massage. Her lively presentation helped those of us trained in clinical orthopedic massage therapy to understand how energy/vitality and organ systems can inform us how to treat the “being” on the table. Everyone in the room could feel her respect for her clients, her passion for health and wellness, and her willingness to share.

Geha is teaching a course called Applied Shiatsu (Level 1) at our Edmonton campus on March 24-26. I’ve taken this course myself and found it easy to integrate with my therapeutic massage practice. It also gave me tools for sustaining my own energy levels no matter what was happening with the person I was treating on my table. This course has received high continuing credit values with the major associations. Click here for details.Two attendees sharing a hug and smiling

I’m grateful to everyone who showed up and made the night so special. Their presence and enthusiasm was contagious. It’s so easy to start conversations when we all share the same values for our profession and its vital place in the wellness paradigm. And what a great opportunity to meet practitioners who aren’t MTs, who we can refer clients to when needed!

We will be hosting more of these networking events in the future, both in Edmonton and Calgary. You’ll have the opportunity to meet physiotherapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, business mentors and many others. But of course, the reason we’re hosting these events is our inner circle of alumni and graduates. If there’s a topic or presenter you would like to see at future events, please let us know in the comments below. Tell us what interests you, because that is what interests us!

Finally, I want to thank the dream team: the stellar MH Vicars staff who worked so hard to make this dream a reality! Big high fives all around!

Applications are now being accepted for the 2016 Massage Therapy Research Fund. This is a wonderful opportunity for students and alumni to exercise their research muscles!

The MTRF funds academic research into many aspects of massage therapy as a discipline and as a profession. According to the MTRF:

“Eligible research topics include, but are not limited to:
– Massage Therapy effectiveness, efficacy and safety;
– Massage Therapy competencies and competency assessment;
– Access to and delivery of Massage Therapy services;
– Professionalization of Massage Therapy; and
– Evaluation of Massage Therapy practice.”

This year, they are also placing a special call for research on massage for soft tissue injuries.

Applications will be accepted until September, and more than $100,000 in funding is up for grabs for researchers across the country.

Read more on Massage Therapy Canada’s website. 

Thanks to Instructor Anna Faris for bringing this to our attention.

MH Vicars instructor teaching a class

We are about to devote many hours and quite a bit of money to earn a piece of paper that some other Alberta massage schools don’t even want. And we couldn’t be more delighted!

MH Vicars School has been chosen as a pilot school by the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation! You read that right: at long last, massage schools in Canada will be able to earn accreditation from a national body. And they’ve chosen MH Vicars School to help launch that process.

We have invited a group of CMTCA assessors to use our campuses to test their assessment process. It’s the latest step towards a full, nationwide accreditation system.

What is accreditation?

To put it very simply, accreditation will mean that a school can prove that it:

  • Meets the curriculum standards of the regulated provinces
  • Awards diplomas only to massage therapists who have proven themselves skilled, knowledgeable, and effective
  • Delivers what it promises: qualified instructors; relevant content; and a culture of continuous improvement

These are the same high standards that we have set for ourselves every day.

Why do we care so much about CMTCA accreditation?

Maybe we just like being ahead of the crowd! After all, we were the first private school in Alberta to upgrade our curriculum to meet the national standard (which is required of schools in BC and other regulated provinces, but still voluntary in Alberta). We also were the first massage school to be named to the MTAA’s Approved Program List.

Accreditation is an essential step for government regulation of the industry, which we still don’t have in Alberta. I have been pushing for Canada-wide accreditation of massage schools since I started MH Vicars School in 2001. Accreditation of massage therapy schools means that students will get the best education, and clients will get the best treatments.

So why wouldn’t everyone want this?

Politics. And profits. With regulation, some MTs would have to get more education, and many schools would have to get better– a lot better, in many cases. And upgrading a school is expensive and time-consuming. We spend hundreds of hours each year refining our curriculum to make sure that it covers the latest massage and education research. Many schools don’t bother. They won’t upgrade their programs until they are forced to by regulation, or by an educated public.

We are pursuing accreditation because it is the right thing to do. It will be benefit our alumni, who are already in demand by employers and clients. Once they are able to say that they have graduated from an accredited school, it will only be further proof that they are worth every penny!

It will also benefit the public. Clients should be able to count on competent, effective therapy. Being able to choose therapists from accredited schools will make it easier for them to find the best therapists (our therapists, obviously!).

Accreditation is the future for massage therapy in Alberta, and we are thrilled to be a part of this process with the CMTCA.

Best,

Maryhelen Vicars

Finally, after all of your anticipation and preparation, the new school year is here! We’re so excited to have you on campus (and for our second-year students, to have you on campus again).

Our Executive Director Denise Currie has written you a letter to extend her welcome. Enjoy!

 

Dear Students,

Here you are at the point of a new beginning. We are so glad that you have chosen MH Vicars School for your massage education. We look forward to working with you during this amazing journey as you change your career, and your life.

As you prepare to step through this portal, I wanted to offer a few words of guidance and encouragement.

As human beings we are in a constant search for meaning. Events, circumstances, and actions are imbued with meaning that we weave into our life story.

We have come to know that we are the authors of our story. When you recognize this you will be able to unleash your power to make the choices that will bring you closer to your goals.

All things are happening through you, not TO you. All things serve to expand you, refine you, and help you discover your potential. Nothing is wasted, even a traffic jam. Even a poor choice, a “mistake”, may serve to push you back on your path and show you a new aspect of yourself.

As the author of your own story, you are the one with the power to assign meaning to what is happening around you and within you. It’s all you, and your only limits are the ones you impose upon yourself. And even these fall at your feet from time to time as you exceed your own expectations! Because you don’t know what you are truly capable of until you take action. Not “try”. Take action. (In the words of Yoda, “Do, or do not; there is no try!”).

Look around you. What is your story? What meaning do you give what is occurring? Are you writing the story of your dreams? Are you dreaming big enough?

You are about to step through a portal. In truth, every moment is a portal, but stepping forward consciously and assigning a particular meaning will mark the moment in your story where you began. You took action. You stepped into your future, your chosen path, your dream.

Open your eyes and be awake. You are writing your story. Make it a good one!

Best Wishes,

Denise