5 qualities of good rmt

Looking for a Career Where You Can Help Others and Stay Active? Massage Therapy May Be the Right Fit for You!

What is a Registered Massage Therapist?

A Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) is a licensed healthcare professional who is trained to safely manipulate their clients’ muscles, fascia, and other soft tissues in order to achieve specific therapeutic benefits.

While many other health care workers and esthetics professionals will incorporate a few massage techniques into their work, RMTs have a specialized education that sets them apart. A massage therapist has different skills than a physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, kinesiologist, or occupational therapist—though they often work closely with all of them.

Many people get regular massages as part of their ongoing preventative health care routines, while others will only book an appointment with their RMT when they’re in pain or feeling especially stressed. But no matter how often they go, they’ll feel the benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

Massage therapy can be an extremely effective part of the treatment plan for a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Depression and generalized anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Stress
  • Tendinitis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • TMJD

Massage therapists get to work one-on-one with their clients, often working with them over the course of several weeks or months to achieve long-term results. It’s a front-line health care profession, but without a lot of the stress, anxiety, and shift work that paramedics, health care aides, or nurses have to put up with (and RMTs hardly ever sit at a desk!). That combination of job satisfaction, happy clients, hands-on work, and flexibility mean that a career in massage therapy is very appealing to active, caring, self-motivated people. You may be reading this because that sounds like you!

Even after a busy day, I leave work so happy because I know that I’m helping so many people. – Emma Johannesson, 2017 graduate

Before you invest your time, money, and energy into an education, though, let’s dig a little deeper into what it takes to really thrive in this profession. At Vicars, we provide you with the training and practical experience to assess and treat your clients, and the business know-how to navigate that side of your career. But there are some things that we can’t teach in class. The RMTs who are most successful and most happy on the job all have a few things in common.

Top 5 Qualities of an Excellent Massage Therapist

  1. Empathy
    Empathy takes the number-one spot for good reason: massage therapists are drawn to the career out of a desire to help people. Your clients will come to your table stressed, tight, or in pain. You’ll perform an assessment to learn about their needs, and develop a custom treatment plan. Then after an hour of your care they’ll be happier and healthier. What could be better for an empathetic person who has a passion for making connections, working with others, and making the world a happier place?
    Your empathy will be your motivation to work hard every day, and it will also be an asset for you as a therapist. Understanding and sharing in your clients’ feelings helps to establish a bond of trust, which will in turn allow your clients to be vulnerable in communicating their needs. It is important to note, however, that while empathy is a very valuable trait it must be balanced by careful monitoring of boundaries. A big part of your massage therapy education will be learning professional ethics, including how to recognize the limits of your professional scope of practice, and how to enforce healthy boundaries.

I love that a healing touch can do so much for someone. Seeing the way you affect someone’s life is the most rewarding feeling you will ever have. – Kirsty MacIntosh, 2012 graduate

  1. Excellent Communication and Active Listening Skills
    As an RMT you’ll be communicating directly with your clients in pre-treatment consultation, throughout the course of your massage therapy sessions and in post-treatment follow-ups. The ability to communicate in an open, clear and informative manner is essential. How well you communicate—with your words, your body language, and your actions—will help set the tone for each treatment, and for the whole therapeutic relationship with your client.
    It’s not just about what you say to your client: it’s also about how you listen to what they’re sharing with you. “Active listening” means making a focused and conscious effort to not only hear the words being spoken, but to fully understand the message being communicated. It is your job, as the massage therapist, to make them feel comfortable and safe, to try to understand and address their needs, and to provide a therapeutic, relaxing experience.
    Some of the communication tools that a massage therapist (or any health care professional) needs to master are very specific, and go beyond what is required to succeed in other professions. It will be an important part of the curriculum at any reputable massage therapy school. At Vicars, we dedicate a lot of time to it, and incorporate it into every other subject area as well. That said, the best massage therapy students and RMTs are people who are already committed to active two-way communication.
  2. Good Time Management Skills
    Whether you’re self-employed or you work at a clinic, time management is critical. You will need to ensure each client’s needs are met while still having enough time to take care of business, including cleaning and setting up the room for the next client and taking a much-needed breather between treatments.
    Good time management is also important for students. This is especially true for adult learners, who often have to balance their schoolwork with their job and family responsibilities. It can take a month or two for even the most organized Vicars students to get the hang of their new blended learning routine. But this can actually be another side benefit to choosing a blended learning program; the time management tools that our students develop during their time at Vicars are exactly the same as those required of a successful therapist and entrepreneur.
  3. Curiosity
    To be a massage therapist is to be a perpetual student—in a good way!
    Every massage is a new opportunity to learn about your client and their needs, and turn that knowledge into a customized treatment plan. Nobody’s body is exactly the same, and how we experience pain and other physical symptoms can be subjective and has both emotional and physiological components. Having a genuine curiosity about how these elements impact your client’s condition will help you to design the best treatment for them.
    Throughout your career, you’ll be a student in a more literal sense. Massage therapists are required to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with continuing education courses. What courses you take will be up to you, and what you’re curious about.
    You can refresh your anatomy and physiology knowledge, get extra training in how to treating special populations, such as competitive athletes. This kind of additional training throughout your career will keep you up to date with the industry so you can provide the best care possible.
  4. Energy, Stamina, and A Commitment to Self-Care
    Massage therapy is a physically demanding hands-on practice. RMTs don’t just use their fingers and hands: in order to perform those effective deep-tissue techniques without burning out or injuring themselves, RMTs have to engage their entire body, including the legs and core. The average workload for a full-time RMT is five 60-minute massages a day, five days a week. Being on your feet for hours every day and using every muscle in your body to assist others with their aches and pains requires strength and stamina. Your body is your career. You have to listen to it and take care of it—and we’ll teach you how.At MH Vicars, you will learn the correct body mechanics so that you’ll be able to have a long and healthy career. Through our student clinics and in-class practice, you’ll be able to gain the endurance and flexibility you need to be an effective RMT. You’ll learn self-care techniques and stretches and strengthening exercises as a student, and it’s important to incorporate them into your daily routine.
    But it is also important to take proactive measures to care for your body. Keeping yourself in good “massage shape” means regular exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of rest. And if you’re a bit sore at the end of a long week at work, may we suggest getting a massage?

What Skills Do You Learn While Training to Become a Massage Therapist?

The MH Vicars School curriculum is based on Canada’s highest national massage education standards and will prepare you for a successful massage career anywhere in the country. In addition to relaxation and therapeutic massage sequences and techniques, you’ll study anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, communication skills, massage theory, ethics, and business. You’ll learn how to perform an assessment on a client and then create a customized treatment plan to effectively treat a wide range of complicated medical concerns.

At Vicars, students complete their massage therapy training in less than two years. Our full-time blended learning program is a combination of in-class education and directed independent study. Students also complete an extensive supervised practicum at our on-campus clinic, where they get experience treating real clients from all walks of life in a supportive educational environment. Our graduates are able to gain employment immediately after graduating (depending on the province they live in). Some students even start working part-time as student therapists during their second year.

Combined with your unique personality, you’ll have all the tools you need to build a rewarding and successful career as a respected Registered Massage Therapist.

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 book an interactive virtual tour today!

6 tips how to choose a massage school

Ready to Begin Your New Career?
This Essential Info Will Help You Get Started

Massage therapy is a thriving, in-demand career, ideal for people from all walks of life who put “helping others” at the top of their career bucket list. It’s also a career very well suited to those who are curious about physiology and how the human body works. If you’ve ever thought about a career in massage therapy, your next step will be choosing the right massage therapy school or program for you. 

To help you on your journey, here are a few tips to help you research your options. 

1.     Make sure it’s a licensed school

Your success as a massage therapist depends, in large part, on the quality of your massage therapy education. In order to provide the best health care to your clients, and to navigate the business side the career, you need to attend a school that has a strong curriculum, qualified instructors, and offers a practicum that is fully supervised and integrated into the curriculum.  

It’s essential that you attend a school that’s properly licensed by the government. The only schools that are licensed by the Province of Alberta to provide Massage Therapy Certification (as part of a two-year program) are listed with Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education. Only students who attend a full-time, licensed program are eligible to apply for provincial and federal student loans and grants. 

But in Alberta, where massage is not a regulated profession, government licensing is the bare minimum to look for in a school. Unfortunately, making sure that a school is licensed isn’t enough to make sure that you’re going to get a good education, or have an enjoyable student experience. That’s because the Alberta government doesn’t monitor the contents or quality of a school’s curriculum, which has led to a lot of variation among massage programs in Alberta. 

There is no single standard for course content, subject matter, academic standards, facilities, or faculty qualifications that all schools need to follow. There are few advertising standards, and little to protect prospective students from high-pressure or misleading sales tactics. 

2.     Find out what the professionals have to say

So where else can you look to find out if a school is going to prepare you for a long, successful career? We recommend looking through the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s Approved Programs list. To make it onto the list, schools and programs must comply with Canada’s massage education entry-to-practice standard  and meet demanding criteria for program delivery methods and instructor qualifications. This list is also a useful tool to hold schools accountable for what they teach, ensuring that all students get the best quality education possible. (Full disclosure: we were the first private school added to the list) 

From there, you can start to look at the details of each program to decide whether it’s right for you. 

It’s also a great idea to chat with your own massage therapist. Where did they go to school? Would they recommend it? What do they know about other programs based on their conversations with colleagues, or their experiences as employers? 

3.     Learn your local massage therapy standards

In order to work in a province where massage is not government regulated, you need to become a member of one of the professional associations that operate in that province. In Alberta, those associations include the Massage Therapists Association of Alberta and the National Health Practitioners of Canada.  (It’s a great idea to reach out to an association in your province as you research your education options! But be careful—some associations are owned by or linked to particular schools. So make sure you’re getting an independent opinion). 

If you want to work in BC, Ontario, or another province where massage therapy is a regulated profession, you will have to go through a few more steps to become registered after you graduate.  

All of those provinces require you to pass an entry-to-practice exam to become a member of their Regulatory College. Though the application processes vary, all of Canada’s massage therapy Regulatory Colleges use the same entry-to-practice standard. So if you want to go to school in a non-regulated province and plan on working in a regulated province someday (or just want to keep your options open for the future) then make sure that your school of choice has a curriculum that lives up to that standard. 

4.     Learn about eligibility requirements and application deadlines

In terms of official qualifications and prerequisites, application standards vary from school to school. There will be reasonable academic prerequisites. At a minimum, schools will require a high school diploma, GED, or a combination of high school credits and an aptitude test. These are the minimum technical requirements for acceptance into a licenced program in Alberta, but at most schools, students are accepted based on a one-on-one interview. At Vicars, we’re looking for students who have the drive for an intensive two-year program that covers everything from anatomy to ethics to business skills. The most successful students want to spend you’re their careers helping people, and are you curious, energetic, organized, and self-motivated. 

Keep an eye on the start dates for your preferred program. Plan ahead and apply early so that you’ll have the best chance of getting a place in the program and your first choice of schedule. This is more important at some schools than others, depending on a lot of factors, such as program size, class size and maximum student-instructor ratio, and number of start dates per year. 

At MH Vicars School, we often have to put applicants on a waitlist for our most popular schedules. We keep our class sizes  small (a maximum of 22 students per class, and two teachers per class) so that we can make sure our students get a high standard of hands-on instruction and plenty of one-on-one attention. We have two start dates per year: September and January, though students can start our Anatomy and Physiology and Pathology classes online as soon as they are registered.  

Some massage therapy schools do things differently, and there will be advantages and disadvantages that go along with that. For example, a school might have the option of new classes starting every month. This is appealing for people who don’t want to have to wait to start their new careers. But those classes might only run if enough people sign up, causing your education to be delayed and deferred anyway. Or a school might have small class sizes for its practical instruction, but larger classes for everything else. It’s up to you to consider your priorities, research the program, and decide what combination of features is the best fit for you. 

The best massage therapy programs in Alberta have high standards for their students because they have high standards for the profession of massage therapy.  

5.     Find the schedule and learning style that suits you

At the end of the day, choosing a school isn’t about finding the “perfect” massage therapy program. It’s about finding the perfect massage therapy program for you. Even the best schools in Alberta have differences among them and are designed to meet the needs of different students. 

There are some colleges that offer a variety of programs, with massage therapy one of many. Other schools, like us here at Vicars, are dedicated solely to training professional massage therapists. At a larger institution, especially one that offers multiple programs, you’re more likely to get the “traditional” post-secondary student experience. For some people that’s one of the draws. Others are attracted to the personalized experience and close relationships that come with a smaller, massage-specific program. 

Monday-Friday programs are a better choice for students who are right out of high school and are used to a more directed and less flexible learning style. A blended learning program is ideal for mature learners who want more control over their education and schedule, and people who don’t live in a big city but still want a quality education. 

Pay attention to the recruiting style of schools that interest you. Are the admissions staff on commission? Do they use call centres? The impression that you get from the admissions staff is often a reflection of the school itself and what your student experience will be like. They should be as interested in learning about your goals and needs as they are about telling you about the program.  

6.     Register for a tour and try a workshop

Now that you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to see if your dream schools live up to your expectations! 

If the school offers an in-person or virtual tour or open house, that’s a great sign. You want to be able to experience the college and meet staff, faculty, and students as a part of your research. (Many schools have turned to virtual tours due to the pandemic, and these can also be a valuable experience.) 

Take advantage of any opportunities you have. Ask questions about the coursework, meet the staff, see the students in action, and even  experience a treatment for yourself at student clinics. 

Some massage schools offer one- or two-day beginners’ workshops so that you can get a short hands-on experience and learn some very basic techniques. They can be a good way for a prospective student to get a feel for their space and teaching style. 

Set yourself up for success 

By choosing the right massage therapy education, you’ll set yourself up for success by making sure that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience that clients want and need. Graduates from the best schools are fully qualified to forge arewarding career as a professional massage therapist.  

If you think Vicars might be the right school for you, contact us today to learn all about life as an MH Vicars student and future massage therapist. 

a career in massage therapy

What Do Massage Therapists Wear? 

There are lots of wonderful things about being a massage therapist. Some of them are big and obvious: helping people heal, being your own boss, building strong therapeutic relationships with regular clients…the list goes on. And some of them are smaller, but no less satisfying. One of those little perks of the job that is sometimes underrated: the uniform is so darn comfortable! 

Massage therapy is a physical profession, and a massage therapist’s wardrobe needs to be up to the task. RMTs need their clothes to meet a range of practical demands. So what is the work attire for a massage therapist? 

There isn’t a universal uniform that all massage therapists wear, of course. Therapists choose their clothing based on their clinic environment, their personal preferences, and other factors. 

But regardless of where a massage therapist works, there are some general principles that they all follow. In this blog post, we’ll give a general introduction to standard clothing, shoes, personal presentation, and PPE for massage therapists. 

RMTs dress for success (and comfort, and hygiene, and flexibility…) 

When it comes to clothing, the number one priority for massage therapists is always practicality. Everything that they wear is chosen because it will help them perform their jobs effectively, safely, and comfortably. 

A massage therapist’s work outfit must meet all the following criteria: 

  • Allow a full range of movement of your entire body. 
  • Fit loosely, but not so loosely that they will accidentally touch a client while they’re working. 
  • Sleeves shouldn’t reach past the elbow. 
  • Fabrics should be breathable and suitable for the clinic conditions. Treatment rooms are kept at a comfortable temperature for the client, who is partially undressed and not moving. The therapist is moving and working hard, so light fabrics are best.. Some therapists will wear sweatbands on their foreheads! 
  • Everything needs to be machine-washable (including hot water washing). 
  • No jewelry that’s going to come in contact with the client. . This obviously means rings and bracelets, but includes long necklaces that can get in the way when you’re leaning close to your client. 
  • Long hair should be pulled back away so that it’s not in your face, and so there’s no chance it will touch your client. 
  • Fingernails must be kept extremely short with no nail polish, gel, or acrylics. This is for the sake of hygiene. 

For most RMTs, the simplest way to tick all these boxes is to wear scrubs, or a scrub top with comfortable pants. Scrubs look professional, and are well-cut, light, and hold up well to frequent washing. There’s good news for those who want a hint of fashion along with their function, too. Scrubs have come a long way in the last few years, and there are lots of flattering styles, colours, and patterns available. 

Put your best foot forward 

A lot of people are drawn to massage therapy precisely because it’s not a desk job and they get to be up and moving all day. But being on your feet stops being fun when those feet start to hurt! Choosing comfortable, well-fitting footwear is a wise investment IN.Massage therapists wear flats that provide plenty of support and cushioning for their feet. Cushioning is especially important for therapists who work in treatment spaces with hard flooring like laminate, linoleum, and tile. 

Safety first: Personal protective equipment for RMTs 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, massage therapists around the world have focused on keeping themselves and their clients safe, following the public health rules set by governments and professional organizations. This has included increasing the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) that they wear while at work. 

The use of PPE like masks and gloves isn’t new to massage, though. There are some techniques and circumstances that require special equipment to keep both the massage therapist and their client safe. 

Take TMJD massage, for instance. Temporomandibular joint disorders are a group of conditions that can cause jaw pain and tightness, headaches, difficulty opening the mouth all the way, and noise when the jaw moves. It’s usually caused by muscle tension in the face, jaw, and neck as a result of stress, trauma, or postural dysfunction. Massage can be an extremely effective treatment for TMJD. Therapists use both extra-oral and intra-oral techniques. Extra-oral means outside of the mouth: the RMT massages the neck, face, and head. Intra-oral means inside the mouth: the RMT massages the muscles of the cheek and jaw from inside the client’s mouth. Massage therapists always wear disposable gloves when doing intra-oral work. 

One more thing while we’re on the topic of COVID-19 precautions: most Canadian jurisdictions are beginning to loosen the public health restrictions that they created to fight the pandemic, including rules for massage therapy clinics. This is a welcome development because it’s a sign that all our sacrifices and hard work (and the time spent in line for the vaccine) are paying off! But as we all know, we’re not out of the woods yet. So though many mandatory restrictions have been lifted, a lot of massage therapists are choosing to keep some of their COVID-19 rules in place for now. Some clinics are still asking their clients to wear masks, and many are still wearing masks themselves. This is because many people who rely on massage as part of their health care routine are in higher-risk groups. By keeping some rules in place temporarily, therapists make sure that their clinic remains a safe space for their most vulnerable clients. When you book your next massage, make sure you double-check their latest clinic policies so you know what to expect! 

What do Vicars students wear? 

At MH Vicars School, we have a dress code that our students follow whenever they’re in class, at the clinic, or representing the school at an outreach event. Our students spend most of their time on campus doing hands-on work, so in order to be an effective student, they need to be dressed for the job. 

The school dress code is a scrub top and plain loose-fitting scrub pants or athletic pants. Sweatpants and leggings are not permitted. Scrub tops may be any colour, pattern, or style, as long as they are clean and massage-appropriate. Midriffs and shoulders must stay covered;
the scrubs should fit loosely to allow full range of movement in class. Students wear cloed-toe shoes  

Our dress code for class and clinics is very simple. Students, and many instructors, wear scrub tops and plain loose-fitting scrub bottoms or athletic pants. They wear flat, indoor-only supportive shoes, usually sneakers. 

A career as rewarding as scrubs are comfortable 

At MH Vicars School, you will develop the skills you need for a successful career as a massage therapist. Blended learning allows you to combine hands-on training with flexible at-home work. For more information about our exciting program, call our friendly admissions team toll-free at 1-866-491-0574 today or attend an online open house! 

massage and mental health

From Depression to PTSD, Massage Therapists Can Play a Key Role in Mental Health Care

When your neck is stiff after too many hours working at the computer, or a long run left your hamstrings screaming, you pick up the phone and call your favourite RMT. After all, registered massage therapists are known for their power to heal our bodies. But their ability to improve our mental health is just as impressive. 

Massage therapy can provide significant mental health benefits, and even help people with serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Therapists and clients have always known that massage is good for our mental health, and the scientific evidence is catching up.Research has shown that massage therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in a wide variety of conditions; promote feelings of emotional well-being and promote a healthy mind-body connection; and even improve outcomes for people receiving medical treatment for serious mental health disorders. 

A Complementary Mental Health Treatment That’s Backed by Research 

Massage is not a replacement for specialized mental health care from a medical professional. But as an adjunct or complementary therapy, it can make a huge difference. Massage therapy can be added to almost anyone’s wellness regimen, whether they’re suffering from a mental illness, experiencing psychological effects of a physical condition, or just feeling run down by the stresses of day-to-day life. 

Our minds and our bodies are connected, and that means that what’s happening with our mental health can affect the rest of our bodies and vice versa. Some mental illnesses have physical symptoms. And it’s common for people who are suffering from pain and physical ailments to experience depression, stress, and other mental health symptoms as a result. 

Many of the physical effects of massage therapy can improve mental well-being. These include lowering the heart rate and reducing blood pressure, reducing 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).  

The impact of massage on hormone levels is particularly important. Massage increases serotonin which regulates mood and sleep, and reduces cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” All of this means that massage increases relaxation and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have even shown that massage increases blood flow in areas of the brain associated with mood and stress regulation. 

People with a wide range of mental health disorders and related conditions can benefit from including massage from a trained professional in their health routine. These include: 

Anyone experiencing symptoms of one or more of these issues should contact a medical professional. Before booking your massage, confirm with the RMT that they have been trained in how to treat your symptoms or condition. You can do this by asking them directly, or if you’re not comfortable with that you can ask friends or people on your health care team to recommend an RMT. 

Working Together to Create a Unique Treatment Plan 

The mental health benefits of massage therapy appear to be the result of a combination of both physiological and psychological factors. The intangible aspects of the therapeutic relationship between RMT and client—empathy, trust, and respect—seem to be particularly important. 

A good therapist will create a safe and calm environment for all their clients, where there’s no pressure, judgment, or stress. They will help their clients maintain healthy boundaries and will remain within their own scope of practice as well. This strong therapeutic relationship is the foundation every massage treatment, and there’s evidence that these intangible aspects of getting a massage—the empathy, trust, and respect between client and therapist—have tangible benefits for the client’s mental health. 

In some ways, treating a client for their mental health concerns is a lot like treating a client who comes in with physical aches and pains. A well-trained massage therapist never performs a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, they begin with an interview and an assessment and follow a customized treatment plan based on the client’s needs and goals. 

Effective massage treatment is always a collaboration between the client and the therapist, but this is especially true when it comes to treating clients who are struggling with their mental health. The RMT will work with the client to ensure that they create a safe and welcoming treatment environment. The therapist 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. 

As a student at Vicars, you’ll be able to develop a rewarding career providing hands-on care to clients suffering from mental health disorders. As new research shows just how much of an impact massage therapy can have on a person’s mental and physical health, massage therapists will more in demand than ever before. If you’ve always wanted a career where you can really make a difference, speak to our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for our next online open house to learn more! 

massage therapy has grown in 2021

How COVID-19 has changed things for RMTs and massage therapy schools

When COVID-19 arrived in Canada, none of us knew how it would affect our lives. And as massage therapists, we were also worried about our livelihoods. What would happen to a hands-on profession like massage therapy during a global pandemic? 

Over a year later, the answer is clear: massage therapy isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, the stress and hardship of the last year has reminded RMTs and our clients just how necessary massage is in our lives. 

“There certainly have been a number of challenges in the past year in my own practice, and the massage industry as a whole throughout the pandemic. But overall, what I’m seeing is that massage is alive and well,” says MH Vicars instructor Lourdes Nunes-Sammer. Lourdes is both an RMT and a business owner. She treats clients in Edmonton and owns a clinic in Jasper that has multiple massage therapists.

Lourdes says that she’s been pleasantly surprised by how resilient her businesses have been during the pandemic. 

“In my own practice I’m as busy as ever, and the clinic in Jasper has been very busy.” 

It hasn’t been an easy year for RMTs, of course. Massage therapy was one of the many professions that had to temporarily close during Alberta’s first shutdown in spring 2020, and again for a few weeks during the second wave lockdown in December 2020. 

But each time it’s had to shut down, massage therapy has bounced right back. Rather than reducing demand, these shutdowns—and the overall stress and strain of the pandemic—have made many of our clients appreciate us more than ever. 

Our clients also trust that we’re taking the necessary steps to keep them safe, including following strict cleaning protocols, doing client screening, and wearing masks and other PPE. Some of the changes we’ve had to make have been expensive and time-consuming, but we know it’s worth it to be able to do what we love. 

“I have some clients where I am literally the only person that they see, outside of the members of their household. People who are seriously isolating,” says Lourdes. “That someone lets me be in that circle of trust and treat them—that’s a huge privilege.” 

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of injuries and physiological conditions, and Lourdes says that her clients are still coming to her to get help with issues like TMJD, scoliosis, and other conditions. But she’s also noticed a huge increase in the number of clients who are specifically looking for stress relief. 

“I think that more than ever now, people are seeing the therapeutic benefits of a relaxation-type massage,” she explains. “They’re coming in asking for a full-body relaxation massage, whereas before I would have been treating their specific condition. 

“The pandemic is bringing to light the need for connection that we might have overlooked before, and the need for massage therapists and that therapeutic touch. They’re more stressed than they’ve ever been. Our resiliency, our overall mental and physical and psychological and spiritual health is low.” 

How has COVID-19 affected massage therapy schools? 

The pandemic has been hard on massage therapy students, too. But MH Vicars School students have had a significant advantage over some of their peers. The Vicars program has always been delivered through blended learning: a combination of hands-on learning in class, and independent study work that’s completed online and at home. This type of schedule is perfect for adult learners, rural students, and others who can’t attend an old-fashioned Monday-Friday program. 

And though we certainly didn’t anticipate this advantage when the school opened 20 years ago, blended learning has proven to be a great way to learn during a pandemic. We have made additional changes to the program to support our students during the pandemic, but without sacrificing the curriculum standards or overall student experience. 

The 2020-2021 school year was able to proceed with as few disruptions as possible. The biggest difference for our students was that our practicum clinics have been closed to the public for most of the year. This was a difficult decision, but a necessary one. Reducing the number of people that our students come into close contact with on campus has helped keep them and their families safe. It also meant that we were less likely to have to interrupt on-campus classes for our students. Our students have been working on each other at the clinic. They get a dynamic and interactive hands-on practicum experience without increasing their risk of being exposed to the virus. 

The pandemic isn’t going to disappear overnight, but next year’s students can look forward to a much more normal school experience. Thanks to vaccines and public health precautions, we look forward to reopening all our clinics to the public for the next school year. 

Massage therapy students can also breathe easy knowing that they are preparing to enter a career with a bright future. 

“I think the resounding lesson of this pandemic is that massage therapists have job security,” reflects Lourdes. “We’ve seen a lot of challenges in the industry this year—being open one day and closed the next—and keeping up with all the guidelines for how we can practice and what we need to do. But people are still coming. Because they recognize the value of it. I think there’s always going to be that demand.” 

At MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, you can train to become a registered massage therapist for a flexible, rewarding career in this growing field. MH Vicars students learn the theory and skills to perform effective relaxation and therapeutic treatments.  

Call our friendly admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for the next live online open house to learn more about becoming a qualified massage therapist.

MH Vicars School is proud to announce that we have been named to the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s new list of Approved Schools.

We’ve always been committed to providing our students with the best, most up-to-date massage therapy education possible, and we’re thrilled to have confirmation from the independent experts at the MTAA that we’re accomplishing that goal. Vicars was the first private massage school in Alberta to achieve this status, and we’re currently the only private college on the list.

For owners Maryhelen Vicars and Robin Collum, earning MTAA approval is very satisfying.

“We’re incredibly happy to have taken part in this process, and to have earned our spot on the MTAA’s list,” says Collum.

“This is such an important affirmation that we are on the right track. We are so proud of our faculty and staff for continuously improving the school over the past 20 years, and for embracing new resources as they became available to us. It has been lots of work, but well worth it for the career success of our grads,” says Vicars.

The Approved Schools list is the MTAA’s way of continuing to make sure that their members meet the association’s education standards. In the future, they will use the list as the qualification criteria for new members. It will replace their previous school approval system (we were on that list, too!).

“We created this program to support and elevate the education of massage therapists in Alberta,” explains Jessica Villeneuve, chair of the MTAA’s School Approval Committee. “It’s important for students to be trained to the national standard because it ensures safe and effective care for Albertans. This new approval program will allow us to maintain the high standards that we hold our members to in regard to scope of practice, ethics, and other important areas of practice.”

The MTAA School Approval Program is a rigorous evaluation process that assesses a school’s curriculum content, delivery, and student experience. The curriculum standards are based on the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice Competencies and Performance Indicators for Massage Therapists at Entry-to-Practice created by the Federation of Massage Therapy Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FOMTRAC). If that long complicated name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same standard used by the regulatory bodies in provinces where massage therapy is a regulated health care profession.

When this national standard was introduced in 2012, we jumped at the opportunity to improve our curriculum and immediately began to transition our program to align with the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice standards. We did another big round of program upgrades when the document was revised in 2016.

We review and improve our curriculum every year to stay up to date with the latest research, resources, and teaching methods, and always use the Inter-Jurisdictional Practice standards as our guide.

But in a non-regulated province like Alberta, massage therapy schools don’t have to teach the FOMTRAC curriculum if they don’t want to. That’s why the MTAA’s new and improved School Approval Program is so important.

“Having a respected independent third party like the MTAA reviewing what massage schools teach and their delivery standards is vital for our profession.”

“Having a respected independent third party like the MTAA reviewing what massage schools teach and their delivery standards is vital for our profession,” explains Collum. “It allows students to choose a massage school based on how well it will prepare them for a career, instead of having to rely on marketing claims.

“We’re grateful that the MTAA has committed to promoting and upholding the national standards in this way. We recognize that managing an approval program like this is not simple, easy, or cheap. And by raising their entry standards, they’re risking decreasing their membership numbers. But like us, the MTAA believes that the national curriculum standard and third-party program evaluation are the future of massage therapy in Alberta and will benefit therapists and clients alike. It’s a huge undertaking, and we admire them for doing it.”

Going through the school approval program is a rigorous, months-long process.

A school first prepares a written application package full of information about the program. The MTAA wants to know about the school’s history and structure, its academic and non-academic policies and procedures, faculty qualifications, curriculum details, and more. Everything needs to be backed up with clear evidence.

If a school passes the written review, then it’s time for an on-site evaluation. An MTAA reviewer inspects the campus and facilities, and interviews staff, students, and faculty. This multi-step process ensures that the reviewers can get a thorough understanding of the school and how it operates, and make sure that the school is actually delivering a massage education that will prepare its graduates to be skilled, effective, and successful therapists.

The MTAA approval program is still accepting applications from Alberta massage schools, and we hope that it continues to grow.

We’re excited for the brand new school year, but September will be a little bittersweet this year as two well-loved faces will be missing from campus. Please join us in saying “goodbye, thank you, and good luck” to Robert Haviar and Christina Wahlers. After many wonderful years as Vicars instructors, Christina and Robert are retiring from teaching and moving on to the next stages of their lives and careers.

Retiring Edmonton instructor Robert Haviar

Retiring Calgary instructor Christina Wahlers

Robert has been teaching at Vicars in Edmonton since 2004 and has been a part of countless students’ journeys over the last 16 years. Christina has been an invaluable member of our Calgary teaching staff for almost a decade, and has helped us along our path to accreditation in addition to sharing her skill in the classroom.

I chatted with both Christina and Robert this summer to hear about what’s next each of them, and to reflect on their time at Vicars. And it was obvious in our conversations that while both of them are excited about their next chapters, a part of them was already starting to miss their students.

“I just loved being with the students, and I loved sharing with them,” said Robert. “What I’ve enjoyed most about teaching is seeing the ‘aha!’ moments students had, when the lightbulb lit up above their head and you could see that they got something at a deeper level. That was amazingly satisfying, and it still is.”

“A lot of my favourite memories of my classes are from when we’re doing the review at the end of the year, before exams. That’s when I could see the students start to relax a little bit, and all their personalities come out as they realize they’re getting close to the finish line,” said Christina. “I absolutely loved watching our students become these competent, confident therapists that I’m proud to now call my colleagues.”

After years of being the ones standing at the front of the classroom, both Robert and Christina are putting their ‘student’ hats back on and continuing their educations beyond massage therapy – though neither is leaving the career behind. Christina is returning to university to complete an undergraduate degree, and hopes to continue to advocate for massage therapy in Canada. Robert plans to study Somatics, in order to have another way to help his clients heal.

It’s been a pleasure to work with Robert and Christina all these years, and we wish them well.

This school year will be unlike any other that we’ve experienced, and we know that there will be challenges and surprises ahead. We have been working hard all summer to make sure that when our students and faculty return to campus in August and September, they’ll be able to learn and work in a safe and comfortable environment.

To give you an idea of what campus will be like on your next visit, here’s an overview of our COVID-19 safety protocols.

These health and safety measures comply with the Government of Alberta COVID-19 Risk Mitigation requirements for post-secondary institutions, and municipal bylaws. We have also taken guidance from the rules created by Alberta’s main massage therapy professional associations for their individual members, and consulted with our colleagues at other massage schools across the country.

  • Our campus will remain closed to the general public. Only students, faculty, staff, and essential visitors will be allowed on site. We are not yet accepting clinic clients.
  • Masks will be mandatory for students, faculty, and staff when on campus, with a few exceptions when people are physically distanced or have other PPE.
  • Everyone will complete a screening questionnaire online every day before they enter the building. Anyone who is deemed to be at risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus (as identified by the screening questionnaire or public health authorities) will not be permitted on campus until the risk has passed.
  • All campus areas are professionally cleaned regularly. Students will also be responsible for disinfecting their massage station and desk at the end of the day. Cleaning supplies will be provided.
  • Classrooms will be preassigned, so students will only be share spaces with your own instructors and classmates.
  • Students will have one massage partner each day for all of the hands-on work.
  • Some common areas and campus amenities will be off-limits.

More detailed instructions are being shared with students. If you have any questions about how we’re protecting the Vicars community, please be in touch!

In response to the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our campuses.

Both the Edmonton and Calgary campuses will be closed from Monday, March 16 until further notice. All on-campus activities including classes, clinics, and study halls will be cancelled.

We are making this decision as a precautionary measure. Post-secondary schools in Alberta have not yet been required to shut down operations. However, the best way for people to slow the spread of this virus is to reduce the risk of exposure. So we are choosing to pause our in-person interactions for a few weeks.

And because our program is delivered through blended learning, we are better prepared for this type of situation than some other schools.

We are communicating directly with students with updates on how this will impact their studies.

Upcoming events and in-person appointments for prospective students will be rescheduled or switched to a virtual platform. If you have an appointment booked with any of us, we’ll contact you to confirm the details.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

There’s nothing like a road trip to see old friends!

On October 7, our Executive Director Sarah Ward-Bakken and our Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy joined massage therapists from across the province for the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s annual general meeting.

The MTAA is one of Alberta’s three major professional associations for massage therapists, and represents many Vicars graduates, students, and faculty. (Vicars instructors and supervisors are all practicing therapists, and our faculty includes members of the MTAA, NHPC, and RMTA). Sarah and Linda were joined at this year’s AGM by instructors Kerri Wagensveld, Janine Borger, Dan Hvingelby, and Tamara Goodrich – as well as many successful Vicars grads!

Vi

Kerri, Sarah, Dan, Linda, and Tamara at the 2019 MTAA AGM

Connecting with colleagues is only one reason we headed to Red Deer, though. These annual meetings are an important way for members to learn about what their association is doing on their behalf, and to have a say in what it does in the future.

The most interesting information at this year’s meeting was, of course, updates on the future of regulation and school accreditation in Alberta. The MTAA has been at the forefront of the campaign for both of these projects, and everyone at the meeting was keen to hear the latest news.

This past year has been very eventful on both fronts. Some of it has been very positive, such as PEI becoming regulated and the College of Massage Therapists of BC signing a multi-year accreditation contract with the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation.

But unfortunately for those of us who are committed to meeting a Canada-wide standard of training and client care in Alberta, there have also been setbacks to both the accreditation and regulation processes.

The MTAA have been one of the strongest advocates for the advancement of our profession in Alberta, and we were glad to be at the meeting to be able to hear their perspective on the issues.

We will be writing more about both regulation and accreditation – what they mean, why they matter, and how we can achieve them – in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.