People behind the profession
September 28, 2009 By Massage Therapy Magazine
Robert Hackwood, RMT
A Profile of a Registered Massage Therapist
I was wearing a navy blazer and tie walking in the rain on a dark night when I had an epiphany. I wanted and needed to change my career path to something more fulfilling – I wanted to become a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and
help people get out of pain.
The memory of a family friend releasing trigger points (TPs) in my neck and shoulders when I was a 15 year old came back to me like a bolt of lightning. She was in a very stressful job as the Head Nurse in a local hospital and saw a RMT for relief. The RMT had shown her how to self-treat TPs and she used this knowledge to treat a savage headache I had.
The mini treatment was a
success and I promptly forgot all about massage therapy for almost 10 years. In 1992 I graduated from Vancouver’s West Coast College
of Massage Therapy. Vancouver
is still my home where I live, practice and teach.
My goals have changed somewhat since that fateful night.
Not only do I still want to help people; now I wish to pass on
the wealth of knowledge and understanding I have to keen
students wanting to learn to be more effective in their treatments.
I learned early on that investing in myself was very important. My accountant said the thousands I spend a year on my continuing education was a waste of money because I couldn’t charge patients an extra premium for it. I viewed it differently. As my skill set grew the number of challenging cases that came through my door increased, along with the success rate. This allowed me to insure I was always interested and stimulated at work and no boredom ever entered the picture.
Restoring people to a place of health who have “fallen through the cracks” is one of my greatest rewards and no monetary value can be attached to it.
Word-of-mouth is by far the greatest advertising and when
a person is able to return to
their life’s path in a healthy and positive way they become your loudest advocate!
If all therapists, new and experienced, realize it is not a matter of beating the competition; but, to be the best you can be, you will always have a busy thriving practice and people will seek you out.
This was evident when a young woman in her early 20s came in to my office by way of referral. She was suffering with a high level of pain in her low back and lower extremities as a result of a horse back riding accident three years prior to seeing me. Newly married at the time, starting a family was one of her goals in life.
I first saw her in August 1997. She presented with upper cervical, pelvic and postural instabilities. She eventually had to resign from work. I became instrumental in orchestrating her recovery plan.
I was able to direct her to the appropriate specialists as I
continued to treat her.
My desire to continue learning allowed me to constantly update the treatment methods. Progress was such that her body was stable enough to carry a pregnancy to term without danger to herself or baby. Eventually, she was able to return to the workforce and in 2004 she became pregnant and had a lovely baby boy. Seeing her through to the point where her goal was a reality was an excellent experience (for both of us.)
Throughout my career, the
hardest lesson I had to learn was that health practitioners higher the totem pole did not necessarily know better than me (I did).
Years passed before the confidence came to challenge other health professional as to the best course of action for a person.
Instead of abdicating authority
to another practitioner I would open a dialogue as to various options available. After all, the
ultimate goal is always to get the person healthy, not who did it
or how it was done.
Along this line, my mentors,
the forerunners of this profession strived to be more, and to understand the body beyond what was taught in the colleges at the time.
They sought out people that would instruct them in advanced techniques such as muscle energy, then study grouped together to
be able to master the work and integrate it into their practices. Now much of this body of work is seen in the colleges.
We need to continue embracing and researching new techniques
to increase our effectiveness.
I would like to see the whole profession elevated becoming more proficient in structural alignment of the person from the inside out; from the blood vessels, viscera, fascia, joints, muscles and spirit. Being able to asses and treat a person on an individual basis: being a therapist not a technician. This will lead to RMTs being acknowledged and respected as the experts that we truly are. We can celebrate how far we have come and look to the future with great hope and expectation.
• Robert can be reached through www.dynamictherapies.com.
Tell Us A Bit About Yourself
I currently reside in Fredericton, New Brunswick working as an instructor of massage therapy at the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage (ACTM). I also hold the position of President of the Association of New Brunswick Massage Therapists (ANBMT).
My interests, past and present include Yoga, complementary
therapies, and natural health.
It was through these interests
that I decided to pursue a career in Massage Therapy. I started
this endeavour in Peterborough, Ontario where I graduated from the Kawartha Centre for Integrative Health Education in 2000. On completion, I returned to New Brunswick, where I accepted a massage therapy position in a very busy medical clinic.
My initial goal as I entered the profession was to integrate my interests into a career. I envisioned owning my own practice where I could help people improve their lives. Unexpectedly, I was offered a full-time teaching position at ACTM. Being fresh out of school for only one year I did not feel ready for this challenge, however, I took a chance and have never regretted my decision.
Influential People Or Experiences
I have found that working at ACTM has been an enriching experience. I have had so many wonderful opportunities such as being involved in research, working with clients with a variety of unique personal challenges, and witnessing the students’ growth and transformation as they complete the program and become health care professionals themselves. Every day I feel honoured to have the opportunity to work alongside many brilliant and inspiring colleagues.
Working at ACTM provides me with the benefit of attending many of the continuing education courses that are held in our College. Through these courses, I am now more than ever committed to lifelong learning. I continually educate myself to ensure that my students are receiving a quality education. I hope my enthusiasm for learning influences my students to continue educating themselves long after they’ve graduated.
The transition from massage therapist to massage therapy instructor has been my greatest challenge. As I had anticipated, teaching proved to be very challenging. This discovery led me to complete a certificate in Adult Education. I am very excited
to be a few credits away from completing a BEd with a specialization in Adult Education.
In the summer of 2003, after being Treasurer for two years, I became President of the ANBMT. I feel becoming the President has been one of my greatest achievements.
Being the President of a professional association provides me with numerous learning opportunities. I have had the chance to witness first hand the fast growth of the massage therapy profession and am delighted that massage therapy has been declared a
medical profession in NB. I
have also experienced the hard work and dedication involved
in preparing legislation.
Hope For The Profession
It is my hope that massage
therapy will continue to evolve as a profession. I would like to see the implementation of national standards for education and
recognition for our profession
as a medical service. I also look forward to seeing an increase in the field of research involving Massage Therapy.
Words Of Wisdom
Take the time to reflect on
your experiences and do not
be afraid to accept challenges.
I feel accepting challenges in
your life is the greatest and most important form of learning and personal growth.
Tell Us A Bit About Yourself
I live in Hamilton, Ontario where I was born and raised. I graduated from the Registered Massage Therapy program in October 1998 and became licensed in January 1999. My background is Business Marketing and I have experience in Retail Management. I have also worked as a Personal Fitness Trainer and Pharmacy Assistant.
As I entered the profession,
my goal was to open my own clinic – a place that offered people alternative therapies as well as complementary products to help them heal. Of course, the first step in reaching that goal was to gain experience and a client base.
In doing so, the hardest lesson I’ve learned is to have patience. You need patience to find the right place to practice; patience
to build your client base; and patience to reach your goals.
Influential People Or Experiences
My six years as an RMT has been one of many great experiences in my life. I started this journey by practicing massage therapy at a book store that specialized in books, products and services to help people improve their quality of life; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I continued the journey on my own for four years providing massage therapy on-site and in-home as well as at an aesthetics studio. Those years provided me with time to gain experience and a client base, and ultimately brought me closer to reaching my goal.
In June of 2005 I reached my goal and opened my own clinic. This was my greatest challenge and my greatest triumph. Body & Sol – Health and Energy Treatment Centre is a place that provides alternative therapies and services that are complementary to traditional allopathic treatments to help treat and prevent symptoms of medically diagnosed conditions, such as: depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleep disorders, chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, Arthritis, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, and more. Body & Sol’s focus is to help clients increase or improve their health and energy.
The services that Body & Sol offers consist of Registered Massage Therapy, Far Infrared Heat, Oxygen Enhancement, Certified Reflexology, Certified Aromatherapy, Indian Head Massage and Healing Stone.
Body & Sol also provides a venue for other professionals to teach complementary health and energy modalities such as; Exercise Classes and Workshops, Stress Management Workshops, Ancient Chi Kung, Yoga, Medical Thermography Clinics, The Healthy Breast Program and more.
My goals continue to evolve. After I improve and perfect the service mix for my clinic, my
next goal or vision is to open another clinic, in Burlington,
and eventually franchise it.
Words Of Wisdom
I do have some positive advice
for massage therapists. “If your mission is to help people, then don’t just DO what is best for your clients – BE what is best for them. Be professional and personable; be honest and respectful; be responsible and constant; be empathetic and compassionate; and be balanced and healthy.”
Tell Us A Bit About Yourself
I have been living in Hamilton, Ontario, now for about 18 years: The city of waterfalls. (Yes, we have more waterfalls than any other place in Canada, and gorgeous parks and conservation areas – We have successfully used our steel mills on the Bay, by the highway, to keep others away and protect our little secret!)
I have been an R.M.T. for more than 11 years, graduating from Sutherland-Chan (Toronto) in 1994. My goal upon graduating was simply to be of service to people, to assist them in healing and feeling better. I knew, though, that I would need some divine intervention, mixed with the help of others who could instruct me and assist me in always learning more, if I was to have any hope in actually being able to carry out such a task. What has changed for me since is that I have become a teacher myself. Several months after beginning work as a massage
therapist I spent a little time
complaining to the Education Director (Debra Curties) about how I felt I was not adequately prepared by the school, especially in assessment skills. This led her to ask me and a fellow graduate to teach clinical assessment the next year! (Boy, did she ever get me back some good!)
Influential People Or Experiences
Teaching has been without a doubt my biggest challenge in the profession. I thought I would never survive the first few years, but, with the help of so many, I managed to live through the experience, even come to enjoy it, and become a passionate geek about assessment. Being pretty stubborn and a bit thick-skulled, I had to work and work at understanding the simplest points of anatomy and assessment skills.
This has helped me greatly over the last decade, as once I have “dummied” it down to where I can handle it; I usually can successfully convey the material to others.
Though the students do seem
to find something funny about how fascinating, elegant and awe inspiring I myself find the material; how beautifully complex, yet so simple it all is, all at the same time. Is it just me, or what?
Teaching (and being able to keep learning myself!), and being of some small help to my clients gives me great satisfaction. Seeing a student “get it” and “put it all together” is one of the most satisfying things there is. It’s a joy that hooks one deep down and makes you an addict – wanting to be present again and again when “the lights go on.” It makes you want to learn more and try harder so you can get even better as a teacher. The same can be said for when a client thanks you for helping them, in whatever small way that you have. It is a blessing to have such a job were there is so much gratification to receive, while the incentive to do even better drives you on.
Hope For The Profession
My hope for the profession is that it never becomes arrogant enough to feel that it has no need to learn more and needs not strive to become better. And, so my advice to anyone thinking of entering the profession is the same: never give up learning, never stop striving to be better, never, ever, become complacent and think you know and do enough.
Tell Us A Bit About Yourself
I have been in full-time practice for 20 years and am presently semi-retired, working weekends at the Watermania Sports Therapy Clinic in Richmond, B.C. I own and operate treatment-oriented massage clinics in community aquatic centres and at the University of British Columbia.
I am a charter graduate of the West Coast College of Massage Therapy, class of 1985. I worked previously in Hotel Management and Food Catering. I was a task oriented individual in a “the job is never done and the effort is never enough” profession. Consequently, I suffered the classic symptoms of burn-out by the time I was 30.
When I was well enough to return to work, my number one priority was to select a profession that offered a stress-free work environment. Although the 2,200-hour massage therapy course was hardly “stress-free,” I found the staff, fellow students and curriculum was nurturing, supportive
and its focus of health, wellness and personal growth was, all in all, a very positive experience.
After graduating, I planned
to work in a clinic for six to eight months, earn some money and, with my new skills, travel the world, using the logic that with only my hands and a few simple phrases in any foreign language,
I could make a living temporarily, almost anywhere. This changed when about three months into my practice, I had a revelation – this massage stuff really works. Back then, in B.C., massage was a 100 per cent insured benefit on the provincial Medical Services Plan.
College had not prepared me
for how effective my treatments would be (or maybe I just wasn’t listening!). I decided to scrap my idea of world travel and invest my time, energy and money into a small one-room clinic in a local community aquatic centre.
To avoid the experience from my previous career, I deliberately chose to channel my energy into my treatment and not into the growth on my income/business. I did ‘in-service’ at a couple of local schools, volunteered for a track team and even taught a little at the College where I had studied.
Focusing on treatment led me, eventually, to specialize in sports massage and hydrotherapy. I developed an injury prevention and performance enhancing approach to target the negative effects of high volume training and performance loads of the elite athlete, which I called ‘Western Sportsmassage’ and a progressive, research-based, water rehab
program called AquaneticsTM.
The real bonus of my career
has been the opportunity and the “privilege” of working with and being in the company of the many extraordinary young (and not so young) world-class amateur and professional athletes. Ironically, I was still able to travel the world – training camps in Japan and Australia, the Olympics in Korea, the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and zig-zagging across North America with the N.B.A Vancouver Grizzlies basketball team. As great as this was, my highlight is still the two seasons
I spent in the NHL working
alongside the late and renowned trainer of the Vancouver Canuck, Larry Ashley and my mentor, Doug Fairweather. (Hi Doug!)
Words Of Wisdom
To new or soon-to-be RMTs, I say the following: You have chosen a fantastic career that offers limitless opportunities and possibilities and one that is capable of giving back many fold what your put into it. For a long and successful career, here are three bits of advice.
1) Learn and do everything you can to make your treatment as effective as possible.
2) Do not be afraid to spend money upgrading your skills and your clinic, but be careful of your fixed overhead expenses.
3) When it comes to stress and injury prevention, practice what you preach.
My name is Kimberly Boersen-Gladman and I have been working as a Registered Massage Therapist for St. John’s Rehab Hospital in North York, Ontario for the last seven years.
In October 1999, I had the opportunity to align myself with St. Johns Rehab Hospital where they had recently recognized the need for massage therapy in one of their new out-patient rehab programs. At first, the idea seemed overwhelming as not only had this never been done before; I was also a new graduate with very minimal experience. I also quickly realized many other professionals within the hospital did not take massage therapy seriously. However, I knew with the passion I had for massage and my drive to help people in need, I could make this new venture successful. Over the next year, I worked very closely with the hospital management team to create, implement and promote a massage therapy clinic within the hospital environment.
I am proud to say my greatest accomplishment as a registered massage therapist was successfully pioneering a program as a core team member in a rehabilitation hospital. In doing this, I have strived to establish evidence based practice for individuals who have sustained burns, amputations as well as complex trauma injuries.
As a member of a strong team
of professionals, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other essential disciplines, I was able to work in conjunction with these professionals to shape the massage therapy program and work to achieve the highest levels of treatment to our patients.
I have now begun to share my knowledge through workshops and student placements here at
St. Johns Rehab Hospital.
In addition to my daily practices, I continually strive to expand my knowledge by completing ongoing research within my profession. I presented my first case study at the Eastern Great Lakes Burn Conference in September of 2000. The study was a “Preliminary Evaluation of the Use of Massage Therapy in an Interdisciplinary Burn Rehabilitation Program to treat clients with Post Burn Prurutus (itching) and Pain.”
This led to publishing my works in magazines such as Rehab and Community Care Management and Massage Therapy CANADA.
My experiences have inspired my development towards the study of Manual Lymph drainage where I have become certified in Combined Decongestive Therapy. This has allowed me to expand my skills and treatment of pre- and post-operative swelling, as well as primary and secondary Lymphedema. I have only begun to explore and expand my knowledge in this field and I am excited to promote the benefits through education and public awareness.
I truly feel that one of the keys towards being a good therapist is to love what you do; focus on your goals and consistently work to identify ways to educate others on the benefits of massage even if it is one patient at a time.
I feel very fortunate for the opportunities that have come my way. Implementing this successful program as new graduate took a lot of hard work and dedication but if you put your mind, heart and soul into any dream, you can make it happen. I encourage all massage therapists and students
to follow their dreams and work hard towards extinguishing the myth of Massage being only a “Feel Good Therapy” and getting Massage Therapy the recognition
Although I have only been a massage therapist since 1999, I am looking forward to having a lifetime career in massage therapy and continue to promote massage therapy as an essential discipline to consumers as well as other healthcare professionals.
Words Of Wisdom
“Its knot what your profession
can do for you but what you can do for your profession”
My name is Natale Rao. I live in Blind Bay, a small community in the interior of B.C., approximately 25 kilometres west of Salmon Arm. I have lived and practiced in other communities over the years, including 14 years in Vancouver, where my career as Instructor began. I presently practice in Salmon Arm. I grew up in Toronto and attended C.C.M.H. from 1978 to 1979; ours was the last class to graduate from downtown Toronto before it moved to Sutton. I am now in my 26th year of practice and continue to enjoy what I do.
I wasn’t aware of the power of “massage/manual therapy” when I first decided to enter the profession, so my goal was, quite simply, to help people any way that I could. That ideal remains with me, and now that I instruct at the under and post graduate levels, I strive to use my experiences and manual skills to contribute to those RMTs that study with me.
I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to face over the years is convincing any one person or profession of how manual therapy can affect the human body. My family was probably the most challenging. I felt
that I needed their approval – a common challenge in “those days,” as I was to discover that I wasn’t the only young RMT with that
I have had and still continue
to have a very rewarding career. One of those rewards is the
ability to focus my intention
on the therapy that needs to be accomplished for each individual that comes to see me for therapy.
A huge compliment for me is
to hear how many RMTS have viewed me as a mentor.
I have this constant hope for
our profession that, through diligent and effective therapy our
contribution to physical health
will be recognized as a necessary part of overall well-being.
Words Of Wisdom
If I was to impart anything to
a budding RMT, my advice is to challenge yourself to know the anatomy of the human body as
a three dimensional being –
more appreciation for the body
is seen, felt and treated in its
My name is Shawna Coke. I was born in Etobicoke and raised in Guelph, Ontario. After graduating High School I became a factory worker for five years inspecting chain saw bars. Actually, I liked it! I liked the hours, I liked the people, and
I liked the money.
It was the girls around me that encouraged me to go back to school. I knew I wanted to help people in some way. And, so while I tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, I went to Niagara College in Welland and took the Health Science program. That is where I learned that there was even such an occupation as massage therapy. So I went to my hometown, and interviewed a massage therapist, then she gave me a hour massage. Oh My God!! That was it!! I loved it, and I couldn’t believe how it made me feel. I knew at that point that was what I wanted to do for other people. Obviously, at that time, I didn’t realize how it really helps so many different people in so many different ways.
In 1991, after graduating from Sutherland-Chan, I decided to go back to my hometown and just “float around” a little after that gruelling experience at school. I met a girl with an esthetics salon close to home, and I decided to work with her for about three months. I knew the lingerie
hanging on the walls wasn’t the atmosphere I was looking for.
Then, I did a maternity leave in Fergus for a therapist who worked out of her home. I learned a lot from that therapist. She had a busy practice, and I really enjoyed the experience. By this time I was starting to really want to settle down with a place to call “the office where I work at.”
I thought it would be good to work with a chiropractor where I would learn more. The chiropractor I met made big promises, but they came with a big price – and a lot of restrictions. The situation was very intimidating and I was very insecure. This is when I met my good friend, Jill Rogers. She gave me the strength to stand up for myself and move on.
That was the scariest thing I think I ever had to do. But, in the end, it all worked out. Then, of course, I worked with Jill.
Actually, I worked for Jill while she had her second baby, Matty.
I worked with Jill in Dunnville for over two years. And, I thought I had to work with a chiropractor
to learn anything!
Jill is a great teacher and I was very lucky to have crossed paths with her. Dunnville just wasn’t where I wanted to settle my life into. I knew I wanted to go to Grimsby or Beamsville. I had some friends there as well that I had met when I went to Niagara College, and I really liked it there. That is when another wonderful opportunity came my way.
My physiology teacher from Sutherland-Chan, Dr. Amber Gardiner, DC, was looking for a massage therapist to work by her side in her new clinic, in a new plaza in Grimsby. It’s funny. As that plaza was being built, I would drive by and think to myself, “now there’s a place I would like to work from.” Wishes do come true.
I worked with Dr. Gardiner for eight years. I loved it and it was a great working environment. As much as I didn’t want to leave my comfortable space with Amber, I had to look into the future. I needed to figure out how would I be able to decrease my workload but still have a decent income. To me, the only way was to share space with another massage therapist that could supplement part of my income. That was not possible in the space I had with Amber.
I came across a cute little house in Beamsville, with an awesome location. It has been five years now at “Hands For Better Health” where we offer massage therapy, craniosacral, ART-active release techniques, hot stone massage, reflexology, ear candling, acupuncture, and we have just brought on an athletic therapist who is in her fourth year of osteopathy.
The first two therapists that joined me were Nancy Smith, CR, and Chris Jason, RMT. Three months after that, Colleen Taylor RMT joined us, and we’ve been together since. Chris, Colleen and I are the only full-time therapists in the clinic. When I originally thought about this plan, of my own clinic, it was so I could work fewer hours. But that just doesn’t happen. But, what I will say, is I still love my job. I’m grateful for the therapists I work with, and I am grateful for the clients we have coming to our clinic.
In August 2001, I married my man, Ron Thompson, whom I met in the laundry mat. (Really, I did). I have three great stepchildren who range in age from 13 to 21 and who we have every other weekend. Ron is my maintenance man at the clinic. He helps me out a great deal. He does basically all my “fixing ups” that he can. Recently he replaced the original old rotting wood boards on the clinic with new siding. That just gave the clinic a face-lift. He helps me out a lot.
Words Of Wisdom
For all the people who I have
ever connected with, I feel very fortunate, and I thank you all. I truly live by the golden rule – do unto others, as you’d have done
to you – and think positive.
Good things are worth waiting
for. Some just take longer.
I graduated from the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy in 1993 when it was based in Sutton, Ontario. After establishing my career in Ontario, I moved out to B.C.’s Lower Mainland in 2002. I was attracted to B.C.’s high standards for massage therapy care and innovation. I also wanted to enjoy B.C.’s amazing natural beauty.
My varied clinical experience, which includes the treatment of professional athletes, performing rehabilitative care within a multidisciplinary hospital team, and serving as an independent medical and rehabilitation assessor, opened my eyes to the lack of research backing up RMT treatments.
This problem became especially troubling when co-workers wondered why I would use a specific technique for a certain client, without research evidence to
back my approach. This vacuum of information was a shock.
In response, in 2002 I started teaching, and became part of a multidisciplinary team that conducted systematic reviews of mechanical neck disorders with the Cervical Overview Group.
As a principal investigator for Systematic Review, I was proud
to be a part of a group that
published numerous reviews in the Cochrane Library and other journals involving conservative therapies for mechanical neck
disorders. This new venture presented a huge learning curve.
Thinking back to the first year after I graduated, I would never have thought that I would become such a committed advocate for research within the massage
therapy profession. My ideas in the early days were that I had learned all that there was to be learned about massage in school.
I learned quite quickly that there is always more to learn.
My greatest professional joy in the last few years has been the privilege of being the Research Committee Chair for the Massage Therapists’ Association of B.C. This position has allowed me
to delve deep into research in Canada and the U.S.A., and see the dedication and selfless giving many massage therapists have
for advancing the profession through research.
Currently, there is a flurry
of research-related activities in
the profession. Discussions on developing a peer reviewed research journal, and case study competitions are examples.
My greatest hope for the
profession is that every massage therapist finds a place within
the research field. Whether they actively use research or whether they perform original research,
I would challenge each and
every massage therapist to explore research and find out how they can become involved.
Print this page