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Central Arizona Valley
Institute of Technology

Pinal County Community Comes Out to Support CAVIT’s Massage Therapy Clinic

Student Massage

Pinal County community members were able to experience some physical relief at Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology’s (CAVIT) massage therapy clinics these past weeks. 

We had to cancel CAVIT clinics last year due to the pandemic, so this was the first opportunity for the massage therapy clinic recently. Ms. Sue Hansen, the massage therapy teacher, said appointments filled up very quickly. “The community is very committed to our clinics in all of our different programs,” she said, “It’s a high point in our community, so people are watching for our clinics.” 

Students gave customized massages, which is in tune with what some of CAVIT’s community partners offer. When they arrive for the massage, clients complete an intake form at the front desk and are led to the massage lab. The students—massage therapists in training—practice their communication skills by asking the client what their needs are and what they want out of their massage, for example, pain relief, clinical massage, relaxation, or a mix. Students know a variety of massages, from deep tissue to Swedish massage, and create a massage that’s tailored to the clients’ needs.

Throughout the program, massage therapy students practice mock clinics and learn about different pathologies and pharmacology that can affect a client’s massage experience, such as pre-existing conditions like diabetes or low heart rate. In addition, a massage therapist also must be aware of any medications a client takes that can affect their experience. For example, blood thinners can cause someone to bruise more easily during a massage, so students learn to be aware not to use more aggressive methods on those clients. 

Ms. Hansen teaches her students that a massage should “do no harm” and helps students to develop the tools they need to practice safe massages. She also teaches them that massage therapists should have open communication with their clients to discuss past history with health to provide safe, effective massages and advice for ongoing self-care.   

Ms. Hansen said, “The clients that come, I think, look at it as a functioning clinic. It wasn’t like, ‘oh, these students are just going to dabble.’ The clients were there to get massages, and they left feeling the benefits of those massages.” 

Lori Harmon, a mother of one of the graduating students, attended the clinic for a full-body massage and reported that it was a great experience and something she would recommend in the future. Ms. Hansen said, “There was a lot of wonderful feedback that students were able to have solid communication to find out the client’s needs, taking into account their pathologies, and give them an amazing massage. I was very excited to see that feedback that the students were mature and they were showing their skillset.” 

Both first and second-year students enrolled in the massage therapy program participated, garnering approximately 218 student hours worth of hands-on massage experience over the two-week clinic. That doesn’t include the hours of support work students gained as well. While five to eight students practice their massage skills on clients, the other students practice filling roles as if they were working and managing a real massage business. 

Student at front desk

Students at the front desk answered phones and distributed intake forms and feedback surveys. The student acting as the clinic manager ensured that every massage bay was set up appropriately, and the therapists had everything they needed right down to appropriate lighting. A tech station was set up for pathology and pharmacology research. And all students participated in logistic support like washing laundry, cleaning the stations, and helping to maintain the massage lab. Ms. Hansen said, “Of course, I mentored the students and guided them through the experience, but I really wanted to give them the opportunity to fly. They did every aspect of the clinic. They were at the front desk. They were the massage therapists. They were the clinic managers. They were the support system in the background. They did everything. I was very proud of them!”

After each day, the students would talk about what they learned in that day’s clinics. Ms. Hansen said, “They would articulate back and forth, theorize together, and come up with solutions for the future should they come across that again. I thought that the brainstorming they did was very effective. I could see their communication and confidence grow in all the skills, as well as how they worked with other people and what they presented healthwise.”

The goal of the massage therapy program at CAVIT is to prepare students to become licensed massage therapists when they turn 18. But, beyond the actual hands-on portion of the program and clinics, students learn how to market themselves as independent practitioners, be good business owners or employees, and promote themselves in an employee type of practice.

Ms. Hansen said, “The students feel very prepared to become a massage therapist [by the end of the program]. They feel like they have a skillset—a toolbox—that they can take with them, and they are ready to be employed.” 

We advertise all CAVIT clinics on the marquee and signage outside the school and on CAVIT’s social media. Follow @CAVITschool on Facebook and Twitter for future clinic announcements and information on other school events. 

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