– A personal perspective. Ralph Casciato, NCBTMB, LMT, Medical Massage
In spring 2005, after working for the same company for 23 years, I quit my job as project manager, and took the summer off to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was 51, too young to retire, and I didn’t want the last 20 years of my work life to be spent dreading coming to work. I figured I would give massage school a shot. I enrolled in Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies in September, 2005.
Within the first week or two of massage classes, I was hooked. This was what I wanted to do. The bodywork itself was fascinating, the quality of instruction was top-notch, and it was much more thorough and structured than I expected it to be – the anatomy and physiology, the kinesiology, pathology – it was all college level instruction – and the bodywork was pure heaven. The idea that I could help someone feel better, and fully enjoy the process, was powerful.
Following graduation, I was hired at Lourdes as an teaching assistant / intern and massage therapist, but there wasn’t a core instructor position available. Since I wanted to teach massage, I applied to other massage schools and landed an instructor position at a prominent massage school. I taught there for a year and moved on to another massage therapy school.
While teaching at these 2 schools was valuable experience, it gave me a greater appreciation for the instruction I received at Lourdes. There was no comparison!
In both of those schools, new students were admitted every month or 6 weeks. They would receive a 2 week intro crash course, then enter the main class. Whatever “module” the class was being taught would be the students next module. In other words, the sequence of classes you took was totally dependent on when you came in to the school. There was no logic to it from the standpoint of building skills. It was simply easier for the school logistically. If you as a new student entered the main class in June, and anatomy and physiology had been taught the month before you enrolled, you wouldn’t take anatomy and physiology until the very end of your training. It didn’t matter that knowledge of anatomy and physiology is crucial for much of the massage program! It’s like learning calculus before taking basic math.
So when I was teaching deep tissue, I had to deal with having some students who already had anatomy – and some who didn’t. There was not a common knowledge base. The reason it was set up this way was revenue – they could have new enrollees every 6 weeks. When I asked about this, I was told that the new students “benefited” from being in class with the senior students, and the senior students “benefited” by helping the newer students. Nice way to spin it, I suppose, but I don’t buy it.
In addition, at the 2 other schools, the main instructor taught all the modules. I taught anatomy, bodywork, deep tissue, eastern modalities, medical terminology, pathology, business. Of all the classes I took in massage school the one I liked least was business. It’s not my strong point. Yet I was teaching it. At Lourdes, I had different instructors teaching topics they were particularly strong in. At Lourdes, I took those classes in a logical sequence – some classes are per-requisites for others.
While teaching at these 2 schools absolutely benefited me as I had to “up my game” in subjects I wasn’t particularly strong in, it wasn’t fair to the students to be taught something I had myself crammed for the night before! At Lourdes I knew the instructors were completely solid in the subjects they taught.
Finally, since the institute is physically located within the Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, the students have the incredible opportunity to complete 25% of their clinic hours doing patient massage on the hospital floors. What other massage school offers that? As one of the instructors who supervises this stage of their clinic I can tell you that for most of the students this is a high-point of their training. It’s life changing for many to minister to people who are weak, vulnerable scared and in pain, and to see first hand how much therapeutic touch can help.
What sets LIWS apart is that it gets so many things right, because it is run by bodyworkers who understand the how to put together a solid curriculum. The dean of the institute is a bodyworker. The coordinator is a bodyworker. The clinic coordinator is a bodyworker. All the instructors have practices, and are passionate about their craft!
Finally, none of this would work as well as it does were it not for the quality of the students we have here at Lourdes. Dedicated, passionate, caring, committed. I’m very blessed to be able to teach at LIWS!