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Greenfield Community College.

In the fall of 1998, Greenfield Community College (GCC) in Greenfield, Massachusetts, began a program that offered its students a unique educational opportunity. What had been a private massage therapy school, the Stillpoint Center School of Massage, became the college's Stillpoint Massage Therapy Program. Stillpoint had been in existence since 1980 and brought to GCC its curriculum, the copyrights to its manuals, and, most importantly, its faculty.

Patricia Wachter was the director of Stillpoint and is now the program coordinator and associate professor for the Stillpoint program at GCC. She credits the leadership at GCC for being so innovative to envision bringing a private entity into a college. "The Stillpoint board and I chose GCC, because it's a great little college and very student oriented," says Wachter, "and without their foresight and ability to be creative, this wouldn't have been possible."

While a private school may have certain advantages, Wachter found that her students benefited from having the resources a college offers--from the library to services for students with disabilities; however, they also benefited from the many years of teaching experience her staff brought with them to GCC.

The Stillpoint program is fully accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). It was the first accredited college massage school in Massachusetts and is still one of only four college massage programs in the state to be fully accredited by COMTA. The 750-hour, 40-credit curriculum includes training in classical Swedish massage and specific techniques for soft tissue dysfunction. It can be completed as a full-time one-year or a part-time two-year program. The classes are small, and in the technique classes, the ratio of students to teachers is four to one.

Courses in the GCC program include myology (the study of muscles and muscle tissue), pathology, anatomy and physiology, and kinesiology. There is also an emphasis on ethics as well as on entrepreneurship. According to Wachter, students take courses in business and marketing research, and the final exam is to create their own business plans.

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Practitioner well-being is also a focus of the program. "They have to learn how to use good body mechanics so they will have longevity in the profession," Wachter explains. This training plus the business teachings will encourage them to become proprietors who will then bring in others to work and build their businesses. Wachter has found that students who are entering massage therapy as a second or third career most often want to start their own businesses. The students who are right out of high school may want to do subcontract work at spas or wellness centers.

The Stillpoint program is part of the GCC Health Occupations Division, and some of the students who have entered it already have training in other health care professions. Others may have enrolled because they are waiting to get into the nursing program. Wachter has found that nurses who come to her program bring both technical touch skills and empathy, and she knows that the ones who begin with massage therapy are developing valuable knowledge and hands-on training that will benefit them in their nursing education as well as in the profession.

Wachter has seen many changes in the massage profession during her 27 years of teaching, and she hopes to see many more--such as more subcontracting to nursing homes and retirement homes and more in-hospital massage therapists. She especially hopes that soon there will be insurance reimbursement for massage therapy services.

"It's a very broad, very exciting and very dynamic health profession," says Wachter. "I tell my students that they will be surprised at the wide range of opportunities that will be available to them in this field." With the education they receive at GCC, the Stillpoint students will be fully prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. For more information about the Stillpoint Massage Therapy Program at Greenfield Community College, visit www. gcc.mass.edu.
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Title Annotation:School Spotlight
Publication:Techniques
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:649
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