Hands-on Learning

by Carrie Lynn

Horizon Reporter

Massage therapy is a field of study offered by Whatcom Community College to any students interested in healing and connecting with people through a natural source we all have – our hands.

            Danny Sweet, a student in his third quarter of Whatcom’s massage therapy program, loves the hands-on work he and his classmates are involved in.  All year they are with the same people in class and become comfortable together in the unique learning environment.  Sweet plans to be a physical therapist and a massage therapist.  “I want to be in a  clinical setting and I feel like this is preparing me very well,” he said.

            Licensed massage practitioners are sought-after members of our community in hospitals, sports medicine clinics, physical therapy offices, exercise clubs, spas, rehabilitation centers and any private massage practice.  Specializations within this profession include medical, infant, pregnancy, sports and hospital jobs.

            Richard Butts, one of Whatcom’s massage therapy instructors, said massage classes meet each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with an hour for lunch.  Located in Cascade Hall, the “to be” massage therapists average about 13 to 15 students per year.

             An average day of school for this program begins with a lecture-type class in the morning where learning about the effects that a certain technique has on the human body is the focus.  The afternoon follows with practicing the technique on fellow classmates. 

            “We are not a very touchy culture so getting used to being in close proximity with other students gets easier throughout the year,” as the group becomes closer, Butts said. 

            Butts graduated from Whatcom’s massage therapy program in August 2005.  Aside from teaching at Whatcom, he is a sole proprietor of his own business and “loves making a connection with the people.”  Butts describes himself as “an educator at heart,” loving the teaching side of showing people how to connect with bodies most of all.

            Many of Whatcom’s graduates are self-employed and some have gone into work for chiropractors, clinics and resort/spa settings.  “We have a really high passing rate of 99.9 percent,” Butts said.  The national average is 74 percent. 

            Another current massage therapy student, Kelley Crawford, said Whatcom’s program is extremely well rounded.  “We have already learned the background stuff,” she said.  “Now we are doing more specific treatment massages, case studies, and we get to see them through.  We are getting to really see what massages will do.” 

            After graduating this year, Crawford wants to gain a lot more experience and ultimately her own practice.  She described the instructors as knowledgeable, supportive and helpful.  “Massage is very preventative and beneficial, and I am really seeing that now,” she said.     

            One of the most rewarding and phases of Whatcom’s massage program is this time of year.  In the spring quarter students offer the public a one hour massage for $25.  “It was wonderful, really, really,” said Martha Welch-Lally immediately after receiving her massage, “I had surgery two months ago and I feel so much better.”

            Welch-Lally recommends massages to everybody.  “I have them scheduled for the next few weeks,” she said.  To schedule your own massage with the massage therapy students at Whatcom, look around at bulletin boards for specific contacts or contact the massage therapy department.


There are two options (AA or certification) at Whatcom when considering massage therapy as your career.  These two paths offer the opportunity to help others achieve their medical goals for their future and connect body and mind with their cliental.  The therapeutic touch of massage is a very personal, hands on approach to healthcare.

            Whatcom’s massage program is full-time and starts every fall.  Applications for fall 2011 entry into this program are due by June 3.  Acceptance is based on a first come, first serve basis.  Both the AA degree and certificate curriculum qualifies graduates to take the Washington state licensing exam and the National Certification Exam to become a licensed massage practitioner.

            For more information about the Massage Therapy program at Whatcom, Richard Butts strongly recommends at least going to the upcoming information sessions held in Laidlaw.  The next information meetings are Tuesday, May 10, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and June 14, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Laidlaw 212.

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