College is stressful, but the students in the Illinois Central College massage therapy program have a secret weapon to help them de-stress.
“We get massages all the time because we trade during our lab and practice on each other,” said Hailey Kear-Clark, one of 15 students currently enrolled in the program. “At least once a week we’re getting a full body massage. It’s great.”
Once a year the program also opens its doors to the public so students can practice their skills on actual clients. Appointments fill up fast, but people lucky enough to grab one can receive a 50-minute Swedish massage for just $20.
“The clinic has run at different times, but this year it started the third week of January and is going through mid-April. It’s a basic relaxation massage, and we fill up
pretty quickly even though we limit people to two massages (during the three months),” said Becky Saban, the program director and also a licensed massage therapist.
Located in Arbor Hall on the ICC North Campus at 5407 N. University in Peoria, the clinic is set up like an actual massage studio with a relaxing waiting area, soothing music and heated massage tables.
Fully run by the students, the clinic is open by appointment only from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through April 12.
“They each have to do 60 hours in the clinic, which equates to 40 massages with time built in for desk work and paper work and the one thing nobody thinks about, laundry,” said Saban.
Later in April and May the students will put in another 30 hours of outreach, doing sports massage or chair massage in the community at run-walk benefits, schools, gyms and a few businesses.
“We try to do places that are caregiver-type things,” Saban said. “We go to Manual High School every year and work on the teachers, and we do massages for the staff at some of the nursing homes. Sometimes nurses and teachers don’t get a chance to take care of themselves.”
Ten of the outreach hours must be sports massage, so the students provide chair massage at benefits and charitable events, such as the Kick Abuse at Kickapoo 5k on April 15.
“If a business or school or benefit wants to have us come in for the outreach, they can contact me at (309) 690-6802. I get calls all year round, but right now we can only do it during certain months,” Saban said.
Students learn customer service and professionalism through the clinic, Saban noted. The client fills out an evaluation form, and the student completes a self-evaluation after every massage.
There’s a curtain for privacy, but the doors aren’t shut during the massage so a supervisor can peer in to note things such as the student’s body stance and if they keep the conversation focused on the client.
“We grade after every single massage,” Saban said. “They go into what I lovingly term ‘the interrogation room’ and they get critiqued before they do another massage.”
Kear-Clark said the clinic provides real-world experience. “You learn about all these different health issues in a pathology class, but in the clinic you get to experience it and see it in real life,” she said.
A pre-K teacher for three years before enrolling in the massage therapy program, Kear-Clark plans to seek work in a chiropractor’s office after graduation with hopes to eventually work in hospice care.
Graduates of the state-accredited program must pass a state licensing exam and can work in many places, including physical therapy offices, chiropractic offices, wellness centers, fitness centers, spas or cruise ships. Some might open their own studio, something Saban did in Pekin after being in the program’s second graduating class in 2006 and working in a few office situations first.
“We don’t promise placement after graduation, but most of my students already have job offers by the time they’re done here,” Saban said. “I tell them I don’t guarantee placement, but I do guarantee I will teach you everything you need to know so you can place yourself.”
Most people don’t realize the extent and variety of coursework the massage therapist students must learn.
“They have to pass an anatomy and physiology class before they can even apply to the program,” Saban said. “Because we’re working on muscles, the first thing we learn is all the bones and how to stay off of them, and we have to learn over 600 muscles and what they do.”
Other required classes for the three-semester long program include physiology and pathology for the bodyworker, kinesiology, business issues, psychology, first aid and nutrition. Saban is currently working toward expanding the program into a two-year associate’s degree curriculum.
Besides Saban, the program employs five adjunct instructors and guest instructors.
While a massage may simply feel relaxing, Saban said studies have shown it can lower stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as help with certain kinds of pain.
To schedule an appointment at the massage therapy clinic, visit www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/ICC7FG or call the clinic at (309) 690-6822. Enrollment is also currently underway for the next session of classes, which will begin in August. Visit https://icc.edu/academics/catalog/health-careers/massage-therapist/ for more information.