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Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy is a career college with longevity in the massage therapy profession and a solid reputation as one of the best schools in North America. We view massage therapy as a health care profession (as opposed to an aesthetics or service occupation) with historic roots and a modern foundation in evidence and effectiveness. We are proud to see that our graduates are preferentially hired by employers and that there is a notable prominence of leaders and educators in our profession who are Sutherland-Chan alumni.
History of Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy
Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy opened in January 1978 with a class of 14 students. The two founders, Grace Chan and Christine Sutherland, met at a now defunct massage school where Grace was a student and Christine was one of her instructors. Working in the same clinic after Grace’s graduation, they discussed their reservations about the quality of massage education they had received. Reflecting on key areas such as injury assessment and working with specific medical conditions, they felt undertrained, especially clinically. These conversations shaped Grace’s and Christine’s resolve to advocate for higher standards in massage therapy education and to open a school that emphasized clinically relevant learning, diverse hands-on experience, and practice management. They also wanted to achieve greater public recognition of massage therapy and to attract the attention of medical referrers – both of which were substantial challenges at that point in time.
The school’s first location was a tiny space at 402 Spadina Avenue, but a move to a large old house at 732 Spadina Avenue soon followed as the enrollment almost doubled to 25 by the fall of 1979. The plumbing wasn’t great and there were a few issues with pest control, but it was “home” to many S-C students and faculty, as well as to a busy professional clinic.
The inception program ran for eight months (1040 hours), which was the provincial requirement at the time. In 1980 the requirement jumped to 1560 hours, or 12 months full time. The year 1980 saw another big growth spurt at the school, and Grace and Christine hired their first administrator. New positions such as Student Clinic Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator were soon added. The faculty were still all sessional instructors, but most stayed for many years and became “fixtures” in their respective roles.
The mid ’80s to mid ’90s were an amazing time of growth. Classes and clinics filled by word of mouth, and the annual intake of students settled at a capacity number of 105-110. In 1986, the required curriculum hours increased to 2200, making the program two academic years. Career opportunities for massage therapists were rapidly expanding and employers began to selectively look to hire S-C graduates. Hospitals and other mainstream health and service agencies began working with us to initiate student rotations at their locations, resulting in the Specialty Clinic program for which Sutherland-Chan is quite renowned. By the end of the decade greater space needs led to a move in 1990 to a brand-new space at 330 Dupont St.
In the mid ’90s, massage therapy’s growing popularity resulted in a surge of government approvals of new programs. In less than 20 years the number of massage schools in Ontario jumped from five to almost forty, with public system and commercial interests entering the field. Sutherland-Chan, as a single-campus one-profession school, faced many new challenges – it is a testament to our reputation and resilience that we have survived the changes remarkably well. We have had to become more astute competitors without letting go of the values and standards our name has come to represent. We have also had tremendous support and loyalty from our teaching and administrative staff. We currently have 14 administrative staff, and a group of 32 instructors.
With Grace and Debra Curties as owners, both of whom are massage therapists and experienced instructors, Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy remains dedicated to the goals and principles Grace and Christine first discussed many years ago. We believe strongly in massage therapy as a health care profession and have experienced tremendous satisfaction from the increasing credibility and public awareness it has achieved. We are extremely proud of our graduates, who are our finest advocates.