Sutherland-Chan helps create a healthier, more harmonious community through the medium of educated touch.
Sutherland-Chan delivers an exceptional learning experience that prepares well-educated, caring massage therapists to enter the allied health professions. We have a culture of strong values, of respect for diversity of persons and backgrounds, and of belief in the power of educated touch in healthcare. We build confidence and skill through classroom-to-clinic integration and unmatched practicum opportunities. Our dedicated faculty, administration, and students work together in a spirit of support and challenge. We have a proven history of graduating sought-after massage professionals committed to serving their communities.
Our philosophy is to expect high standards of ourselves and our students while creating a warm, accepting, supportive environment in which learning to be a health professional takes place on many levels.
Adopted by broad consensus March 18, 2018, re-approved March 27, 2023
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.
Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy provides accessible or conversion ready formats of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request. All students have access to digital note packages for all courses and information is provided to all students on where to access further digital resources upon request.
History of Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy
Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy was incorporated in August 1978 and began operation that fall 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 the 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.
At inception, the 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 all sessional instructors; 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 renowned. 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 more than 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 not only survived, but thrived. We 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.
In 1986, Christine left the school to move to British Columbia. In 1998, Debra Curties joined as co-owner and Executive Director, continuing in business partnership with Grace until 2019. She stayed on as Executive Director until March 2023.
So far, the current decade has brought us new challenges. Our premises at 330 Dupont had been deteriorating for a while – the building’s owner was looking to sell to a developer who planned to demolish. The time to move was scheduled for spring 2020, just as COVID-19 hit. We were packing up the old location and renovating the new one. Everything related to the transition became so much more complicated. We essentially put the school in storage, moved into the new administrative offices, which had been completed, and lived through renovation delays until students could finally join us at the new 15 Gervais Dr. location at the end of July.
At the same time, our administrators had to turn on a dime to move the program online, and to juggle schedules to frontload academic learning and delay hands-on and clinical hours. Once the students could return to onsite learning, there were numerous adaptations to government room occupancy dictates and shorter-term shutdowns through the fall. We also had an extended loss of access to hospital and agency offsite Specialty Clinic rotations for our second-year students.
We are now almost back to normal. Students of all four terms are in regular time frames and clinical hours. As of this January, we resumed full access to our offsite specialty clinic locations. Getting to know and be known in our new community got off to a complex start, but we are making better progress with this.
We currently have 9 administrative staff, two part-time clinic receptionists, and a group of 32 instructors. We are enjoying our new space at 15 Gervais Drive (Don Mills & Eglinton). Having been continuously owned and led by massage therapists, 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.