Grad Q&A with Massage Therapy Graduate Kaitlyn Thomson
While growing up on the eastern side of the evergreen state in Spokane, Washington, Kaitlyn Thomson dreamed of working in healthcare but found the pre-med path unappealing.
When she suffered from pain after giving birth to her daughter in her early twenties, she felt like her pain was dismissed by allopathic doctors. Yet when she sought out massage therapy, she found understanding and healing. That experience opened her eyes to a unique path that she could take in healthcare. After researching different schools, Kaitlyn enrolled in the Massage Therapy program at Carrington College in Spokane and today, she is launching her massage therapy career.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a 24-year-old single mom with a 2-year-old daughter. I was born and raised in Spokane, where I graduated from Rogers High School strongly interested in the medical field. I was in a four-year program there that set me up for a medical career. Post graduation, I did one year of pre-med at Eastern Washington University in Cheney and quickly realized that was not for me. After that, I went to Spokane Community College and did a communications degree with a minor in sign language. I went into working at daycares and caregiving after that because I didn’t know how to apply what I’d learned.
Then, after having my daughter in 2020, I suffered from some back problems and my doctors just dismissed my suffering. They would tell me that it was normal after having a baby to be in pain. That led me to seek massage therapy for myself. The massage therapist did wonders for me, which opened my eyes to the possibilities of massage therapy. It is in the medical field, which has always interested me, and it can help people. It felt like my calling and I had to do it. That is what eventually led me to Carrington’s Massage Therapy program. Going there feels like the best decision I have ever made.
When did you decide to pursue a career in massage therapy?
In March 2022. It was one of the times that I saw my massage therapist. I remember going in and I was in so much pain, but by the time I came out, I felt like a brand new person. I thought, if she can do this for me, I wonder what I can do for people who have even more serious injuries and illnesses. I wanted to help them.
What motivated you to choose Carrington College?
I researched the different schools in my area and I knew going in I wanted a different setting than the other schools I’ve already been to. I liked the career focus in Carrington’s programs and there aren’t any unnecessary prerequisites. You also get a lot of hands-on learning experience, which is how I learn the best. To find a program like that felt very intriguing and very helpful.
What was your favorite part of your program at Carrington?
I have to say that working alongside like-minded people and trading knowledge was my favorite part. We would trade massages and explain the techniques we were learning while doing the massages. That helped us understand why we use those techniques. It was great learning from each other.
What was the most challenging part of your program?
I’d have to say that learning all of the muscles was the most challenging. We have hundreds of muscles in our bodies. For the program, we have to know their origins, insertions, and their actions. That helps us understand where clients are holding a lot of the stress in their bodies.
Did you ever feel like quitting when you were in school?
Yes, I’m not going to lie, there was one time. It was finals week during my first term and I hadn’t been in school for several years. The program is fast-paced and I felt like everything caught up with me all at once. I was overwhelmed. I wondered if I could do it. I wondered if I was capable of taking in all of the information and completing the program. I had a crying session. I felt my feelings and then snapped out of it. I knew massage therapy was something that I needed to do. I couldn’t give up. I had to grow through the fear. You don’t grow through the chances you don’t take.
What got you through the challenging times?
Support from my classmates. We became like one big family. We wanted to help each other succeed. If anybody needed help outside the classroom, somebody would step up and lend a hand.
Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?
My instructor, Ashley Burt. She wanted us to be the best massage therapists we could be. She did that by helping us realize it for ourselves. We learned that if we put in the work and the time, it would pay off.
Please tell us about your externship experience.
I did my externship at The Brickhouse. It is a spa-based massage business that is focused more on relaxation. I’m more interested in therapeutic massage, so this was a completely different experience for me.
The people there were really helpful in giving me extra training on some things that we didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on in the program. For example, hot stone. We only spent two or three days learning hot stone in class, so Brickhouse gave me some more time to learn more techniques with it. They also taught me some additional draping techniques. They helped me get my foot in the door and realize what it is going to be like in the real world. I got a lot of hands-on experience massaging four or five people each day I was there.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The look on my client’s faces after they have received a massage. I like having that reassurance that I helped them with their problems, instead of making them worse. It feels really good to know that I helped alleviate their pain. I also love being able to tell people that the pain they are suffering isn’t in their heads. I can pinpoint the muscle that is causing the flare-up of pain in their body. I can also tell them how we are going to work on the muscle and help alleviate their pain. That is another favorite part, but all of it fascinates me.
How did Carrington prepare you for your career?
The way their program is set up really helped me. From day one with Massage Therapy, you are getting that hands-on learning experience. The term I came in started with Shiatsu, and then I ended with spa. My term rotation was great because it helped me learn about the human body as a whole. In massage, it is really important to understand how the body functions as a whole. My instructor, Ashley, is passionate about massage. That shows in how she teaches and demonstrates different massage techniques.
What’s next for you?
I just passed my MBLEX (certification exam). My dream is to open a one-stop wellness clinic in Spokane.
Do you have any advice for people considering Carrington College?
If you have that intuition pulling toward a program, act on that instinct because you never know how it will change your life.