Graduate Q&A with Massage Therapy Graduate Karen Borrero
People have always told Karen Borrero that she has a strong handshake, but she discovered how strong she really was when she overcame difficulty and went back to school to follow her passion: comforting and healing others and helping them through the power of massage.
Karen graduated from the Massage Therapy program at Carrington College in Spokane, Washington in April of 2021. She is currently studying for her MBLEx (Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination) and is excited to begin her job search soon. Here, Karen shares more about the journey that led her to massage therapy.
What did you do before enrolling in the Massage Therapy Program?
People always told me that I was strong, physically, and noticed that I had a strong handshake. The jobs I’d always had were clerical or reception, working in a photo house, and at a car wash—the resounding theme was that I enjoyed customer service and loved being with people.
In 2000, when I lived in South Dakota, I learned deep tissue and Swedish massage from an Adventist school. In that state and at that time, you only needed your diploma and credentials—but no certification or license—to practice massage. I loved massage.
Then I went through a very hard time personally—a divorce and severe depression that followed; it was a dark and difficult time that left me on disability for years.
When I moved to Washington, I knew that if I wanted to do massage, I’d need licensure. I turned 48 and knew I needed to become more connected to others. What I had been through personally had helped me grow a lot and see myself more clearly. I wanted to help people more than ever, so when Covid hit and people were so stressed, upset, and sick, I knew it was time to find a program, get back to massage, and get my license.
Before I decided to go back to school, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to learn anything new or retain information, but I got to see firsthand what nature is capable of doing and saw how it applied to my life. There is a flowerbed outside my home that usually only has tulips, roses, and purple Iris blooming, but when we had unusually heavy rains dump down this year, I discovered that there had been seeds underground that were lying dormant for years—and lilies came up for the first time! When you go through a hard time, it’s like your brain has had a drought—and school is a tidal wave over it. You finally have the water you needed all along for those dormant things to bloom. I told myself, you are going to do what it takes to do this, and you have confidence, and you know how to ask for help.
What the world has been through with Covid…we’re in big trouble. We need to heal; humans need touch again.
How did you like the program at Carrington? What was your favorite part(s?)
I loved it. I got a 3.5-3.9 GPA, and I also got a certificate voted, “Most Engaging” by my fellow students.
I have discovered what an hour and a half looks like, and working out the contracted fibers with deeper pressure. My favorite is deep tissue. I love connecting with a person, feeling the heat or cool off their body or where they are I really feel where you are tight. Massage is immediate, in the moment therapy; instantaneous in its advantages.
Learning how to better touch another person is my favorite thing. The universe showed us how important touch is when Covid hit and we could not hug. Mankind does not always understand how important it is to touch each other.
Ashley Burt, my instructor, is so compassionate and attentive, and as an adult in school, I knew I was going to need redirection and encouragement sometimes because of my disability, to help me concentrate. She was wonderful.
Where did you do your clinical work?
I did clinical at Elements, a massage spa in the area that offers Swedish and deep tissue massage, lymphatic drainage, reflexology, and cupping. They also have a salt floatation pool.
I loved working with the people there and would love to work there full time. Olivia was my manager; she was on my table three times, as well as a lead therapist, whom I later found out had said that the neck massage I gave her was one of the best she’s ever had. It was so great to be reminded that I know how to help people.
What was your favorite part of your time in clinical?
It was great to learn hands-on in a business, to learn about the sanitization protocol, and how to treat clients. I loved smelling the citrus, the music is very calming, and I just loved the entire aesthetic. It was great to be around other massage therapists; it was such a compassionate team and we all encouraged and practiced on each other. Working on therapists is the be-all-end-all, and they reminded me to slow down and go deeper—they helped polish me.
What was the most challenging part of your program at Carrington?
Standardized testing and finals were challenging—critical thinking is hard for me. I have to go really slow, and lab, which is hands-on, and I did great on, but theory and critical thinking took me longer. My instructor taught me to deconstruct quizzes and tests we got wrong, but if you turned those incorrect, you did get some credit. Studying and testing this way helped me prepare for my MBLEx. It taught me more about myself and how I learn and that I had to slow down. Everyone at Carrington helped me; they were all so kind.
Do you have any words of advice for someone just starting the program?
What opened the door for me was realizing that if I can read and ask for help, I can do anything and that whatever I focus on will grow. I had to remember that when it got heavy or hard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help—teamwork makes the dream work. If you have an affinity for touch, you can help another person through massage.
Everyone at Carrington will surround you with compassion; they help you no matter your background, your history, your age, your doubts, or your challenges. They want you to succeed