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Sarah E Symonds – Natures Assistance

As an Advanced Clinical Massage Therapist for humans with over 11 years clinical experience – encountering numerous conditions from simple strains and sprains to the more complex musculoskeletal injuries – and also being a teacher of Clinical Massage and Myofascial release with the Jing Institute, I know only too well how beneficial massage and soft tissue work can be for our health and wellbeing.

There is nothing better than seeing someone who has been suffering with pain for months or even years get a new lease of life when they become pain free with restored or improved range of movement. The ability of soft tissue therapy to support the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries is now widely recognised and it is why I love what I do.

I have also been an animal lover all my life owing cats and dogs along the way so when my 11 year old German Shepherd sadly passed away in 2012 having suffered with suspected CDRM I started researching the web for canine therapies that could support this and other conditions as I didn’t again want to feel utterly helpless in not being able to support any future dogs I may own.

And this is when I came across the Canine Massage Therapy Centre website and was excited to read about their 2 year Diploma in Therapeutic Canine Massage. I was impressed at the listed content of this course which not only covered anatomy and physiology of the dog – in what appeared to be great depth – but also clinician skills, the law – in terms of canine work – and business awareness.

At this time I had just completed a degree level course in Advanced Clinical and Sports Massage Therapy with the Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training and I could see the Canine Diploma was certainly going to be on a par with the amount of study and application required. Comfortable with committing to this study and research and motivated by the opportunity of being able to support the muscular health of dogs, as I already did with humans, I decided to apply for the Canine Diploma.

In a detailed phone interview Natalie took time to explain fully what was entailed in this comprehensive course programme and immediately I could see my first impressions were correct – this wasn’t some generalised massage course that taught basic or even good theory and a practical routine but an extremely thorough, well thought out, and researched training programme that aims to deliver an advanced level of canine massage application in terms of both theoretical and practical anatomy and physiology learning.

As I have said I wasn’t adverse to hard work and study but I have to be honest this was tough with the amount of research and study time needed to complete each theory module whilst running a busy practice as well as teaching. But strangely enough the more engrossed I became with the study the more I loved and respected it! And this theory element – that builds up your understanding of the dog’s body systems and the types of musculoskeletal injuries that can occur – is essential preparation for the hands on work as without the knowledge gained over the first year the practical application would be extremely challenging. Throughout the theory element Natalie was on hand to help, guide and support where needed and the feedback she provided for each module was extremely thorough and constructive.

The practical sessions are well structured and cover a significant number of strokes (around 50) and introduce you to excellent advanced palpation techniques. As a human clinical therapist I was already familiar with the techniques however their application for the dog’s structure are really well thought out and adapted by Natalie. And the combination of massage disciplines of Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue and Myofascial Release make for an extremely affective protocol for a complete therapeutic massage offering support for muscular injuries and orthopaedic conditions. The practical days give you the opportunity to work on all kinds of dogs and visits to a Greyhound Sanctuary to work on their dogs was especially rewarding.

I found Natalie’s teaching style particularly agreeable! She has a relaxed yet focussed and purposeful approach ensuring students have fun (the best way of learning) and are not too overwhelmed yet able to really get to grips with anatomical language and dialogue always making sure the correct terminology is used from the start which brings confidence as well as competence and of course is essential when communicating with other professionals. From personal experience I know that teaching can be exhausting and at times stressful and yet Natalie always finds the time to answer the needs of her students and her passion for her profession remains clearly evident at all times and her generosity of sharing her vast amount of knowledge is second to none.

Another aspect of the practical element is the case studies and these really help to further the understanding of application especially around injury support. I found these particularly enjoyable whilst often challenging and again Natalie was there to support with help and guidance around any questions that may arise.

As I have said the course is tough but all the sweat and tears were absolutely, 100%, beyond all shadow of a doubt, worth it knowing that having successfully qualified I am now able to make a huge difference to the lives of many of the dogs I meet, including my own who now receives regular massage. And throughout this whole programme you are never alone as Natalie is always ready to offer support and guidance with your course work and she and her fantastic team of assistants and helpers are there for you every step of the way supporting and guiding you through the practical applications. And the support doesn’t stop there because after successful completion you have the opportunity to join the Canine Massage Guild a network of highly skilled therapists who continue to learn and share best practice.

If you are serious about wanting to have a career in canine massage that sees results then you need look no further than Natalie’s teaching through the Canine Massage Therapy Centre.

Sarah E Symonds L.L.S.A., M.I.F.A., A.C.M.T., Prof.Dip ACSM, BTEC 6, Natures Assistance

Advanced Clinical Massage and Sports Therapist
Teacher with the Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training

Address: Cambridgeshire

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