Florida School of Massage News Archives - Florida School of Massage

An Open Letter To My Beloved FSM Community

Self-empowerment and awareness, with a balance between freedom and structure, have long been the pearls for me in my life at FSM. I have grown by navigating challenges, transformed by using my hands and opening my heart, and expanded my experiences by questioning my beliefs. Being in relationship, both personal and professional, has taught me the value of human connection and the power of true listening. Administering to and serving the FSM community has been the greatest joy and blessing for almost half of my life. It’s become a comfort zone where I do my job and I do it well.

So as another year comes to a close, I truly feel it’s time to risk a little, and yet trust the universe that my soul’s next purpose will be revealed. My desire is to open myself to discovering what else I have come here to do, and to utilize the gifts I may still hold in exile.

Having said that, I have resigned as Assistant Director at FSM. I’m not sick or dying, I don’t have a better job offer, I’m not leaving Gainesville, and no one in my family is calling me home. I have no plan for the coming year. My soul intention is to take the next breath, and the one after that, and the one after that. And see what comes.

I’m still in love with FSM.  The school and you all as students, graduates, colleagues – my friends and teachers – have benefited me in ways deeply revealed and precious, yet still unknown and mysterious. I acknowledge the inner rewards that have come from surmounting incredible challenges, and now the inspiration and courage to make this next choice for myself. The school has proven time and time again: no one else is responsible for me except me.

My last day as assistant director will be Monday, January 30.

In Love and Faith and Gratitude,

:: Dar ::

NEW! Sports Massage Advanced Training

Is sports massage something you are ready to dive into? Do you love working with athletes? Do you have clients with challenging soft tissue injuries and chronic pain that you want to help? Do you want to have new doors open to you?  Our Sports Massage Advanced Certification course may be for you!
Come join us for this 100-hour comprehensive training. Completing this certification will give you the confident edge as a competent Sports Massage Therapist. By participating in this course, you will take away the skills you need to obtain employment in any sports environment. 
Our unique approach includes:
  • Visits to state of the art sports medicine facilities
  • Lectures from top sports medicine professionals
  • Application of specific massage techniques for injuries and musculoskeletal dysfunctions

Elevate your practice to the next level! Our course will provide you with the skills necessary to differentiate you from other therapists.

Through our small group centered lectures with athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers, you will have a first hand knowledge of how to collaborate with other sports medicine practitioners in the groundbreaking sports medicine field.

FSM Instructor Elected President of Reflexology Association

Reflexology Association America (RAA) Karen BallFlorida School of Massage faculty member Karen Ball has been elected as President of the Reflexology Association of America (RAA). Her term began July 1. Ball has been recognized twice nationally for her contribution to the field of reflexology: in 2014 she received the RAA President’s Award and this year received the Education Award as a “quintessential educator” and for “serving as a role model for all educators to inspire students to aspire to create a successful life on their own terms.”

For more than 25 years, Ball has added her unique reflexology approach to the Massage and Hydrotherapy Program offered at the Florida School of Massage, from which she graduated in 1989. She is also the creator of the 315-hour Therapeutic Hand & Foot Reflexology Professional Certification program.

Massage and Hydrotherapy: Evening Program Factsheet

 Evening Classes Now Available!

Our 12-month part-time program is offered once a year starting in March and ending in February of the following year.  The next program begins on Friday, July 10, 2015 and ends on Saturday, July 2, 2016.

  • 670 classroom hours of training enhanced by hands-on practice and lectures that take into account all learning styles.
  • Individualized attention for successful mastery of skills.
  • Focus on development and knowledge of skills AND professional preparation for a career in massage.
  • Lower teacher/student ratios for quality educational experience.
  • All lead instructors are specialists in their teaching area and generally exceed 10 years experience as massage educators and therapists.
  • Financial aid available for those who qualify.
  • Fully accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) and approved by the Florida Board of Massage Therapy and Florida Commission for Independent Education.

More details:

  • Classes meet Monday through Thursday from 6:15PM until 9:00PM, plus 9:00AM until 3:30PM one Saturday per month, for 12 months.
  • Students will be required to complete a community clinic massage requirement of 45 hours.  These clinic hours are scheduled in addition to the times stated above.
  • There will be no classes on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

To reserve your place, call the Florida School of Massage at (352)378-7891 and ask to schedule an appointment with an Admissions facilitator.


Ideas For Working With Children Who Have Special Needs

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Working with Children with Special Needs, Learning Delays and Neurological Challenges

– by Josie Davenport, LMT LCSW


One of the many things that I love about being a massage therapist is the vast array of specialty areas that are possible with my license to touch. I have deeply explored connective tissue therapy, therapeutic communication, cranio-sacral therapy, injury evaluation and treatment, and Feldenkrais® movement with awareness. Fifteen years into my profession I began to discover the joy of working with children with special needs. The Anat Baniel Method for Children℠ gave me more confidence and skill for helping children learn to build movement options. It was the first child that caught my eye with a look of total connection and excitement for learning that got me hooked. I knew that I had found my love, my path. I was actually able to help children learn to move in new ways and that child’s look touched my heart.

I work with families who have been told by the medical community, “Your child will never . . .” sit on their own, crawl, walk, go to college – fill in the blank. And yet, I see children move joyfully beyond such limits every day. There is quite a lot that I teach parents right away in the context of the child’s lesson with me. Of course a full training program would be best and I do recommend Anat Baniel’s training. In addition, when I work with parents and their children there are many things that I can teach them so that they can continue to facilitate learning for their child.

Safety and Connection

The first thing to establish in a lesson for a child is safety. Greeting them directly, talking to them with respect and looking for opportunities to be light and playful are key ways to establish rapport. Of course, it’s important to match them too. If a child is frightened, averting eye contact, I will back off my gaze and calm myself, slowing down as a way to help calm them. I ask the parent to bring a comfort item, I may also see if they are interested in a quiet toy. I often work with small children while they are in their parent’s lap. Showing interested in them and being authentic, being completely present and engaged, I look for easy ways to make contact. If the parent puts the child on the table, I ask them to stay close so that the child remains safe. Once the child starts to interact with me, I can make  more contact.

Staying With What Is

One of the first things that I can teach a child or adult is that the table is supporting them fully and they can let go of unnecessary holding. I teach this by helping them do the holding. This brings awareness and can lead to learning.

Taking over – Take over their holding and wait, then stop, wait, and taking over again. For example, if they hold their shoulders up, help them do that.

Exaggeration – Do the holding for them a tiny bit stronger than they are, let go gradually, try to feel them letting go as you do.

Grounding – As they lie on their back, place a small amount of equal pressure on their shoulders until you feel the ground a  little bit through their bones. Then press slowly down their arms, place a small equal amount of pressure on the two sides of the pelvis and down the legs. As they lie on their side, press gently the shoulder girdle and pelvis at the same time.

Undoing Muscles Spasms – Stretching can be painful for anyone, especially children with special needs. When a muscle is hard and contracted, one alternative is to first slacken the muscle by taking the two ends closer together and helping it to soften using massage. When you feel the muscle soften, then very slowly bring the two ends apart so that the muscle remains soft. Getting the bigger picture can do the most for alleviating contractions in general. When key areas in the trunk are allowed to move, the limbs and smaller areas don’t have to work so hard.

Finding Landmarks – Painting the Brain/Body Image

To help someone feel the bumps of their bones and those relationships to each other can be very soothing and interesting. For the brain, though, this information helps to create the self- image. The more information the better when presented in an organized way. There is that static topography that changes according to position. There are connections and relationships between positions. And there is the exciting potential of the movement of several points in space. Function brings those points into an organized understanding, helping the brain map those points in relation to reaching, looking, rolling, feeding, crawling, sitting and so on.

Slow, Small, Gentle

When a movement is difficult to do, slowing down increases sensitivity and attention and decreases fear and anxiety. Also, in order to find a way to do the desired thing, playful experimentation is exactly what the brain needs. Play, laughter, and a ‘no big deal’ attitude are perfect components for discovery. Children and adults learn new things best by feeling from the inside, not by performing for others and ‘doing it right’ from the beginning. Making mistakes gives the brain information and when this is done playfully and gently, then the learning is not associated with difficulty and pushing.

The Brain Thrives on Random Movement

The final guideline for now is to give a child plenty of free unstructured playtime on the floor in a safe area of the home. This can be in earshot and visual sight of the kitchen or any area where the parent spends a lot of time. Give the child room to flail and kick and move in any way that they can. All healthy babies do this and children who have difficulty moving need this. Don’t place a baby in any position that impedes movement or in a position that they cannot get out of easily on their own. Try finding toys that respond to the smallest touch. A good example is the “Happy Apple” which can be found online. Also, some parents make a square area, called a “little room” so that the baby who does not yet roll can kick something or come into contact with small toys with their hands.

Of course there is much more, but this is the foundation to help foster intelligent options for movement and awareness. Please know that the above ideas come from my own experience and understanding. Much of the above is influenced by my training with the Anat Baniel Method℠.

Reaching to Learn sign

I hope that this article has given parents some ideas for handling their child at home between    Anat Baniel Method for Children℠ lessons. I also hope to give future massage therapists information about one of the possible pathways that they can follow when they have a massage therapy license. Parents who wish to train with Anat Baniel need a license to touch. For parents of children who have special needs and learning delays and who choose to attend the Florida School of Massage as a first step in becoming an ABM practitioner, I will give your child under 3 years complimentary ABM lessons as long as you are enrolled at FSM. For children over 3 years, I will decide how much I can help, based on my assessment prior to enrollment in the school. The Florida School of Massage is known internationally for excellence. Our emphasis on awareness and personal transformation is a perfect prelude to further training with Anat Baniel.


Facebook Page: Josie Davenport – Reaching to Learn

FSM Announces Special Events to Celebrate 40-Year Anniversary

By Dar Mikula

Old sign pix

Our History:

In 1974, the Florida School of Massage graduated its first students. The American Institute of Natural Health, Inc. and the Florida School of Massage, Inc. merged their programs of massage therapy and allied holistic health training in September 1979. The merger of these two Gainesville schools produced a vocational training center with outstanding instructional faculty and equipment resources for expanded and advanced programs of massage therapy and natural health care.

FSM Wins $500 In Kickball Tourney

The staff of FSM recently teamed up with current students and graduates to win $500 in a local kickball tournament.  The money was donated directly to the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, the school’s charity of choice. The Alachua County Emerging Leaders (ACEL) sponsored the event on Saturday, February 2. The FSM team consisted of staff Bob Lee, Joe Cosenza, Sarah Abruscato, Mary Reis, Doug Loeb, Samantha Jones, Larsen McBride and eight FSM students and graduates. “The entire event was a lot of fun!” said Bob Lee.  “I haven’t played kickball since I was a kid and revisiting the game as an adult in a friendly competitive environment was a real treat. I really enjoyed the team aspect as well. This particular event included a first for the FSM outreach team in that it was centered on kickball.   Lee said, “As a massage therapist we often work alone and playing on a team with a common goal was rewarding.  It was a very family-oriented and community-minded event, and really well organized.  The entire ACEL staff was friendly, grateful, and supportive.” Lee is the school’s event and outreach coordinator.  He said this tournament was one of many different ways the school reaches out to the community by providing chair massage and a spirited presence at locations throughout North Central Florida. The students of the Florida School of Massage also complete hands-on program requirements by working with the elderly at the Alachua Nursing Center and with children and families at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as in the affordable Student Clinic at the school’s location on SW 13th Street.  The FSM presence is also felt at the Farmer’s Market, and at various job and health fairs including on the University of Florida and Santa Fe College campuses.

An Invitation to Discover More About FSM Mission and Philosophy

By Paul Davenport I am writing a WordPress Blog because I realized that I’ve never written our philosophy down for the general perusal of the community. I think that in this year of marketing It is imperative that we learn how to communicate just what the magic of FSM is. In the very near future everyone on the staff will have blogs and links to inform and educate the world about what we do built right into our community web page so this also a learning process about how to communicate in a new an exciting way. I’m hoping that this and other blogs will become a forum for discussion and a mechanism for meaningful dialogue that affects our community. In a recent marketing survey, we learned that the thing our students most identified with and benefited from was our faculty and administrative staff.  They value the years of experience and knowledge that our instructors hold, as well as the general attitude of friendliness, warmth, and an overall willingness to help students overcome life’s interferences.  I could go on, but I’ve come to learn that this is not the only way the school represents itself to the greater community.  “The place with the hands holding the sign” is what the community also identifies with – right down to the magic of the natural environment held by human hands. I’ve chosen to use a picture of our sign as a header for my blog.  This sign contains many, if not most of the elements of what we represent to the larger community. About every week or two, I hope to get a blog out that tells something of what the story of the school is and what it means. I hope the blog serves as a template to expound and dialogue about anything that juices our lives and makes our world a richer place. I’ve even been given some guidelines that will at least make our private blogs more fun and interesting.  Limiting individual posts to somewhere between 300-600 words, a picture every 300-400 words, and most importantly, making our communication centered on information and dialogue. If you would like to have a look at what my efforts look like, the link that will get you there is: Interbeing.com/blog.   I’ve already experimented  with bringing a number of posts into the mix: “The Somali Pirates and FSM”, “An Economics Lesson from a Biological Perspective”, “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead”, “An Interim Post”,  “Enter the “Bear” (in which the reason why an information based economy works best), and “Enlightened Selfishness and Truth Through Lying”.  Of course the final word on all that is “much more on that later”.  I hope it turns out to be a fun adventure that opens the magic of this incredible space to the world.  


Collaboration vs. Competition

I loved the piece that Paul Davenport posted on March 12th, entitled Somali Pirates and the Florida School of Massage. I particularly resonated with Paul’s statements of “human needs met” and “a worthwhile life.” I was reminded of it today as I was reading an article on The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the March issue of Fast Company. Reading the FC article took me back to a recent event I was involved in that was based on collaboration (one of my favorite words these days!). Empowerment when we all win.    Read more…

A heart-centered massage school… what does it mean?

In the online posting of our school’s vision, we describe our massage program as a ‘heart-centered’ environment. Graduates and current students use this phrase often, and freely, with an implied understanding of the difference between this type of learning and the kind found in conventional educational settings, perhaps what they are used to in college or high school. But what does the phrase really mean, and is there any benefit to a heart-centered educational experience, aside from the fact that it sounds nice and gives a warm fuzzy feeling? When I am working in the admissions office at the Florida School of Massage, one of my favorite subjects to talk about is how different our Anatomy & Physiology classes are from what people may be used to in terms of a classroom setting. Some people are nervous about learning all the names of the bones and the muscles, and who can blame them? Twenty-six bones in the foot alone. Muscles with names like ‘sternocleidomastoid’, just one of several in the neck. There is a lot going on in the body! So how do we sort it all out, and how do we present it to a student who may have no previous knowledge whatsoever regarding anatomy?  Well, we don’t start with the anatomy! We start with a breath. The first exercise in our A&P course requires no textbooks, no note taking, and no weird Latin-derived names. It only requires that you, the student, come to a comfortable seated posture, and devote your attention to what is happening in the present moment… in your body, in your mind, in your breath… just notice it… notice what sensations are there, what distractions may be there… without needing to change any of it. The result, almost invariably, is a heightened sense of alertness along with a feeling of physical and mental calm. Now we can pick up our notebooks! We are in an optimum state for exploring new information, and for retaining it. Exercises like this, that center our attention and help bring about an ideal learning state, appear often and regularly throughout our massage therapy program.  It is one of our distinguishing characteristics.  It is one of the reasons we say we are a ‘heart-centered school’. For more information on the heart’s role in physiological and neurological health, I encourage you to spend some time reading this introduction at the HeartMath Institute.  Over 20 years of research support the notion that the heart is neurologically complex enough to be called a “little brain”, and that it contributes enormously to the neurological health of our entire body. Thanks for reading.  We’ll see you in class!