Massage school opens on Orchard Mesa

Rob Smith is the owner and instructor at Essentials Therapeutic Massage School, 557 U.S. Highway 50. Smith, a medical massage practitioner, said he plans to teach small classes of students more about the medical side of massage.

So far, Essentials Therapeutic Massage School graduates have a 100 percent pass rate on national massage-therapy exams.

School owner Rob Smith hopes to continue that trend when he reopens the school to students this month in a new location at 557 U.S. Highway 50. Smith moved the school to Grand Junction from Montrose in November and hopes to start classes this week.

Students must pass a national exam after taking a massage-therapy program in order to practice massage. Smith said he owes his students’ success rate to personalized attention. He said he likes to create a family atmosphere in his classes by having students sit in a circle of comfortable chairs rather than desks and learn one-on-one as much as possible.

“I’ve taught bigger classes where there’s a student in the back who’s just nodding his head, but he doesn’t really get” what’s being taught, Smith said.

To avoid that kind of behavior, he plans to enroll eight to 10 students per class. Classes will be offered five nights a week, Monday through Friday, at the school. The classes will last five to six months, and Smith said he plans to offer each class from 3 to 8 p.m., unless students reach a consensus that a later start time is better.

Two other schools in Grand Junction, the Institute of Therapeutic Massage of Western Colorado and IntelliTec College, offer massage-therapy programs. Smith said he’s not worried about adding a third option for residents who are considering a career in massage.

“The more the merrier,” Smith said. “It gives people around here choices instead of having to go to Denver or picking from one or two schools.”

It will cost Essentials students $5,414 to enroll in the program, which includes the cost of books. The program covers the 500 hours of instruction needed to take a national exam.

Smith, a certified medical-massage practitioner, said he hopes students leave his program knowing more than just massage technique. With more massage therapists joining chiropractic or medical offices, Smith said he wants to teach students how to work with doctors and fill out paperwork that is necessary for insurance reimbursement.

Smith owned his own practice for more than three years before he opened Essentials a year-and-a-half ago in Montrose. He said he wanted to teach the medical side of massage instead of focusing on spa techniques, and he decided to move to Grand Junction after some students who were traveling from the city requested he change locations.

In August 2010, the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Board of Private Occupational Schools voted to give the school, then in Montrose, a provisional certificate of approval to operate through June 30, 2012. Smith said he will reapply with the state to recognize the school’s new location.

Anyone interested in enrolling at the school can call Smith at 314-1561, visit the school or visit


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