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Marianna's Source Institute Massage School trains, massages area residents

Marianna's Source Institute Massage School trains, massages area residents

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Whether you are looking for a new career that is in demand or needing a relaxing massage, Source Institute Massage School and Therapeutic Bodywork is the choice for you!

Heather Cantler, partner and director of the Marianna branch, is originally from Elkton, Maryland, which is about an hour and a half from Baltimore. She and her husband, Hugh, together attended and graduated from massage therapy school in 2007. They immediately went to work in their field.

During this time Heather’s grandparents, after a search for a warmer area to farm, retired in Cottondale, which resulted in Heather’s parents and sister relocating to assist the grandparents. A few years later, Heather and Hugh followed.

“We actually didn’t plan on staying long, but this is such a wonderful area, and it’s a great place to raise babies,” she shared.

A short time later Heather accepted a position as one of six massage therapists working at Water Chiropractic. While taking some education courses, she met Matt Wilson, owner of Source Institute Massage School and Therapeutic Bodywork in Fort Walton Beach. Together, they planned to partner and open a school in Marianna. In 2014, Source Institute Massage School Marianna opened its doors.

Heather enjoys teaching with Hugh and other instructors at the school. However, she pointed out that her primary work is in the office. Anytime students have issues with schedules or financial services, Heather is there to assist them. Although student loans are not accepted at Source Institute, classes are affordable. Fees include books, tuition and registration. Payment plans are available throughout the time the student is taking classes.

Those concerned with saturation of the profession should note the school has students from the immediate area, but also students who travel from places like Tallahassee, Dothan, Quincy, Panama City and Bonifay. Heather explained that she has received calls regularly from different spas and businesses needing massage therapists.

“As of now it has been great, because I don’t have anybody to send them, because all of our students have positions somewhere.”

Although Source Institute will not guarantee anyone a position, Heather is available to help students find a business needing their services.

“Most of the students that come to massage therapy school are around the age of 30, and they have full-time jobs, families and other activities that they are working with,” Heather continued. In reference to balancing school, family and life, she is quick to clarify that “You have to be committed to school, because it is not easy.”

The 600-hour program takes roughly a year to complete. Pupils must make up any time missed, which could extend the timeframe. Conversely, they can also work extra clinic hours to complete the program early. Students spend half of their time studying for weekly exams in the subjects of anatomy and physiology, pathology (study of diseases), kinesiology (study of movement), law, ethics, and some other shorter courses. Heather clarified that since Source Institute is labeled a “Career School,” classes from other schools and colleges do not transfer. However, students who have passed anatomy and physiology at Chipola College will certainly have an advantage. “It’s a good review for them, since they will need to know this for the board exam,” she continued.

Students must also complete clinicals. They begin with learning full-body massage and later, deep-tissue and trigger-point massage. “By the end of the program, students should be proficient in Swedish relaxation massage, and deep-tissue massage,” Heather said. They are also introduced to other types of techniques to help with decisions for more specialized studies and work after graduation.

Upon completion of the program students first take an exam with Source Institute, and then their state board exams to become licensed. Currently, the Source Institute state board pass rate is 85%.

When the students are completing their clinicals, the school is open to the public. For a nominal fee (not covered by insurance), the public can go into a room with curtains separating areas to enjoy a relaxing massage. The clinic areas may not be as private as a spa setting, where the door is shut. If you are modest, it is acceptable to remain fully dressed during the massage. However, it is also acceptable to undress. Heather explained, “For a better massage, you should take your clothes off.” “Many leave their underwear on, but you will be under a sheet the whole time,” she added. “So, they are only exposing the areas they are working on, and when they finish that specific area, they will cover your body part back up.”

“We do have good clientele that support our students,” Heather added. Some have been visiting for years and have had the opportunity to watch the students progress in their program. “Our hope is that some of the clients will follow them into their career wherever they are going to go,” Heather continued.

Massage is good for stress relief and pain management. “Someone who suffers from sciatica, could have a tight piriformis muscle,” Heather shared. “If they can get the massage, maybe they won’t have those issues as much anymore.” She also noted that people suffering from chronic pain may be able to manage it through regular massage. However, they might need to start out light and avoid times of flares. Later, they may be able to tolerate normal massage. According to Hugh, “If someone is hurt, weekly massage is recommended until the pain is under control, but once it is under control at least once a month is good maintenance.” In fact, he compares caring for your body as one might care for their car.

Though there are many types of massage, one of the types Source Institute offers to visitors is the Swedish relaxation technique, a spa-style massage that aids in relaxation and tension relief. Another type of massage taught is the hot stone technique, which involves the therapist using rocks heated to 105 degrees to massage oil on tight muscles. Another category of massage is myofascial relief. Hugh used the analogy of the area on a piece of chicken, where the thin skin is located on top of the muscle, to explain fascia. Myofascial pain is the result of tightness related to the superficial skin causing impingements in the body. “Myofascial Relief is me manipulating that fascia to break it down, so you can get your elasticity in your muscles,” Hugh explained. The result is more range of motion. Hugh described how he has experienced tight fascia in his chest and pecs that sometimes result in numbness in his arms. Unfortunately, hot stone and myofascial relief techniques are not available for visitors to the school’s clinic, but students are able to learn about the techniques.

Heather and Hugh live in the area and now have a son, Evan, who was born a year after the school opened. “It’s kind of neat, because for my son, it’s like his second home,” she described about him growing up at the school.

What a great family and school to have in Marianna! Source Institute Massage School Marianna is located at 4411 Constitution Lane. Call or stop by on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., or 5:30-8:30 p.m. to learn more. To schedule a massage online, visit

Visit the City of Marianna’s website at to learn more about businesses in Marianna.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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