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Massage Today
June, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 06

Strength in Numbers: Holistic Health Schools Form Alliance

By Michael Devitt

For several months, administrators at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy (BCMT) have considered new ways of strengthening the school's ties with a local branch of Southwest Acupuncture College and the Rolf Institute, a pair of neighboring holistic health institutions.

The idea gained momentum this past December, when the Rolf Institute moved to a new location in Boulder less than a mile from the BCMT and Southwest campuses, prompting administrators at BCMT and the other schools to create an informal alliance that could allow for open houses, cross-training between programs, and other benefits for students and the public. "We're all involved in restoring health in an individual, and we all do it without the use of allopathic drugs, based on a holistic view of the human body," said Valerie Hobbs, Southwest's campus director. "There are things about being a health care practitioner that are common, regardless of modality."

The alliance is already creating new opportunities for students. Last October, for instance, BCMT held a free book-signing event and invited students from the three institutions. More than 100 students attended, which spurred school leaders to consider offering other attractions, such as public forums and panel discussions. Students who attend one of the colleges also benefit by receiving discounted services at the other two schools, such as discounted massage and Rolfing treatments. Program leaders believe that allowing students to experience other healing methods broadens their knowledge of different forms of care, and could make them more inclined to refer future patients to other practitioners. According to an article in the Boulder County Business Report, some academic "blending" has already begun as a result of the alliance. Southwest recently hired a person trained at BCMT to teach its shiatsu class, and BCMT offers an Asian bodywork curriculum similar to the one taught at the acupuncture college.

Administrators at each college have also discussed the possibility of participating in shared health-fair booths, joint workshops and a film series, and the alliance may eventually include elective course credit offered when students from one institution take a class at the other two. According to Ms. Hobbs, however, Southwest's accreditation process currently prohibits the school from offering classes to people who aren't officially enrolled at the college.

One of the more controversial aspects of the alliance involves the prospect of all three schools being housed on the same campus, offering separate programs but sharing space, administrative staff and resources. The Boulder County Business Report article noted that BCMT President Barbara Bollmann was in favor of creating such a campus within the next five years. Three years remain on BCMT's lease; however, the Rolf Institute just began a seven-year lease at its new location, and officials at Southwest have their own goals in mind. "The college has a long-range plan to own its own building," Hobbs said. "So, if that opportunity were to happen at the right place and the right time, we'd be interested. We've only been in our building for two years, and we're quite happy where we are."


  • Bass S. "Holistic health-care givers form alliance to benefit from each other's strengths." Boulder County Business Report, March 25, 2004.


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