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Success Story: Rick Garbowski

19 Sep 2016
Rick is the Owner/Director Georgia Massage School and has been a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years. In addition to being a nationally recognized teacher and speaker, Rick specializes in Clinical Sports Massage, Neuromuscular Therapy, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and Orthopedic Massage.

How did you get your start in the spa industry?
It was actually my wife who came up with the idea to get me started on a career in the spa industry. I was looking to make a career change but wasn’t really sure what type of work I wanted to do. From previous employment, I knew I didn’t like sitting behind a desk all-day or working outside and dealing with the weather. I was looking for an indoor occupation that would also keep me active. My wife had a coworker who was attending massage therapy school at night and she suggested I look into it. I attended an open house, applied before I left, and am still working in the industry 25 years later.

What roles have you held in the industry during your career?
I began my career as a massage therapist by building a small private practice when I graduated from massage school in March of 1992. I performed massage therapy as an independent contractor at several health clubs and also performed outcalls in people’s homes. I had previously worked in the employee training unit at an insurance company and that background lead me to apply for a massage therapy teaching position soon after. I was hired on a part time basis and then quickly moved into a full time teaching position, which I continue to do to this day.

I estimate that I’m closing in on 35,000 hours of standing in front of classrooms full of students entering the spa and wellness industry over the past 25 years. During that time I’ve held the positions of Apprentice/Assistant/ Lead Massage Therapy Instructor, Program Coordinator for the student massage clinic, Director of Education-Massage Therapy division, Division Director-Aesthetics division, and currently Co-Owner/Co-Director of Georgia Massage School. I’ve also worked as a part time adjunct instructor with several continuing education providers for over 20 years now.

What professional achievement are you most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of the students who were able to overcome their unique challenges and successfully build careers in the spa industry. I’ve had the great fortune to work with numerous blind students, some individuals with cerebral palsy or Asperger’s Syndrome, and others dealing with neurological deficits from closed head injuries or strokes. Each of them has had to clear cognitive and psychomotor hurdles that the average student never has to face.

In order for them to be successful in both school and in the job market, an instructor must repeatedly identify their unique roadblocks to understanding and retention and then design specific systems to help them overcome each and every deficit. I’ve learned more about teaching from this group of exceptional people then I have from all the instructional design classes I’ve taken and books I’ve read combined.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in the spa and wellness industry?
The one piece of advice I would give to someone starting out in the spa and wellness industry is to seek out the best education available in the field. Your education provides you with the foundation you’ll need to build your spa and wellness career on. Building on a weak foundation could set you on a path where you’ll need to do a lot of additional work in order to stabilize that foundation, or force you to go back and start all over when the structure you’re attempting to build collapses.

The spa and wellness industry provides you with a wide variety of job opportunities. The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is to prepare yourself with a quality education. You can build anything you want on a strong foundation.


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