History and Founding Principles
The New School for Massage, Bodywork & Healing was founded in early 2002 by Emmanuel Bistas, B.S., M.B.A., L.M.T. based on his research on how massage therapists were trained and educated, and how schools prepared students for the future. Having received massage training in the oldest massage school in the country as well as smaller, skill-based massage programs, he saw a void in the skills most schools taught. Using his prior service sector experience, his entrepreneurial credentials and his passion for advancing the healing arts, he decided to create a new learning environment.
The school was a product of extensive massage industry analysis and reviews of massage therapy schools around the country. Discussions were held with massage therapy students from area schools to find “likes” and “dislikes”, and focus groups were conducted with practicing massage therapists and employers. The idea was simple: make the old “new”. Take the best that old schools had to offer and overlay it with new concepts, new ideas, and a new focus not only on massage skills, but also on long-term career success.
This new philosophy encompassed everything: the curriculum; the scheduling; the instructors; the academic and administrative policies. Furthermore, the facility had to be one that was consistent with alternative therapies: a warm, nurturing space with positive energy that brings out the best in students, instructors, and guests.
The vision brought to the school some amazing students and some of the country’s most talented instructors. It also drew to the school people who could contribute their time and resources to make the dream reality.
Since its inception, the school has continued to innovate and expand its curriculum and offerings. It has also kept abreast of industry and regulatory changes with its participation in various organizations and advocacy groups.
The key milestones below illustrate that the meaning of the word “New” in the school’s name implies a continuous evolution and renewal:
Late 2001: Market research conducted by Emmanuel Bistas showed a fragmented and inefficient massage education sector that is ready for a competitive priced, well-rounded, massage therapy program. Over a period of 6 months, the core faculty was appointed with instructors representing the three largest area schools at the time, proprietary computer systems were developed to support a lean and efficient administration, and the lease was signed at the 800 N. Wells location, a beautiful loft space with 22-ft ceilings and large windows right in the heart of the gallery district.
Early 2002: The New School for Massage became approved by the Illinois State Board of Education as private vocational school. The Massage and Bodywork Diploma Program became the first massage therapy program in the Chicago area to offer an extensive professional development component alongside massage and science coursework. The program was also the first in the area to be offered with all-inclusive pricing and small classes limited to twelve students.
The school joined the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), and AMTA Council of Schools, and received an assigned school code by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) so that graduates can take the National Certification Exam.
Late 2002: The school facilities expanded with the addition of the student and professional clinic, which has been featured in Chicago Tribune, and “Chicago’s Best” as the “best that Chicago has to offer”. The student clinic allows the students to polish their professional, business, client-interaction, and hands-on skills under the supervision of a skilled instructor. As of the time of this writing, over 60,000 treatments have been performed on 15,000 clients in the student clinic, offering students a solid experience of working with the public.
Early 2003: The school launched its community outreach program.
2004: The New School for Massage obtained the services of an accreditation consultant to become ‘accreditation-ready’ and to determine whether participation in federal financial aid would benefit the students. The decision was made that students would be best served by state approval, instead of private-agency accreditation. This decision has been pivotal in the school's ability to offer a market-focused program all these years.
2005: The state of Illinois started regulating massage therapy.
2006: The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) was created by the Federation of Massage Licensing Boards. The New School for Massage spearheaded a petition to the State of Illinois Licensing Board to accept MBLEx as a licensing exam, and became the first Illinois massage school to include preparation for the MBLEx in the Diploma program’s educational objectives. As of the time of this writing, 43 states, including the state of Illinois, require the MBLEx for the purpose of licensure.
2008: The New School for Massage expanded its Asian Bodywork curriculum and became the first massage school in the area to devote an equal number of hours to Eastern and Western foundation classes.
2009: The New School for Massage became a founding member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), an independent organization involved in teaching standard initiatives.
2011: To better target its resources to the development of new educational offerings due out in early 2012, The New School for Massage span off management of its student clinic, outreach activities, and introductory workshops and started marketing those services as River North Massage Therapy Center.
Early 2012: The school's founder and Director, Emmanuel Bistas, was appointed to the Illinois Massage Licensing Board.
2012: The school relocated to 747 N. LaSalle St, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60654.
2014-2016: The school's founder, Emmanuel Bistas, was appointed to the Professional Development Standards Task Force, MBLEx Examination Committee, and MBLEx Eligibility Committee by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. Emmanuel Bistas also served as the Illinois State Delegate at the FSMTB Annual Meetings in 2014 and 2015.
2017: The New School for Massage became the first school in the United States to earn the COMTA-Endorsed Curriculum recognition from the Commission on Massage therapy Accreditation (COMTA).
2021: The New School for Massage opened its second location in Tinley Park, IL, where it will hold both core curriculum and continuing education courses.
2021: New School for Massage became COMTA accredited. This accreditation is the highest credential a massage therapy school can obtain. The reason the school sought accreditation was to maintain the highest standards by following the standards of a National accreditation body.
Emmanuel Bistas, the founder of the school, is actively involved in the massage therapy profession. He has been a member of the Massage Licensing Board (since 2012), member of the FSMTB Professional Development Standards Task Force (2013-2014), member of the MBLEx Examination Commitee (2015-2016) , member of the FSMTB Exam Eligibility Committee (2015-2017), chairperson of the FSMTB MBLEx Examination Committee (2017), and Advisory Council Member at the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
The New School for Massage has always stood ahead of the pack on every topic affecting the massage profession. From introducing a fast-track program at a time when everyone said it could not be done, to offering an all-inclusive pricing model and comprehensive curriculum, to promoting the cause of an advanced certification exam, to advocating the use of a new licensing exam, to teaching at the 600-hour level as baseline for state license reciprocity, the school has placed education and the student ahead of everyone else.
As of the time of this writing, the school has graduated over one hundred classes. In the last reporting period, as reported to the Illinois State Board of Education, 100% of graduates who were available for placement reported employment with an average starting rate of $39.10 per hour.
The New School for Massage strives to use the most current learning techniques to supply students with the most comprehensive massage and bodywork training, and to prepare them to operate a successful business in today’s marketplace.
With small classes, caring instructors, innovative curriculum, and professional development classes, The New School for Massage brings to bodywork education the one-on-one approach that the students will eventually bring to their practice. The results of this approach are reflected in the school’s exceptional job placement and licensing exam statistics and the excellent reputation it has gained in the community.
The school treats the students just like they would want their students to treat the people they will one day serve: with compassion, respect, and a sense of personal responsibility.
To The New School for Massage, the word “New” is both a name and a commitment.