A question I'm asked by clients often is why did I choose to become a Massage Therapist?
One thing that I can say for sure is that it's a choice I have never regretted, I love what I do as not only a Massage Therapist, but also sharing all of the other Holistic modalities I've trained in.
My second career, after office administration, was as an Interior Designer, a job that really nurtured my creative, artistic side. While on site during a design project I fell from a ladder and because of that fall I booked in for my first Massage session. There was no turning back.
That first Massage left me in awe of how it eased the pain, helped me to heal and moreso feeling just how connected the parts of my body were. I had to learn more!
I signed up for a weekend course "An Introduction to Massage". I was fascinated with how it felt to work with another's muscles and feel them release, to see the glow of wellbeing and peace that crossed their face as they completely relaxed. The course wasn't my first steps in incorporating holistic health practices into my life. As a young, single mother I was interested in organic, holistic nutrition and participated in meditation daily. Yoga had been an interest since my teen years.
While on the waiting list to get into Massage Therapy school, I studied Reflexology, Reiki, Fitness instruction, Aromatherapy and Colour Therapy. Loving how each of these could complement each other and the holistic wellbeing for myself, my family and others. Did I mention that I love to learn?
My journey into studying Massage Therapy seemed the next logical step on this path I was traveling and I have loved every aspect of practicing it through the past 23 years. Honestly I can't see myself ever fully retiring because of the joy I experience doing work that I love, with incredible clients.
Massage and other Holistic therapies are a continual opportunity to learn and expand my skills. Through the past 18 years my practice has turned to specializing in treating women through all the differing phases of their life journey...but that's another story for another blog, someday.
It's weird but I have a sense of gratitude for that fall from the ladder, because it led me to this amazing career!
A holistic health colleague and I were discussing ways to promote our businesses last week and how to get our messages of wellbeing out to the general public.
What we couldn't decide was whether approaching potential clients from the viewpoint of emotional wellbeing was the best way to share, or if physical wellbeing was better. Why was this a dilemma for us? I think it lies in the fact that we, as therapists, look at wellbeing from a holistic point of view, while mainstream media presents to the public a very "physical symptoms and dis-ease picture" viewpoint.
In researching what the public is searching the internet for, the focus is very much on disease and symptoms labels such as Fibromyalgia, Plantar Faciitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, PTSD, Stress, Back Pain, Menopause symptoms, Cancer, Anxiety Disorder....
While there is no disagreement with the labels, a holistic therapist looks at each client as an individual and how those symptoms are specifically affecting them. How they are feeling, that day, on an emotional and physical level.
When a client comes to see me for a Massage Therapy session and lists their problem as Back pain. I'm assessing, as they move, how the pain is affecting their movement, is their spine appearing to be out of alignment, any signs of swelling or inflammation in the muscles, are they in emotional distress from the pain, what is it keeping them from doing, is it affecting their sleep, are they clenching their jaw or sweating from pain, how are they describing it, what words are they using...
Why so much in the way of assessment? I've probably already seen 3 other clients that day with Back pain and I guess I could treat them each the same way BUT is that really going to be beneficial for each? It might be but likely not. I assess because I want to know how this is affecting their overall holistic wellness and I want to treat them in such a way that all levels of wellbeing are addressed
I may find as I'm workingwith them that the pain began after an emotionally upsetting day. As they talk about this during their session the muscles will often open up and let my hands work out the pain and tension of the emotion. They may cry, laugh, get angry as the loosening muscles allow the emotion to be released...which is wonderful.
While they are likely of the mind that it was the massage that loosened the muscle, I'm more likely to believe that releasing the emotion was much more beneficial.
That was only one of the 3 clients that day with Back pain. What about the other two coming in with completely different circumstances but the same symptoms. Perhaps baby gaining weight is putting excess strain on the pregnant woman's back muscles, or they slept in an awkward position, or the busy teacher is stressed out and clenching their muscles.
That is why so much assessment happens.
So in getting back to the original dilemma around promotion, we wondered how to best get that message across as holistic therapists. I think what we decided was to go for the symptoms and use the language that potential clients understand, and then begin to plant seeds, educate and present the ideas that encompass holistic health and wellness.
That isn't to say we would try to change people. Each person has their own beliefs around health and wellness and what is best for them in the way of therapies. Each individual knows their body far better than I, and their beliefs bring them the holistic wellness they feel comfortable with.
As a therapist, it is up to me to honour and understand, learn from each client and adapt my therapy session to best meet their needs, and at the same time share knowledge about how the body works and it's amazing abilities to heal through holistic wellness.