Massage is for EveryBody Awards!

$1,000 Winners Exemplify the Campaign’s Guiding Principles

To see previous Massage is for EveryBody winners, please visit the archives.

ABMP received a number of passionate essays explaining the many ways in which practitioners work tirelessly to support the guiding principles behind Massage is for EveryBody. We at ABMP are deeply grateful to you all for your healing, inclusive work. You make the world a better place. Congratulations to the following winners (essays below) whose work exemplifies the healing and inclusive values of the campaign:

Guiding Principles

Because Massage is for EveryBody, we will:

  1. Serve as advocates for the powerful physical and emotional benefits of massage and bodywork.
  2. Support and advocate for efforts that bring massage and bodywork to underserved populations.
  3. Spread awareness of career options in the massage and bodywork profession.
  4. Honor the healing role practitioners play in our communities.
  5. Emphasize the importance of self-care, including receiving regular bodywork, for massage therapists and bodyworkers, and their clients.

Overcoming Struggles with Multiple Choice

Portrait of OlgaBy Olga Chwascinska
Instagram handle: https://instagram.com/olgachwa.wellness
Business Facebook page: https://facebook.com/olgachwa.wellness
Website: http://www.olgachwa.com

Massage therapy is a calling that many of us answer, attracted to the offline work, minimal reading/writing, and ample silence. I was drawn to the profession partly because I faced a move abroad and made the assumption that I could find work without speaking the local language.

Quickly, I realized I was quite wrong. Communication skills are the heart of excellent massage therapy. Luckily, my life settled in America, and I opened my private practice in therapeutic massage, growing a satisfied clientele, reassured by my intake process, listening skills, informed consent, verbal check-ins during sessions, and client education.

A decade later, the pandemic shuttered my practice. Looking for a new livelihood, I knew that empowering clients and teaching anatomy and physiology are my passions and professional pillars. As I began building a new, remote bodywork business, I also started tutoring massage school graduates preparing for the MBLEx. I was surprised to meet so many bright “nearly therapists” struggling to pass this rigorous exam due to a handful of common problems: language barriers, learning challenges like reading difficulties, and very real test-taking anxiety.

My international students have the hardest time. Little experience with multiple choice exams plus vocabulary shortcomings—especially in health care jargon and kinesiology details—keep these Turkish, Puerto Rican, and German students from passing.

Together, we work on reading skills, breaking down the compound medical terminology, and fine-tuning test-taking strategy. We further build their confidence with bodywork tools: Marma point self-massage helps focus, and breath awareness exercises can reduce anxiety.

Within weeks, these aspiring, multicultural practitioners are able to pass the MBLEx, proving that they meet the scientific knowledge base expected by our medical institutions. Once licensed by their state boards, they can safely practice massage therapy and serve their diverse, often underserved, communities—in their native languages!

Cancer Diagnosis to Patient Advocate

Camille Desantis portraitBy Camille Desantis
Business Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MendingTree-Massage-234331111831791/
Website: https://www.mendingtreemassage.com/
YouTube video: https://youtu.be/IyamWdPJ70Y

In 2019, at the age of 39, my world was turned upside down with a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer. After 18 months of intense treatment, I have refocused my massage career. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is hard physically, mentally, and emotionally. Massage therapy from a skilled practitioner can help enhance quality of life and minimize side effects that may affect long-term outcomes.

Camille with her kids during chemoOn the other side of treatment, I feel very passionate about educating survivors, physicians, physical therapists, and cancer organizations on the benefits of massage in lessening the burden of treatment. I do this in my role as a cancer mentor with a local breast cancer organization, my own support group for cancer survivors, and marketing through my business. I always extend one free massage to all breast cancer survivors in active treatment. The funds from this grant would allow me to grow that program for this underserved population.

Massage has come a long way in the 20 years I have been practicing, but in my experience, there is room for advocacy about the benefits of massage for cancer survivors in treatment and beyond. In working with survivors and cultivating relationships with local medical practitioners, I hope to facilitate awareness within my community here in Birmingham, AL. It is so rewarding to see survivors come into my treatment room looking fatigued and overwhelmed, complaining of pain and restriction, and then see them stand taller, broader, and with an expression of relief and radiance after the session. I am so lucky to be able to reframe my practice in this way after my own battle, and I hope to be able to do much more for survivors for many years to come!

Massage Therapy as Selfcare for Recovery

Portrait of NanetteBy Nanette Ginise
Instagram handle: Selfcare_for_Recovery
Business Facebook page: Self Care for Recovery
Website: selfcareforrecovery.org

I have been a practicing massage therapist for over 20 years and a woman in recovery for 18 years. Over the years of practice, I have worked in clinical settings. I've practiced in wellness centers and spa environments. Professional experience has taught me that massage therapy can correct muscle imbalances and reduce or relieve physical pain. Also, massage creates a quiet space that allows the body-mind to heal from emotional stress and trauma. I want to share my knowledge and skills with a community that I can identify with and be of service to.

There is a saying in the recovery rooms, "from Park Avenue to park bench," from "Yale to jail." Substance abuse and alcoholism do not discriminate. Unfortunately, health care does. Recovery is the journey back to health—a life free of drugs and alcohol. The road to wellness comes with challenges and lots of personal work. One of the first things in recovery is to become willing to change. One change is learning positive self-care. As a massage therapist and a woman in recovery, I understand the value of safe and peaceful touch to restore mental and physical balance. I wanted to bring massage therapy to women in recovery who do not have the financial security to experience complementary and alternative health care.

In 2019, I started volunteering in a women's transitional house, donating over 100 hours of massage therapy for residents in this facility. My connection with these women has inspired me so much that I recently expanded into another facility for women and families. In October 2021, I founded Self Care for Recovery, a registered 501c3, to carry my message: massage therapy is a healthy option for everyone dealing with physical and psychological discomfort for recovery.

 

Cultivating Community Wellness and Access for All

Portrait of Rico with colleaguesBy Rico Gordon
Instagram handle: @oakparkmassageclinic
Website: https://www.oakparkmassageclinic.org

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I observed a stark increase of phone calls from current patients, as well as community members new to medical massage, wanting to schedule appointments. People were also seeking information about how and where to access wellness services. I now see my community was explicitly telling me they did not know where to access community wellness. It was during this time more than any other time in my career that my massage clinic became a wellness hub for the community. They trusted me to direct them to, or to cultivate wellness resources within, the community. It was at this point that my role in my community became far more expansive and not limited to medical massage services. As a former athlete, the owner and operator of a medical massage clinic, and a black man, I provide a physical and philosophical space for both practitioners and for patients of color. I am acutely aware of the privilege and the responsibility embedded within this role.

I am currently focused on improving access to medical massage and wellness resources for veterans in the community. As the son of a veteran who experienced dementia toward the end of his life, I know how difficult it is for some veterans to ask for support pertaining to their physical, spiritual, and mental wellness. I watched my father frustratingly navigate the wellness desert that existed in Oak Park. It is because of the lack of health services within the veteran community in Oak Park that I continue my efforts to make medical massage accessible. I provide a sliding scale for all patients and also offer free services to veterans. Presently, I am becoming certified to work directly for the VA to better support this population.

The Grounding Lifeline of Massage

Portrait of HeatherBy Heather Heffernan

Massage therapy first came into my life when I was 15 years old. After struggling as a child and teen with perfectionistic tendencies—as well as developing some unhealthy coping mechanisms for feeling as though I had some control over the chaos that was my childhood, including disordered eating and exercise habits—I started seeing a mental health counselor. While my sessions with her were helpful, the most impactful result of our time together was her suggestion that I see a massage therapist.

I remember not really understanding the suggestion but being intrigued by the idea, so I scheduled an appointment. That was truly the beginning of a new passion for and journey in healing and self-care and love for myself. Instantaneously, I was drawn to learn more and eventually to share the physical, mental, and emotional gift that touch therapy is with whomever would listen. As a member of a small community in rural, central Nebraska—which did not have a great deal of offerings in this realm—as well as a member of a low-income household myself, I felt drawn to learning more and finding a way to bring the benefits of touch therapy to so many who were either unaware or to whom it was inaccessible, due to financial, geographical, or other such barriers.

Heather hikingAs it turned out, life happened, as it has a way of doing, and I ultimately had to set aside my dreams and ambitions toward a career in massage therapy. I raised my two children primarily in a single-parent, single-income situation, all while my children and I were living under the heavy load of the trauma and unrest that can be the result of living with a family member with a ferocious drug addiction. One day, when I was in a state of physical, emotional, and mental desperation, massage therapy came back into my mind and heart. Although my budget didn't really accommodate, I booked a session and have never looked back. My children, who were both dealing with significant mental and physical health struggles, also started seeing a massage therapist, as well as a Reiki Master and an acupuncturist. Since insurance did not cover these, I worked four jobs in order to pay for these therapies. These therapies have single-handedly been the greatest source of healing in our lives, to the degree of literally saving both of my children's lives. I decided that the three decades that had passed since I first became passionate about becoming a massage therapist and sharing this irreplaceable gift with others was long enough to wait, and it was time to begin pursing my passion.

Once I am licensed, it is my mission to find a way to help bring this vital, life-giving, soul-healing blessing to the world. While I am passionate about the work for the good of anyone in the world, due to my background, I am seeking ways to bring it to populations who may not otherwise have the resources, knowledge, or access. In addition, as a former teacher and youth sports coach, I plan to find ways to incorporate massage for children who are also so desperately needing the wonderful benefits of massage therapy.

Although delayed, I know I would not have the deep sense of passion and understanding that I have developed were it not for every difficult step of the journey up until now. If I can play even the smallest role in helping others with massage therapy, as it has helped my children and me, every moment of the journey will be worthwhile.

Honoring the Final Chapter

Portrait of JaneBy Jane Hopkins
Website: https://janehopkins.massagetherapy.com

I’ve been called an “old soul” more than once, so it’s no surprise that I attract an older clientele. The majority of my clients are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, and over the course of my 17 years as a massage therapist, I’ve even seen a few clients in their 90s (one of whom had never had a massage before). Most of my clients grew up during a time when massage was seen as superfluous, decadent, or just plain weird, rather than therapeutic. The idea of “therapeutic touch” or “self-care” were not terms used in their generation. 

Clients often come to me through a referral from a health-care provider or a family member that suggests massage as a way to complement their health-care team. Most feel benefits after their first session, as they experience muscle and energy shifts that manual therapy often brings throughout the body. One of the things I love most about my profession is that marketing massage therapy has never really been a thing for me. There’s nothing flashy or tricky about it; if people value your services, if you can help them feel better, they return. You build your practice by attracting clients that need/want what you offer.

Clasped handsMany of my clients have joint replacements, many suffer from arthritis, stenosis, or a combination of degenerative diseases or pathologies that accompanies the aging process. I have several clients that are battling cancer or are survivors. Although we know that cancer increases with age, the diagnosis at any age is traumatic and scary. It is often said that “aging is a privilege,” yet with age, the number (and perhaps severity) of micro and macro traumas increases as well—car accidents; falls on skis, horses and ice; broken bones; surgeries…not to mention the demands (emotional and physical) of careers and family life. I have seen countless women with old and new muscle dysfunctions and deconditioning from childbirth (insert plug for post-natal core strengthening for all women, as well as evaluations for scar tissue and/or muscle adhesions resulting from pregnancy and birth). Traumas and injuries add up over time, and the body holds all of those stories, for better or for worse.

Although there is often pain and discomfort that ebbs and flows in advanced age, I am continually impressed with all that my septua- and octogenarian clients accomplish. I have clients in their late 70s that play tennis and golf multiple days a week, others that hike 14ers, and clients in their 80s that swim laps before I’m awake and still camp in a tent and sleep on the ground! Most all have lost parents, some have lost spouses, and tragically a few have survived the loss of a child. I’ve witnessed their transitions to retirement, some lasting only a few months before they get bored and return to work, while others can’t wait to turn in their resignations. Many have shared pictures of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren—such a sweet privilege I hope my future holds. The collective years of experience and survival is humbling, inspiring, and always educational. I am forever grateful when others share their life experiences that have shaped them, whether they are painful, joyful, or a mixture of emotions. I observe the lessons learned and the ways in which people move forward and occasionally get stuck. We can always use tools to sharpen and hone our life skills. 

The gratitude my clients express for their sessions is beyond my expectations. Their kind words and acts of appreciation, as well as their continued business, are what keep my practice and my heart full. During their “final chapter” of life, I feel honored they continue to visit my table and entrust me to give their bodies rest, healing, and rejuvenation. They are my living heroes, survivors, and beautiful examples of lives well lived. They are reminders for me to always live with humility, grace, and introspection at the forefront of aging. As I approach 50, I feel fortunate to observe how others live in ways that matter, and to learn from them. I’m paying attention more than ever to generations before me and feel lucky to have so many of them as clients.

Serving the Underserved Through Safe and Healing Touch

Portrait of ThomasBy Thomas Lavi
Instagram handle: @creating_thomas
Website: https://lavimassage.com/

My name is Thomas Lavi, and I am a transgender man, certified massage therapist, and a dedicated advocate for the queer and transgender communities. I am passionate about providing healing touch to communities where safe, respectful, and rejuvenating touch is often lacking or inaccessible. I feel called to work in massage because of my own journey in learning to embrace my body as a transgender man. I believe that none of us can truly be at peace until we find comfort and safety within our own individual bodies. Massage offers a pathway through which to deepen vital bodily connection, and everyone deserves that opportunity.

My ultimate goal as a massage therapist is to offer those less often served by massage—such as transgender folks, people of color, elderly folks, folks with neurodiversities, and folks with marginalized body types—the chance to experience transformation and connection through safe and healing touch. My practice is continually growing to include specialized knowledge designed to offer comfort and enhanced quality of experience to my clients. Subtle, yet important, acts—such as using inclusive bodily language and respecting my client’s pronoun—is foundational to my practice. I employ integrative work practices, such as inclusive draping techniques designed to offer comfort for people of varying body experience and sizes, as well as consent-based therapy to continually ensure my clients' safety and autonomy. Finally, I offer a variety of specialized techniques, such as trauma-informed care and scar massage techniques for those healing from gender confirmation surgeries.

As a massage therapist, I see endless possibilities for learning and growth, but I feel most excited by the potential to inclusively expand the culture of massage and by the opportunity to offer healing touch to important communities in need.

Healing for the Healers

Portrait of RobBy Rob Meyer-Kukan
Instagram handle: www.instagram.com/robmeyerkukan
Business Facebook page: www.facebook.com/robmeyerkukan
Website: www.7notesnaturalhealth.com

In response to a need made more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, 7 Notes Natural Health decided to enhance its commitment to incorporating opportunities to provide self-care and give back to the greater community. In the past, we have partnered with local agencies and supported other organizations through a giving tree or collecting items on an organization’s wish list. But, considering what we have experienced during the past few years, we were inspired to do more within our community.

7 Notes Natural Health holds at least two giving-back events annually that are aligned with the guiding principle of honoring the healing role practitioners play in our communities. One of these Rob group sessionevents is named “Healing for the Healer” and is focused on individuals working in the healing arts industry (e.g., professionals working in Western and natural forms of medicine, counselors, therapists, social workers, body and energy workers, massage therapists, etc.). This free event allows individuals to receive chair massage, reiki, sound therapy, yoga practice, and other meditation activities that emphasize the importance of self-care.

Another event occurs in the spring near National Teacher Appreciation Week. This is also a free event for anyone working in pre-schools, K–12, and higher education (e.g., teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and all ancillary staff), and provides chair massage, reiki, sound therapy, yoga practice, and other meditation activities that emphasize the importance of self-care.

Body-Neutral, Anti-Racist, Gender-Affirming Bodywork Found Here

Portrait of CesarBy César San Miguel
Instagram handle: @inclusive.massage
Business Facebook page: Inclusive Massage East Bay
Website: inclusivemassage.space

I started my private practice in fall 2019 and was promptly shut down a few months later due to the pandemic. As stressful as it was, I am grateful. It made me think about what really matters to me as an individual, as a man, and as a health and wellness practitioner. In April 2021, I rebranded. Inclusive Massage East Bay was born, with the tagline, “Body-neutral, anti-racist, gender-affirming, trauma-informed massage therapy for pain and stress relief.” The first three values form the ethical core of my business, and trauma-informed describes how I conduct the sessions. I had a branding photo shoot showcasing Black, fat, and queer folks as massage models. My business may be the only one in town whose website shows body hair and rolls of fat. Within weeks, clients started pouring in. I went from having a small handful of regular clients to a full practice in six months.

Hand massageI want to make trauma-informed care the standard in the health and wellness industry, from massage therapy, to internal medicine, and everything in between. My clients have shared so many stories of awful experiences at the hands of care providers, including physicians, massage therapists, and others. How we engage with our clients/patients has a direct impact on their healing. It is our responsibility as care providers to be aware, sensitive, and competent in navigating trauma. This includes our own. We all carry trauma, and if we don’t get with the program we will continue to harm the people we claim to serve. Right now, I am expanding my business to hire more massage therapists who share the same values, and eventually I would like to move into education to create change on the systemic level so that everybody can feel safe in our hands.

 

 

 

From the Trauma of War to the Healing of Bodywork

Portrait of ShawnBy Shawn Shimkets
Instagram handle: @shawnmanwellness

I am a Marine Corps veteran with two Iraq tours under my belt. Following my discharge from service, I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The traditional treatment of anti-anxiety and depression pills were absolutely worthless to me. The pills made me numb to the negative feelings, but they took away the positive feelings, as well. My life slowly fell apart, struggling through a divorce, loss of a job, and totaling my car. I was in a dark place and began to discover that Western medicine had nothing to offer me.

In a series of bizarre circumstances, I found my way into massage school at Healing Hands School of Holistic Health in San Diego. I had MAYBE received two or three massages in my life prior to attending school. It immediately became clear to me how healing bodywork could be. The bodywork that I received throughout my schooling, along with the healing I could provide others, completely changed my outlook on life.

Shawn performing massageI simultaneously began meeting with a group in Southern California called Veterans Walk and Talk (VWAT). The group gathers veterans diagnosed with PTSD and conducts monthly hikes around the area. The sense of community, combined with nature, is unbelievably therapeutic. Members often volunteer their own healing skills at theses gatherings with things like sound healing and plant medicine. I am grateful to be able to incorporate bodywork into this community. The changes I have seen in the members that I have had the pleasure of working on are indescribable. There is no doubt in my mind that touch has the ability to heal not only physical ailments of the body but the mental scars that we acquire throughout our lives. I am honored to provide relief to my fellow veterans.

News

Iowa Adopts Mandatory Reporter Training

The Iowa Board of Massage Therapy adopted new rules that require massage therapists who treat children and dependent adults to complete mandatory reporter training.

Oklahoma Adopts Emergency New Rules Affecting Criminal History

The Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology and Barbering has adopted rules that identify a list of crimes that will disqualify a person from being licensed as a massage therapist. The crime(s) or criminal charge(s) has to be largely related to the practice of massage therapy and pose a sufficient threat to public safety, health, or welfare. The rules became effective January 16, 2023.

Washington Introduces Massage Compact Bill

The Washington legislature introduced House Bill 1437, the Massage Compact, in January 2023. The bill will make it easier for licensed massage therapists to work in other jurisdictions. If you believe an interstate license would benefit massage therapists, write a letter to your representatives.

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