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Julie Plachta: Serving the Underserved

Woman massages a client who is lying facedown on a massage table.

By Lisa Bakewell

Julie Plachta was one of the winners of ABMP’s Massage Is for EveryBody 2023 contest. As we get closer to celebrating Massage Is for EveryBody, July 14–20, 2024, we wanted to share more of Julie’s story, which exemplifies the inclusive values of this campaign. Please join us in celebrating Julie!

Julie Plachta believes that life experiences shape who we become, and she comprehends this concept on a personal level. “I am a trauma survivor,” Plachta says. “[Massage therapy] taught me the importance—and effectiveness—of self-care.”

Plachta also believes that calming the nervous system while addressing physical discomfort is the central idea behind her practice—as well as the idea kernel for her veteran’s clinic. “At a recent VA [US Department of Veterans Affairs] meeting, I proposed a special clinic for veterans to receive treatments for their nervous system once a month free of charge.” Her community agreed, and Plachta’s dream became a reality. In fall 2023, Plachta opened her veteran’s clinic. She and three trained practitioners serve veterans on a monthly basis during a six-hour shift.

Since 2012, Plachta has been helping others glean their own massage therapy benefits, and she believes everyone should have access to healing treatments and safe human touch—regardless of their financial status. And she puts her time where her mouth is. Plachta donates personal hours each week to serving the underserved—including single moms, elders, veterans, and others in her community.

But Plachta wants more. And so do her clients. “Everyone keeps coming back,” she says, and they are “spreading the word” about how well massage therapy helps them. “We collected a survey after being in operation for six months, and we learned that everyone who filled it out was delighted with the results of the sessions. They reported everything from experiencing reduced stress and anxiety, to less physical pain, better sleep, and an overall feeling of balanced wellness.”

Phase 2 of Plachta’s plan embodies “wanting more” for her community and her clients. “We’ll be setting up at another location to be able to continue to provide our services more regularly to this veteran population,” she says, but she’d also love to work with local drug and alcohol recovery centers.

“It's been a slow process,” she says, “but once this Integrative Wellness Center opens—and I can be fully set up there with other practitioners—we fully intend to move forward with exploring options on how to partner with them and collaborate and offer help to addicts in recovery.

“I want to create a team of healing arts practitioners who make an enduring impact among the underserved. I can finally live out my heart’s mission to serve others in a meaningful way because I have a daily practice of being the change I want to see in the world. With this Wellness Center, I intend to be able to do even more [and will] encourage the others on my team to participate in donating their time! There are many programs we will be offering that will allow for this to be the case. We plan to open our doors in early June!”

In addition to services provided specifically to veterans and people with substance use disorders, Plachta and her team will be creating a “Pay It Forward” program, “where community members can ‘nominate’ someone they’d like to see receive a treatment or service at our center,” she says. “Then we will regularly gift sessions to people on this list. Those in the community, who are financially able to do so, can contribute to a fund that will go toward providing additional treatments to those who are less able to pay for services. This is one way we will make our services available to all citizens, regardless of their financial status.”

Massage therapy helped Plachta heal from personal trauma “in many ways,” she says, both physically (she broke her back twice and endured sports injuries) as well as emotionally and psychologically. Massage therapy was there to help her heal past trauma. “[It] provided me with safe, nonsexual touch, which is worth everything to someone who has multiple sexual traumas in their history—and I had to re-learn what it meant to feel safe in close proximity to another human. Being able to provide that safe-touch experience for others is a part of my healing journey as well, and something I am glad to hold space for—every time I give a session.”

Plachta usually combines multiple modalities in a session but says myofascial release, trigger point, and neuromuscular therapy are among her favorites. “I am also certified in multiple clinical applications of essential oils,” she says, including the AromaTouch Technique and Symphony of the Cells.

When asked where she’ll be in five years, Plachta says she sees herself “thriving with my team of practitioners at the Wellness Center, as we collaborate to work with our clientele to help them achieve their wellness goals. By then, I want to have our extended programs and ‘Phase 2’ operational in order to help more people with mental health/addiction issues, and others as well. Our integrative approach might just be a new model for alternative/complementary health-care practices . . . I hope this idea spreads and serves many people for years to come!”

For more information about Julie Plachta and her services, visit Read her winning 2023 Massage Is for EveryBody essay.

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