Where Do You Work? Client-centered Care

With more than 30 years of experience in the field, Pam Fitch is as knowledgeable as they come. But how did she get started and what advice does she have for younger massage therapists? Read more about Pam's background below. 

What first attracted you to massage therapy?

I have been passionate about human relationships all my life. I experienced my first massage in 1984 and within about 10 minutes, I decided this would be my life’s work. I loved the honesty and simplicity of massage therapy. The medium of touch means that both clients and therapists can usually tell if the other person is comfortable, so the work demands that therapists have integrity. This appealed to me in 1984 and I’ve never lost my fascination with the profession.

What is your current work environment like?

Although I have worked in private practice for almost 30 years and I continue to do so from a tiny home office, I am currently a full-time faculty member at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada. We have two massage therapy programs: the “regular” three year program and a two year “intensive” program for students who already have a degree or credential. I teach most of the professional practice courses including jurisprudence, communication and health. I supervise a couple of community outreach clinics and supervise student-led research projects.

What is your specialization?

For years I have worked with clients with histories of trauma. This has been a major focus of my private practice because I want to help people feel safe within their own bodies, something that has been stolen from those who experience trauma. Observing the courage and strength that my clients demonstrated in overcoming their histories was what compelled me to write Talking Body Listening Hands. Trauma compromises health in so many ways and over the past 15 years, my practice has evolved to helping clients with complex care, scar work and fascial release. What I have learned over the past few decades is that what works well for clients who have histories of trauma, is really good client- centered care. So if I have a specialization, I guess it is in ensuring client-centered care, no matter what the client’s circumstances or condition.

What do you enjoy most about your position?

 Whenever I am put in a position of trust, I feel engaged and excited because I want to embrace whatever challenge I face. My principle job now is as an educator, so most of my interactions occur with students or other faculty. Both education and massage therapy extend enormous privileges to teachers and therapists. We meet our students and clients where they live. They often share personal concerns and issues and it is up to me to listen carefully, respond respectfully and extend compassion and care. That privilege and position of trust is the most essential and important part of my job. That and the fact that I get to hang out with a new crop of students every year and learn what makes them tick.  I am almost 60 years old, so crossing those generational bridges helps to keep me feeling connected and young.

What are some of the challenges?

My biggest challenges lie not with my personal work or role at my college but more with my ongoing relationship with the profession. I believe that massage therapists keep biting their own tails because we have lost a certain degree of perspective and history of our profession. Without it, I hear harsh criticism and “camps” of believers establish themselves on social media. This makes true inquiry difficult because it creates a culture of fear. I would like more questions and more reflection rather than finger-pointing or absolutes.  I embrace evidence-informed care and I am dismayed when I hear therapists or entrepreneurs talking about the benefits of their products without any legitimate proof for their hypotheses. 

What is a typical day like for you?

There is really no typical day other than teaching or not teaching. At Algonquin we think in terms of weeks in a term. Thankfully my College supports faculty working at home so I am privileged to do much of my course preparation in my tiny home office. I am in the classroom about 16 hours per week and the rest of my time is spent meeting with students, writing, consulting and seeing a few clients. To clear my head, I try to get to the pool, go cycling or walking in the allotment gardens near my house.

How has AMTA impacted your career?

I have written for AMTA's Massage Therapy Journal on numerous occasions and in my time as president of my provincial association in Canada, I consulted with AMTA regularly. This association has contributed enormously to the governance and leadership of massage therapy around the world. Every massage therapist has benefited from AMTA. We would all be much poorer without it.

Advice for aspiring massage therapists?

Take care of yourself, and get massaged regularly. Make sure you get enough rest. Eat sensibly and enjoy good food. Spend quality time with friends. Create long-term personal and professional goals and work towards them. As a profession intent on caring for others, we frequently neglect our own needs. If we neglect our own interests or personal needs, then we will become depleted. Paradoxically, by extending respect and compassion to others, we feed our motivation and professional commitment. When therapists can share their energy, focus and care with clients without depleting themselves, magical things can happen. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times.

Learn More:

Pam's online course can be found here:  Massage Therapy for Depressed Clients

"As a professional member of AMTA, I have found comfort in knowing that all the effort I put into obtaining my massage certification is recognized and protected. AMTA standards validate the profession."

Kim K., AMTA member since 2003