"On a small, village property at the top of a 250-foot waterfall, I own, oversee and practice at the Barnet Tradepost Wellness Center, a small interdisciplinary clinic offering massage therapy ... acupunture and more," says Laurajean Stewart. Read more about her unique practice.
What attracted you to the massage therapy profession?
During my second year of college, I was in a car accident that left me somewhat incapacitated for several years. However, there was a soft-tissue physical therapist who practiced Touch for Health Kinesiology. The gains I made under his care were uncanny, even the doctors were amazed.
In 1979, I began working as a chiropractic assistant too and began my career in hands-on health care. In 1983, I became a Touch for Health Instructor and then attended the Swedish Institute. I later joined the faculty, teaching third term Anatomy & Physiology, in addition to a course I created, Touch for Health Kinesiology for Massage Practitioners.
What is your current work environment like?
On a small, village property at the top of a 250-foot waterfall, I own, oversee and practice at the Barnet Tradepost Wellness Center, a small interdisciplinary clinic offering massage therapy by three massage therapists in addition to myself, each practicing a variety of specialties. We also have a board certified acupuncturist and a holistic chiropractor on staff. We offer wellness classes to the community in taichi, yoga, zen archery and some contemplative and fine arts, just to name a few.
The environment is peaceful, beautiful and serene. We have a large zen garden separating the parking lot from the actual building, and our windows look out onto beautiful Vermont nature and vistas.
What is your specialization?
I specialize in soft-tissue injury/orthopedic massage and Touch for Health Kinesiology.
What do you enjoy most about your position?
I am in a situation which truly serves my community. I'm sometimes people's "last resort" when they’ve exhausted everything in the western medical model and are ready to give up. I can often assist them and their bodies toward further well-being. Having experienced my own pain and dysfunction affords me a unique opportunity to empathize with my clients first hand. My schooling, continuing education and apprenticeships have been very important. However, sharing the experience gives me an advantage over many colleagues who haven't lived with similar pain or dysfunction.
What are some of the challenges?
Educating the public. It's also difficult saying "no" when my schedule is already over-booked.
Related: Client Education Resources
What is a typical day like for you?
I'm an early-riser who enjoys the morning silence. I begin client appointments at 7:30 a.m. and generally see six to eight people in one and a half hour segments, five to six days per week.
How has AMTA impacted your career?
I began practicing at a time when masseuse/masseur was how my license read and "massage" was thought of as only being available to the wealthy or athletes. There was very little knowledge nor understanding of massage as a viable therapeutic modality. Certainly the boxer would get massage from his trainer before the big fight, but, for the most part, massage was looked at sideways.
I belonged to the NYS Society of Medical Massage, but AMTA was (still is) the largest and most credible non-profit professional association in our field. I saw that AMTA was working ceaselessly to elevate the profession and create positive impressions about massage, while dispelling myths, so I felt moved to become a member and still proudly volunteer. I'm not done "giving back..."
Also, one of the most important reasons I am proud to be a member is that AMTA has minimum educational requirements for membership and continuing education opportunities, which must be fulfilled to maintain membership. I feel strongly that although intuition helps, knowledge is what makes a good therapist...
Advice for aspiring massage therapists?
Know what you know and know what you don't know. Change your own self-image, we are health care professionals! Surround yourself with a solid professional support system and never stop learning.
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