I first met Joyce on a beautiful spring afternoon at the Atlanta School of Massage campus in Dunwoody, Georgia. My prior information of the alum had been brief, a few simple words from my coworkers stating, “Joyce is fantastic! You’ll have so much fun interviewing her for the ASM blog.” And having engaged the experiences and insight of Joyce Oliver, I can attest that those few simple words hardly did this talented alum justice!
As she entered the room, there was no question in my mind that this woman possessed the secret to a balanced life. Dressed in shades of lavender, Joyce exuded an aura of harmony. I had to do a double-take to make sure she had not, in fact, floated in on a cloud. Her charisma was contagious, and within less than a minute of being in her presence,Joyce had signed me up to experience one of her healing touch massages, and she didn’t even know it!
JO: I graduated from ASM in January of 1990, so this summer will mark the beginning of my twenty-first year as a professional massage therapist. And believe it or not, I’m still in touch with four of my classmates, who are each still practicing as well; oh, and I’m also in touch with a fifth classmate, who loved his career as a therapist, but didn’t take appropriate care of himself and became seriously injured while providing massage services to a US Olympic team. I would love to hear all of the stories and paths of my other fifteen classmates.
JO: In many ways, Massage Therapy has opened doors for me. It has allowed me to meet and connect with some truly wonderful clients, whether for a single visit, or a weekly visit over the past 12 years; from the occasional injured child to the clients well in their 80’s, I work to maintain and restore their strength, balance, and quality of life. All of this in turn enriches my life. In the span of an hour or two, I make a difference in someone’s life, and I know that the work I am doing is important to someone’s well-being. It’s a give and take, harmonious relationship.
JO: It is possibly my approach to the client that paves success. It seems my effectiveness during a session depends on how present or aware I am to see the clues; I take a moment to recognize which questions to ask, or not to ask, [for example] how does their breath move through their body, are their shoulders resting on the table, and dozens more observations that I could miss if I allowed myself to get distracted or if I followed an agenda about what I perceive the session should be about according to their intake. Every session is different, and you have to be present and aware and in the moment for each one.
Perhaps the lessons and gifts we receive from this profession differ depending on the stage of life we are in. For example, as I enter my 60th year of life, I find that compassion is a more present companion in my work. Compassion opens my mind and heart to the person on my table, and to the complexity of the individual being that they are; it’s never just a strained muscle, or even the arthritic joints, but rather, it becomes a representation of their life experiences and current lifestyle that guides and speaks to me from the table.
JO: I never developed a passion for a sport, so exercise has been a real challenge. But, my latest health venture has been a belly dancing class. Talk about working your core muscles! It’s a great work-out for your shoulders, arms and wrists, and you can even practice isolated exercises in the car between housecalls. The hand and wrist exercises and stretching and strengthening are so important for this type of work, and belly dancing is a marvelous way to move not only your energy, but also to exercise your hands and wrists. So, you could say 20 years later, I’m still being challenged and nourished by this work and loving it!
JO: Some time ago, I began exploring Herbalist training, Polarity, and Cranial Sacral modalities, each of which have significantly contributed to the foundation of my understanding the Mind-Body-Spirit approach to wellness. Even my very basic understanding of the herbal medicine taught in the ASM program was helpful in understanding the chemistry aspect of the body and being able to connect it all together to get to the root of the impact of stress and dietary choices and their role in my personal health and even my clients’ overall health. In my case, I learned that limiting inflammatory foods from my diet, while adding new, healthier habits or routines that restore my body’s vitality and resilience has been critical to maintaining my health and my career. Plus, knowing what the body is going through provides a plethora of clues that will tailor the massage in a unique fit just for them.
JO: My favorite CEU class is still Lomi Lomi. The Lomi Lomi work of the Hawaiian people is fun and challenging; sometimes it’s difficult for me to keep both the energy work and my body in a state of continuous flow, as my tendency is to stop at any tense area, hold it, and address the issue until there is a release. But in Lomi Lomi, I have encountered a profound richness to my massage; I had a client that once described this work as feeling like I was massaging her with four arms instead of two! Likewise, I find that through Polarity techniques, I am able to connect with the client in ways and places where nothing else seems to work.
JO: My advice for a long and healthy career in the Massage field is to keep your overhead to a minimum and use your creativity (i.e. buy less and use more of what you’ve already got) to create a work environment that nourishes you, so both you and your clients feel relaxed when you walk in the door. If you live in a small town like I do, integrity and confidentiality are even more precious: a solid reputation takes a long time to rebuild. Keeping a low overhead also means implementing certain lifestyle choices to keep your debt at the minimum; finances can be a major stress for anyone! In fact, one of the best investments I ever made was a little economic car that is dependable; I still do a lot of outcalls, so my durable, 30mpg car has been instrumental with its minimal upkeep and maximum peace of mind. Other than that, I recommend you save all your tips for business expenses and continuing education classes. I like the acronym for tip, “To Improve Performance,” and I truly take this to heart.
And remember, take great care of yourself! If you don’t prioritize massages and health for yourself, how can you expect to attract clients who will do the same?
JO: My words of warning would be to ALWAYS trust your intuition on outcalls and be sure someone ALWAYS knows where you are. In my experience, I only had one situation where things felt creepy, and it was worse that no one knew where I was. I don’t leave business cards in public places for that reason…because you never know exactly who is going to pick up the phone and call you. Instead, I prefer networking and actually handing my card to people with whom I feel a connection. Last, but not least, have enough business sense not to overextend yourself.
JO: As a massage therapist, I think of myself as a gardener. When I am with my client, I feel like I can loosen the soil that may be restricting or preventing a nutrient rich environment from nurturing the seeds of new growth. Once the soil has been tended, I plant new seeds; whether the seed sprouts isn’t up to me. At that point, you have to let go and allow the person to grow a garden that heals them.