Healwell is Growing Up!

It’s already been a big year for Healwell and the second half of 2017 promises to continue the same trend.  You are our community and it is because of your support, your sharing of our courses and our announcements and our programs that we have been able to grow and grow.  Your support makes a difference every day.

Check out all the ways Healwell is growing up!

Dr. Hunter Groninger, Director, Palliative Care, Anne Kelemen, LICSW, Katherine LaVelle, Healwell Board Member, Lucille A. Eddy, Healwell Program Director, Kerry Jordan, Healwell Operations, Mika Standard, Senior Philanthropy Officer, MedStar, Lauren Cates, Healwell Executive Director attending MedStar Health Research Institute's Annual Research Symposium

Dr. Hunter Groninger, Director, Palliative Care, Anne Kelemen, LICSW, Katherine LaVelle, Healwell Board Member, Lucille A. Eddy, Healwell Program Director, Kerry Jordan, Healwell Operations, Mika Standard, Senior Philanthropy Officer, MedStar, Lauren Cates, Healwell Executive Director attending MedStar Health Research Institute’s Annual Research Symposium

Generous grants from long-time Healwell supporter, The Palmer Foundation, and The Charles and Mary Latham Fund have opened the door to an exciting partnership with MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Health Research Institute to conduct two important hospital-based massage therapy studies; a 12-week pilot study and a 2-year dosing study, both measuring the effect of massage therapy on quality of life and overall experience of care.  These studies will not only bring comfort to hundreds of palliative care patients who participate in them, but the data we collect will provide essential support for a much-needed roadmap toward meaningful integration of massage therapy as a standard of care.

The two-year massage therapy dosing study will launch this fall and we are already underway treating patients in the Latham-funded palliative massage pilot project.

Meanwhile, Healwell has become an active member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, broadening our local foothold with Arlington business leaders.  On the national stage, Healwell has become an active voice in an advancing conversation about national standards for the safe practice of oncology massage.

We have also been invited to participate in the recently-launched National Migraine Coalition.  The Coalition brings together unique stakeholders in the employer, wellness, and disability and migraine awareness sectors to better address the economic impact of this important health issue.  The time is right for broad collaboration across sectors to bring real health and resources to people who have been without them for so long.

Nancy Keeney Smith, teaching Traumatic Scar Management (notice another scar tissue education heavy hitter, Jamie Elswick looking on over Nancy’s right shoulder)

This year also saw a handful of sold-out courses taught by the Healwell team as well as guest instructors, Nancy Keeney Smith, Cathy Ryan and Jamie Elswick.  We have focused our offerings and continue to provide a path for advanced practice with new material and innovative partnerships.

Our hands-on programs at Children’s National Medical Center, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and Virginia Hospital Center all continue to do incredible work and build new relationships as patient and regulatory demand increase for integrative nonpharmacologic therapies like massage therapy.  Healwell is in perfect position to answer the growing call because of you and this strong community of like-minded humans who know that touch is not a luxury and connection is key to healing.

We’re looking forward to sharing the data we’re collecting, the courses we’re creating and comfort we’re providing and we’re so grateful to you for your ongoing support and excitement about the future.

Another way in which Healwell has grown up is that we have recently engaged with an exciting online platform to make donating to Healwell even simpler than before with the tools provided by Network for Good.  We’re thrilled to be growing our community of folks who are making monthly contributions that are easy on the checkbook, but big on impact.  Go check out our new look and see what our new platform can do for you in your desire to support Healwell.

Meet the team! Mishka K. Cira, Healwell Board Member

photo of Mishka K. Cira

Mishka K. Cira

Mishka K. Cira, MPH joined Healwell’s Board of Directors in December 2016. She is a graduate of Potomac Massage Training Institute and is now contractor to the Center for Global Health at the National Cancer Institute-NIH.  She works with governments in low- and middle-income countries to support their national cancer control planning process, by linking them with necessary resources and expertise.

Mishka’s experience and training blends massage, public policy, healthcare, and research. She’s smart, funny, and friendly. So, you can see why we think she’s a catch! We asked her to tell us a little about why she joined our Board and what Healwell means to her. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you discover Healwell?
I had the honor of first meeting Healwell’s Executive Director, Lauren Cates, in 2009 when I visited the Healwell hospital-based program at the Virginia Hospital Center.  Lauren was extremely approachable, and walked me through all of the relationships they had built at the hospital, and the skilled therapeutic massage program they had developed for patients much in need of physical and psycho-social support.  At the time I was looking to adapt some of Healwell’s program model to a hospital-based massage program for pediatric cancer patients I was leading in Hanoi, Vietnam, where I was living at the time.  After that initial meeting, I was drawn into Heawell’s model of skilled, clinical care coupled with compassionate understanding of each patient’s journey.  My work has since evolved to a focus on global public health, but I continue to hold patient care, and especially palliative care, as part of my focus within global cancer control.  When I moved back to DC in 2016, I re-connected with Lauren, and was so excited to learn about the opportunity to serve on Healwell’s Board.  It’s a great opportunity for me to stay involved in the field of integrative therapies, while supporting Healwell’s dedicated therapy team and mission to support patients through some of the most challenging moments that they face.

What exactly is your role as a board member? In your opinion/experience how does the Board of Directors support Healwell’s mission and work?
Through my study of and work in public health, I’m very interested in supporting Healwell to build an evidence-based case for this model of skilled integrative care for patients.  I see my role as supporting the Healwell Board and staff to identify potential research questions, grant opportunities, and partnerships to strengthen the body of knowledge around the need for skilled, trained, and compensated integrative therapeutic care, and how that model of care helps health facilities reach their underserved populations.  I see the overall role of Board as being both a sounding board for innovative work that the staff identifies based on their on-the-ground expertise, as well as a guiding body to ensure that Healwell stays focused and true to its mission.

What is most compelling/rewarding to you about the work Healwell does and your role in the organization?
Simply, to have the opportunity to serve this organization is the most rewarding thing possible.  Healwell strives to be present for each individual patient’s needs, and to champion the reduction of health disparities through access to quality integrative care.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Thank You for Believing in Humans Touching Humans in 2016


“I forgot I had cancer.”

“The massage made my chemotherapy so much less stressful.”

“Massage was an integral part of the care we when our 4-month-old daughter was treated for a brain tumor.”

“Life changing.” “Eye and heart opening.” “…an excellent balance of the art and science.”

It’s been a big year for Healwell…thanks, in large part, to you.  Your support has created countless experiences like the ones above.  Your contribution made the real lives of real people better.

There is a lot of change in our world, but our need for touch never changes. When you share your time, your wisdom and your dollars with Healwell you tell us you believe in the value of humans touching humans.

In 2016, you and Healwell:

-trained more than 300 healthcare providers all over the US and in Australia

– enjoyed the vision and clarity afforded by working from a ratified budget and business plan for the first time in Healwell’s history (We’re really growing up!)

touched thousands of humans, including those in our two newest programs at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates infusion center and at Goodwin House in Alexandria and Arlington

– welcomed three new board members from healthcare, government and non-profit sectors

paid three staff people a (small) monthly stipend for the first time ever (That’s how we got so much done!)

– partnered with Washington Hospital Center and The Samueli Institute to earn a 2017 $15,000 pilot grant

– grew our Facebook audience from less than 300 to over 1,000 followers

revamped the website to make class enrollment simpler, to maximize internet visibility and to offer a wider array of options for how people can support Healwell

If you have recently made your donation to Healwell, we thank you for your support.  If not, you can still make a big difference by giving today. Please consider setting up a monthly, sustaining contribution in any amount that feels personally meaningful.  Sustaining donations are essential to long-term planning.  It’s easy to set them up directly through the website or using the enclosed form.

Thank you again for helping us continue to demonstrate the power and value of touch.  It matters.


Lauren Cates

Executive Director


Superstar Teagan

Imagine that your child is born and mere weeks later she is diagnosed with a so-often-deadly ATRT brain tumor.  Eric Annis and Amanda Leland don’t have to imagine.  That’s exactly what happened to them and their daughter, Teagan.

We got to touch them…and they touched us.

They sent us this quick video because they wanted to share their first-hand love of Healwell.

Beyond Beautiful: Dianna Dapkins from Pure Pro

dianna-dapkinsDianna Dapkins is the creator and president of Pure Pro high quality massage products. Healwell uses Pure Pro’s Hypoallergenic Massage Lotion for all of our Oncology Massage classes and hands-on clinics. For years Dianna has been generously donating this lotion to our students. We asked her to tell us a little bit about how Healwell’s mission aligns with Pure Pro’s and why she chooses to support Healwell with the gift of her products and friendship. Here’s what she has to say:

When I was in massage school in Cambridge 26 years ago we were told never to touch a person with cancer. Just don’t. So we didn’t dare.

So much has changed and Healwell is at the forefront of making these changes working with Oncology Massage for children and adults. This means a lot to me because although I ended up creating Pure Pro and manufacturing arnica, creams and lotions for other MTs with sensitive skin, I will always be a bodyworker first. Medical massage is my passion. I want people to fully experience so much of what we KNOW massage can do.

Seth Godin writes a fantastic business and marketing blog and I was surprised by the title of this post when I came across it last week. He wrote:

“In Search Of Palliatives
A palliative is a treatment that soothes even if it can’t cure the illness.
By all means, whenever you can, fix the problem, go to the root cause, come up with a better design…
But when you can’t (and that’s most of the time, because the straightforward problems have already been solved), the effort you put into providing a palliative will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.”

So even the “business” world is waking up to the beauty of what we do. And to me, Oncology Massage is beyond beautiful.

Everyday Healwell is getting this work out there into therapists’ hands and soothing patients. I am honored to partner with them to provide our massage lotion to their students while they learn new techniques. Healwell is transforming the medical system by saying “Yes, we can touch a person with cancer. Yes, we can touch any person with chronic illness or complex medical needs.” And showing them how. Even better!



Founded in 1992, Pure Pro has distinguished itself by adhering to values of quality, purity, efficacy, and education. Each Pure Pro product is the result of Dianna’s own hands-on experience combined with feedback from thousands of massage professionals. Learn more at PurePro.com.

Making It Up As We Go Along

By Lauren Muser Catesgoldfish

Oncology massage is full of “it depends” and “maybe, but…” scenarios. This feature may truly be at the root of why I love it so much. There is no one answer and there never will be. Hallelujah!

I feel incredibly lucky to have been mentored by two of the kindest, most thoughtful and compassionate practitioners and seekers I may ever meet. Tracy Walton and Gayle MacDonald. Certainly, I have had many mentors, but these two women are pioneers in the field of oncology massage and are fearless, in the truest, most expansive sense of the word. They lead with love and humility. They have paved the way for all of us who have come behind them. They started touching people with cancer and medically complicated people in the hospital when schools were actually teaching that this was downright dangerous. Their hearts and their basic common sense, rooted in science and deep curiosity told them that not only was it okay to touch these people, it was imperative.

The problem…or the gift, depending on your perspective… with being the first people do something is that you don’t have a map. You have to make it up as you go along. You gather all of the resources available. Books, other practitioners, science, research, feedback, spoken and unspoken, from the people you’re actually touching. It’s a lot of really thoughtful trial and error. It’s about knowing that there is a way to do what you’re doing that will really matter and may even improve the often difficult experience of disease and illness.

It’s an art, really.  You may be more familiar or, let’s face it, more comfortable with the term “evidence-based practice” and that certainly does sound fancier and more fundable and respectable, but really…? It’s about going along with great care and great curiosity and paying attention.  The more we do, the more “evidence” we have that what we’re doing is working…or not. It’s about malleability and a willingness to be wrong and then to go back again and make adjustments.

Any practitioner worth his or her salt is making it up as they go along.  When we go to work every day, we are showing up to the moment. We’re paying attention to what we see, what we feel, what we do…and then to what happens after.  If all of that paying attention starts to reveal a pattern or two or four? We start wondering if we’re making up something that’s worth doing again.  And then…? Maybe we decide it’s so worth doing again that we want to teach other people how to do it.  And then there are more people making it up as they go along and we get new ideas and new ways of doing the things that are now old. This is how our specialty grows and spreads its strong, deep roots.

I’ve been teaching a handful of the “same” courses for the past 8 years or so.  Anyone who has attended these courses will tell you that they’re actually not at all the same after 8 years.  As I teach, I learn.  As I learn, I change.  I see challenge and I invite innovation.  This is what we all do. We say, “How ’bout if we…?” and “It’s hard for me to do it that way, so I do this instead.”

We all scratch our heads and wonder if it’s okay to do it this way instead of that and we get nervous when we walk away from each other knowing that I’m still going to do it the way I do it and you’re still going to do it the way you do it.  When we get nervous, we get small.  When we get small, we get quiet. When we get quiet, it leaves a lot of room for all of us to make up stories.

Stories are powerful.Story  They can destroy and they can create.  When we let them out of our heads and share them, it’s hard for fear and smallness to survive. They shed light.  They expose assumptions.  They show us the road that led us from where we were to the place of nervous then to small then to quiet…and then to separate.

Making it up as you go along means paying attention to what you’re doing. It means remembering that the person under your hands is the most important thing at that moment. Always. It means remembering that it’s hardly ever “about you.” It means staying in the present and keeping up with clinical advances.  It means asking when you don’t understand.  It means inviting dialogue and staying open when that dialogue isn’t what you want it to be.  And as important as all the rest of that is the making of enough space for everybody else to do those same things.

When oncology massage stops bending and changing and growing like this…? I’ll find another job.

Meet the team! Bettina Peterson, CMT

Tina Peterson, CMT is one of Healwell’s direct service practioners. She was kind enough to share her smart, beautiful thoughts about her work providing massage (dancing in space and time, and listening, listening, listening) at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia.

Please start by tellinTina Petersong us a little about yourself.
I live in Falls Church, Virginia. I have been working for Healwell for two years. I lived overseas for most of my growing up years – my father worked with foreign aid.   I became a professional ballet dancer. I later danced ballroom and Argentine tango professionally. Ever since I was little (as shown by my early journals in pre-school in Zambia, Africa) I have wanted to be a doctor or nurse. Life doesn’t always happen the way you would like it to though. I began working as a medical transcriptionist in a multi-specialty medical practice over 35 years ago. After becoming pregnant, I decided to launch out on my own and I started my own medical transcription company, serving over 125 private practices in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. I did this for 30+ years and continue to do this. During this time, I also felt the need to go back to trying to be a doctor or working in the medical field. I worked at Inova Fairfax Hospital in the ICU as a medical tech – where I fell in love with patient care. In my position, I was able to take time to listen to the patients and their families as I cared for them. I had responsibilities to perform, but I also had the “luxury” of being able to spend time with the patients. This was where I felt at home – being of service to people.

What drew you to hospital-based massage? Beyond your foundational massage program, what additional courses/training did you take to prepare you to provide massage in a hospital setting?
One day 10 years ago, I found massage therapy. I decided to go to the best school I could find in the area, and I ended up at Potomac Massage Training Institute. With my strong medical background, I always leaned towards thinking about massage in a hospital setting. Since I worked for so many physicians in the area (in my medical transcription job), I started talking to all the doctors I could about massage. While I was going to PMTI, I used as many of the doctors I worked for as part of my case study. I tried to educate the doctors about the benefits of massage and how this could be used to help their patients.

After I graduated from PMTI, the doctors I had been massaging and talking to about massage, started to refer their patients to me. I opened my own practice before I graduated from PMTI – getting a beautiful space in McLean, Virginia. Soon after I started my practice, a friend referred me to a woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of stage IV uterine cancer. This intrigued me – and so I agreed to go to her house to see her. I read Gayle McDonald’s book, “Medicine Hands,” and learned a lot from her book.

At this time, Lauren Muser Cates was on my radar and I started to follow her from afar. I saw that she offered Oncology Massage courses and I tried to pull my things together and take these courses. I also saw that she was massaging in the hospital. Over the course of a couple of years I took Lauren’s “Opening to the Mystery” course, which was life changing. I subsequently took her six-day Oncology Massage Course and finally was accepted into the Healwell Stewardship program at VHC.

I currently have a private practice in McLean and Arlington, Virginia. In addition to working for Healwell, I work at the Teal Center. I also work for Capital Caring Hospice, seeing patients in their homes.

When you began working in the hospital did you find there were things for which your training had not adequately prepared you?
When I began working in the hospital, I felt that the courses I took from Lauren and Healwell completely prepared me to be unprepared. I have always been curious and loved the medical setting, so nothing about what I was faced with as far as patients and their diagnoses scared me. What I learned from the Stewardship and Lauren and Lucille, is that I should go into a patient’s room with an open heart, soft hands, and a listening ear.

You work, almost exclusively with palliative care patients in your work at Virginia Hospital Center.  This means that most of your patients are either in an end of life process or dealing with serious issues of pain, infection or other medical complications.  What do you enjoy about this work?
I not only work with the Palliative Care team, I also work for the Teal Center as the only Inpatient Massage Therapist for VHC, so far. The work I do in the hospital has been one of the most rewarding things I have done with my life. I have the opportunity to listen to people and be with people at one of the most vulnerable and challenging times of their lives. I get to treat a patient in the hospital as a PERSON, not a disease or a diagnosis. I get to hear their stories from either themselves or from their loved ones. It is perhaps the most intimate time I spend with people. A lot of people I see in the hospital are in pain, anxious, scared, feeling a loss of dignity, tired of being poked and prodded. I have the opportunity to change some of that, even if it is for a short time when I am in the room. I get to see patients relax and quite often fall asleep, after having not been able to sleep for days. I get to have patients say to me they no longer have the pain that they were complaining of when I first walked into the room. Sometimes I get to touch patients who have no family or who are alone, and I get to be a small, hopefully positive, part of their experience in the hospital.

What do you find challenging about this work?
The most challenging and frustrating part of the work is the lack of education, awareness and funding for massage therapists in the hospital. If physicians, nurses, administrators and any other decision-making authority could talk to the patients who have received massage therapy and get feedback on how beneficial receiving a massage has been to them and their perception of their hospital experience, I would hope that having massage therapy as a part of the hospital setting would become as routine as having physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.

How are you received by other members of the hospital team?
The Palliative Care team has been the most open, welcoming team I could dream of working with. I have been able to talk to them about massage and its benefits. I have demonstrated what massage looks like in the hospital and why it is so beneficial – to my surprise, most of the members were not fully aware of what this kind of massage was like. They have also gotten feedback from the patients (who, if they are still in the hospital week to week, specifically request that I come back) I see and now I feel I am truly a part of the team and that they respect what I, as a massage therapist, am doing. They ask for my input in Rounds and ask what I can do for the patients.

Outside of palliative care, when I see patients as the inpatient massage therapist, the nurses and doctors welcome my yellow pants when I walk into a patient’s room.

Without, of course, revealing anything identifiable, tell us about a patient who particularly touched you.
All of the patients I have been privileged to see have touched me and changed me. One patient stands out. Due to her family dynamics and arguments about her advanced directives and who knows what else, the family had basically not visited her for many days. She was actively dying and alone when I went to see her. I quietly talked to her and let her know I was there. I touched her in the quiet hospital room with no one around. We danced in the space and time of that moment – it was beautiful. Her breathing slowed and finally she passed away as I held her hand. I was so honored that I was able to be with her at that time and to let her know she was not alone.

What advice would you offer to other massage therapists who want to work in this environment?
Full hearts, open minds, be forever curious, lose all judgments, treat the patient as a human being, not a diagnosis or disease. Listen, listen, listen.



Thoughts on the Hospital Stewardship 5 Years Later

1375275_530604127019053_1098772742_nWhen I signed up for the 10 day Healwell course I intended to become a massage therapist working in a hospital. It was my dream, or so I thought. Nearly five years later, I have not worked in a hospital as a massage therapist, nor volunteered at a hospital as a massage therapist, yet I am still profoundly grateful I attended the stewardship program. Here’s why…

Healwell is an incredible experience of being in a supportive environment of classmates and instructors in a hospital setting. The lessons and insights learned in working in the ICU, oncology and rehab floors and the dynamics of each patient, and sometimes their family members in the room are invaluable to any massage therapist. Learning skills such as charting as part of electronic medical records (EMR), positioning in hospital beds, using hospital beds, working around oxygen and IV lines, and interacting with hospital staff etc. are incredibly valuable skills. And also understanding the unpredictability and assortment of challenges that arise when working in a hospital setting.

I have numerous examples from my stewardship experience, however one patient encounter still resonates with me today. I was assigned a room where the patient was actively dying from leukemia, his family was also present. As my classmate and I walked toward his room my own nerves and self-doubt kicked in as I was a rather new massage therapist. My classmate, with more years of experience than I, put her hands on my shoulders and said ‘trust yourself’. Because we walked through that hospital room door we touched a family. I watched vital signs stabilized on a monitor. I held shoulders as family members cried. Through that experience I was profoundly touched and reassured of what massage therapists can offer to the world.

All of these skills were 100% transferable to my own office in working with persons in cancer treatment or a cancer history, and also in my work for 3.5 years as a traveling massage therapist with hospice going into patient homes and nursing facilities. I learned necessary skills throughout the stewardship program and also learned to be adaptable, to trust my training as a massage therapist and mostly to be fully present with a patient when so many other things were going on around them. Being present with a patient is a skill which transfers anywhere, and was reiterated numerous times during the course, through patient interactions and also class activities.

best-silly-group-healwell-150x150Being part of the Stewardship Program and having a small glimpse of working in a hospital profoundly helped me to shape my private massage practice. I realized that working in my office is a better arrangement for me and that many times I have repeat clients after they are discharged from the hospital, or after their weekly chemo infusion. My office can be a place of calm for those going through or recovering from medical treatment who want a break from their medical journey and that my skills as a massage therapist can allow a client to be supported and to be exactly where they are in their process.

Stacey Schultz
Oncology Massage Therapist
Malaika Massage Therapy
Rochester, MN


Traumatic Scar Management: An Interview with Nancy Keeney Smith

Nancy-Keeney-SmithHealwell is honored to be presenting Traumatic Scar Management with Nancy Keeney Smith at the Teal Center, January 8-10, 2016. She was gracious enough to spend some time talking with us about her work, the class, and her soon-to-be-released textbook.

Healwell: How did you get involved in this kind of work? What drew you to it?

Nancy Keeney Smith: I was looking for an alternative to surgery and medication for my own issues with scarring and lymphatic issues. A friend was a student at the Florida School of Massage and needed a journal entry. The impact on my scarring and health was immediate. Several years later I decided to go to massage school to help those like myself with traumatic scarring.

Healwell: Talk a little about why you use the term “traumatic scar tissue.” Isn’t all scar tissue evidence of trauma?

NKS: It’s true trauma is in the eye of the one with scar tissue. Scars are not obligated to be problematic – where would we be without our body’s natural ability to heal itself following a wound? However, normal physiological processes can be altered in a variety of ways and, when altered, this constitutes what is termed pathophysiology.

Abnormal or pathophysiological scars can impact function within and beyond their physical borders and present considerations outside of the physical/physiological aspect of the scar.

Problematic scarring following planned and unplanned trauma can be accompanied by serious physiological and psychological considerations and, as such, led me to co-author a book with Cathy Ryan, RMT entitled TRAUMATIC SCAR TISSUE MANAGEMENT.

Traumatic scars can occur as a result of accidents, acts of violence and other catastrophic events (e.g. disease, burn accident and surgery).

 Healwell:What motivated you to offer this class with Healwell? How does Healwell’s mission connect to the work you do?

NKS: Healwell is an industry leader in presenting cutting edge therapies that are relevant to today’s professional body worker. I am honored to present the class to the Healwell community.

I offer my services to the burn survivor and cancer communities in my area. I offer a sliding scale and pro bono work for those that can’t afford a session. Healwell’s mission statement of demonstrating the ability of hands-on integrative therapies to measurably improve outcomes for patients through clinically sound, replicable methods is what I strive for in my teaching.

Healwell: What’s your favorite thing about teaching this work?

NKS: The “ah-ha” moments in a student during lecture and hands-on demonstrations; assisting students to recognize they can do this type of work with the skill set they have; and to hear from former students about how the information and work has enhanced their practice.

Healwell: Do you have a teaching moment of which you are particularly proud?

NKS: Just one? I have several students that have started their own journey with teaching and opening clinics for traumatic scar clients that include burns, cancer survivors, and returning veterans. I’m so proud of them and how they are opening doors for others to experience the work.

Healwell: You mentioned that you have a book coming out soon (January 2016). Tell us a little about that.SMITH-Front-cover-website-1-Sep-15

NKS: I was honored to be a presenter at the International Massage Therapy Foundation research conference in Boston, Massachusetts in April of 2013. After my presentation, I was introduced to Mary Law of Handspring Publications (Check out their stable of authors! Very humbling.) and Cathy Ryan, the chair of the College of Massage Therapists in British Columbia.

Cathy and I found a common bond in our approach to traumatic scar tissue and noticed a lack of published information for body workers. We recognized the management of scar tissue is a growing problem for massage and manual therapists. In our teachings, we have found many are afraid to deal with it in their practice. This book shares research that shows appropriate massage treatment can have significant results both physically and psychologically. Existing books may dedicate one chapter on the problem but there is no practical manual available on the subject which instructs the therapist what to do and how to do it. TRAUMATIC SCAR TISSUE MANAGEMENT fills the gap, explaining the physiological and pathophysiological background and provides practical guidance on how to help our clients and patients.

Healwell: What makes Traumatic Scar Management different from other scar tissue massage courses?

NKS: Traumatic Scar Tissue Management builds a foundation of knowledge from the anatomy and physiology of scar tissue and research on scar tissue and manual therapy. This course includes exploring the important role the lymphatic and nervous system plays in scar healing, interviewing techniques and clinical decision-making for working with all types of traumatic scarring including cancer, surgery, and burns. Therapists will put their knowledge to use during a hands-on clinic with volunteer traumatic scar clients.

Therapists are encouraged to bring their own experiences and questions to the classroom. I make no claim on having the only way or the best way-just presenting data and clinical observations to assist the therapist in working safely and confidently with all types of traumatic scarring.

Whether the client’s scar tissue was brought on by a burn, surgery, auto accident, injury or cancer recovery, scar management treatment can help with range of motion and improve their quality of life. I enjoy combining years of research with my clinical experience of scar clients to develop a protocol that combines gentle hands-on techniques to facilitate the best healing environment.

Healwell: What’s a common mistake/misconception that you encounter when teaching massage therapists about working with scar tissue?

NKS: That you will cause the client pain when you are doing the work. This is where the knowledge acquired in class eases the fear and instills confidence in the therapist.

Another is the need to go deep and hard on the scar tissue. We learn why this is not the best idea for lasting effects.

Healwell: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our community?

In the developed world alone, a total of 100 million people develop scars each year as a result of 55 million elective operations and 25 million operations after trauma. Current statistics estimate that over 50% of postsurgical patients will experience scar-related complications.

Millions of people, world-wide, are inflicted with non-fatal burn injuries. Although mortality and morbidity from burns have diminished significantly over the past several decades, these statistics do not reflect the overall impact on the burn survivor and how well they carry on with life and manage post-burn deformities, contractures and other disabilities that collectively present with aesthetic and functional considerations.

The prevalence of occurrence, complications and sequelae associated with problematic scars, of varying etiology, present important clinical, economic and social considerations.

My hope is the therapists that sign up for the class will be ready to open their clinic doors and help the traumatic scar population regain their quality of life.

Healwell: Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge, Nancy. We are so grateful and excited to bring your class to the Healwell community.

There is still time to enroll in Nancy’s Traumatic Scar Management class at the Teal Center in Arlington, January 8-10, 2016. Register today!

Nancy Keeney Smith is a Board Certified Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Lymph Drainage Therapist, and a Florida and NCTMB Provider of Scar Management Workshops.  Nancy’s Scar Management Workshops have been taught internationally to students, LMT’s, PT’s and OT’s.  Nancy is a member of the Associate Research Team at the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville, Florida, former 1st VP of the AMTA Florida Chapter, member of the American Burn Association, the National Lymphedema Network, and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. She has a private practice in Gainesville, Florida. You can learn more about Nancy at www.ntouchtherapy.com. You can order a copy of her text book from Handspring Publishing.