MENTAL HEALTH AND MASSAGE THERAPY
An Effective Approach
"An anxious mind can not exist in a relaxed body” ~ Edmund Jacobson
Massage therapy may seem like an odd place to address mental health. A massage therapist is not a mental health expert. We are experts on helping the body to feel relaxed and at ease. Before I first started my journey into the massage therapy field I was completely consumed by fear. Going to a psychotherapist made a large difference in my life. When I started receiving massage therapy weekly, I found it was an effective complementary approach to taking care of my mental health. I began to feel present in my own body and found myself less lost in anxious thoughts. What I kept finding for myself and others was that no matter what someone came in for, pain, tension, stress, etc, when someone left the session their overall affect was improved. I didn't take this lightly. To me, being able to feel good and relaxed, even for an hour is truly priceless. I have discovered that our mind and body are really not separate. When you work on altering your thoughts your body is also impacted. When you work on the physical body, the mind is impacted. They are one. I primarily work with clients suffering from anxiety, trauma, and pain. Massage therapy can be a supporting role in working with anxiety and trauma by:
Reconnecting the mind to the body
Establishing safe body boundaries
Creating positive body experiences
Working with the nervous system to create safety, regulation, and reduce pain
Taking time to slow down in a world that is moving at lightning speed
Opening up tension patterns in the body that have been operating as an armor to allow freedom of movement and expression
Having a safe space to notice what comes up, feel the feelings, and let them pass through
Anxiety disorders are not just mental. Our body does an amazing job at trying to protect us. Therefore, when there is something to fear our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and prepares us to fight, run away, or freeze. Once we realize it is all safe and clear our body naturally will return to a parasympathetic state where we can rest, digest, heal, and grow. These two systems should keep us in homeostasis. For some, however, they can find themselves stuck in the sympathetic state. This can happen for a variety of reasons including prolonged stress and trauma. Massage can help bring the body back to the parasympathetic.
For depression, the AMTA ( American Massage Therapy Association) states that massage therapy helps because it “promotes relaxation, raises healthy body awareness, helps the client stay in the present moment, reduces the chronic stress response, and helps the client reconnect with his or her inner self through touch.” I have taken an online course from the AMTA on massage and depression and am doing my best to keep up with the research on how massage therapy can be an effective and integrative approach to mental health.
I highly recommend working with a trained mental health provider when suffering from any mental health issues. In some cases, I will require that a client is active in psychotherapy while we are working together. My office is within an amazing integrative counseling center called The Enlightenment Counseling Center. They offer a holistic approach. It can be helpful for clients who are seeing myself and a psychotherapist to sign a release of information form so that I can get support from them to create the most safe and informed treatment as possible. Currently I am offering a mind body collaboration with the co-owner and holistic psychotherapist Jenny Alzate, LPC for clients suffering from anxiety and trauma.
Please contact me if you have any questions about how massage therapy could be of benefit to you.