Moving to a new community is no easy undertaking, let alone moving to Ashland. The community can either embrace you or simply send you moving along on your way. Then consider being a self-employed body worker coming into a town full of body workers and you really have to find ways to set yourself apart from the pack… and this is exactly what Stephanie Shrum has done!
Within six months upon arrival, Stephanie had set down roots in the community and began to establish her thriving massage practice. Incorporating her vast experience of work, travel and training onto the table with her clients, you didn’t need to look far to see real talent and expertise in action.
I did an interview with Stephanie last year. You might remember her as the massage therapist that didn’t work by the clock and offered “Hour and a Half Plus” sessions. She pays particularly close attention to what each client needs and then meets those needs. Stephanie also holds a great reverence and respect for her clients, considering it an honor to be able to offer bodywork to them. As part of her contribution to the Ashland community, Stephanie writes a monthly column in the LocalsGuide sharing some of her favorite stories and travel experience with our readers, from “Untangling Golden Chains,” a story about untangling necklaces in her grandmother’s jewelry box as a little girl and how this relates to bodywork, to “Dancing with a Thai Master,” a story of adventure and massage in Thailand.
Today we reconnect with Stephanie to review her past year in Ashland. We will also learn more about Stephanie’s many travel adventures and her exciting massage education opportunities for 2014.
Come with me now to learn about the unique nature of Stephanie Shrum’s bodywork sessions and her creative massage classes.
Stephanie, congratulations on making great inroads into Ashland and thanks for doing this follow up interview with us today.
Thank you so much for talking to me again. When I moved from Portland almost two years ago, I knew that the natural beauty and slower pace that Ashland offers would be nourishing for me personally, but I had no idea how welcoming the community would be for me professionally. I was a bit concerned that the smaller size might make it slow to establish my practice here. Instead, it became an incredible asset. Word of mouth spreads much faster in a smaller town. My practice was busier after only a year in Ashland than it was after five years in Portland. I am so grateful for the warm welcome I have received here.
Well, I must say that you are doing something really interesting and you clearly excel at what you do, so it makes sense that you would have a great response by the community.
I totally agree with you. What I’ve found is that people who connect with and understand my work are connoisseurs themselves, very interesting and worldly people. They want a different experience and have a higher expectation, which I gladly meet. As a whole, I find that people in Ashland put a high value on health and vitality. I know that having a healthy body hugely impacts quality of life. It is an honor to be able to support people’s physical health so that they can take advantage of all the beauty and activities that Ashland has to offer. For all of these reasons, Ashland is a great fit for me.
This brings up a good point. Let’s talk about the quality of work and experiences that have supported you in gaining the knowledge you have. What has helped you to set the bar high and then to continually live up to those standards and beyond?
I have had many learning curves over the past fifteen years. When I first got my license, I was so hungry to get experience; I would practically do a massage anytime, anywhere. I spent full days working in a medical and chiropractic setting then I’d often see clients at my home office in the evenings. Occasionally, I’d even schlep my table to hotels for in-room massage on the weekends. Although I learned a lot very quickly by working so often, in hindsight, I realized that being available to work all the time was out of balance. As a new therapist I had not yet learned about the importance of setting aside personal time.
Fortunately, even back then, I did realize the importance of receiving massage and bodywork. I knew that I couldn’t’t afford NOT to get massage, even when my budget was tight. I invested in a bodywork session at least once every two weeks. Physically it supported my body to do the 25+ massages I was giving each week, but it also helped me in many other ways. I learned by receiving great bodywork as well as by receiving some not-so-great bodywork.
The great experiences positively impacted my quality of touch. The unpleasant experiences gave me great insight from a client’s perspective, ensuring I would not repeat the same mistakes. I also like that I was practicing what I preached.
Today, I have a better sense of balance. I only see three clients a day. This ensures that I have the energy to provide a quality session with every client without being tired at the end of the day. I do Pilates twice a week to maintain my own strength and flexibility. I also make sure to schedule in fun time, like going to Salsa and ballroom dancing. I know that many people struggle with finding balance in their own life. Since this has been something I have had to learn for myself over the years, it is one of the things that I am most passionate about: teaching others how to balance caring for self while also caring for others.
This is very interesting to hear you talk about. Can you speak more about some of your challenges and some of the benefits you gained by investing in your own self care?
It was risky for me to pay for bodywork for myself when I wasn’t sure what my income would be in a week or in a month. I took a leap of faith to put myself first.
My regular bodywork sessions helped me more than just physically. I first started practicing in New Orleans, where I had a highly skilled Rolfer and also an amazing CranioSacral therapist. John DeMahy and Alice Quaid became my unofficial mentors. Each of them had been in the healthcare field for decades and we would talk shop while I was receiving quality work. It was wonderful because they taught me about my body and about the industry. They gave me feedback when I had questions about my own clients. We shared referrals. John even helped me with my application to become a nationally approved continuing education provider – sharing what he had learned when he navigated through the process himself. I am so grateful for the roles they played in my life and practice. My experiences with John and Alice are part of my inspiration for offering my 2014 Mentorship series.
Stephanie, tell us more about your own training.
Since 1997, I have logged almost 2000 hours of massage, bodywork and healing training. My primary influences are myofascial therapy, Thai Massage, CranioSacral therapy, visceral manipulation, muscle-energy techniques, structural integration, Watsu, Osteo-Thai and studies at the Esalen Institute. Having such a broad range of experience helps me to offer very eclectic bodywork sessions and interesting continuing education workshops.
Yes, travel has impacted my life and work tremendously, starting with my first trip to Thailand to study massage. Financially, it did not make sense to take a month off from my first year in practice to go and learn something new. Even though my head said “no,” my heart said “yes,” so I made the leap and invested in the trip. Once I returned home and began to incorporate what I learned, I quickly saw how valuable that trip was. The Thai leg stretches alone were worth the entire month away because of the way it helped my clients relieve lower back pain. This was not something I was exposed to in mainstream massage school. The trip enriched me personally and spiritually and the exotic techniques set me apart from most therapists. Because I was getting greater results with my clients, my practice grew rapidly. I was able to pay for my trip and began saving for another.
Since that first trip to Thailand in 1999, I’ve also studied in Mexico, Greece, Peru, India and throughout the United States. In my life, I have visited at least twenty-five different countries and received bodywork in many of them. Experiencing different cultures and healing traditions also impacts my sessions and the way I teach.
In our last interview, you mentioned a teaching series entitled “Around the Table, Around the World.” Can you please tell us more about this?
I offer various weekend workshops inspired by my travels and studies abroad. Each weekend class offers 12 hours of education and is targeted to licensed massage therapists, physical therapists, or other healthcare providers. Some weekends specialize in side-lying massage, others in Thai massage for the table, and others are a blend of many techniques from around the globe. I have several dates between now and September set for these classes in Ashland, Bend and Medford.
So back to your 2014 Mentorship Series… what exactly will this entail and who would best be suited for it?
My Advanced Bodywork Mentorship series is a specialized program for therapists looking to deepen their massage practice. Participants come either one or two evenings a month, every month, for a minimum of five months. Each evening I create the class based on the learning desires of the people there. Since I limit these classes to six students, there’s plenty of time for individualized attention and personal feedback.
The series is suited for newer therapists looking to uncover their hidden gifts, seasoned therapists looking to revitalize their practice or who feel in a rut, and for any body worker who is passionate (or who wants to become more passionate) and would appreciate getting together with other therapists on a regular basis to both learn and receive great massage in a personalized environment.
I am sure that there are many concerns for massage therapists considering taking continuing education. Could you speak to some of these concerns?
For a lot of massage therapists, finances are a concern. In order to make classes more affordable, I offer discounts to students who register early. Taking a class locally exposes participants to learning opportunities without having to take a lot of time off from work or having to pay for travel expenses. Participants get to have an international class experience at a domestic class price. My students in the past have left weekends so jazzed, their enthusiasm magnetized more clients. Newly learned techniques are often so effective, many therapists report getting more return clients. These results help classes pay for themselves very fast.
Some therapists aren’t’t sure what classes to take. To help with this dilemma, I offer a few options. Prospective students can visit my website and view videos of my work. I have sample clips of techniques offered in each class, which may inspire students and help them decide which class is a match. I will also be offering two complimentary talks in Ashland. On April 18th, I will be doing a three-hour mini class on the “Magic of Side-Lying Massage” at the Ashland Institute of Massage. On May 5th, I will offer a two-hour talk at the Ashland Food Co-Op about my global massage studies. Each of these events will include learning some hands-on techniques. I invite people to come and experience my teaching style at these free events.
This sounds like a great opportunity and it would be exciting to hear more about this side of your business.
Yes, I am really excited about bringing these learning opportunities forward to the people in the Rogue Valley. Please keep an eye on my business column and my website to stay current on classes and events. If readers would like me to keep them personally updated with events and classes, they can send me an e-mail and I will add them on my newsletter list.
Finally, what are some of the opportunities for people to work with you at Co-Creative Healing in 2014?
Currently, I have two spots available for people interested in my mentorship program. Those who are interested should contact me as soon as possible so that we can meet one-on-one and see if you are a good match for the series.
People should be aware that I do not offer all of my classes every year and I have had many classes sell out in the past. People who enroll and pay for a class a month early get $50 off tuition and $30 off for those who pre-pay two weeks early. I recommend people register as soon as possible, both for the discounts, and to ensure placement in the class. I have an “Around the Table, Around the World” class the first weekend in April and “The Magic of Side-Lying Massage” the first weekend in May.
Outside of teaching, I am still available for individual bodywork sessions; though please note that appointments are normally booked two to three weeks out. Occasionally I choose to stop accepting new clients. Normally, this is only for a month or two, so that I can best serve the needs of my existing clients. Once existing clients’ conditions improve and I have more session time available, I open my practice up for new patients again. People should also keep this in mind if interested in becoming a client because I am not always available to see new people. Once you are an existing client though, you are free to book ahead.
I would like to express special thanks to all of my regular clients whose Yelp reviews and word of mouth has supported my business and helped make my landing here in Ashland be so graceful.
Stephanie Shrum, LMT 14049