It all starting in a meeting which should have been an email – you know the kind!
Image credit: Jordan Terry
Because I had engineered my Occupational Health and Safety role to lean heavily towards health and wellbeing, the head of HR asked me if I would be interested in heading up the health and wellbeing centre. Sure, I said, but what centre?
It turns out it hadn’t been built, and was very much in the design process. Despite knowing very little about building design, flow or the necessary services they need, I threw myself into my work, designing and specifying all the internal fit out. When opened, in 2010, I have to say I was pretty proud of what we had achieved. But then the fun really started.
Building on the Change4Life initiative which was launched in 2009 (as part of a national ambition set out in the government’s Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives (2008)), I designed and launched (in 2011) the NHS’ first Fit4Work programme. This had two aims. The first to establish the use of exercises in the workplace to promote both physical and mental health. The second to reduce sickness absence and promote an early return to work. This was achieved using an innovative (at the time) prehabilitation programme to prevent and manage the number one reason for staff abscence – moving and handling, as well as an exercise referral based programme to rehabilitate those who had been off after accidents, surgery, etcetera. We worked closely with Occupational Health, Operational Management and Human Resources to ensure not only was an early return to work achieved, but also to identify what workplace adjustments could be made, not only to help the employee return to work, but also stay at work.
In 2012 I left the health service and set out on my own. I left massage school feeling like I could conquer the world. My knowledge of 15 or so major muscles meant I knew everything and could help everyone. (It was a nice / honourable notion. Maybe? I find it laughable now. As time has gone on, like most who learn and develop in their field I’ve discovered the more I learn, the less I truly know.)
I really enjoyed the personal training and massage work, but people would often return after a massage with the same issues week in week out. My frustrations led me to the world of neuro-based body work. I completed the NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) courses to Masters level, and whilst this escalated my practice massively, getting closer to the route cause of the structural issues, there were again cases where we’d end up treating the same things week in week out – what I now recognise means we are just treating the symptoms. Whilst this brought the clients relief for a short while, we weren’t resolving the underlying issues completely.
I travelled the globe to train with the very best in their field. As we take more courses (hopefully) our understanding and insight grows, and so to our methodology develops, adapts and changes as well. I’d like to say that all courses, provide something which can integrate seemlessly into what I already do, or that provide a step change in how I work / my ability to help people. But they don’t.
With all I’ve been exposed to, I myself, like to try and adopt Elite FTS philosophy of: live, learn, pass on. I encourage other practitioners to come and shadow me, I regularly discuss the more philosophical aspects of our work with colleagues, and of course I’m perpetually toying with the idea of writing a programme for the treatment of scars. That said, I recognize, however, I still have much to learn myself.
One thing I do know, which I feel is worth mentioning, is that we, as practitioners are just to full of ourselves if we think we can ‘fix’ anything. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how healing works. Firstly, our clients aren’t broken. Secondly, people have to do their own healing, sure they can use a guide, but to put the onus on others is disempowering and can actually hinder the healing process. If anyone says they can ‘fix’ you, run.