Meet Julia: CWHC's Newest Bodyworker

Posted on May 28

Meet Julia, CWHC's Newest Bodyworker. To learn more about CWHC's massage services, click here!

Julia Garfield

Q: What sparked your interest in becoming a massage therapist and a healer?
A: It began several years before I ever thought about going to massage school, and it's  hard to pinpoint exactly. As a child I was a skilled at shoulder and back rubs with friends when we'd exchange. I had a strong natural instinct and need to healing and nurturing myself, having to be independent through some difficult times early in life. When I was 18 years old, my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (and other debilitating diseases) and my father died from difficulties related to a difficult six-year bout with Leukemia. I began college right after this with the deep knowledge that there is major healing needed in our world - it was a message that hit me powerfully and clearly, with all the illness and suffering I watched in my life. About five years later, after getting a BA in Art and Anthropology, I didn't exactly know where to begin to find a good paying job with my degree. I loved college and thrived in the nourishment of learning and knowledge but hadn't gone through the experience with practical intention about a paying career in the near future. As a visual artist, gardener, yogini, and performance artist, I thoroughly enjoy using my physical strength and hands to build things and affect change. I knew by then I was on the path of a healer. Having already trained minimally in Reiki, seen an acupuncturist for an ailment, and seen a holistic/nutritional psychotherapist, I knew I was turned off by the limited health model (and pharmaceutical industry influence) offered in medical schools. Massage therapy seemed the foundation of any healing practice - all that one really needs is the strength and ability of their body, a good space, and a person wanting healing. Once I began massage school is when I and my whole life were truly transformed - but I'll save that story for another time.

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?
A: I am directly serving people in a meaningful, skilled, authentic, uniquely valuable way- and I am paid for it!

Q: What's the most challenging part about being a bodyworker?
A: Self-care- and feeling fully supported in offering such a meaningful service. Like many jobs, there is not an inherent "rule" anywhere in the foundation of many massage jobs fostering self-care. Self-care with massage might include appropriate break lengths; appropriate time off  - and not only the bare minimum to survive, but enough to thrive; encouraging a community culture in the workplace; valuing the MT's service through benefits, vacation time, and fair wages; creating a healthy sense of equality and humanness between clients and bodyworkers. As you can tell, these issues are often bigger than individual LMTs (Licensed Massage Therapists) or even their employers- they are largely related to culture and our economic system.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who has not had a massage before?
A: Come on in and give it a try if you'd like healing touch for your body! Don't hesitate to communicate to your LMT what you like in terms of pressure and even speed of movements - and if you aren't sure, I recommend starting with a Swedish massage rather than a Deep Tissue massage. Swedish is generally light to medium pressure, and Deep Tissue is harder and sometimes faster. You can always ask your LMT to lighten up or slow down (etc.) during the session if you want a change - it is YOUR session after all, and we want to you tell us what you like! And if you end up liking perfectly what we offer without much communication, that's great, too! 

LMTs are well-trained in what is called draping (the way we secure you under a sheet and sometimes a blanket) so unless it is a specifically un-draped type of massage therapy, most of your body will be covered during a session, except the part that is being worked on. We do not massage the genital reason, intergluteal cleft (a.k.a.a the butt crack), or near the nipples, and most LMTs only massage the belly if they are specifically asked to do so. You are protected. if there is any other part of your body you do not want touched, you have every right to tell us (please do!) - your feet, face, glutes (a.k.a. butt cheeks, generally away from the intergluteal cleft), etc. 

Every two years, Illinois LMTas are required to get more continuing education credits, so we are a well-skilled and educated bunch! Most LMTs have some interesting unique skills, such as Shiatsu, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Myofascial Release, Sports Massage, Infant Massage, and so on. Explore the possibilities! And in the mean time, you're welcome to visit me.

Q: What do you like about being a bodyworker at CWHC?
A: Everyone I have encountered who works and volunteers at CWHC has a certain warmth and heartfelt-ness that feels really good to be around. They appreciate what i have to contribute and support me, as a volunteer bodyworker, however they can. In the short time since I began doing service here, I've noticed spirits rising. These people are a hard-working bunch and in such an industry, in our city and society, it is easy to get weary and burned out; I've noticed recently an upswing and some really inspiring changes in policies/culture (such as saying affirmations about about CWHC having abundance). I am glad to be part of an organization that embraces mental, emotional, and spiritual health tools such as these. That's pioneering and radical.

Q: How do you see bodywork/massage work being a part of health care justice?
A: Like I mentioned before, there is the aspect of talking about honoring the wellness and wholeness of the healthcare workers themselves, so we serve the highest good to the best of our ability - through the practical aspects of wages, benefits, and even the structure and hierarchy (or non-hierarchy) or the organization with with we work. Also, bodywork and massage offer space for non-judgment, safety, protection, and a sense of just being. I'm not saying we are specifically "protectors" exactly, but one of the key aspects of being a bodyworker or health is holding safe space.In order to experience change and growth in our internal lives and in the greater world we share, having this space of stillness and rest and nurture is incredibly important. We cannot constantly be working; to serve others with love, we must serve ourselves with love. To know how to serve with love and what that means, we must listen to our inner wisdom, and to do that, (in my experience) we must sometimes have quiet time in which we are totally cared for and restfulness, without needing any answers to questions, without needing to pinpoint or define much of anything. Bodywork and other healing sessions can provide this chrysalis, right-brained space, in which wholeness and new understandings and new visions can blossom without pressure. This is essential for our strength and acknowledgment of wholeness in the birthing of a new world.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who's interested in becoming a bodyworker?
A: Yes! Do it! It will be physical, so remember to stretch, and keep those tissues flexible and strong. Remember to give yourself the gift of rest, which is not at all the same as laziness. Remember to work from the heart if you can, and let your personality shine through in what you do. Remember to play, and dance, when it makes you happy! Enjoy the music in your sessions, if you choose to have it. Honor and trust your boundaries around what your work is worth, as well as around general professional, physical, and emotional boundaries. Create a release-of-energy ritual to have after each session if this helps you to retain a sense of wholeness and strength, while still experiencing empathy.

Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?
A: I really love writing. Can you tell? I once wrote a blog about celebrity crush obsessions- not very long ago. Yep. Also, I have a vision of being a land steward, having a close relationship with the land, and having a healer and/or artist cooperative on the land. I​ have lived in three different countries, and traveled through more, including Egypt before the revolution. I want​ to long-distance hike across the British Isles because it is totally doable: I like camping, I could visit farms and briefly work on them (probably with some planning- I have worked on farms in the past and love it), and I have ancestry from there.

To learn more about the massage therapy practice of Julia Garfield, LMT, click here.