Wendy Wolthausen: A Therapist with a Passion
Wendy Wolthausen, a massage therapist in Washington State, has been a massage therapist for almost a decade. She has practiced several types of massage therapy, and worked on her own as well as on a team. Massage is Wendy’s passion, and that passion is evident as she discusses her craft.
“Even as a young person, I liked getting massages, and giving them to my family and friends,” she says. She started massage school in 2001, and absolutely loved it. Once she graduated, Wendy opened an independent message therapy practice in eastern Washington. She practiced mostly medical massage and helped patients recover from injuries and cancer, and deal with chronic pain.
That is why Wendy loves massage—because of its incredible healing potential. “It is amazing what can be done to the body. New research constantly shows how useful massage is, and it’s exciting to watch as new uses and applications for massage unfold. It’s time we take back our health, and realize there are things we can do to get better, other than just popping a pill.”
After several years of running her successful medical massage practice, Wendy moved to the opposite side of the state. She knew it would be challenging to start a massage practice in an unfamiliar area, largely because she would have to find an entirely new client base.
“Generally speaking,” she says, “moving the location of your practice is not a big deal if the distance is drivable for the clients―within an hour or so. Many clients will remain loyal despite the greater distance. However, completely relocating means you will have to start over.”
As she contemplated starting a new practice, Wendy decided to try something different―something beyond her narrow, albeit successful, focus on medical massage. She still loved it, but wanted to lighten her paperwork load because medical massage involves dealing with insurance companies and their rules, which often mandate a specific structure for a client’s massage therapy. She also wanted to start trying other types of massage treatments―ones that were not strictly medical in nature―while still being able to relieve pain through her therapeutic massage.
Wendy waited until she found the perfect opportunity. In early 2010, she and several other health-and-wellness providers got together to start the Fresh Salon and Spa in Snohomish, Washington. This was exactly what Wendy had envisioned: each partner rents or leases her own space within the building and is free to provide her own services, yet they can—and often do—work together as a team.
The group’s combined offerings currently include everything from hair treatments to facials to therapeutic massage. Despite the practitioners’ independence, the atmosphere of a shared salon is such that all members support and cross-promote each other. Wendy revels in the whole-body outlook at Fresh because she can provide a variety of healthful solutions—healing therapy, for example, for her cancer clients, as well as a variety of other massage treatments, such as aromatherapy, hot stone massages, and body wraps.
In a field that encourages its practitioners to try new types of therapy and ways to offer it, Wendy is the perfect example of a massage therapist who has changed her type of massage practice to suit her own needs and those of her clients.
“How successful you are at switching modalities―as I did from medical massage to a more spa-focused massage―depends on the clientele, their needs, and what they want. It’s better to add to your clientele by adding new services than to completely change what you do and then need to find all new clients.” Despite taking on the more challenging switch, Wendy delights in her success with Fresh. By being part of the combination spa and salon, Wendy provides the healing massage her core client base needs in a spa atmosphere that attracts new clients.
One of the reasons for Wendy’s success is her passion for massage therapy. It is her job, but she doesn’t do it just for the money. “Don’t become a massage therapist to get rich,” she advises. “When you are in it purely for monetary gain, you lose the connection with your clients. You’re not doing what’s best for the client, and you won’t be your best if you are doing it only because you want to make money. You have to be willing to do it because it’s a passion.” Wendy’s enthusiasm for the practice and her caring attitude toward her clients bring them back again and again.
Though Wendy says money shouldn’t be a massage therapist’s primary concern, she still encourages therapists, especially those who are new or inexperienced, to look out for their own best interests. “Make sure you’re being paid what you’re worth,” she cautions.
But no matter where you work or what techniques you use, Wendy says, the core of massage therapy is about the client: “You want your last client of the day to receive the same amount of care and attention as your first client of the day did.”