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Spotlight on Wellspring Graduates: Julia K. Thomas

A sepia photo of a woman with curly hair and a big smile
“Massage therapy is a deeply beautiful work to perform.”
Julia K. Thomas is originally from Trenton, MO. She grew up on a farm in northern Missouri, where her family still lives and works the land. She moved to the Kansas City area in 1991 after attending MU in Columbia, MO. She became a real estate agent in 1995. She enrolled at Wellspring in 2007 after being exposed to the bodywork of John Barnes Myofascial Release Institute.
“I was intrigued and vowed to learn how to do the work,” says Julia. “While I enjoyed real estate, it is a grueling way to make a living and I found very little time to myself. “
Halfway through her massage program, Julia started her massage practice by renting space in Prairie Village, KS (which was unregulated at the time). She graduated from Wellspring in 2008 and went on to pass that National Certification Exam, becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist. She recently shared her experiences and insights as a massage therapist with in an interview with Wellspring Life.
WL: What was your favorite aspect of life at Wellspring?
JT: The enthusiasm of the instructors and getting daily bodywork.
WL: Where do you work and how long have you been there?
JT: Upon graduation, I moved to a space in Overland Park, and then to Leawood. My client base has grown to the degree that I needed to hire other therapists in order to meet the demand. I found a space in Roeland Park, which I built out to have four therapy rooms and a lobby. I hired three therapists in the firsts three months and have grown steadily since then. I now employ between 6 and 8 therapists at any given time.
WL: What do you love most about your work?
JT: What I love the most about being a massage therapist, is that nearly every person who comes to see me is there because they genuinely want to be. In my previous career of being a real estate agent, there was so much tension and stress in the job. In massage therapy there is a lack of stress, a peace that overcomes both client and therapist. People tell me that seeing me is their favorite time of their routines. I love being able to have an entire network of people I know and keep up with while “working”. Confucius says, “Find work you love and you will never work a day in your life.” That is mostly how I feel while doing massage. It can be somewhat grueling at times, and when my body isn’t feeling the greatest it can be hard. For the most part, I love the work.
WL: What do you find most challenging?
JT: The most challenging part of being a massage therapist for me is getting clients to see the importance of maintaining regular massage work for their continued optimal health. I find a lot of people come until the pain is minimized and then they simply cease their care until the pain again becomes unmanageable. This yo-yo makes sustaining a healthy body difficult, and it makes it difficult for massage therapists to sustain a career that has steady income. There is a constant process of building clientele. Also, as a business owner there is a constant need to market and find new clients.
WL: How do you stay current with trends in your industry?
JT: In order to stay current with massage trends, I read my massage magazines from AMTA as well as a subscription massage magazine. I also read blogs and network with other massage therapy studio owners.
WL: What expectations did you have of your work when you started that turned out to be true/false?
JT: I believe most people who enter into massage therapy have some preconceived notions about what the work will be like. I thought I would be doing a lot more massages every day and week than I actually can or am willing to do. I feel like I have worked a rigorous full time week if I do 15 to 20 hours of massage per week. In talking to most other therapists, I have found most people also cannot do much more than 20 hours. It is far more difficult physically and emotionally than I would have imagined it to be.
WL: What advice would you give to current Wellspring students preparing to enter your field?
JT: I sometimes come into the business class [at the Wellspring campus] to field questions from current students, and the question of what advice I have often comes up. Several things come to mind:
Get a website. Never quit marketing yourself and asking for business, even if you work for a spa or studio, drive business to yourself at that location and make sure you are staying busy. The quickest way to burnout is to not have money for your bills. This skill will pay off regardless of your path.
Get regular massage from as many people as you can. Give regular massages to massage therapists and ask for honest feedback.  NEVER stop learning and growing and listen intently to feedback from clients and therapists. Anytime someone does a massage technique that you like, try to copy it and introduce it into your technique.
Never forget who you are in the room for. The client on the table is paying a premium for your undivided attention, and they deserve it. Give them the same massage you would like to be receiving. In your mind, honor them and give them the very best you have to offer. If you find yourself clock watching, you either are doing to many massages, or you are not invested in your work. This is an indication that you need to rest more, meditate, pray, or whatever ritual helps center you and bring you back. The second your heart is not in the work, you have broken the necessary connection between you and the client. Staying focused also helps you in the work. Massage therapy is a deeply beautiful work to perform, and for me can be a spiritual experience when I am Connected.
Julia Thomas maintains a website at www.ImagineWholeness.com and can be reached via email at [email protected].