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DS 6 July August 2016 DS 6 July August 2016 By Karrie Osborn ABMP Member Profi le It's Never Too Late to Follow Your Calling "I had been told many times that I missed my true calling for massage." —Ellen Bennett She was a 20-something when she first started massage school in California. Forty years later, she opened her massage practice. Today, 60-year-old Ellen Bennett has never been happier. When Bennett first tried her hand at massage in the 1970s, she was disillusioned by the misinterpretation of her craft as "adult entertainment" and walked away from the profession after several failed attempts to start a practice. Yet, she never let the skill slip away and would frequently donate her hands to a friend's sore neck or back when needed. A career in the restaurant business filled the 40 years that followed, but in 2014, Bennett found herself reading an article about massage. It rekindled her passion and reminded her of what others believed: "I had been told many times that I missed my true calling for massage," Bennett says. She decided to throw her hat in the ring and enrolled in Michigan's Integrative Health Sciences Institute. "I knew I wanted a career as a massage therapist and I knew I would be good at it." But two weeks into her classes, Bennett's mother passed away. While the timing was difficult, Bennett says it also pushed her into making school a priority and fueled her inspiration to help others. "My mother had been a noted volunteer in Cleveland, Ohio, where she won several awards," Bennett says. "I wanted to carry on her legacy." Bennett affiliated herself with Reverence Home Health and Hospice in Michigan, delivering massage for those in the last stages of life. "I felt volunteering with the hospice would bring some closure to my mother's passing," she says. The Reverence program had never had an MT volunteer their services this way before, "so they weren't quite sure what to do with me." Now, as the result of Bennett's work, the hospice is looking to recruit even more volunteer MTs to serve its patients. Bennett counts it as a privilege to work with her hospice clients. "They are allowing me into their homes to give them 50 minutes of palliative care. I am humbled by their acceptance." The challenge, she says, is losing a client to the inevitable. Yet, despite the sadness that comes with death, Bennett takes solace in knowing what value she offers in the journey. "Making a small difference in a dying person's life is heart-fulfilling." In her private practice, Balanced Body Health, Bennett offers a variety of hands-on modalities and keeps a 3D anatomy app loaded on her tablet to show clients whenever there is a muscle in question, or the need for a pain-referral explanation. Having that technology is a win-win for the new practitioner, she says. "The client appreciates the visual and I continue to learn and get comfortable with my assessments." As for starting careers over at 60, Bennett reveals it's not as daunting as it sounds. With her passion driving her motivation, Bennett says relying on her community was how she made it work. "I urge new business owners to volunteer, give free 15-minute massages at events, and get your name out there. Word of mouth, of course, is key." Bennett tells new MTs to be confident in their skills. "And, if you are not, then learn, seek advice from colleagues, attend more CE classes, find your pace, and be open to change." Karrie Osborn is senior editor at ABMP.

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