The power of touch through massage therapy is best known for healing and reinvigorating a recipient’s mind and body. But what might not be so commonly known is that massage also provides a guiding light for blind and visually impaired people to thrive as some of the best therapists in the industry.
Losing the ability to see doesn’t inhibit a therapist’s ability to provide relaxing massages, but rather enhances the experience through a magnified sense of touch.
“Shutting off visual stimulation really helps heighten all of our other senses,” explains Relissa Wortman, massage therapist at Elements Salmon Creek. “We really rely so much on our vision for giving us a sense of what’s going on around us, when really our other senses are just as proficient at giving us that information.”
Visually Impaired Therapists Share Special Connection with Massage
At 18 months old, Wortman was diagnosed as legally blind after her right eye was removed following a retinal cancer diagnosis at birth. At around age 8, she underwent a lens implant treatment that significantly improved her vision. While still visually impaired today, Wortman credits some of her success as a massage therapist to her early school-aged years when she first learned to read using Braille.
“Since I was originally taught Braille, I feel like my palpation skills are a lot higher and help me to make the connection of what damaged tissue versus healthy tissue feels like,” says Wortman. “When you can’t rely on visual cues to see if your client is flinching and you have to feel that in your body, it makes a big difference.”
Otis Kerr, a blind massage therapist at Elements Cranford, also believes that healing hands are more important to making a connection with his clients than the ability to see. In fact, many massage therapists without visual impairments close their eyes while they are massaging so they can better tune into their clients.
When Kerr is working in a massage room, he focuses on touch and feelings to give a good massage that meets his clients’ needs.
“I enjoy making people feel good and feel better,” says Kerr. “Massage is something I can do with my hands and everybody has always said that I have great hands. They say I have the touch so I thought I would try it out as a career.
"Since I don’t use my eyes, I concentrate more and I have to rely on my other senses when I’m doing a massage.”
Massage Transforms Clients’ and Therapists’ Lives
The transformation that Wortman has experienced with some of her long-time clients is one of her favorite things about her eight-year career as a massage therapist.
“You look forward to the happy, exciting energy you get as a therapist when you make a strong connection with a client,” shares Wortman.
While Wortman and Kerr strive to make lasting impressions on their clients that positively affect their lives each day, massage has in turn brought professional opportunities for both of these successful therapists. When Wortman first began her career she thought she wanted to be a doctor, but soon turned to massage and structural manipulation after she realized she didn’t enjoy the medical field. When Kerr finished massage school, he started out working on his own by doing in-home massage. When that didn’t work out as expected, he had difficulty finding a job at massage studios when most wouldn’t give him a chance because he was blind. The Elements Cranford studio hired him on the spot after Kerr came in for an interview and gave an excellent massage.
Today, both Kerr and Wortman are among the top massage therapists in each of their respective studios.
“Relissa is one of my most highly requested massage therapists,” says Regina Swartz, studio owner at Elements Salmon Creek. “Her schedule is full with appointments every single day.”
“I see so many people helped and healed by massage,” continues Swartz. “When you see people go through a transformation with a connection to massage, it’s so inspiring.”
The Proof is in Repeat Customers
With a common belief in the power of massage and the benefits therapeutic touch provides to help people heal and feel better, Wortman and Kerr stay busy day in and day out focusing on sharing their healing touch with clients, rather than on their loss of eyesight. In fact, most clients don’t even realize the therapists’ have visual impairments and they’ve both received rave reviews about the quality of their massage therapy knowledge and skills.
“When you get a massage from me, you’re getting a therapeutic experience,” shares Kerr. “Some clients don’t believe that I’m blind because they say I move around the studio like I can see.
"My clients say that I give the best massages ever, which makes me feel really good. I just want my clients to enjoy a great massage.”
Like Kerr, Wortman agrees with approaching massage in a client-centric manner. She is trained in several different modalities so she can tailor her massages to the specific needs of each individual.
“If clients are looking for a good therapist, don’t count someone out just because they have a disability,” concludes Wortman.
Discounting either of these two exceptional therapists would definitely be an oversight.