LEADING THE WAY: INSPIRATION FOR SUCCESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH KENNETH WOISIN, LMT
Hosted by: Theresa A. Schmidt, DPT, MS, OCS, LMT, CEAS, DD
Are you feeling satisfied with your work? Do you think you are making a significant difference? Remember when you were just starting out, so excited, curious and ready for the big adventure? You got through the grueling hours, the nail biting exams, the boards, and now you are officially a licensed therapist. Are you still excited, or have you succumbed to the challenges of the real world? To address the ennui or downright burnout experienced by some therapists, I have asked successful therapists to volunteer to share their magic. What is their secret? I hope their words inspire you to reflect upon your practice, and to embark on a journey to make positive changes in your work and in your life. How do we make our work more meaningful, more significant? Can we really change the world for the better? In today’s interview, Ken Woisin, MA, LMT shares his inspiring story with us.
Welcome, Ken, thanks for offering your experience in this interview. Tell us about your background, certifications and where you currently work.
Ken’s Professional License and Certifications: NY State Licensed Massage Therapist, Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, AED/Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid, Pregnancy Massage, Geriatric Massage/Movement Specialist, Orthopedics, Hypnotherapy, Ice Therapy/Hot Stone Massage, Cranial Sacral Therapy/Myofascial Release, Visceral Manipulation, Myo-Skeletal Alignment, Personal Trainer / Fitness Counselor, Cancer/Mastectomy Massage, Sports Massage, Chair Massage, Diplomate Pain Management Techniques, Therapeutic Massage for Physically and Sexually Abused Patients, Push Therapy Specialized Treatment for Chronic Pain, Associate Practitioner Ortho-Bionomy, Functional Movement/ Body Patterning /Structural Integration, Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner, Pre/Post Surgical Massage Rehabilitation
Places of Employment:
Massage Envy Oceanside, NY Lead Massage Therapist
Private Home Care Practice Massapequa Park, NY
Queensboro Community College Bayside, N.Y. Adjunct Professor
Theresa: Why did you choose to become an LMT?
Ken: I was trained at a very early age in the Native American Healing Arts by my Grandmother and Mother. I was always fascinated by the ancient forms of early medicine which documented massage and manual therapies in early writings, & drawings.
As a Vietnam Veteran I witnessed firsthand how compassionate caring touch was a powerful form of communication and influential in the healing process. As a successful business executive of a major corporation, I recognized that the business world was changing due to the philosophies and business culture of President Reagan’s economic policies of government deregulation during the early 1980’s which focused more on creating large corporate profit centers via Wall Street through mergers and acquisitions. Large corporations were bought and sold in order to create higher stock market value. The fate of the everyday working person who spent most of their life working hard to provide for the family and secure their retirement future was being decided by Wall Street Bankers. As an executive in a major corporation I knew times were changing and wanted to give myself other options. I decided to pursue my interest in massage because I felt I could help people. With the pressures of daily living, family, work and social burdens that we encounter unexpectedly in our lives creating stress full situations, I felt compelled to follow my dreams and try to make a difference in people’s lives.
What made you select this area of expertise?
I had wanted to be doctor when I was growing up. Having learned massage at an early age from my mother and grandmother I felt something calling me to this type of work. When I decided to attend massage school I paid attention to detail and worked very hard at achieving my goals. Also, I had good teachers that demanded a maximum effort in everything I did. Also, I got to know other healthcare practitioners that encouraged me to learn as much as I could about the different ways to use massage to treat the human body. I was influenced by their positive attitude, and ability to recognize the potential of the massage profession and belief in what they did.
How did you learn about the field and your areas of expertise?
After graduating from massage school I kept an open mind and enrolled in many different types of continuing education classes that were taught by highly respected health care experts in medical massage, physical therapy and chiropractic profession. They taught me how to develop and refine my manual skills and rise to a higher level of professional achievement. I sought out and asked talented and respected seasoned massage therapy professionals who had been in the field for many years’ questions about the massage profession and observed how they worked. I also had very good mentors that showed an interest in my work and sought advice from them on what specific courses to pursue in order to enhance my massage technique & skills so that I would be successful.
What did you do to specialize and attain your current position?
I spent time reading research massage articles, watching video presentations, enrolling in workshops and seminars that exposed me to good teachers. I also researched different methods of manual modalities. I use visual assessment and verbal pattern methods to help focus my energy on treating the individual person by listening to what they express as health concerns and address their health issues without judgment. I try not to get caught up in the client’s history of failed treatment or pre- diagnosed conditions that are often stuck in their mind by prior visits to physicians, physical therapy, chiropractic and other healthcare practitioners they sought treatment from with certain expectations and failed results. I evaluate, assess and develop a plan that I belief will help them and encourage the client to put in the work it takes and become part of their healing process.
Tell me a bit about your strengths, and how it helped you to succeed.
My understanding of human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, movement patterns, medical terminology and, diagnosis, along with my ability to understand medical reports has made it easy to communicate clearly with clients. I understand physician directions, and coordinate my treatment with other health care practitioners to develop an open line of communication regarding patient care protocols and follow up procedures. My experience working as part of a healthcare team, volunteer in major sporting events, community health projects, and clinical supervisor in a Community College has afforded me the opportunity to interact with a variety of different cultures. It has helped me promote the positive benefits of hands on manual therapies bringing awareness on the benefits of massage therapy to the general public. My knowledge of numerous Eastern and Western manual therapy techniques along with functional movement has helped opened the door to clients that embrace wellness and look toward complimentary sources of healthcare when traditional medicine has not met their needs . My biggest strength is the ability to listen and establish trustful communication with each person individually and let my intuitive instincts guide me while providing a safe environment and beneficial treatment to the client.
How did you meet your greatest challenges?
During the past twenty five years as a massage therapist I have encountered many different situations as a massage professional which, not only challenged my ability as a practitioner but also, the choice I made to become a massage therapist and be the best at what I do. During the beginning of my career in 1990 as a first year massage school student I discovered massage was viewed as a luxury for the privileged individual with money. The profession was not respected as a legitimate form of health care based on the views and opinions of the public, media, law enforcement, and healthcare professionals who thought we lacked sufficient education in the health sciences. We were labeled as people who gave “rubdowns” and misunderstood as individuals looking to make a quick buck. At that time studying to become a massage therapist was not the ideal reputable occupation. People often associated massage with prostitution, sexual deviance, and a business connected to illegal drug and various forms of sexual activity. I overcame the obstacles that confronted me by focusing attention on my education and aligning myself with legitimate practitioners in massage, physical therapy, and other medical professionals. I volunteered to show people the positive benefits of massage through lectures at community health fairs, individual presentations and demonstration of draping, and massage techniques that allowed me the opportunity to promote massage as a form of wellness. I used research studies to promote the benefits of massage therapy and backed it up with documentation showing a growth in demand and the acceptance of massage as a positive form of treatment in patients with HIV, Aids, and infants born with drug addiction. In addition I networked with other Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Nurses, Physicians, and Osteopaths to promote the legitimacy and benefits of massage. I was not afraid to accept criticism and welcomed suggestions on how to become a better practitioner. I looked for experienced mentors that were willing to share their experience, knowledge and eager to help me to improve the image of massage therapy and help me develop my massage skills. Most important of all I learned to leave my ego at the door and focus on what I could learn from other established and respected healthcare professionals about improving the positive sides of the massage profession and not dwell on the negative thoughts or images that others have of what I do.
Tell us about the most difficult patient case you encountered.
About five years ago one of my regular clients recommended me to a person in his church. He was a respiratory therapist that had undergone a right hip replacement and reconstructive surgery caused by a tumor growing in his groin and abdomen. He complained of leg/hip pain interfering with his ability to go up and down stairs and weight bear equally without falling. I was fully aware of the movement limitations involved in working with joint replacements and was very careful not to do anything that would hurt or injure the patient. I consulted with a number of reliable medical practitioners about my concerns prior to taking on the client. I felt confident in my training and prior experience working with joint replacements that I could help the client. However, I informed him that it would be a slow process and wanted to him to feel comfortable with my treatment plan. After several weeks he started to gain more confidence and became less guarded in his walking and movement up and down stairs. He commented on several occasions how much better he was feeling and moving.
It was the week of July fourth and he told me he made plans to go away for a few days with his wife. Apparently, he felt so good that when he got home he decided to clean up his yard and raked leaves. He called me the next day and said his hip was bothering him and asked if I had time to come to his house for a treatment. When I arrive I noticed that he was not comfortable and his right hip did not feel the same. He had an appointment with his doctor the following Monday at the Hospital for Special Surgery for his annual checkup. His son called me Monday evening and advised me that his dad was in the hospital and that he was scheduled for surgery to replace the hip. I was upset and thought that I might have done something to cause the dislodgement. I finally got a hold of the client and he informed me that it was nothing I did during the treatment session to cause the problem. It turned out that the appliance was defective and broke. This bothered me for quite some time. I consulted with several orthopedic surgeons, and reviewed the proper procedures for joint replacement therapy. It was a lesson that taught me as practitioners we always need to be cautiously aware that anything can happen even with the best intentions.
Who do you admire and why?
Since I decided to become a massage therapist, I’ve been fortunate to have studied with many high profile practitioners and teachers that were very influential in helping me to shape my career. Two of the people who stand out and that I admire in the massage profession are Harold Packman, an LMT with 40 years experience in rehabilitative medicine and Theresa Schmidt, a physical and massage therapist. I met both of them while attending a medical convention in upstate NY during 1990 when I was a first year student in massage school. Harold was very gracious, encouraging and patient with students and always greeted people with a warm friendly smile that made them feel comfortable. He openly shared his knowledge of massage techniques with anyone interested in learning. He was a master massage therapist and well respected by his fellow practitioners, physicians, physical therapist, and other health care professionals that knew him. Harold was known as the “iceman” because of his work using ice as a therapeutic massage tool and wrote a book on the use of ice and its benefits. Harold was willing to share himself with others and very generous with his time. Whenever I reached out to him for help Harold always responded and took time to answer my questions and explained his answers so that they were easily understood. Theresa is one of the smartest people I have ever come into contact with. She is very knowledgeable and talented in both physical & massage therapy. Her “hands on” approach to treating many types of patient conditions is incredible and her experience is something I personally benefitted from. As a teacher she is at the top of the class. I have taken several advanced massage and movement classes with her and gained a different perspective on how to analyze individual therapeutic situations. I have learned many useful massage techniques and the value of observation and listening to patients from Theresa. Her insight on how to incorporate what you see and hear from patients into a treatment session and maximize the use of available time was very beneficial to my development as a massage therapist. Theresa helped me to understand that the human body is complex and our intuitive instinct plays a major role in how we help patients/clients facilitate their own innate healing process As an educator I always advise my students and fellow practitioner to take Theresa’s courses when they are being offered. I am grateful that both Theresa and Harold took the time and effort to pass along their knowledge, skills, and insights of the profession to me and offered the gift of friendship in the process. They helped me to understand that we don’t have all the answers to patient/client issues and that if we do our best it can make a difference in a person’s life.
Who was your mentor?
Mr. & Mrs. Norman H. Harvey the owners of Harmon Associates Corp. in Westbury, NY a paper recycling company which employed me for 28 years. The Harveys were very instrumental in helping to shape me into the person I am today. They took a chance hiring me knowing that I was a Vietnam veteran when it was difficult to get a job. I learned many valuable lessons from them on how to treat people we come into contact with as individuals and not to get caught up in categorizing and stereotyping a person because of a belief system or culture that is different than our own. I was taught by my parents to treat people with respect, dignity, and be trustworthy. Joyce & Norman Harvey instilled in me that honesty, integrity, and credibility are the most important character traits used to influence people. Being humble and admitting mistakes develops strength, good judgment and humility. I was very successful in the business world and transitioned easily into a second career as a massage therapist because of their confidence and belief in me as a person.
Do you mentor?
Yes, I have worked with students from various educational backgrounds in other fields and helped them transition into the massage profession. I also worked with several physical therapy students who attended Boston University and needed help researching and writing about different types of manual therapies practiced in the world today. My background in Chinese medicine along with an understanding of Native American Cultures and traditional folk medicines is a resource students found useful. Therapists interested in mentoring can contact me. (See Ken’s contact info at the end of this article.)
What makes you most satisfied with your work?
The most gratification I get is from the smiles and comments from patients/clients who tell me I made a difference in the way they feel and that I was also responsible for helping them make a positive change in the life. As a teacher, my satisfaction comes from teaching a new technique or answering a question that has a positive impact on a student and knowing that their client will benefit from it. It makes me feel good about what I am doing when a student says thanks I really learned something from you today.
If you could change something about the profession what would it be?
The perception that people have about the kind of individuals that decide to go into the field of massage therapy. Also, the misconceptions and ignorance of people that never experienced a professional therapeutic massage and compare the massage treatment by Asian nail salons and foot reflexology centers that offer sexual services against dedicated & legitimate licensed massage practitioners. Many practitioners who spend time studying to improve their knowledge, skills and work hard to improve the health and well being of the general public are stereotyped unfairly. I would like to remove the label that massage therapists perform sexual favors and that most male massage therapists are gay.
What do you think is the most significant factor in creating success and / happiness in your field?
Be yourself and taking pride and believing strongly in what you are doing. Stay positive regardless of how much negativity surrounds you. Don’t take advantage of people and align yourself with reputable practitioners that you can use as a referral base. Dealing with the public is very difficult. They can be rude, selfish, demanding and unbearable at times. It is important to be fair with everybody and treat them with respect. Keep yourself distant from clients/patients that deplete your energy and don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the daily drama of their lives. Decide who it is you want to work with and don’t allow money to influence your personal decisions.
What can others do to achieve success?
Give yourself guidelines and establish a set of rules for the way you work and stick to them. Educate yourself and learn whatever you can from those willing to teach you. Be honest with yourself and be willing to admit your faults/mistakes and take a step back when necessary and regroup. Don’t pretend to be on a level with others more experienced and knowledgeable than you. When in doubt refer out. Don’t knock the other medical professions or professionals that disagree with your view of the current healthcare system. Keep an open mind, expose yourself to new ideas and listen, observe, and absorb as much information that is offered to you. Be appreciative of people that help you in your career and be willing to do the same for others.
What are your thoughts on evidence based research and practice?
I believe that research is the main reason the massage profession has grown to the level of respect that it has attained over the past twenty five years since I first began my career. Research has helped to clarify and dispel some of the theories on how massage works and the potential benefits derived from it. Individuals that sought out and spent millions of dollars on alternative forms of treating chronic conditions and diseases when traditional medical methods failed them, got the attention of government healthcare officials. Because of the scientific research being conducted by major U.S. College and University medical schools showing the positive effects massage has had on treating serious health conditions, the media has been pro-active in highlighting complementary and alternative medical treatments available. Massage franchises have opened up throughout the country promoting the businesses of massage by making it seem affordable and influencing the public’s perception of wellness. Reputable and established practitioners that have been in the field for a long time are challenged to compete and maintain their businesses or change their practice to specialize in specific massage treatment techniques. Research has been a significant factor in the inclusion of massage in many medical, physical therapy, chiropractic, college and professional sports conditioning programs.
What is your experience with alternative medicine?
Many forms of what is considered to be alternative medicine in today’s world have been around for thousands of years dating back to Chinese, Egyptian, Indian (Ayurvedic) European and Native America Indian cultures. I believe that the proven complementary methods that exist in today’s healthcare environment should all be a part of a medical system that gives people the option to be able to choose from the type of healthcare that best fits their needs. However, up until the late 1990s the suppression of alternative medicine methods were in the fore front as being non- effective and too costly. I believe a strong shift in public awareness of increased medical cost, decrease in treatment policies and more out of pocket expense over the past fifteen years demand that we make a change to the current insurance-controlled healthcare system. I think all methods of alternative medicine have a place within our system that can benefit everyone. Healthcare practitioners must decide among themselves how to best care for their patient/clients and what their ultimate goal and end result is
Do you use any complementary medicine procedures?
Yes, I do use a variety of methods in my treatment based on client needs. I use acupressure, myofascial release, cranial sacral therapy, ortho-bionomy, push therapy, geriatric massage, cancer massage, guided imagery, breathing and meditative centering techniques, visceral massage, chakra balancing, hand and foot reflexology, Tai chi movement, lymph facilitation techniques and active assisted isolated stretching.
What do you think about continuing education?
I am all for it and believe you can never get enough education, The profession is changing constantly and people are presenting with more complicated conditions that include the neck, back, knee, foot & ankle problems. Massage practitioners need to know how to handle challenging situations with confidence other than giving the normal relaxation massage, Now that continuing education has become a requirement in NY State in order to keep your registration it is important for new and established practitioners to enroll in courses that broaden your knowledge and enhance your manual skills.
Tell us your recommendations for both new grads and those in the field over 10 years.
To the new graduates I would say don’t get discouraged if things don’t go the way you expected. Don’t focus on how much money you make once you get your license and start working. Be patient and learn as much from your disappointments as your successes. Find a mentor that you can call upon and openly express concerns that confront you. Trust your own gut judgment. Network with other therapists and attend workshops and seminars that expose you to different methods. Don’t put your focus or worry about what others are doing and follow the path that is right for you. You will make plenty of mistakes in the beginning of your career don’t be afraid to address them and move on. To those in practice over ten years that find themselves getting burnt out or discouraged because they have not met their own goals or the expectations of others. Take a step back and re-evaluate your situation, look at where you are, where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Re-invent yourself by changing your marketing strategy and appeal to those that you can have a positive impact upon. Don’t look back on what didn’t happen look ahead to what you can make happen. Have faith in yourself and work on strengthening your weakness in areas that you aren’t confident about. Surround yourself with positive people and ask them what worked and what didn’t and make adjustments to your suite your needs. Embrace adversity and build upon it. Most of all learn to be happy with yourself and enjoy what you do.
What does your future hold?
Nobody knows for sure what is ahead of them and I haven’t really thought about it. I have reached a place in my life where I am comfortable with the choices I have made and the way things have turned out. When I look back at my different life experiences I learned many things and have had many disappointing and rewarding moments along this journey. They helped to shape my spiritual beliefs, view of the world and the importance of friends and family. My grandmother once told me it is not what you take but, what you give back that matters. Hopefully, I have made a positive difference in the lives of the people I have come in contact with as a massage therapist and given them something to hold onto.
Thank you, Ken, for taking time to share your wisdom and experience. You are an inspiration to so many. I love your recommendation to have faith, have an open mind, access more education, learn from your challenges, surround yourself with positive people, and give back, since it is in giving that we make such a positive impact. You have certainly made a significant contribution to the field of massage therapy, and I am grateful to be able to share your story to inspire others. May you continue to be blessed.
I can personally attest to the numbers of people who have benefitted from Ken’s caring touch and integrated approach to healthcare. Ken is one of the most inspiring, talented, caring and illustrious practitioners I have worked with in my thirty years as a therapist. I am certain that one who follows Ken’s advice and works from one’s heart is sure to be a success.
Submitted by: Theresa A. Schmidt, DPT, MS, OCS, LMT, CEAS, DD, Educise Resources Inc. www.educise.com.
If you are interested in mentoring, you can reach Ken at:
Kenneth P. Woisin M.A. LMT, Caring Touch Massage Therapy
261 Lake Shore Blvd., Massapequa Park, NY 11762
E-mail address- Khorn453 @aol.com
Phone 516-220-1941 (No soliciting please.)
If you have an inspiring story to share about your success, consider participating in a future interview. Contact Theresa Schmidt through her website at www.educise.com.