February 1, 2022 | Spotlight

Spotlight: Crista de la Garza LMT, BCTMB

Please provide your full name and current location.

Crista de la Garza, LMT, BCTMB, Lafayette, CO

Provide one fun fact about you.

I have a weakness for adopting animals that make eye contact with me. (Our household cares for 2 fancy goldfish, a tuxedo cat, a large mixed breed Shephard dog, a yellow canary, and a green-cheeked conure.)

What motivated you to pursue massage therapy as a career?

During my Texas childhood in the 80’s & 90’s, my father endured injuries from six car collisions. In every incident he was hit by a drunk driver. This was before the “Don’t drink and drive” campaign. I assisted with some at home physical therapy and learned basic acupressure to help him in his recoveries. My mother was in the car for one of the collisions. I learned through experiment that walking on her back gave me leverage to apply the amount of compression she needed at that time. These experiences introduced me to the idea of a career in which I could help others by facilitating part of their injury recovery.

As an adult in my early 20’s, I received my first professional massage through a university provided mental health and wellness counseling program. I was referred by the counseling office to make a massage appointment for the purpose of experiencing safe and therapeutic touch. This massage appointment not only changed the quality of my life by providing a safe and healing environment, it planted the seed of what a massage therapy career could look like, and was the motivating factor that allowed me to explore my massage therapy curiosities.

How has your massage career evolved? (How did your previous roles lead you to where you are now?  What most excites you about your current role?)

After working as a scenic artist in professional theatre for more than a decade, I took the leap in a major career change from the Arts to the Healing Arts. I began my massage therapy career working in spas on the East Coast, then landed in Colorado working in gyms, managing a wellness center, and stayed on for more than a decade in a massage clinic where I developed my injury prevention and rehabilitation skills. I served as faculty with the Boulder College of Massage Therapy teaching Ethics and Communication skills and assisted in supervising the student clinic. I presently own my business, work for myself, and teach Continuing Education for Massage Ethics. Without all the experiences of my career, I would not have grown to possess the knowledge I now have that can be passed on to others entering and growing in the profession. I believe I will be practicing massage therapy for my entire life and may never formally retire from the call to help others learn about embodiment and physical awareness.

I am most excited about stepping more deeply into the role of teaching massage therapy and contributing lived insights towards decision making of policy and procedures for others to experience positive professional outcomes in their own massage therapy careers.

When did you first become Board Certified and why did you choose to become Board Certified?

I sat for the NCBTMB test in 2005 upon completing my massage therapy 600-hour program. I continued with Board Certification when it became available in 2013. I have chosen to remain Board Certified throughout my career because of the professional credential that is important for communicating the quality of my work and the credibility of my profession to clients.

How has Board Certification elevated your career?  What doors has it opened for you?

Board Certification invites my community and potential clients to have educated conversations with me about massage therapy and the massage therapy profession. When working for others I feel validated asking for a higher pay wage because of my credential. While working for myself I can justify my hourly rates and “worth” by considering the extent of my professional knowledge. Being Board Certified has always made attaining state licensure easier for me. Having the Board Certification has opened the door to attaining a master’s degree through recognized equivalent credits with Siena Heights University. Massage Therapy education is my ever-growing passion. I will complete a MA in Higher Education Leadership this September 2022. Upon graduation I intend to walk through another opened door to take on a Dean or President role for a Massage Therapy institution.

What advice do you have for a fellow massage therapist contemplating Board Certification?

My advice is to “Be Board Certified.” Do it, it is so worth it! Board Certification is a pathway to credibility and professional integrity for massage therapists. Your clients will feel safer in your care knowing that you are held to higher standards of ethical conduct because the Board Certification credential shows that you adhere to a code of ethics that is firmly against sexualizing the profession, human rights atrocities, human trafficking, and sexual assault. This voluntary credential gives us legitimacy, ethical recognition, and shows other caring professionals and health care professionals that we are knowledgeable about best practices and are seeking informed research through continuing education.

How has your practice and/or employment been affected by COVID-19?

Wow, so much. My practice has become even more trauma informed. The collective trauma, collective overwhelm, from the pandemic is ongoing and there is enormous grief. I begin my client intake these days by asking, “How are you?”, because it is an authentic question that allows the client to take a breath and check in with themselves. I keep extra boxes of tissues around. I am told by many that getting a massage is their only human connection during this isolating time. The grounding meditative practice of massage therapy is extremely helpful, for us as practitioners and for our clients, to battle the anxieties of the collective traumas we are all enduring.

I now take 22 minutes (I have timed it with a stopwatch) to reset the room; therefore, I need 30 minutes between appointments for my own peace of mind. Pre-pandemic I could do this in 5 minutes or less. I am happy with my new cleaning regimen and will probably never go back to the 5-minute turnover. I have begun to wear a KN95 as part of my “uniform” and may never go back to working without a mask. I enjoy not getting sick from the public. I began to take temperature checks before entering the massage room and will likely continue doing this forever as it gives me an added measure to send clients home when they have a fever. This prevents clients from coming into my office while they are viral, and they are more likely to reschedule in advance when they are not feeling well.

Since March 2019, I have lost several clients to illness and death. Many clients have not returned to receive massage from fear of illness and death. Before my county had a mask mandate, I had requested my clients wear masks during treatments. Because of this request I gained some new clients while I lost some old clients. I have returned again and again to reviewing my basic human rights and professional expectations. It is ok to say yes and no without feeling guilty, it is ok to change your mind, it is ok to grow and become assertive, it is ok to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand”. As massage therapists, we have the right to our own opinions and values, and if we are going to share them, we need to express them appropriately. We need to respect our own boundaries and limitations while we respect the boundaries and limitations of others. Trauma happens when boundaries are violated. Let us cause no harm.

There were months during lock-down that I did not/could not work and turned to teaching a lot of online yoga to supplement my income. I now naturally incorporate home care options much more than I did previously because after months of practice I have built my movement communication muscles, the language and vocabulary is faster and easier. I enjoy this unexpected added gem in my toolbox. Upon returning to massage therapy work, I realized that working in a group practice setting was no longer in my best interests for my health and peace of mind. This resulted in opening my solo practice in the next town over, much closer to where I live. I can now walk to my office. This has been a wonderful new chapter in my professional life. I have enjoyed the process of working in and creating the space of my private practice office.

Change is the only constant. There is so much to be thankful for. Working during the times of Covid-19 has taught me to move with the ebb and flow of what is. Control is an illusion. The explanation of Yoga Sutra 2.37 reminds me to “receive each breath with reverence and use it to serve others…we can be happy in situations of tension…and a smile costs nothing. We can also learn from what Thich Nhat Hanh taught: “Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world.” Oscar Wilde expressed it well when he wrote, “it takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.” We as massage therapists are so incredibly brave to show up each day for our clients and hold space for them during these epic times of uncertainties, insecurities, and social protests and change. I realize now more than ever before that the world needs us.

To apply for Board Certification, click here.

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