How I found Massage Therapy
It was a sunny spring day in the mid 1970’s and after walking all day through the University Street Fair in Seattle, WA, I came upon a booth giving foot massages. I washed my feet, laid back on a huge pillow, and two people simultaneously massaged my feet. That’s was it, I was hooked. I sought out the instructor and signed up for her course.
Her 8-week training included the principles of hydrotherapy, reflexology, and wonderful Swedish massage. When working on other classmates they kept saying, "You have ‘magic’ in your hands." I had found my calling.
After completing this training, we were told that we could study anatomy on our own and take the Washington State written and practical exams to become licensed. It took two tries to pass the written, but I then passed the practical with flying colors.
I now found myself having to overcome the stigma of massage as a cover for prostitution. It was a friend with chronic pain from a fall that said to me, “Massage should be part of health care.” This inspired me to volunteer in the physical therapy department of Everett Providence Hospital. I was then asked to join the multidisciplinary health care team at the Everett Providence Hospital Pain Control Center. I worked there for seven years as one of the first massage therapists to contract with a hospital.
In this position, I was working on patients who had undergone multiple surgeries and were in constant pain. It was the goal of the Pain Control Center to help them learn to cope with that pain. But it was the early 1980’s, and I could not get paid by workmans compensation or insurance companies because the state did not recognize massage as part of heath care. This led me down a political path.
I became a co-author and the lobbyist for the Washington State Massage Law Revision in 1987, making massage part of the health care field in Washington State. As a past Washington State Massage Board Member, I also helped write the WAC for the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to cover massage therapy for injured workers.
How I developed Structural Relief Therapy (SRT)
While working at the Everett Providence Hospital Pain Control Center, I was naive and my lack of formal education made me think there should be something that could help these patients in pain. It kept me searching for solutions.
In 1984, I finally found Dr. Loren Rex, D.O. who taught me the principles of Strain and Counterstrain, Muscle Energy Technique, and fascia release. Over many years, and many bodies, I used a combination of these osteopathic principles to develop Structural Relief Therapy, a protocol to quickly and efficiently decrease the pain of my patients.
SRT approaches and listens to the body differently from most other techniques. As in Strain and Counterstrain, the muscles are passively positioned (usually shortened) to stop the strands of involuntary muscle contraction. I use the tightness of the muscles to find the SRT tender points, usually near an articulation (joint), which do not refer. I position the body until the patient tells me the SRT tender point is gone or mostly diminished. I hold this passive position for 90 to 120 seconds, then return the body to a neutral position. After reassessing, the tissue is now soft and the range of motion in the joint has increased--with just a position!
After using SRT to decrease involuntary muscle contraction, I usually find that what remains is shortened and/or twisted fascia. Because I do not want to create more pain for my patients, I have developed a gentle, effective, and efficient way to work with fascia and other soft tissues. SRT also incorporates the principles of Muscle Energy Technique (MET), especially in the pelvis where it is the most efficient treatment.
My Personal Mission
One of my teaching assistants said to me, "You're not going to tell them everything, are you? I mean if you tell them everything they won't need to come to a class or buy your DVDs." If I use the accepted marketing model she would be right. But I heard a clear and profound voice in my head say, "Give away everything you know."
I’ve had an active massage practice since 1977, and specialize in patients experiencing complex and chronic medical conditions. I listen to the body and think "outside-the-box" to find the solutions for their symptoms.
I love to learn and have over 2,400 hours of continuing education in the health care field from physicians, osteopaths, physical therapists, trainers, and massage therapists. But my greatest teachers have always been, and still are, the patients on my table.
I developed SRT into CE classes to make it easy to understand and integrate into daily practice because I felt this was an approach that was missing from other bodywork techniques. Through my CE classes, clinics, and private advanced classes, it is my personal mission to share all of the knowledge I’ve gained through 37+ years of experience and the thousands of bodies who have been my teachers. I’ve been sharing what I have learned since 1985 and currently teach SRT classes nationwide. I especially love teaching because of what I learn from my students.
Awarded to Taya Countryman by the American Massage Therapy Association Washington State Chapter:
- Outstanding Service to the Profession" - 2003
- "Service to the Chapter" - 2006
- "Chapter Meritorious" - 2010
- WMF Massage Therapy Hall of Fame inductee 2013
Taya Countryman LMP