Spotlight: Wayne O. Sickels, M.T.S., M.Div., BCTMB, LMT, BCST

wayne sickels

Please provide your full name, current location, and current job title.

My name is Wayne O. Sickels, M.T.S., M.Div., BCTMB, LMT, BCST. I currently reside in Reston, VA where I am the sole proprietor of a full-time clinical private practice.

Provide one fun fact about you.

I first began my part-time practice in massage therapy in 1985, as a health & healing ministry at the church I served then as Associate Pastor. I went full-time in 1989 when I left the church staff position.

What are your hobbies?

I have a long-term relationship with Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen, both study & practice and do regular silent retreat practice intensives.

How did you discover the massage therapy profession?  What motivated you to pursue massage therapy as a career?

While in the ministry I was trained in Grief & Bereavement work and was repeatedly struck by something that became apparent during the annual Grief Workshop sponsored by the church.  Repeatedly when someone came to a place of “completion” in their grief process, significant amounts of pain & physical symptoms they were living with resolved and disappeared.  And I was very aware that in all my training, whether looking at the psyche & emotions, or spirit, the body had always been completely left out.  Yet in this intensive work with grief, it was clear, the body always contained, manifested, and expressed the process that people were in.

I wanted to try to fill this hole in my understanding of myself, others and the healing process.  I knew that if I went to Medical school, I would not get what I was seeking, an integrated, wholistic understanding of the body, anatomy & physiology, not separate from the mind, emotions, or spirit.  Medical School would teach from the perspective and assumptions of scientific materialism.

I decided to attend Potomac Myotherapy Institute (now Potomac Massage Training Institute), at the time the only Massage Training School in the Washington, DC area.  I knew that here I would learn anatomy, physiology, and massage & bodywork methodology, but from a specifically wholistic perspective.

The passion and motivation behind my entire career in Massage & Bodywork has always been a passion for understanding and supporting the innate healing process in my clients and myself, and to support persons in a return to health and wholeness.

How did you develop your passion?

I have also always been passionate about life-long learning and feel blessed to be in a profession where this can be richly pursued.  There is always more to learn. For most of the 35 years that I have been in practice, I would typically far exceed the professional association or Certification requirements for continuing education hours.

I began my learning in the most grounded ways I could find (to counter the general public perception of massage as ‘just a nice luxury’ but not all that therapeutic, or worse, just a cover for vice).  I took Sports Massage, was Certified in Neuromuscular Massage Therapy, and did advanced training and instructor training in Orthopedic Assessment Skills and working with Injuries.

I worked for a short time in a Physician’s office practice of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and when I left the PT, staff asked what “technique” had I been using so he could perhaps learn it as well (I was frequently getting the best results in the office).  What I told him has been a principle for All my work then and since (regardless what technique I may use), that my results were not so much due to what I did to someone, but rather how I carefully listened and responded with my hands to what the body was saying moment-to-moment.

My results had more to do with how I was with them, (not merely working on them) most especially not with them in a generic way, merely through the application of routine protocols.   I listened first and foremost, creating conditions where the body knew, “just now I am safe and will be respected”, not done to.  So the bodies of those patients, who were typically in a lot of pain from auto accidents, falls, herniated discs, etc., could perhaps for the first time in weeks or months, relax their guard and down – regulate their autonomic nervous system’s activation.  This allowed their body to reorganize and gradually integrate that reorganization.  But their body did that, I did not do it to them with some “technique”.

How has your massage career evolved?

I went on to learn methods and perspectives on Myofascial Release and the 10 Session Method of Ida Rolf, Somatic Psychology, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, Oncology Massage and Massage for the Childbearing Year, Hanna’s Somatics, The Bowen System, Pre & Perinatal Shock and Trauma, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, and Bodywork for Trauma Resolution.

I took a great many short CEU’s related to specific conditions, such as Conquering Pain, Stress Related Disorders, Concussion & Brain Injury, Arthritis, Rotator Cuff Syndrome & Frozen Shoulder, Effective Examination & Treatment of the Foot & Ankle, and a sweet focused course called “We Are the Tools of Our Trade: How the Therapist’s Own Attachment Patterns Shape Therapy.  Life-Long-Learning!”

I have accompanied and worked with a few clients first for years at my office, then through cancer diagnosis and treatment, and finally doing house calls when they had transitioned to home hospice care, helping to shepherd “a good death.”  I consider all my clients to be my constant and best teachers, and these persons in particular – facing their dying process with eye’s wide open to what is happening – taught me so much.

My practice now is mostly divided between two types of work.  I continue to do the detailed Orthopedic Assessment and Cyriax Cross-fiber Friction Massage for muscle, tendon, or ligament injuries.  So many people need it and almost no one, whether massage therapist, physical therapist, or orthopedic physician, does the very detailed assessment that I was trained to do or the very anatomically precise form of medical massage that many of these injuries respond so well to.  This is very satisfying work, one, because of the careful detective work you need to do to get clear what the landscape actually is (i.e. what is injured -or not- where, and to what degree), and second, doing the work that will best help that tendinitis or ligament injury heal quickly, fully, and with less chance of re-injury due to poor scar tissue formation.

Beside those type of clients, increasingly now I am seeing persons who are doing what might be called process bodywork, which is primarily related to resourcing someone to navigate a particularly challenging external landscape (high stress, many changes, losses, etc.) or internal landscape (history of trauma or other unmetabolized life experience), needing support for self-regulation, reorganization and embodiment.  We know developmentally that we don’t regulate our nervous system by ourselves.  We develop our capacity to regulate our own states of activation and dis-regulation through co-regulation.  Process bodywork is embodied co-regulation.  This type of work can be tremendously helpful in moving toward the resolution of trauma patterns from a history of overwhelm or unreliable/mis-attuned/neglectful/or even threatening attachment-related patterning.

When did you first become NCBTMB Certified?

I was first NCBTMB Certified in 1992.

Why did you elect to become NCBTMB Certified?

NCBTMB was the first national organization with a psychometrically evaluated exam, that could begin to serve as the basis for State Licensure and establish further professional legitimacy.  I served on the Exam Review Committee from 1991 to 1995, and thus knew more than most just what went into creating a legally defensible professional exam.

Why have you maintained your NCBTMB Certification all these years?

I have maintained my NCBTMB Certification because, as we hoped in the early days, the Certification became part of the requirement for State Certification in the State of Virginia (before we transitioned to Licensure).

How has NCBTMB elevated your career?  What doors did it open for you?

NCBTMB Certification has been and still is, part of establishing oneself as a qualified professional in this field.

What would you say to a fellow massage therapist contemplating Board Certification?

It is simply part of establishing and maintaining our professional legitimacy in the marketplace to have NCBTMB Certification.

To apply for Board Certification, click here.

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