Sarah Cafiero, one of the lovely faces on the cover of our newest publication, Retail Mastery, is a long time massage therapist, educator, and owner of Rooted Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork in Tucson, Arizona. Sarah is also a mentor to many, many practitioners and a staple in the Tucson wellness community. If you have been reading this blog for more than a few years, you will also recognize her as one of the original contributors to the Massamio resources for independent massage therapists. I recently sat down with her to find out what motivated her to get so involved in her community.

Introduction to Massage

Like many of us, Sarah was first introduced to massage because of her own healthcare needs. She lived with the pain of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a young person and found massage to be an effective reliever. As she followed her heart across the country, from New York to New Mexico, and eventually to Arizona, she had no idea how much more of a role massage would play in her life. She enrolled in the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts because a friend of hers made massage school sound interesting. She was happily surprised to find while attending there that the community was unlike anything she had previously experienced. She said it felt like “home,” and she wanted that feeling of community to continue. That was nearly 20 years ago and now she fosters that feeling of community in everyone around her.

Chosen Culture

Sarah calls the massage community, both local and national, her “chosen culture.” Her calm, confident demeanor demonstrates that culture when you are in her presence. She owns and operates a massage clinic with nearly 30 massage therapists, movement specialists, and other wellness professionals. Her clinic also provides continuing education, consultation, and mentorship to the entire Southern Arizona community. Oh, and she still has time to see more than a handful of her own clients each week. But Sarah tells me she wasn’t always so business savvy and confident in living her authentic self. In fact, she says she was really pretty timid when it came to business-type operations and decisions until, while working with Massamio, Jan Schwartz [a pioneer in the massage-in-health-care arena and an icon in the greater massage community] advised Sarah to embrace her confidence—that she knows more than she thinks she does. Great advice, and so true.

Sarah has been in private practice for many years. She has taught at and has been on the program advisory committees for several local massage schools. Because of her high profile and the success of her clinic, she is constantly approached for advice. In order to set some parameters around the giving-of-advice, and to honor the fact that advice from successful practitioners has real value, she started a project called Rooted Consulting and Mentorship. It gives her and her colleagues an avenue to deliver small business consulting and professional development to other bodyworkers and wellness professionals. She is passionate about filling the needs of her community as they arise.

Earlier this year, in one of her most important contributions to the greater massage community to date, Sarah produced a video called Massage Therapists Speak Out. It was in the wake of some national press around allegations of sexual assault impacting the massage profession. She organized a group of her fellow massage therapists to share with the public why they do what they do, why they love it, and why they are obligated to protect the therapeutic space for their clients and themselves. In the video description she says, “We work at the intersection of vulnerability and compassion. Working in this space is both a privilege and a serious responsibility.” If you are a massage therapist (or any compassionate person), I dare you to watch this video without tears. It’s simply beautiful and reminds me why this community is my chosen culture too.

[I encourage you to share this video with your colleagues, clients, and friends. Everyone needs to see it!]

How to Get Involved

Culture nourishes us and gives us purpose. And it’s what we make it. If the wellness community is your chosen culture (hint… if you are reading this, it is), you can create and contribute to that culture just like Sarah does. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Adopt a learn-as-you-go work ethic. If you have an interest in trying something, try it!
  2. Find out what other practitioners are experiencing and share your vision of community by starting a peer support group in your community.
  3. Join an online community of practitioners for support and encouragement. This is particularly important if you are the only therapist in a small community.
  4. Provide community classes to educate and inform your neighbors and friends and potential clients of the benefits of your products and services. Ask other like-minded practitioners to join you.
  5. Find out where students are being trained near you. Offer to participate as a volunteer, mentor, or advisor. If you are interesting in teaching, find out specific qualifications and processes for applying.
  6. Grow your own business by contributing to the success of others. Give advice through consultations, rent out your treatment space(s) when not in use, collaborate with other professionals in health and wellness, the possibilities are endless.
  7. Sarah suggests: “Reach out to other like minded business owners (other clinic owners, complimentary businesses) and ask to tour their space and learn about them. Offer to reciprocate if they’d like. I have met so many amazing people doing this. Even if we offer similar services, I feel that we all need each other.”
  8. Find your passion and share it with others. It might not always be easy, but it really is that simple to change the world one community at a time.

You are the one who will create the community you have in mind. Sarah is a compassionate practitioner, just like you are. What she has accomplished, you can too, and even more. Get involved and go make it happen!