Spotlight on a Massage Therapist Massage Therapy is an amazing occupation with a variety of career paths available. We feature interviews with professionals in the field and share their successes, challenges, rewards, and advice.
Phil Cutrell Graduated from the Myomassethics Center in 1989
Irene’s – When did you graduate from Irene’s massage school?
Phil – I actually was not a student at Irene’s Myomassology Institute although I was a student of Irene. I graduated in 1989 from the Myomassethics Center which was owned by Irene and her partner. I had the privilege of having Irene as my core instructor and great assistance by Janet Schrock and Marj Harnois. I was part of what was later known to be the “Monday Night Four” myself and three other students who bonded and really applied ourselves. Irene had to shoo us out at the end of class. We did not want to leave so, I didn’t. Following graduation, I apprenticed with Irene for 2 – 3 years, became an assistant instructor and then moved on to teach the core curriculum and numerous elective classes with mentor #2 and great friend, Don Deceico.
Irene’s – Why did you choose massage therapy as a career?
Phil – Auto accidents have been life-altering road signs that have appeared to guide me through my journey in Massage Therapy. In 1984 my wife and I were in a very non-violent auto accident and thought we were not injured. The next morning she woke up with low back pain which worsened and became chronic. Doctors said she had two herniated disks causing the pain. She saw a chiropractor with minor short term relief and was open to other treatments to avoid suggested surgery.
One day she was watching a local talk show called Kelly and Company. (Google it, youngsters) One of their guests was Bonnie Prudden of manual treatment of Trigger Points fame and she did a “quick fix” on the neck of one of the staff of the show. Within minutes his neck pain was gone and he had full range of motion. That evening Prudden and a few local Myotherapists were hosting an informational seminar and my wife attended. At the end of the lecture, they set up massage tables and offered TrP “quick fixes”. My wife lined up for Prudden and Bonnie used elbow pressure on her glutes, hamstrings, and I think I figured out later some psoas work. About 5 minutes later my wife stood up 80% pain-free, for the first time in 3 years. She was amazed to be able to bend over and touch her toes when previously she was severely restricted in the low back and hip flexion. She came home and we were both in tears. With less than little knowledge of bodywork, I was amazed that this was possible. She made 4-5 subsequent appointments and was treated by the late great Certified Myotherapist Robert Howell. He allowed me to watch his work and sold me a copy of Bonnie Prudden’s Trigger Point book, which was written for the layman. I read and practiced on some friends and relatives, with hit or miss results, and the next step was attending a 4-week adult ed. Massage workshop. I then went for a professional massage, asked the therapist where she went to school and she replied, “there’s this woman in Southfield named Irene”. As they say, the rest is history.
Irene’s – Where do you practice massage therapy?
Phil – For the last four years and currently I perform my therapy exclusively in my patients’ homes which are all being either Auto Accident or Worker’s Compensation cases. Previously I have been honored to share office space with Mable Sharp, PT and Craniosacral Therapist and instructor in various cities for many years.
Irene’s – What is the most rewarding part of your massage career?
Phil – Besides it being a vocation that I enjoy and have passion for, it has provided my family with food and shelter. I guess that would be number one. The education experience opening me up to a whole new world of physical human interaction which is essential to us all. Being taught by Irene to begin each session with mindfulness and sharing unconditional love with clients. Coming to the realization that the therapist/client relationship has to be based on truth in your compassion and then, and only then, can you and the client both gain the highest mutual benefit from that interaction. I believe at its best, it is a give and receives experience. All that and more.
Irene’s – Do you have a favorite memory from massage school?
Phil – While attending Irene’s classes I worked two jobs a fulltime day job M-F and a part-time gig from 9 pm to 2 am Fri-Sunday. Luckily I could study during the day job and go straight from it to class and all Wednesday electives. The memory is me sitting on the steps, that lead down to the school, always first to arrive and seeing Irene come down the steps and saying, “Hello Phil” followed by some chatter before the class began to arrive. There are so many more. I have to add Irene’s anointment at graduation. “Always seek the truth, speak the truth and serve your fellow man with love and compassion”. That is what this work is all about. That is what life is all about.
Irene’s – What was the best class you took at Irene’s massage school?
Phil – Besides the entire core classes, I have trouble choosing a single elective. Polarity with John Bodary, after Irene convinced me through experiencing it that there was something to this energy stuff. John so impressed me as being polarity himself. I remember watching him breathe. The openness and his presence as he demonstrated the work.
Shiatsu, I took near the end of the year and had been working for a few weeks at a health club. The week after attending the class a member stuck his head in the men’s massage room and asked, “Does anyone do shiatsu”. Well, without thinking I held my hand up, and immediately “why” echoed in my head, having taken the class and no time to practice. He said he wanted 90 minutes of Shiatsu and his business travels took him to Asia often where he received treatments. Holy crap! I somehow instinctively turned my focus to not individual techniques or movements learned and just fell into an almost blissful, for me, session of what I absorbed from the class. Very little thought, actually feeling like I was reconnecting with the feeling in the class. After the massage, the client said it was the best he had ever received, a huge tip. He said I seemed to hold the points just long enough to open up the energy. A much-needed vote of confidence.
Irene’s – What bodywork modalities or massage techniques do you find most effective?
Phil – That is a far-reaching question. It is dependent on the patient, on any given day and time. I remember an analogy given at a CEU class, you can go into a terminally ill patient’s room and ask how are you today, and their response may be I have a crick in my neck or my feet ache. In my work where a physician’s script with a diagnosis must be in hand and must be related to their injuries, I have to follow guidelines regarding what areas can be treated. But it is good to know that in the body everything is truly connected and I can defend almost any work I do, although some modalities are removed from your toolbelt due to insurance not covering the work. I often utilize structural assessment from Neuromuscular Therapy, St John’s Method while combining Thomas Myers knowledge of the fascial Anatomy Trains and often apply Myer’s Myofascial Release techniques. For ligament and tendon injuries I rely on Ben Benjamin and Whitney Lowe’s teachings. Slipstream negative pressure another form of MFR, Leon Chaitow Muscle Energy Techniques and PNF, basic CranioSacral Therapy. Just in the last 3 years, I have begun to integrate the use of MT tools with Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) and a Hypervolt Percussor. And it goes without saying Irene’s Myomassology as the foundation and either stands alone or is present in all of the other work I do.
Irene’s – What was your greatest success with a massage client?
Phil – Not sure. Over a thirty-year career, I tend to remember those that I couldn’t reach. Those that due to traumatic brain injuries, personality, preconceptions of what they needed that I could not or was not comfortable in giving those come to mind. And not as failures because of my belief that you can only offer and without acceptance of the client there is no success. It takes two to dance and sometimes one, the other, or both in the partnership, do not gel. No one’s fault it just is what it is
Two instances do come to mind. Many years ago had a client with MS and periodically here colon was inactive and she had to go to the hospital to be evacuated. I used what I was taught with the sweeping strokes following the colon from proximal to distal along with energetic/reflexology and many times she did not have to visit the hospital.
In another case I saw a person from California, visiting Detroit, and her back hurt from the plane ride. She called I saw her once and she reported feeling somewhat better. My suspicion was that she had a very unstable pelvis, laxity in the SI ligaments. I told her about Prolotherapy and told her I thought that might be indicated in her case. A number of months later I received a very heartfelt thank you letter stating that the orthopedic physician agreed, she had a series of proliferation therapy and she had not had any back pain for months. Sometimes the best we can do for clients is to refer them to another practitioner that can supply what they need.
Irene’s – Where is the first place you worked after you graduated from massage school?
Phil – A few months before graduation I worked at a racquetball club on Southfield Rd. I do not remember the name. CMT? They charged $25 for members for an hour massage. The MT that ran it took $10 and you received $15. For every 6 months you worked there you received another $1 added to your cut. I was there for less than a year. I discovered club massage is not my forte’.
Irene’s – What do you do for self-care to provide longevity of your massage career?
Phil – Not one for exercise but I do meditation, Qigong, and am interested and am going to begin practicing Wim Hof’s breathing exercises which leads to acclimating to cold temperatures to train your autonomic nervous system to withstand any kind of stress, even diseases.
Irene’s – To what do you attribute your success as a massage therapist?
Phil – Having so many great teachers and mentors and making the decision to stay connected to the school and teaching. There is the old adage those who can’t do, teach. I initially put a lot into the school and the IMF, a Myomassology organization founded by Irene and others and after years of that shifted my focus into building a practice. Then after being in a serious auto accident and missing a year of work to rehab, I decided to focus on work exclusively with injuries.
Irene’s – What marketing do you feel has worked best to promote your massage practice?
Phil – Word of mouth and referrals, having a good website and web presence and being accessible to clients and doing everything I can to accommodate them. I used to spend a lot of money on yellow book ads, advertorials in newspapers and even radio spots but they never really paid off.
Irene’s – What continuing education have you taken after graduating from massage school?
Phil – Neuromuscular Therapy NMT 1, 2, 3, 5 & 8a (Paul St. John’s Method)
Myofascial Release 1 (John Barnes Method)
Myofascial Release Massage (Hellerwork style)
Orthopedic Massage- 1, 2 & 3 (Whitney Lowe)
Fibromyalgia Syndrome Training (Leon Chaitow, D.O.)
Polarity- Level 1 The Polarity Center (John Bodary)
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (Dr. Bruno Chickly)
CranioSacral Therapy- Level 1 (Upledger Institute)
The Assessment and Treatment of Neck Pain (Ben Benjamin, Ph.D.)
The Assessment and Treatment of Low Back (Ben Benjamin, Ph.D.)
Neck and Thorax Injuries Workshop (Ben Benjamin, Ph.D.)
Anatomy Trains: The Myofascial Meridians (Thomas Myers)
Body Reading Posture & Movement (Thomas Myers)
Soft tissue Master Class- The Neck (Thomas Myers)
Medical Massage: Lumbar, shoulder & Cervical (Ralph Stephens, LMT, NCTMB)
Slipstream Therapy Negative Pressure Release, Cupping (Eeva Vahla)
Joint Mobilization for Massage Therapists (Brian Piccolo)
Myoskeletal Alignment (Erik Dalton)
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation- IASTM (PESI Rehab and Rock Tape)…plus many hours in related studies
This picture is to honor all these great teachers
Irene’s – Do you have any advice for new massage therapists?
- Like any other job, massage therapy is hard work unless you love it.
- Be open to all forms of bodywork in order to find your “thing”.
- Keep in touch with the positive knowledgeable therapists you want to emulate.
- To keep from burning out practice good body mechanics, attend CE classes, seminars, conventions and the like. Also, have at least one colleague that you can talk to about anything to be your soundboard for issues and situations you are not sure about.
- Go out there and spread the much-needed love and compassion that our world is short of.
Irene’s – What is the best way for massage clients to contact you?
Phil – Contact Michigan Auto Injury Massage Therapy, LLC
Phone- (248) 854-6068
Irene’s Myomassology Institute is a nationally accredited massage therapy school located in Southfield, Michigan. Scholarships and Financial Aid are available for qualified students to help them pay school tuition. Our students graduate with a state license prepared for a successful career as a massage therapist. Irene’s lifetime job placement services maintain an abundance of massage career opportunities for our alumni. Irene’s student massage clinic provides affordable massage to the public with discounted prices for seniors and veterans. Irene’s massage supply store equips massage therapists with the necessities to manage a successful career.