Widgets Magazine

Joni Friedman, Licensed Massage Therapist of UmMassage, Chats Therapeutic Massage & the North Fork

Q: Have you always been a massage therapist? A: No. For about 25 years I worked as an art director in publishing. Eventually I was really burned out, and I was seguing. I was really attracted to massage. The Swedish Institute of Massage therapy was in our neighborhood in the city.

Massage therapy was such a 180 degree departure from working in a corporate environment. Working one on one with people is so nice; touch therapy is so powerful for me. I find that I can express myself in a very different way through massage. It’s very creative, very personal.

I have been a licensed massage therapist since 2006.

Q: How did you get to the North Fork?

We’ve had a home here for 23 years. I spent a lot of time at a cousin’s home on the south fork, and she kept a horse on the north fork. When my husband, son and I were looking for a second home, we looked here. We spent nearly every weekend here until moving here full time when my daughter was starting sixth grade. It was just a perfect opportunity to plant a seed.

Q: Do you practice a certain style of massage therapy?

I have studied many different modalities, and use many varied techniques. Each client has an individual needs, and I work with each person on an individual basis. I use thermal therapy, do stone massage, and use very high grade essential oils, just as a few examples.

Currently I am doing yoga teacher training to deepen my body awareness and my own practice, which will enable me to share that experience and another dimension to my work. A good chunk of my training, however, has been focused on medical techniques, such as oconology massage, pre-natal massage, manual lymph massage; I’ve studied breast massage for women who’ve had cancer and augmentation; I’ve mastered techniques for people with Parkinson’s, ALS, and MS; and people who have suffered strokes.

While I have lots of clients who just come for therapeutic relaxation massage, my practice is much more holistic practice than simply the spa work. I find that the more well-rounded, more educated I am, the better I can serve a broader population.

Q: Wow, some of that’s really intense. I’m used to thinking of massage simply as a profoundly relaxing, rejuvenating experience to shed stress; I hadn’t really thought about working with cancer and MS patients.

I like to work with as many populations as possible; runs the full gamut. I work with the elderly population in nursing homes, private clients in my Greenport office, people with and surviving cancer, pregnant women, all different health issues. People come for relaxation as well, because they have anxiety or other issues, or just for holistic well-being.

It’s funny; when I first started studying massage, I thought I was going to work with animals—we have two horses, had three—but as I studied and practiced I realized I loved working on people the most. In the end I guess I really am most drawn to working on people who need the most therapeutic work.

Q: I guess all massage is therapeutic, in that stress is so toxic and massage reduces stress.

There’s so many benefits to massage therapy. Unfortunately so many people wait until something really hurts or is broken, but on a regular basis massage therapy can just improve health. It builds your immune system, and keeps your body flexible and circulating, Massage creates healthy endorphins levels, decreases cortisol levels—the stress hormones.

So much of our population is sedentary, and people spend so much time in cars, in front of computers—the elderly spend so much time in chairs and in bed. All of that sitting is really bad for our bodies.

A massage is a great opportunity to take a mini vacation; it’s amazing how a one hour treatment can transform a person.

Q: Given the broad population you work with, do you do home visits?

A: Yes, as needed. I’ve had some really great experiences working people’s yachts, in their homes, even traveled to help people. However, I prefer to work in my office because there I have a lot of tools to offer my clients the ultimate relaxation service.

Q: How long are your massages? What should a client expect when they arrive at your office

My massages are usually 60 or 90 minutes. At their first visit, I give my clients a brief questionnaire to get a history, and bring them into the therapy room. I give them their space to prepare themselves for the massage. When I come in and they’re on the table, I have developed a treatment plan for them.

It’s a warm, enveloping experience that hopefully transcends the issues that they brought in with them and everyone leaves with a sense of relaxation and wellbeing.

Q: What do you love about the North Fork, and is it reflected in your massage practice?

I love the quiet, being in nature, seeing the sky and everything that the North Fork of Long Island has to offer. After 25 years of working full time in the city trying to raise a family, everyone’s just much happier here. We’re very lucky; we were able to make the break.

I think the peace that I’ve found here helps me share peace with my clients.

Q: Is your practice only locals, or are you able to serve visitors too?

A: Both. I work 7 days a week, by appointment only. I tend to schedule at least two days that give me some freedom each week, but which those are changes. So I’m able to accommodate visitors as well as people lucky enough to live here year round.

A lot of people who are visiting from out of town, find me as a resource for other entertainment on the North Fork—I share restaurants, cultural activities, my favorite vineyards; insider tips.

I try to accommodate people with discounts and package rates—for example, I discount seniors and nurses, caregivers, therapists, people living with cancer, because I want them to get the help they need.

To learn more about Joni and her practice, UmMassage, visit her website.