Monday Medical: Massage helps healing

Riley Polumbus/For the Steamboat Today
Massage therapists Sarah Braat, Jeremy Kassib and Wendy McMahon offer numerous healing massage specialties at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Integrated Health clinic.
Courtesy Photo

If you go

What: Qigong for Beginners, a series taught by Sarah Braat

When: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Mondays starting March 7

Where: Yampa Valley Integrated Health

Cost: The series includes four classes for $32

Contact: Call Yampa Valley Integrated Health at 970-875-2731 to register

Massage therapists Sarah Braat, Jeremy Kassib and Wendy McMahon offer numerous healing massage specialties at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Integrated Health clinic.

Sarah Braat is passionate about healing.

As a massage therapist and qigong instructor at Yampa Valley Integrated Health, Braat is able to use her training to help her clients heal in Yampa Valley Medical Center’s clinic that aims to treat the whole person.

“My goal is to empower people to heal themselves,” Braat said. “I help them gain awareness of where the pain is coming from and then we work together to treat the cause, rather than the symptoms.”

This holistic approach addresses the medical condition while considering the strengths of the individual. YVMC’s Integrated Health incorporates complementary and alternative methods and practices within a medical setting. It is part of a growing trend in hospitals to treat the person and not just the ailment.

Integrated Health takes this one step further, creating more treatment options by considering conventional and alternative methods. Massage therapy, which has been part of the clinic since its opening in May, recently has expanded.

Three massage therapists, Braat, Jeremy Kassib and Wendy McMahon, bring a diverse set of massage therapy skills, further enhancing the services available.

Angela Silvernail Melzer, director of Yampa Valley Integrated Health, said she was pleased by how these therapists fit into the philosophy of her department.

“They are in communication with other providers and use a multidisciplinary approach rather than acting as an independent therapist,” Melzer said. “Our clients can heal better by receiving more than one type of service. It’s convenient for the patient to find so many options in one space.”

Braat is happy to be a part of the team.

“I’ve always appreciated a team approach where all practitioners work together,” Braat said. “I want to help with the integration of alternative modalities into a medical model. I want to lead people across the bridge between the two.”

In addition to massage therapy, Integrated Health also offers acupuncture/herbal therapy, case management, counseling, support groups, nutritional support and consultation, and a variety of classes including yoga and mindfulness meditation. Melzer said she thinks massage therapy is an important element that helps connect the body and the mind.

“Some clients are not connected to their body,” Melzer said. “Someone who seeks our counseling services can also benefit from body work. The two combined will allow a means for them to stay in touch with their body.”

Just as the list of services at Integrated Health is varied, so is the array of massage therapy options. McMahon is trained in modified table Thai massage, neuro-muscular therapy and lymphatic drainage. Kassib offers craniosacral therapy. Braat specializes in integrative massage therapy, which combines Swedish massage and energy work.

At the first session, Braat will talk to the client to discuss goals and determine what the person wants to accomplish in the therapy. Through this discussion, Braat can determine whether the person is open to or can benefit from incorporating energy work into the massage.

She also is trained in qigong healing, an ancient form of body work that opens, circulates and balances the body’s energy. She said she would recommend qigong to everyone because we are living in a chaotic environment.

“We’re all too busy,” Braat said. “We need to learn to practice holding our attention and being more present.”

“Qi” means breathing, or air, and “gong” means force or power. Combined, the word describes what Braat refers to as a system of energy cultivation. It’s a belief that you can gain a new level of awareness of the energy around you and that you can use and move that energy.

Braat admits that it’s not for everyone. However, if you are seeking new ways to find balance, gain clarity or increase energy levels, this might be a way for you to achieve your goal. People say they can focus better, or simply feel a sense of peace.

Integrated Health serves clients with a wide range of backgrounds, needs and diagnoses. Anything from common issues such as allergies, back pain and stress to other serious illnesses can be treated through massage therapy and other modalities offered at the clinic.

“People think that massage is a luxury,” Braat added. “It’s really a part of health care.”

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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