Working Today: Massage therapist finds passion after multiple years in workforce

Karen Cummings, Jamie Earley, Joyce Doughty and David Kopp pose for a photo.

David Kopp, owner and lead massage therapist of One Body Massage Therapy, is nothing if not versatile.

Over the years, he has held positions as a radio broadcast journalist, sports editor and wedding photographer before finding his passion as a massage therapist.

“Sometimes I ask myself why I didn’t do this years ago and it always takes me back to my favorite phrase: ‘You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans,’” Kopp said. “I believe I came to this at precisely the time I was supposed to. I went back to school at age 53 and here I am about nine years later.”

Kopp also became a faculty member in the Massage Therapy Program at WellSpring School of Allied Health in 2016, where his three current massage therapists, Karen Cummings, Jamie Earley and Joyce Doughty, attended and had Kopp as an instructor at one point or another.

Kopp said he is thankful for not only his “wonderful” staff, but also his wife who helped him get to where he is now.

“I couldn’t have done anything without the support of my loving wife, Karen,” Kopp said. “She has been behind me every step of the way and I cannot thank her enough.”

Kopp said he finds working as a massage therapist to be a satisfying experience where he can help bodies to heal by removing tension and stress.

“We are not healers; we facilitate healing,” Kopp said. “We believe the body heals itself and all we do is help it along. The way I look at it, the body has a balance. When something is out of whack, the rest of the body works to regain that balance. That creates other issues.”

What would surprise people most to learn about your job?

“I enjoy giving a massage as much as I enjoy receiving one. I love the work and I knew virtually nothing about massage therapy when I went to school. I had never been on a table. I had gotten chair massages prior to school, but I had never gotten a professional massage on a table. I was amazed at how quickly I fell in love with it. One of the greatest things I ever did for myself was going back to school and getting my certification and eventually my license. To see changes in people as you work out their stress, pain or muscle tension is so satisfying to me. Since I started this, I haven’t worked a day in my life.”

What’s the most common question you get about what you do?

“’What kind of massage do you do?’ They always want to put a label on it. We learn so many modalities in school that it’s hard to put a label on what we do. We incorporate everything we’ve learned and what we use depends on what their body is telling us. My answer is usually that we do everything from Swedish to deep tissue and everything in between. One of my specialties, and one of my continuing educations, is focused on craniosacral therapy. I mention that and a lot of people don’t even know what that is, unfortunately. It’s amazing therapy. So there’s really no definitive answer to that question. One person told me, ‘You give the massage you want to receive.’ My focus is on listening to what the client tells me and then when I get them on the table, what their body tells me. A lot of times, the site of pain is not the source of pain.”

What is the most challenging aspect for your job?

“Running a business is challenging. Just making sure everyone has what they need in terms of massage lotion, creams or linens that they need. Making sure all the bills are paid. The business part of it is really challenging to me. I had run a photography business from out of my house for a while, so I was able to draw from that experience as well. But massage is unique in that it’s a completely different industry and there are very different things you have to do to ensure it runs properly.”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?

“Seeing how people respond to the treatments. You can see the changes that are made. They’re so relieved. They come off the table and they’re what we call ‘massage drunk.’ Sometimes we tell them to sit there a while until your head clears. Also, when they come back. We don’t discourage gratuities, but we don’t necessarily encourage them either. The best tip you can give me is to keep coming back. I have regulars who have been coming to see me since I was working out of a chiropractor's office in 2011. That’s one of the most rewarding things: to have people come back and build those relationships. They see the value in what you do for them and they feel the benefits.”

Would 10-year-old you be surprised that you are in this position or field?

“Absolutely. 10-year-old me wanted to be a sportscaster. I wanted to be in the radio booth with Harry Caray and Jack Buck. Ten-year-old me would be like, ‘You’re doing what?’ But he also would have been surprised when I shot weddings where I did things like fluffing up dresses. Ten-year-old me would have been like, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ At that age, I didn’t even know what massage therapy was.”

What advice would you give someone starting a job similar to yours?

“It’s going to take some time to build your clientele. It’s going to be slow at first, so be ready for that. Don’t take things personally. Stay the course, have faith in your training and that the good Lord will take care of you. Just because you hang up your shingle, it doesn’t mean they’re going to come flocking to you.”

Staff Writer Dustin Steinhoff can be reached by emailing dustin.steinhoff@dsjnow.com or by calling (660) 747-8123.

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