JSC grads find occupational wellness

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JSC grads find occupational wellness

Mariah Howland

Amy Kelly, Carly Harrison, Terrie Look, Kate Bogdanoff and Eileen McKusick.

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Five graduates of Johnson State College met at Sweet Hollow Herbs in Johnson to celebrate the recent Johnson Holiday Jubilee. The store’s proprietor, Amy Kelly, invited Carly Harrison, herbal medicine practitioner; Eileen McKusick, sound therapist and wellness educator; Terrie Look, Reiki practitioner and teacher; and Kate Bogdanoff, a licensed massage therapist and Aromatherapist; to enjoy the gathering and activities of local towns people, clients and friends.

Kelly has built a community version of the JSC Wellness and Alternative Medicine program through her store, by bringing her own WAM education to her work and inviting other healthcare professionals to offer community workshops to better understand the knowledge and science supporting safe and effective uses of alternative and integrative medicine.

“Education and supporting community relations are a high priority at Sweet Hollow Herbs,” she said. “Each month we offer classes and events to increase awareness of natural healing and environmental issues. I see the store as a community resource not only for customers, but for new, local product introductions, herbal formulations, classes and presentations, workshops and practitioner therapy appointments. It serves as a networking resource for local wild-crafters, formulators and other business interests.”

Kelly believes it is important to honor the body’s innate wisdom to restore itself. “The best way to support this process is to reduce stress: mental, nutritional, emotional, environmental, physical and spiritual, and to integrate a healthy diet and lifestyle,” she said.

According to JSC Professor of Behavioral Sciences Susan Green, Kelly actually offers an integrative medical herbal store, where herbs can be used together with other safe and effective medical practices.

“This new model of integrative practice is currently being adopted in some of the best hospitals in our nation, including the Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins and Beth Israel,” Green said.

After completing a nine-month herbal apprenticeship, studying nutrition, Reiki I and II and working as a chiropractic assistant, Kelly eventually was led to the WAM program at JSC in 2006. “There I was able to combine my love of plant medicine and my sincere commitment to making natural healing options more accessible to northern Vermont,” Kelly said. “Thus the concept of Sweet Hollow Herbs was formed during my final semester at JSC, just before graduating in May 2008.”

The store opened to the public in March 2009.

Like Kelly, Harrison also practices herbal medicine. Her business, Vermana Herbals, LLC., is almost a year old. “I decided to create an herbal extract company because it is what I am passionate about,” Harrison said. “Herbal medicine is what helps me help others.”

Harrison took herbal education courses, Reiki, and massage classes through college, and dabbled in many health modalities before graduating in 2007. “Herbal medicine is what I related the strongest to, and I guess you could say it found me,” she said. Choosing the WAM program was easy. “It was a no-brainer, partly because I could earn a degree doing what I loved to do,” she said.

Harrison makes tinctures, custom-blended extracts, teas and body care products including lotions, frost balm, body scrubs, chap-sticks and many more. Her small Vermont-based company is located in a barn -turned-office in Hyde Park. Though the business is new, it is growing quickly.

Harrison often travels to customers, and loves meeting clients at coffee shops to chat about health and enjoy some great teas. She has a shop on Etsy.com where she sells her extracts. She currently sells out of Sweet Hollow Herbs, and will be in two more shops in Stowe and one in Worchester, Vt. in the next few months.

“I am just beginning,” Harrison said. “I credit my success to enthusiasm and a drive to make the best herbal extracts I can. I make everything in small batches, with organic, ethically wild harvested or untreated herbs. So there is 100 percent quality and love devoted to what I do. More and more people are taking charge of their health, and herbs are a great way to do that.”

As her business continues to grow she would like to see herself in co-ops and on the shelves of health food stores next. “My future plans are to grow my business like a weed,” she said. “I plan on growing my apothecary business in the next few years, along with expanding my tincture and tea options. I want to brand a lifestyle company, not just another company that puts herbs in a bottle. It will be something for everyone and everybody. I never want to stop learning. I am basically just beginning my journey.”

Another journey taken into the alternative medicine venue is Eileen McKusick’s sound therapy. This technique uses the audible acoustic frequencies produced by tuning forks to locate and correct distortions in the body’s energy field, or bio-field. “It is a practice that I have developed over 16 years of experimentation and exploration with the forks,” McKusick said. “I have found it to be especially beneficial for issues such as pain, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and stuck emotions.”

McKusick’s General Studies degree from JSC, with a WAM focus, came after work, travel, opening a restaurant at age 20, raising kids, then selling the restaurant and starting a specialty food business. “When I was 37 I realized that I wanted to teach about health and wellness and specifically sound healing,” she said. “I needed to go to school to do that. So I sold the specialty food business and took Assessment of Prior Learning at CCV, where I got enough credits to enter Johnson as a senior.”

She graduated in 2009 and went right into the Masters in Education program, from which she will graduate this May. She feels that receiving her Masters will benefit her the most. “I can teach part-time at JSC or other colleges with that,” McKusick said. “It opens doors that weren’t open to me before.”

McKusick works from a treatment room at Sweet Hollow Herbs, and also works part-time in sound balancing at Stoweflake Spa and Wellness Center. “I have a thriving practice and see anywhere from 15 to 20 people a week, she said.

“People have remarkable experiences and tell their friends,” she said. “People come because they have been enthusiastically referred by people they trust.”

The teaching aspect is also very successful. Last year she filled five level one classes for a total of 50 students with no advertising or promotion, just word of mouth.

She treated a man who came in complaining of neck and lower-back pain that he had for months. The tuning forks located areas of disorder by the changes in tone that happened when they passed through. “I straightened out his field, very easily, in one 60-minute session,” she said. “He came back this week and told me that he had had zero pain and discomfort since his field adjustment with me.”

According to McKusick, people treated with sound therapy do not need to come back over and over again. When treating a specific symptom, very often it resolves in one or two sessions.

McKusick said people sometimes choose to come for multiple sessions if they want to clear their energy field of old emotional junk. She also states that her clients have reported that they feel calmer, clearer and don’t get upset as easily, with the added benefit of having more energy. “It’s like taking the static out of your signal,” she said.

She is considering striving for a doctorate, continuing with more formal research on sound and how and why it works on the body. She is also very interested in the work of other scientists who are looking to measure, define and quantify the field from a scientific perspective, and would really like the opportunity to collaborate with others on this subject.

Other forms of energy work are practiced by Terrie Look through her business Spiral Pathways and Natural Arts, LLC. Look is a Reiki practitioner and teaches all levels of Usui Reiki, Karuna and Shamballa Reiki styles.

She offers classes for adults, children and families, and Reiki energy-balancing sessions for individuals and couples primarily out of Sweet Hollow Herbs. Look also presents workshops at nursing homes, hospital settings, other stores and healing centers, retreat centers, private homes, health fairs and on campus.

Spiral Pathways is also an approved school for the VSAC Non-Degree Grant program.

Look has developed several methods of Aroma-Reiki, a combination of Reiki with therapeutic-grade essential oils made from plants, and is in the process of becoming a certified aromatherapist.

Look is trained in many different alternative methods. She is a ThetaHealer, working with theta brain waves to achieve an alternative state of conscience, a Oneness Deeksha Blessing Giver, and a Universal Life Church minister. She teaches labyrinth, a meditative walk, and also offers Bach Flower Remedies, Lightarian Institute AngelLink and other vibrational wellness support.

Look received a liberal arts degree to focus on body-mind-spirit integrative healing. She developed her own Bachelor of Arts degree in order to focus fully on independent studies of vibrational healing. Graduating summa cum laude in May of 2009, she is back at JSC in another self-designed degree, for master’s degrees in education and Individualized Strand. She plans to graduate in May.

“I developed a plan that combined education, counseling and vibrational healing,” Look said.

Kate Bogdanoff has been a licensed massage therapist since 2004 through the state of New York. Her practice uses techniques such as deep tissue/connective tissue work, lymphatic drainage and energy work, among others. She is also a certified clinical aromatherapist and makes custom blends for many ailments, as well as natural cleaning supplies and body care products.

Bogdanoff graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from JSC’s Health Science program in 2011.

“I have immersed myself in a holistic environment with amazing, talented individuals surrounding me with all backgrounds and experience,” Bogdanoff said.

Bogdanoff schedules private clients at Sweet Hollow Herbs when she is not working at a spa.

“I love helping people physically, emotionally and spiritually, which is why I love being a body worker,” she said. “I know that no matter what I do, it will have something to do with helping people feel better and live better.”

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