Maxine Featherstonhaugh admits with a laugh that moving from high tech to health wasn't an intuitively obvious career change. After high school Featherstonhaugh worked as a secretary, slowing moving into the technical side of the corporate world after finding she had an affinity for hard drives, RAM and megabytes.
"I worked at a computer help desk," she says. "Setting up computers, building them for the people in the office, training people on programs, developing programs. I was a computer geek."
Computer geek or not, Featherstonhaugh was also interested in alternative medicine and has studied homeopathy part time for the last 10 years with the intention of eventually opening her own homeopathic practice. However, during a visit to her naturopath a fellow patient told Featherstonhaugh she saw her as a registered massage therapist. Two weeks later, she had enrolled in Kikkawa College, a massage therapy school in Toronto, reasoning that she could make a living as an RMT and discuss homeopathy with her clients. And anyway, although Featherstonhaugh still liked computers, the corporate world was something else again.
She graduated from Kikkawa College in 2003 after two years of full-time study. About 80% to 90% of the practice she runs with RMT partner Sarah Ritchie at Lifenergy (lifenergy.ca) is now made up of massage therapy, says Featherstonhaugh, with the patient split about 50-50 men and women. The age range, though, isn't nearly as neat. Featherstonhaugh says she recently treated a 16-year-old and at one point saw a woman who was 86. She also treats her parents, who are 70.
Beyond massage therapy, Featherstonhaugh can also offer patients Reiki treatment, an intuitive form of light massage from Japan that she says opens the seven chakras in a person's body, releasing energy that has been blocked, usually by some emotional trauma.
Featherston - haugh also offers ear candling, which, bizarre though it may seem to the lay observer, can't be any worse than having a doctor clean your ears to remove excess wax or debris. With ear candling a cone-shaped candle is put in the patients ear, the wick is lit and as the candle burns down the heat from it loosens and expels any excess wax.
Featherstonhaugh is also a hypnotherapist, studying at The Hypno Healing Institute in Toronto. Quitting smoking and weight loss are her two biggies, but patients also come to her for such things as insomnia and a fear of vaccination needles.
"I believe that the mind has everything to do with our health," Featherstonhaugh says. "With the hypnotherapy you're able to speak to that unconscious part of the mind. Our conscious thought creates all of our troubles because of things our subconscious once learned."
Reflexology is another alternative treatment Featherstonhaugh offers at her west Toronto practice. She says she learnt reflexology -- which uses reflex points in the hands and feet to improve the health of our internal organs -- so she could improve her foot massages.
Given the range of services she provides, it might seem that Featherstonhaugh has more than enough to keep her busy. But that's not the case. She wants to pursue a BSc in Human Studies, and study nutrition and acupuncture. It's perhaps just as well Featherstonhaugh retains her computer skills. She's going to need some handy dandy software to keep track of everything she's got going.