Practitioners’ Perspectives on Wellness and Self-care

“We strive to give people permission to treat themselves,
women in particular.”

~ Margaret Olson

There’s a lovely healing place in Evanston that offers a variety of relaxation and meditation options. Continuing the spirit of self-care, the Network of Entrepreneurial Women was given a lovely overview of the Heartwood Center in mid-June.


We gathered in one of the large meeting rooms to get to know nine of the health practitioners in the space, and I am eager to book a ‘spa day’ at the Heartwood as a summer break. The major theme of the discussion that taking time for healing and therapy is not a luxury, but a necessity. Everyone should take time for massage, acupuncture, life coaching and other wellness needs in order to be more balanced and healthy in life.


The Heartwood Center, located on 1818 Dempster Street in Evanston, is a holistic wellness community currently counting 40 practitioners in its circle. The center rents out treatment rooms for Acupuncture, Chiropracty, Hypnotherapy, Life & Health Coaching, Massage Therapy, Naturopathy, Personal Training, Physical Therapy, Psychotherapy, and Spiritual Direction. Practitioners can sublet rooms, offering a fabulous start-up opportunity for those seeking to expand their practice without having to provide in-home services.

“I wish that everyone knew that they deserve wellness therapy.”
~ Rebecca Sturgeon

Oncology massage therapist Rebecca Sturgeon provided a Manual Lymphatic Drainage demonstration by which each of us can clear our seasonal allergies simply by gently massaging the skin around our neck. This gentle technique also offers assistance with migraines, fatigue and a general sense of heaviness. Rebecca incorporates this healing method into her massage practice. While her focus is on clients going through or recovering from cancer, she also tends to reach a clientele of “Stressed out women over 40.”


Melissa Sanchez is a dance therapist offering individual and group classes. Her emerging specialty is addiction treatment as well as working with the formerly incarcerated. An active proponent of mental health services, Melissa’s dance therapy assists those with codependence, trauma or PTSD to express themselves through creative movement. Her sessions can look like dance parties, or be more introspective meditative movements. In the near future Melissa hopes to offer a self-care for healers workshop, focusing on those whose profession involves assisting others.


Kathy Kessenich views herself as a facilitator of creating an awareness of what is going on in the body. “Many people feel uncomfortable in their own skin” she said, and her massage practice strives to reduce blood pressure, increase endorphins, relax muscles and increase the blood flow.  Her focus is on Swedish massage that provides relaxation and stress relief, but she also practices deep tissue massage for chronic muscular issues. She also works as a wellness facilitator, assisting clients in in making simple changes in health choices and product uses.

“It is not a luxury to have a massage,
it is actually taking care of yourself.”
~ Kathy Kessenich

Ixchel Mulberger is a licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist certified in oriental medicine. She spent a decade learning and perfecting her skills until she felt comfortable making a shift to establishing her own practice last year. Her acupuncture focuses on pain management, but she also seeks to educate clients about preventive care so they come to her before chronic problems arise.

“A lot of what we do sounds airy-fairy,
but it is something that is meaningful and deep and helpful.”
~ Ixchel Mulberger

Margaret Olson practices Manual Lymphatic Drainage and offers abdominal work in her massage therapy sessions (with permission). She is trained in oriental medicine and combines her work with muscles and joints with energetic meridians. She works with athletes, clients recovering from surgery and those with autoimmune diseases. Since joining the Heartwood Center, Margaret has expanded her own practice of mindfulness, which she blogged about in a 2-part series.


Marsha Smith is a psychotherapist who started with the Heartwood Center 8 years ago when it was located in downtown Evanston. She seeks to help people trying to become unblocked and trying to find their own sense of direction. Her focus is on helping adults of all ages with a variety of issues, and also ensure they stay healthy when dealing with life changing health issues.


Marsha said that one man who came to her felt queasy thinking about getting therapy, but later stated that he discovered “learning to be able to take his own side of things” through the sessions. Marsha partnered with Margaret on witing about integrating mindfulness and massage, and she seeks to partner with the other therapists at the Heartwood to create a holistic plan for her clients.

“People want to be understood and develop their natural abilities
to work through problems and find solutions.”
~ Marsha Smith

Yvonne Mitchell incorporates a modular approach to offer spiritual and life coaching. Through vision boarding, hypnotherapy, personality assessments and passion testing, she helps clients develop their passion in life whether mid-career or through retirement. She also helps people who are terminally ill to develop a joy strategy and develop completion activities to work around the pain and also engage in activities they deferred. Her practice comes from the loss of her husband and her own grief process and the activities she completed with him.

“I am grateful to be in this community
of practitioners and quality providers

and look forward to accessing these services for myself.”
~ Marsha Smith

We sipped on delicious tea and coffee sponsored by Alphay and sampled My Health Beet’s delicious chocolate truffles.


The Heartwood also offers event space, including the lovely Skylight room fit for banquets and dancing, as well as a conference room in which we met where one could host speakers, panel discussions, or other events. Upstairs there is a lovely classroom associated with the Tsogyaling Meditation Center, that also hosts wellness classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi. Gong Therapy is also offered.


NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.

People photos courtesy


Meet, Munch & Flow: NEW at the Heartwood Center

It’s been documented that seasonal allergies are worse than usual this spring, so come clear your head at this month’s Meet & Munch with NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women. On Wednesday, June 10 from 2 to 4 pm we will meet at Evanston’s Heartwood Center, where massage therapist Rebecca Sturgeon (LMT, CMLDT) will provide a Manual Lymphatic Drainage demonstration, which can clear sinus congestion.


Rebecca is a  graduate of the Cortiva Institute – Chicago School of Massage Therapy and holds a certification in Manual Lymphatic Drainage. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a gentle massage technique which works with the lymphatic system to move waste out of the body. In an MLD session, the skin is moved in a specific direction and a specific order which has been proven to encourage lymphatic flow. MLD is often used after cancer treatment to prevent or as part of treatment for lymphedema, but it has many benefits for everyone. For example, MLD can help clear chronic sinus congestion, reduce post-workout or post-surgical swelling, reduce injury-related swelling and bruising, and possibly boost immune system function.


Rebecca will empower us to clear our own heads with a demonstration. I was part of a demonstration of this simple technique a few months ago, and it is amazing how the body knows how to take care of itself if we help it along with nutrition and self-care. Once our heads are clear we can mix and mingle while nibbling on goodies. My Health Beet’s Chocolate Energy Truffles might be on the menu.

Rebecca specializes in Oncology and Geriatric massage. Having worked in clinical settings, she adapts massage for clients undergoing cancer treatment and other medical challenges. In addition, as a longtime runner, Rebecca enjoys providing therapeutic massage to help people maintain their optimum wellness and fitness. She educates the Evanston community about their bodies on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. at Hip Circle Studio with her Anatomy Cafe series.


Other practitioners will present their services at the Heartwood Center as well, including:

Kathy Kessenich, LMT focuses on Swedish and Deep Tissue massage. She sees herself as a health facilitator working in partnership with people in need of massage service. Her philosophy is that massage therapy is a tool through which people can access an awareness and greater connection with their own bodies to help them live more comfortably and happily. This awareness can gradually move people toward a better understanding of the body’s ability to heal itself and put them in a frame of mind to actively affect their own health. Kathy was trained at the Wellness and Massage Training Institute and has more than 700 hours of coursework in massage therapy techniques, wellness, anatomy, physiology and kinesiology.  She provides a safe, comfortable, soothing environment in which people can be themselves, let go of their stresses and have the opportunity to make positive changes to improve their overall health and quality of life.

Ixchel Muhlberger, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist.  She completed her Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) and B.S. in Nutrition, attaining Cum Laude honors, from Midwest College of Oriental Medicine.  For 10 years she worked alongside physical therapists, which allowed her hands-on experience with a variety of orthopedic injuries.  Ixchel facilitates healing from a mind/body perspective; in addition to acupuncture and herbs, she incorporates bodywork (if deemed appropriate) into her treatments.  Ixchel provides a holistic approach to health care for her clients, and focuses on giving them the tools they need to heal their own bodies.

Heartwood Sign

Psychotherapist Marsha Smith, MSW, LCSW, integrates mindfulness and focusing with empathic and practical approaches to help with a varitey of psychological and social challenges including: relationship issues, anxiety, depression, parenting, work, loss and bereavement, and coping well with health issues. Working with adults, couples, adolescents and families, she collaboratively develops solutions to enable living life more fully. She also teaches focusing and mindfulness skills.

Margaret Olson, LMT, CMLDT, is a Massage Therapist, Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist, and self-care enthusiast. Her work is designed to ease pain, promote relaxation, and reenforce her client’s mind/body connection by combining eastern and western modalities of massage.

Melissa Sanchez, LPC, R-DMT, GL-CMA is a dance/movement therapist, meditation teacher and life-long dance artist. Since graduating from Columbia College Chicago, she has worked in community mental health centers throughout the city providing counsel, education in mindfulness meditation, body/mind connective therapy and support in recovery from substance dependence and the effects of chronic mental illness or dis-ease. She studied meditation and mindfulness practices in psychotherapy at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts. Her practice is stemmed in trauma-focused healing as well as providing holistic therapy alongside “diagnosis” related treatment. Melissa’s creative therapeutic approach is rooted in the belief that each individual possesses the power to heal when provided with a safe, trustworthy and unbiased environment.

Yvonne Mitchell is a consulting hypnotist, workshop facilitator and motivational speaker. She uses customized, innovative techniques to assure personal breakthroughs and transformations for her clients. Yvonne specializes in helping individuals and organizations identify key passions and unique life purpose. She facilitates life redesign and reinvention in health, career, relationships, finances, spirituality and restoration following personal loss. She allows nothing to stand in the way of her clients “achieving the life of their dreams now.


Founded in Evanston, Illinois, in 1999, Heartwood Center was conceived by owner Nancy Floy as a membership organization where practitioners could work together in a collaborative environment as they grew their practices. Sharing resources and supporting one another to increase business for all exemplifies Heartwood’s vision of an interdependent network of health and wellness specialists.

Heartwood Center started in downtown Evanston with a community of 12 healing professionals. With a transfer to the Dempster location, Heartwood has expanded to more than 40 practitioners. The Heartwood Center believes in an integrative approach to health that encompasses mind, body and spirit. Healing services include Acupuncture, Chiropracty, Hypnotherapy, Life & Health Coaching, Massage Therapy, Naturopathy, Personal Training, Physical Therapy, Psychotherapy, Spiritual Direction and Tai Chi. The Heartwood also hosts Tsogyaling Meditation Center, a small, community-based meditation center rooted in the teachings of the historical Buddha  Shakyamuni.

Heartwood is located in Evanston at the intersection of Dempster and Dodge, 1818 Dempster Street in Evanston, IL 60202. Free parking is available in the Heartwood-owned lot, two doors east of our building on Dempster. The Pace Bus #250 picks up from the Davis Metra/El Stop in downtown Evanston every 15 minutes and stops just down the block from our front door. A bicycle rack is located in front of our building for environmentally-friendly patrons.

NEW – The Network of Entrepreneurial Women is a group of Chicagoland business women who are upgrading business networking with fun and creative events that inspire attendees to work together, refer each other and most of all cheer each other on as the membership succeeds. Events rotate around various suburbs on a semimonthly basis, usually the 2nd Wednesday and 4th Thursday of the month. RSVP for our upcoming events at Meetup, or like us on Facebook and check up on the calendar there.