A Q&A with Ana Bott
- Tell us a bit of background about yourself… (Why and how did you get into the industry? What did you do before?)
I’m Ana, my pronouns are she/her/they/them and I’m an advanced clinical massage therapist specialising in working with Transgender patients. I came to massage following a previous career in sexual trauma. Whilst my two careers can often seem worlds apart, in reality they are remarkably similar. Working with people with such acute trauma rooted in touch taught me about the devastating impact of trauma on the body and its musculoskeletal systems, and most importantly, how to create safe spaces for that to be held. As I neared the end of my time in that field, I knew in depth how much trauma exists in our world and the role it plays in our pain patterns. Looking around me in the LGBTQ+ community, I saw in my Transgender friends the tell tale signs of bodies loaded heavily into the sympathetic nervous system and locked into fight or flight. This was mirrored in their health trajectories, of which in nearly every area; cardiovascular, blood, cancer, sexual, mental, addiction etc, Transgender people experience higher than average rates. They are also the only demographic to experience the pathology of Gender Dysphoria. There was a clear connection between experiences of Transgender trauma and their pathologies and subsequent pain levels. The moment I started talking about it and training in massage I knew I was on to something. By the time I graduated I had a month long waiting list of Transgender patients who wanted to see me regularly and my clinic was born. I have never looked back.
- Are there any challenges you have had to overcome as a therapist? How have you overcome these?
When I first started to talk about making massage inclusive for Transgender people and understanding the health issues prevalent to that community, there were a few raised eyebrows. Not everyone got it. But the idea stuck and the community embraced it, offering up their bodies both to receive treatment and to allow me to write about them for seminars and textbooks so that others could learn too. Seeing first hand how massage could be used to support Transgender patients to experience not just less pain but to be held whilst going through hormone treatments and surgeries spurred me on. My clients reported drops in Gender Dysphoria symptoms, less pain patterns and feeling connected to their body again. Where there was hate, we replaced it with love and that’s how it was overcome. Love and the power of oxytocin, literally lead the way.
- What interests you outside of work? (How do you normally spend your spare time?)
Trying very hard to stop working! My work with Transgender people and their pathologies is really central to my life but I try to carve out time for gardening, reading and drawing.
- What is your seminar about and what can viewers expect to come away with?
I have two seminars. The first is an introduction for those who are just starting to consider how to make spaces more inclusive for Transgender patients and tackles 5 really simple adaptations we can make which can have a big impact. The second is a more clinical look at the health trajectories and prevalent pathologies of the Transgender community and how our work as bodyworkers could be instrumental in changing this trajectory so that they can live happier, longer lives. Did you know Transfeminine patients on hormones are more likely to develop bloodclots? Did you know a Transmasculine patient on Testosterone will run at a higher temperature and may require a cooler room to be comfortable? Did you know fibromyalgia is one of the number one complications of genital gender affirming surgeries? Come to my seminar and find out how as bodyworkers can meet this need.
5. What is it about your topic that appeals to you and why is it useful for therapists?
A recent study into the poor health trajectories of Transgender people found that the biggest contributing factor was lack of clinical awareness amongst health care professionals as to the health issues Transgender people face. It is tragic to think that so many Transgender people live with chronic pain and low life expectancy not because of their health issues but because of lack of awareness. But in this is hope! We can fix a lack of training and awareness so easily. I’m passionate about this topic because we could literally change the physical and mental health trajectories of this community simply by training professionals to be able to work inclusively. I think that’s an amazing thing. Imagine if this generation did that!
6. What would be your one piece of advice for therapists wanting to grow and develop their therapy practice?
I’d say lean into your own biopsychosocial markers and consider what you can bring to the table. If you don’t see yourself reflected in the textbooks you are given, then the health issues of your community isn’t either and change is required. Be completely fearless in your pursuit of that change.
7. What do you consider to be the most important traits for a therapist to have?
There’s a Zen proverb: “it takes a long time to know nothing.” We can read all the textbooks, attend all the seminars and gain all the qualifications but we must always be ready to be pulled up short and know nothing. That’s when we make discoveries and make big changes. Always be ready that the next patient that comes through that door is the patient who will blow everything out the water and get you learning. Always be ready to meet that person as an individual and give them care as an individual.