When Kay Thorbecke opened her massage therapy practice in 1980, she was, she says, the “only kid on the block.”

These days Thorbecke is far from alone, a fact that she appreciates. “Slowly over the years, acceptance and knowledge of the benefits of massage have increased,” she says. “Back then, an obstetrician wouldn’t have recommended it, or an oncologist, or a physical therapist; now they all do.”

A 1979 graduate of the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado, Thorbecke began her practice in her Bloomington home. Eventually wanting to separate family life and work life, Thorbecke found her “oasis on the Square” above Caveat Emptor bookstore in 1985 and has been there ever since. “I cherish this space,” she says. “It’s a safe place, peaceful and quiet. You can totally relax.”

Her experience is part of what she offers her clients. “Having done massage for thirty-two years and having learned so many techniques from training, I incorporate all these different modalities to meet the needs of the individual,” she says.

But much of Thorbecke’s approach to massage goes beyond technique. “It’s about staying connected with that person, what they need that day. It’s about listening and paying attention,” she says. “At times, I feel like a potter with clay. The clay is so hard at first, just like muscles. Then the muscles get soft and circulation increases. It’s a wonderful miracle.”

Michael May, a client for 20 years, sings her praises. “In regard to technical and therapeutic expertise, Kay Thorbecke is without peer,” he says. “Her deep tissue work explores the depth of pleasure and pain while leaving one strangely recreated. Her work is transformative.”

Thorbecke’s clients cover the life span—from the very young to the very old. One of the services she offers is end-of-life massage. She describes this as “a gentle touching massage for those who may be confined to bed and/or feeling pain during the last months of life.”

Two other services she offers: 15-minute employee massages onsite at businesses and a do-it-yourself class called Massage for Families and Friends.

Thorbecke’s one-hour massages cost $75 and are by appointment only, Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 360-0006 or email [email protected].