About Dr. Sarah Bryan, Ph.D

I have been fascinated by the human body and medicine since the age of about three. My mother worked as a nurse in London and I sometimes accompanied her on her rounds, learning about medical conditions, procedures and drugs. I became more interested in natural health and well-being while at a boarding school for blind students in Worcester, where I was introduced to massage and aromatherapy and began experimenting.

Academic life, wellness and stepping into massage

Initially keen to pursue a career in a mainstream medical field, I began my studies in speech and language therapy at Sheffield University in 2002. I graduated with a B.Sc in 2006, an M.Sc in 2008 and a Ph.D in 2012. I greatly enjoyed academic life at first and I shall always take an interest in speech and language sciences. However, I discovered over time that long hours spent at the computer, high stress levels and a sense of isolation in my research were detrimental to my physical and mental health.

While remaining committed to completing my Ph.D, I decided to train in massage and aromatherapy, alongside my academic research. I attained a diploma in holistic therapeutic massage with the prestigious Sheffield Centre for Massage Training (SCMT) in March 2012 and completed my Ph.D in the following September. I also started attending classes at the Sheffield Satyananda Yoga School and have since continued to incorporate yogic principles into my daily life and massage practice.

The start of SB Holistic

In July 2012, I founded SB Holistic, offering person-centred, made-to-measure, massage treatments. I spent the following three and a half years building up my clinical practice in Sheffield, working with clients with a diverse range of physical and mental health conditions, in a variety of clinical settings: a chiropractic clinic, a physiotherapy clinic, a large legal firm, a holistic health practice and a charity for people with visual impairments.

Advancing my skills

Keen to advance my skills further while establishing a client base, I went on to complete a further diploma in holistic sports and remedial massage at SCMT, with visiting tutor, Julie Linton, principal of the JL Meridian School of Massage and Bodywork in Birmingham. I loved this course, as it gave me the necessary knowledge and skills to work with people with injuries and long-term medical conditions. I also completed an extensive course in hands-free, deep tissue massage with master practitioner, Darien Pritchard, of Dynamic Massage.

In 2014, I graduated from the Penny Price Academy of Aromatherapy with an Associate Diploma in Clinical Aromatherapy. This enabled me to use essential oils in my treatments, adding even greater benefits for my clients. I am particularly passionate about using essential oils therapeutically in sports and remedial massage treatments, the properties of which help my clients to recover more quickly.

My most recent training has been in myofascial release (MFR) with Ruth Duncan and Linda Currie of MFR UK. I embarked on this enlightening and remarkable journey in Sheffield in 2015, completing the Advanced Clinical Diploma in Integrated Myofascial Therapy in 2018. MFR has revolutionised my clinical practice and is my preferred way of working these days; the benefits for clients are so powerful and long-lasting. It is an absolutely fascinating and highly rewarding form of bodywork. It enables me to get to the root cause of people’s pain and tension and helps them to release and move on from the effects of past physical and emotional trauma.

Creator of SB Holistic Magic

One of my greatest passions is using aromatherapy in conjunction with sports and remedial massage, to help my clients to make an even speedier recovery. Essential oils contain many complex natural chemicals and therefore have many amazing properties, which can provide massive relief and aid the body’s own healing processes: pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, circulatory, cooling or warming, to name but a few. Once I had qualified as both a sports massage therapist and aromatherapist, combining these two therapies became my favourite way for my more athletic or injury-prone clients to get back on their feet and to manage any minor scrapes at home. I therefore developed SB Holistic Magic, an aromatherapy product range based on these principles, to help other massage therapists and other bodywork professionals to do the same for their clients. I love sharing this knowledge with other practitioners at national conferences and trade shows, where I give talks and exhibit the Magic products. I am extremely proud to have won the Holistic Therapist Magazine, Star Product 2017 award. To find out more about these beautiful products, check out my shop page.

Memberships and governing organisations

I am a practitioner member of the Massage Training Institute (MTI). I work on the MTI research committee, reviewing the existing scientific literature on massage and writing articles for practitioners who have no research training. I am registered as a massage therapist and aromatherapist with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), the register of complementary therapists accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), backed by the government and General Medical Council (GMC).

On the move

Being married to an academic has given me the opportunity to take my clinical skills to different parts of the country. After working in Sheffield from 2012 to 2015, I moved my life and practice to Exeter in 2016. During this time, I practised in a beautiful, well-established, professional, natural health clinic in the heart of Exeter, surrounded by quirky, independent businesses. I also assisted at several outdoor sporting events in Devon, memorably the hospice Rainbow Run, where it was the order of the day to cover everything and everyone in green paint,including my massage couch!

2019 saw yet another move to Bracknell, where I now practise from my own clinic in Venture House, Arlington Square, just outside the town centre. I now offer my clients comprehensive treatment programmes, incorporating phone and email support, exercise videos, rehab equipment and input from other health practitioners where appropriate. I typically work with professional women, aged 38-48, who are struggling with long-term shoulder pain. I help them to get out of pain permanently, so that they can work confidently and return to the hobbies which they love.

Why I Love my Work

After many years of journeying and exploration in the medical world, I feel thrilled to have found my vocation, helping people to achieve greater health and well-being. I have been qualified since 2012 and have worked with many different clients, ranging from the fit and active to those who have had serious illnesses. My medical background and training have enabled me to work confidently with clients who have complex medical conditions. I find this work challenging and exciting. I feel inspired when people can resume enjoyed activities, return to work, move without pain and feel more confident in their abilities. Here are some examples of work which I have found especially rewarding:-

Lee, a carpenter from Exeter had lupus (a complex immune system disorder).

When he came to see me, he had chronic pleurisy (an infection of the membranes surrounding the lungs). He was constantly fatigued, could not breathe without severe pain and had been off work for four years.

After a course of treatment with me, he could breathe effortlessly, returned to work, joined the gym and started meditation. He now feels like a new man. He says,

“Sarah is excellent. I feel a marked difference after every treatment and I would definitely recommend her.”

Holly, a student from Exeter had primary lymphoedema (a condition where lymph does not circulate properly and accumulates in the body). Her legs were painful and swollen, which made her feel self-conscious.

After a course of treatment with me and a rehab programme, her legs are less swollen and she feels confident enough to wear skirts, go swimming and use the gym. She says,

“I have been having treatments with Sarah since August this year and the outcome of weekly sessions has been truly amazing. After having sessions with Sarah for around a month and a half now my legs have not only shrunk in size but she has been able to relieve the pain which I got with it also.”

Chris, a retired man from Sheffield, had suffered three strokes twelve years ago. Before he came to see me, he had sought massage therapy elsewhere, but other therapists had declined to treat him, because of his history of strokes.

Chris was experiencing spasms in his legs, used a walking aid and could only walk a few steps before needing to stop and rest.

After several treatments, he proudly announced that he had walked about a mile around the city centre, before needing to stop and rest. He says,

“I find that my legs have changed since I’ve been having massages with Sarah because I can walk more comfortably and for a bit longer. It also helps that I don’t always have to use pain medication to ease my calves and legs to work better.”

To see more testimonials like these, please visit my Testimonials page and my reviews on Facebook.

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Text and photographs © 2019~present SB Holistic.
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