Please Review Me!

If you like my massage, please review me on Google+, Yelp, Facebook, YP.com, and any other site you can find. This simple action will help potential clients find me more easily and help them get a better idea of what to expect from my massage. It will also help my search engine rankings. Just be honest and straightforward and describe your experience with me and my massage. Thank you so much!

Curriculum Vitae

  • 1984     BS degree in Natural Health Education from Heartwood Institute in Garberville, CA. The coursework included 1000 hours of Massage Therapy training.

  • 1989-present   Clinical rehabilitation practice in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, specializing in treating clients with chronic pain and injuries from motor vehicle accidents.

  • 1990-1     Co-author of the NM Massage Therapy Practice Act.

  • 1992     Awarded NM Massage License #8.

  • 1994-2011     Co-author of and contributor to the NM Massage Therapy Board Rules.

  • 1996     Awarded NM Massage Therapy Instructor Registration #I-112.

  • 1998     BUS in Biology from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. The coursework included Human Anatomy and Physiology with a cadaver lab, Microbiology, Microbial Physiology, Molecular Cell Biology, Biochemistry, and Immunology.

  • 2009    Certified in Advanced Myofascial Techniques by Advanced-Trainings. The 100+ hours of coursework included  theory and technique, assessment, acute and chronic whiplash, TMJ disorders, and scoliosis.

  • 2014   Elected 2nd Vice President, AMTA-NM. Appointed to Chair the Government Relations Committee.

How I work

When I first looked into natural healing more than 30 years ago, I had no idea that touch therapy was my true calling, not just as a way of making a living, but also as a way being in the world.   I just wanted to study something that would keep my interest long enough to finish a course of study!  After working in the field for a few years, I soon became unsatisfied with doing general relaxation massage, particularly the standardized “fluff ‘n buff” treatments common in spas.  I wasn’t given these gifts to pamper the rich.  Rather, I believe that I am here to relieve suffering in the world however I can.

As it turns out, I’m really talented at easing pain and trauma using my hands.  I soon got a reputation in the hotel I worked at in Santa Fe as the “go-to guy” for guests with specific complaints, and I gained experience treating clients with debilitating injuries.  After being in a serious car wreck, I developed great empathy for people who have experienced trauma, and I began to learn what works for treating traumatic injuries.

Similarly, I have suffered from headaches all my life.  Naturally I learned effective techniques to treat them.  Now I have great success ameliorating even full-blown migraines.  When I had an overuse tendinitis injury, I learned how to treat tendinitis and repetitive use injuries.   The process continues to this day; every time I hurt myself I learn something new!  Of course, being hurt myself is not the only way I learn.  I’ve taken many excellent classes, and I learn something from every client I treat.  Clients often come to me with symptoms I’ve just learned to identify and treat.

I am an intuitive therapist.  My hands know what to do, and after all this time I’ve learned to get my head out of the way.  Of course, I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to inform my intuition, along with a wide variety of techniques I’ve accumulated in my journey.  There is no one path to healing; different things work for different people.  I do know a few things, though.  Gentleness and sensitivity to my clients’ needs are fundamental to the healing process.  Locating the precise source of your pain allows me to eliminate it more quickly, with less discomfort during the process.

More trauma does not heal trauma, and you know your body far better than I do.  If the massage hurts too much I am probably working too deeply, too rapidly, or both.  I usually discern subtle cues quickly, but if I don’t respond to your distress, please let me know right away.  I do the work for your benefit, not for my ego.  Together we will find the right blend of technique, pressure, and pace to best suit your needs at any given moment.

Will insurance cover my massage?

::UPDATE:: I’m happy to announce that if you have the APS employee/retiree plan from NM Health Connections, you’re covered, and I’m a provider! No doctor’s referral is necessary; you just pay your regular co-pay and I do the billing.

Short answer: Only in a few circumstances.  In general, medical insurance just won’t pay for massage, although there are exceptions.  It’s worth your while to find out!  Here are the circumstances in which you might not have to pay out of pocket:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA):  FSAs and similar programs allow participants to set aside untaxed money from income to cover unreimbursed medical expenses. I can take payment from your FSA credit card and provide a receipt with CPT codes.  I haven’t had one turned down yet.
  • Car Insurance Medical Payments (MedPay, PIP): Medpay (PIP in no-fault states) is an optional coverage which pays for medical expenses if you’ve been in a car wreck, up to the agreed upon policy limits, no matter who is at fault.  I strongly advising getting as much of this coverage as you can. It’s cheap!

Health insurance:  Regardless of the hopes massage therapists and clients alike have about getting coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), neither Obamacare nor the State of New Mexico mandates payments to Licensed Massage Therapists.  As far as I know, no health insurance company operating in NM has LMTs as preferred providers, either.  I would love to be able to accept your medical insurance, but even though I specialize in pain management and injury rehabilitation, health insurance just won’t pay me.  One potential client told me that he needed myofascial release, but that his insurance would only pay for the treatment if I were a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist.  A few PTs actually perform hands-on therapy, but for the most part they specialize in stretches and exercises.  Some chiropractors also do soft tissue work, but they primarily adjust joints.  I don’t know any doctors who do manual therapy, although I acknowledge that they might exist. It’s frustrating that health insurance companies won’t pay real experts like me, but they don’t.

The few (very expensive) policies that might actually pay LMTs usually have a separate deductible for “Alternative” health care practices like massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic.  Unless you have extensive injuries or you have already met your deductible, you are probably better off paying me out of pocket at my time-of-service rates.  Some insurance companies claim to cover massage, but they actually contract with LMTs to reduce their time-of-service rates in exchange for being listed in a directory.  The client pays the reduced rate when they receive treatment.  No bill is sent to the insurance company.  Unfortunately, the only massage therapists willing to participate in such schemes are generally not competent to perform medically relevant massage treatments.  Would you trust an inexperienced therapist to work on your frozen shoulder or plantar fasciitis?  I wouldn’t.  I want a well-trained, experienced therapist working on me, especially when I am hurt, not a new therapist who had a couple hundred extra hours of “medical massage” training tacked on to their 650 hour entry-level course.  In my view, it takes years of practice to develop the sensitivity and specific palpation skills needed to confidently assess and treat serious medical needs.  Since I have those skills, I am unwilling to reduce my time-of service rates just to be listed in some directory.

Medicare:  No.  Even Medicare Advantage plans do not cover treatments by Massage Therapists.

Medicaid:  In NM, only those patients in the Mi Via program, which gives patients a budget to pay for their chronic medical needs.  The good news is that I am a Mi Via provider.  The bad news is that I need to charge a little more than my time-of-service rates because I have to wait for payment, which might blow your Mi Via budget.

Car Insurance:  Good news!  If you’ve been in a car wreck (motor vehicle accident, or MVA), you can likely get covered with little or any out-of-pocket expenses.  If you have Medical Payments (MedPay), an optional coverage in NM, your company will pay your medical expenses immediately, regardless of whether you were at fault.  I recommend getting as much MedPay as you can, and at least $5000; it’s cheap! I carry $10,000 of MedPay on my own car insurance policy, and I’d get more if I could.  It costs me $12-13 every 6 months.  I will not accept USAA MedPay because they routinely and arbitrarily refuse to pay my legitimate charges.

If the other driver was at fault, then his/her company will pay me for treatment as part of your settlement.  This might take a few years after the accident, which is a long time to wait for payment.  In order to protect myself, I require that you hire an attorney who will send me a document called a letter of protection, which essentially promises that I’ll be paid inasmuch as the recovery covers the costs of treatment.  You won’t have to pay out of your own funds, and I am assured of some eventual payment.  The days when you could negotiate a fair settlement from insurance companies on your own are long gone.  They lie through your teeth, and you need an experienced advocate to protect your interests.  I know some personal injury attorneys whom I think are humane and honest, and I’d be happy to refer you to one.  However, any attorney who sends me a letter of protection is fine.  You don’t have to hire  someone based on my recommendation.

Personal Injury cases:  You definitely need an attorney for this type of claim, in which liability is not as clear cut as with a car wreck.  I can sometimes take this type of claim after consulting with your attorney.

Workers Compensation:  I can bill Workers Compensation as long as you get pre-approval from the WC insurer.  Generally your doctor’s office needs to arrange this for you.  If you have a federal workers compensation claim (DOL/OWCP), please call me to discuss it.  DOL is a strange beast, and difficult to wrestle payment from.

Sandia Labs / IPOC

IPOC building, Room 2159, 2nd floor.  

Every Wednesday from 11 am to 1 pm.

$10 for 10 minutes, $20 for 20 minutes, etc. Sign up for as many 10 minute modules as you prefer.

The sign up schedule is typically located on the desk in the lobby, or at the room during the scheduled times.

This is our third year of chair massage for Sandians at a location off of Kirtland AFB.  We offer massage weekly at IPOC to be  more accessible to the whole SNL community.  All employees, staff, contractors, and visitors are welcome to get massage at IPOC or at MO 307 on base.  You simply need a badge to get past the lobby into the building.

Sign up at the entry desk in the IPOC lobby on Monday through Wednesday.  The massage will be performed in one of the second floor conference rooms, usually Room 2159, or as shown on the sign-up sheet. I also have appointments available inside the gates at HBES every Thursday from 4-6pm.

I honor all SNL gift certificates at both locations.

Feel free to call me with any questions.

 

Royal Warrant

Clinical Massage Therapy by Appointment to the Queen and King of the May, granted 2011.

 

 

“This means that he has been providing superb services to members of the Royal Family for at least 5 years. It is an honor reserved for the very best.”  –Robin Miller, May Queen

Why I Insist on Appointments

Although most of my clients are grateful when I can see them on the same day they call, I was awakened yesterday morning by a potential client who asked “Do you take walk-ins?”  It was the second time I had heard this question in a week, so I decided to blog about it. The short answer is no.  I’ll take an appointment on short notice (less than an hour) when my schedule permits and I feel like it, but I never take walk-ins.  Clients have to make an appointment in advance, even if it’s just an hour later. Why?  There are three basic reasons:

  • I am a single therapist in a professional office, not a large group practice with a retail storefront.  I have a high quality, low volume practice.  I know some large group practices and spas can accommodate walk-ins.  They have a vastly different business model than I do.  For the most part these are cut-rate outfits like Massage Envy, which pays therapists almost nothing and burns them out at a rapid rate.  These businesses rarely attract experienced professionals.  They’ll have several therapists at a time sitting around, just to meet peak demand when it happens.  That works fine for the business, but not so well for the massage therapist who wastes a lot of time sitting around.  It might not work so well for the client, either.  Demoralized workers don’t tend to do their best work.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt. I work in the health care field, not in the personal services industry.  I do clinically-oriented pain relief and injury rehabilitation, not fluff-‘n-buff relaxation massage.  You don’t just walk in to your doctor’s office and expect him or her to see you right away, do you?  Your dentist? Your physical therapist?  Asking me to do a walk-in appointment takes my time and expertise for granted.  It’s disrespectful!  It’s hard to trust people whom we don’t respect, and the client’s trust in me (and vice-versa) is essential to building rapport.  A person who can’t commit to a particular time is not likely to be sufficiently motivated to show up, even at their convenience.
  • My time is valuable. To accept walk-in clients, I would have to chain myself to my massage table 40 hours a week.  Now, there is some non-massage work I do in the office: cleaning, keeping my books in order, fighting with insurance companies and lawyers who don’t want to pay my bills, and so forth.  However, I have a life, and some of my work takes me outside the office.  I do everything related to my business from laundering sheets to buying toilet paper.  I can’t sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting for the phone to ring just so a potential client can get a massage an hour sooner.  I have too many other things to do so that clients can have my full attention during their appointment.

So why don’t I do walk-ins?  They are inconvenient, disrespectful to me, and my office is not set up to handle a high-volume practice.  If that’s what you’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t be happy with my individual service and exceptional therapeutic skills.  You probably wouldn’t want to pay what those services are worth, either.  Getting a good massage requires some foresight.  Research the therapist(s) you are considering.  Make certain they do the kind of bodywork you prefer, and that they have experience with your particular issue.  Make an appointment at a mutually convenient time.  Finally, please leave some time after the session to enjoy the effects of the work.  Rushing off right away tends to reduce the effectiveness of any therapy.

Testimonials

"Paldon gives the best massage!"
Don has the best hands! — Fran LaMantia
This is the place to leave comments about your experience of my work. Please leave reviews on Google maps, Yelp, Dex, and other sites to help people find me more easily. Here are a few from my Facebook group and elsewhere:
Mel Candelaria: I wanted to take this opportunity to formally thank you for your help over the last few months during which I suffered greatly from my auto accident. For a year and a half I was in constant pain, as you know, and the chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and spine doctors weren’t able to help me. I won’t even begin to wonder how it was that you were able to help me, just suffice to say that I am 99% healed from my sustained injuries.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you again!!
Tim Gillespie (from Thumbtack): I have worked with Don Schiff for ten years. I have found him to be one of the best massage therapists I have ever known. He continues to study and learn more about the human body and how to keep it working smoothly. He has done more to relieve pain in my legs than pain medication will do.
Marni Braker: Don is the best, does more than most doctors to help get rid of and keep my migraines away. I recently hurt my back as well and he’s the reason I can dance again. 🙂
Nancy Matthews: It’s a miracle! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  When I left Thursday my feet didn’t feel much better than when I came, but by Friday morning, after a slow start, they just got better and better. By Saturday I was up and freely moving again.
Lyla Madeiros: Thank you for seeing another one of the dancers on such short notice. V is very happy now she can lift her leg without pain for the first time in several years and J is doing much better. What you do is really special and very much appreciated.
Laura Lee: OMG! Best thing EVER! I have not been so relaxed in years. I am so grateful and happy for the experience. Looking forward to a repeat when I can get the time together.
Annie Tabatowski-Bush (from Thumbtack):  I have had the pleasure of knowing Donald Schiff for the past 14 years. I have enjoyed recieving massages from Don, and he has been able to address issues that no other massage therapist was able to get at. In particular, pain in my neck. I believe in Don’s impeccable work so much that I have referred other massage therapists to him to get their work done and they have reported that they have enjoyed getting their body work done with him. I have no hesitation to recommend Don as a wonderful massage therapist.
Robin Miller:  Don Schiff has been working on me for years, since I had a car wreck that messed up my neck (and since then on many other injuries). Don has so many different techniques to work with, as he has been a clinical massage therapist for about 30 years and is always going to continuing education courses to learn more. He has helped me to remain functional and painfree no matter what I’ve done to myself! He is always professional and respectful, and very flexible with scheduling, – just a wonderful person to deal with.
Dale McElroy (from Thumbtack):  For seven good years, I was the the fortunate beneficiary of Don Schiff’s healing hands, his kind consideration and friendship. Every three weeks, I could depend on Don’s thorough knowledge in reading my body’s stress points and alleviating them through deep tissue work. In moving to another city, I was never able to find the quality of work Don had offered me, but surely hope others will benefit from my experience by requesting his services soon and often.
Nicole Chilson (from Yelp): Don saw me at the last minute because he understood that I was in pain and needed relief.  He gave me a thorough exam of what moved, how much, and where the pain resided.  He did a lot of trigger point work that gave me a lot of relief!  This is not your typical massage therapist, there is no fluff.  Even better, since it was a result of a car accident, he files for payment with the insurance company.  When I arrived I couldn’t lift my leg to get in and out of the car, the next day I was able to go for a jog!
Melanie Rose (from Customer Lobby): Stellar! Don gives the best massages that I’ve ever had! He is intuitive, strong, attentive, and thorough. It’s very clear that he cares about his work and takes pride in his practice. He continually checks in with me about the pressure and it ends up offering me exactly the kind of relief I need. His intuition is spot-on. I’d absolutely recommend him.
Sandy Bryan (from Customer Lobby): Outstanding! I’ve already recommended Stonecircle Massage to a few of my friends. I’ve been using Donald for massage treatment on and off for years and I find him to be extremely knowledgeable. He does extraordinary work with in deep tissue massage and has certified credentials to be practicing. He has helped me significantly with a lot of muscle tension that I was having and he is just great at his job. He is precise, personable, and accommodating.
Ron Manginell (from Customer Lobby): Professional Massage. I was very pleased by the therapy received at Stonecircle Massage and have become a regular patient. The advantage to Stonecircle Massage is that Don has a deep knowledge of anatomy and physiology, coupled with a highly-tuned sensitivity to patient needs. I would highly recommend Stonecircle Massage to those serious about overall wellness and treatment for specific conditions.
Pat Mathews (from Customer Lobby): Professional, thorough, and experienced. Stonecircle Massage is the best! I’ve already recommended Donald to a few of my friends. He has a lot of experience and is very intuitive with zeroing in on areas that need the most help. He takes the time to work through every ache and tension. I feel noticeably better within minutes of every massage. I’ve been going to Stonecircle for the past year or so and have no complaints whatsoever.
Nancy Matthews (from Customer Lobby): Couldn’t be happier. I love Stonecircle Massage. My husband and I have been going to them for many years and they really take care of our needs. They keep us moving and functioning and we really appreciate their expertise. Donald has truly kept me away from physical therapists and has zeroed in on many problems that we’ve efficiently worked on to help me feel tremendously better. He is experienced, professional, and just easy to talk to. The prices are absolutely in line with the quality of the work and we’ve already recommended them to many of our friends.
Marlene A. (from Customer Lobby): Exceptional Masseur! I have plantar fasciitis in both feet (NO I don’t have heel spurs)…..I have been to see Don and had hour (sometimes longer) massages on my feet and lower legs. He is excellent at what he does and it has helped tremendously. Don has over 30 years of knowledge and experience and is well worth every cent.
Sasha Pellerin (from Customer Lobby): I love Stonecircle Massage! I was in a car accident and had been to various providers with no avail. After my first massage at Stonecircle I could feel the difference. Support local business and take advantage of the unique setting and individualized treatment.

 

Choosing the Right Massage Therapist for You

Initial considerations

There are many reasons people choose a particular massage therapist.  Certainly location, availability, skill set, and price are initial factors that define your search.   A therapist across town who can’t see you until next month is not likely to be your first choice, unless s/he has unusual skills or rapport you need.  Likewise, if you are looking for injury rehabilitation, you won’t go to a student clinic, even though the price is much lower.  Presumably you want a therapist who does the kind of bodywork you prefer, in a relatively convenient location, whose work you can afford, and who can see you within a few days.

If you need somebody right away, you’ll probably call around until you find a therapist who is available immediately.  On the other hand, the massage will be the luck of the draw.  If you are flexible with your treatment time, you may well find a more appropriate therapist.  On the other hand, I’ve had many clients come to me because I was available when they needed me, only to find that I was the perfect therapist for their needs.  Sometimes things just work out really well.

Two critical factors:

  • Skills and experience suited to your specific needs

If you have been injured, you need a therapist who has the skills and experience to assist in your healing process.  A good rehab massage not just a matter of applying the proper strokes in a particular sequence.  A relaxation massage might feel good, but it won’t remodel scar tissue or improve your joints’ range of motion much.

Caveat emptor! I’ve found that therapists who tout proficiency in many methods are rarely expert in any of them.  30 or 50 hours of Shiatsu (for example) in a massage school class can only open a student to the possibility of practice, usually integrating techniques into a full-body massage.  It doesn’t qualify anybody to actually practice the techniques as a stand alone system.

  • Rapport – a therapeutic relationship based on trust

No therapist can help you much if you don’t trust them, no matter how skilled or compassionate s/he is.  Trust can be a slippery thing; some people are trustworthy and others aren’t.  Sometimes we trust those we shouldn’t, and sometimes we don’t trust those who are worthy of it.  My only advice is to trust your feelings.  It’s much better to be wary of an otherwise excellent therapist than to mistakenly trust a therapist who does not deserve it for whatever reason.

Some people trust easily.  Others are easily trusted.  I seek to earn your trust by respecting your treatment goals, your privacy, and your body’s innate wisdom.  I will communicate with you openly and honestly, sharing what I think and admitting the limits of my understanding.  Most importantly, I respect your ability and need to make your own choices.  My personality and skills are not right for everybody.  Most people know during the first massage whether they’ll be coming back to see me again.

The role of referrals

If a friend or colleague recommends a particular therapist, by all means check them out!  Pump your friend for as much information as you can to make sure that your situations are similar.  Find out why your friend likes this particular therapist so much.  “S/he gives a great massage” doesn’t convey nearly as much information as “s/he works deep enough for me and focuses on my painful areas,” or “s/he just always seems to know what I need.”

Word of mouth is the best marketing around.  I appreciate all my clients who send others to see me.  I also appreciate clients who refer others electronically, like posting feedback on various sites or rating me on Google, yelp, etc.  While you’re at it, how about leaving a comment on my “Testimonials” post?  Every little bit helps people who need me (like you?) to find me.