“Hannah Friedman is a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Illinois, with a certification from The Soma Institute in Chicago. In her private practice, she provides massage for trauma survivors and LGBTQIA+ clients. She comes to this work with a background of social justice, seeking to fight against systematic oppression and disparity by helping individual people heal. Her work empowers clients to define what healing means to them in a deeply personal way. She is an expert in anatomy, but you are an expert in you.”
About Hannah Friedman
I have worked with survivors in many different capacities, both as a massage therapist and a community organizer. I have years of experience as an advocate of radical consent and community care. As a massage therapist, I create a safe(r) space for survivors to explore and redefine their relationships with their own bodies. My goal is to gently guide each of my clients through the healing process, working in service of their unique needs and goals.
The majority of my massage clients live with a history of trauma, be it sexual assault, intimate violence, childhood trauma, or simply the experience of existing in the world as a trans person. I know first-hand that healing from trauma is an a-linear and life-long process. Survivors can never undo the past; instead, they can learn to carry their history in the healthiest possible way, making adjustments as they continue to grow and gather life experiences.
My work with trauma survivors is not limited to the sphere of physical health. I also provide direct support to survivors in crisis and lead community accountability processes in response to specific consent violations. As an organizer, I always aim to lift up the voices of trauma survivors, LGBTQIA+ folks, and BIPOC.
My Interest In Working with Survivors
In processing my own experience of trauma, I have taken solace in learning. My curiosity led me to study the relationship between body and mind. By immersing myself in the work of experts such as Sonya Renee Taylor, Andy Bernay-Roman, and Bessel van der Kolk, I have come to understand that the release of emotional pain depends on physical healing. I am interested in both providing this healing work and teaching my clients about the holistic nature of emotional growth.
I believe that creating a widespread culture of consent is a necessary political act. However, I’ve found the greatest barrier to our growth as a society is the fact that while trauma survivors are the most informed about this work, and therefore the best teachers, we are also the most exhausted. It is both unfair and sometimes necessary to ask survivors to lead the way in processes of cultural change and transformative justice. By directly supporting this powerful community, I am also supporting growth and change on a much greater scale.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
As a provider, I help each client meet their unique goals, both over time and in every session. I create space to discuss these goals each time we meet, making adjustments to our long-term plans as needed. At the beginning of each session, I let clients know that I am available to discuss any emotions that may result from the massage and to answer their questions about anatomy.
My continuing education in bodywork is focused on the deep, intrinsic connection between emotional and physical health. The first step in healing any ailment is to develop awareness of it. By helping my clients improve their body awareness over time, I invite them to get in touch with their emotions as well. This deepening knowledge of self empowers clients to cultivate a sense of safety in their own skin.
I am formally trained in clinical massage using the tenets of Western medicine. In this capacity, I specialize in deep tissue massage and focused work on specific injuries. For clients suffering from back pain, neck pain, bulging or herniated discs, and sciatica, I utilize my knowledge of The McKenzie Technique, a non-invasive and sustainable practice for spinal posture and health. This may inform the specific techniques I use during a session and/or the stretches I recommend for maintenance between massages.
My specialties include healing herniated discs, back pain, and scar tissue, which is particularly helpful for trans and non-binary clients in the later stages of recovery from top surgery. I also specialize in abdominal massage, which can alleviate the symptoms of numerous concerns including Crohn’s disease, IBS, other gastrointestinal issues, menstrual pain, and anxiety.
For clients seeking a gentler experience, I offer meditative relaxation massage. This technique is best for people who are new to massage and/or currently experiencing acute emotional pain. These sessions include longer strokes and a gentler touch, rather than focusing on specific areas of discomfort.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
Trauma-informed care means something different for every person. Some of my clients spend our time together in silent meditation. Those who struggle with dissociation sometimes ask me to talk the entire time – about anything from the weather to our shared interests – in order to keep them grounded. In my intake conversation with each client, I ask them to tell me about any types of touch or areas of their body they’d like me to avoid. These boundaries might be as simple as skipping a person’s ticklish feet, or as complex as using only deep pressure because they’re triggered by lighter touch.
In the process of healing, survivors continually learn and re-learn what it means to be in control of their own bodies. To aid in that process, I encourage clients to give me as much or as little direction as they’d like throughout each session. My role is to act as a gentle and responsive guide while they lead the way on their own journey.
I offer one-time free sessions to any survivors who contact me in the immediate aftermath of consent violations. I also take the time to discuss their needs for safety before we ever meet in person. They’re welcome to bring trusted friends with them to our sessions and to set any boundaries they need to in order to feel safe. These boundaries may include anything at all, such as the amount of clothing they wear during a session, how much or little we talk during our time together, or what genre of music we listen to.
I offer the same level of care to all my clients, whether or not they are survivors of assault. I emphasize that every client – and every person – is always in control of their experience, and has the right to change their mind about their boundaries at any time.
Many people approach bodywork with the attitude of “no pain, no gain,” and invite the provider to do whatever they feel is appropriate without asking first. This is diametrically opposed to my philosophy. On the contrary, I invite clients to set an intention or simply choose an adjective before each massage, so we’re sure to be on the same page about their goals in the moment. I always check in with clients verbally before beginning work on a particularly tense or emotionally charged area of the body, inviting them to let me know if their boundaries have changed since the session began.
Additional Areas of Interest/Expertise
As an activist, an artist, and a queer Jewish woman, I have been fortunate to collaborate with many communities in the pursuit of social justice. In the wake of the 2016 election, I hosted a monthly event series called love is a verb, inviting women, femmes, and queer people to come together and share bodywork, art therapy, and emotional support. Straight cis men were invited to come in a support capacity, bringing snacks, making tea, and providing bodywork without asking us for emotional labor in return.
In the Midwest Burning Man community, I helped organize a grassroots effort to spread awareness about consent both in Chicago and regionally. I wrote and distributed a zine called Rad Libs, encouraging readers to play mad libs with potential partners as a way of learning how to ask about each other’s boundaries. I have personally led a number of community accountability processes, supporting survivors as they seek out their own versions of justice. I also co-curated a gallery show entitled Refuge of Violence, in which we paired survivors of domestic violence with artists, supporting each pair as they collaborated on an art piece representing the survivor’s experience.
I am a vocal proponent of LGBTQIA+ rights. I have hosted multiple fundraisers for the gender affirmation surgeries of individual trans people, and all my work aims to create safe(r) spaces for people of all genders and sexualities. I am deeply involved in Chicago’s queer community, and able to connect my clients to resources within it.
On a limited basis – depending on my availability at the time of connecting with each new client – I can offer reduced rates to queer folks and survivors of assault and domestic violence. I am also sometimes open to working for trade. When a survivor contacts me in the immediate aftermath of a consent violation, I offer a one-time, hour-long session free of charge.