Healing meets wellness at Woodstock Healing Arts

Ben Fleischer (photo by Dion Ogust)

Ben Fleischer, whose new Woodstock Healing Arts center in Bradley Meadows off Mill Hill Road started taking clients this week, sees something sophisticated in his home town. He’s banking that the time is right for an integrative wellness center that draws on many Woodstock talents who have been practicing their healing arts and alternative medicine in New York City more than here. “There’s been no public access point for the wealth of knowledge this community has,” he said. “Many of us have had clients traveling to Manhattan for treatment. Now we can work right here in our mobile spa.”

On hand will be craniosacral therapists Denise Hopkins and Vesa Byrnes, integrative physician Dr. Patrick Fratellone, certified holistic counselor Luis Mojica, holistic gynecologist Dr. Eden Fromber, reflexologist Hilal Smith, acupuncturists Charles LaBarre and Alexis Sarandon, bodyworker Victor McWind, psychotherapist Kezia Cooper, naturopathic Doctor Dr. Eli Morales and various top massage therapists, health coaches and other specialists just starting to sign on.

The new space, located behind Bank of America in Bradley Meadows Shopping Plaza, where the now defunct video store once was, has a large, tall-ceilinged and light-filled entrance room, with one blank wall for the showing of videos when necessary, and the holding of regular seminars and other events. In the back are four offices for the 15 WHA’s practitioners. A Friday, January 13 early evening opening party has been set for the space, along with a growing list of evens later in January and throughout the winter.

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The new center’s website defines it: “The vision of WHA is to support the greater Woodstock community with an integrative medical and wellness center, blending a modern western medical practice with traditional healing methods. The goal of WHA is to help you achieve optimal wellness.”

Fleischer’s youthful, with a young family. He grew up exploring the backwoods of Racetrack Road in Bearsville. He avidly pursued a love of acting on to Hampshire College, where he concentrated his focus on finding the differences and meeting points between Eastern and Western “views of mind and health.” After school he moved to New York City and tried his luck as an actor, taking up work as a massage therapist for a day job. But then he reached a point where he realized he “did not have the fervor to suffer years of rejection.”

Fleischer moved to Boulder, Colorado, and began practicing massage full time “so I’d stop being too much in my head.” But when his brother died unexpectedly of a combination of ventricular arrythmia and a mitral valve prolapse, he moved back home to grieve until he was ready to “come out the other side” and go deeper into work that would help people before they were sick. He studied acupuncture and zero balancing, then started practicing both, alongside massage, in New York City. Then he settled into a practice.

“Was there stuff I could have done? I have no idea,” Fleischer said of the effects his brother’s passing had. He wanted to immerse himself in a functional ideal of healing, of medicine, that looked at diet and lifestyle first, and not just “markers in the red.”

Working in the city, Fleischer started noticing how high the burn out rates were for young practitioners in his field. He realized how many didn’t know what was involved in actually starting businesses. So Fleischer started a group of healers, trainers and wellness professionals, Body Local, to provide shared support. He moved into a space, Midtown Integrative, at 53rd and Madison. And then, after a few years, his wife became pregnant and the two decided to come back to Woodstock.

“I’ve been trying to move my practice ever since,” he said of the several years it’s taken to get WHA up and running. “I was lucky, the stars just started aligning, and I got the right people on board.”

Fleischer himself will spend only two days a week at his practice in the city. And with its state-of-the-art website, Woodstock Healing Arts has already started taking online appointments.

Fleischer feels that while most of he and his partners’ clients will be local, he’s also expecting some to come from around the region…as well as the city. He is touch with many of new families who’ve made Woodstock their home in recent years, and has heard their thrill at having top city healers to choose from just down the road.

Is there something about growing up in Woodstock that prepares one for such an enterprise, be it the altruistic aspect of healing work or the business acumen tied to creating an integrative consortium like WHA?

“You grow up in the Woodstock culture learning that your life can be based on things other than the 9 to 5 suburban ideal,” Fleischer answers. “Growing up here I was definitely exposed to all kinds of alternative health, even if it was a separate world from western medicine. Hampshire gave me four years to respect and explore my curiosity.”

He added that he’s finding people he knows in New York wanting to come up for the new healing center. He senses that Woodstock Healing Arts may be on the vanguard of big changes for the town, and in general healthcare.

“I have this vision for east-west healing arts that are no longer just an adjunct to a spa, but with the medical and wellness sides locked in together,” he said. “The stars are simply aligning right.”

Woodstock Healing Arts is located behind Bank of America in Bradley Meadows Shopping Plaza at 83 Mill Hill Road. For more information call 393-HEAL (4325) or see www.woodstockhealingarts,com.

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