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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Atlanta’s Own HEAL CENTER: 30 Years of Educating, Healing and Inspiring

Apr 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton, MCIS

Photo: Alexandria Muse

You could say that it was Roz Zollinger who introduced reflexology to Atlanta back in the late ‘80s. Now, 30 years after she first opened the doors to her company, Heal Center, it is still thriving with its unique brand of world-renowned continuing education opportunities for massage therapists, practical training and holistic health services.

When she and her family first arrived in Atlanta in 1989, Zollinger was barraged with requests to share her expertise in reflexology, aromatherapy and essential oils. No one was teaching those topics in Atlanta, she was told, yet she had been teaching in Johannesburg, South Africa, her home city, for a while. So, she started to teach from home, as she had done in South Africa. As interest continued to grow, she dreamed of launching a center to bring practitioners together and provide a range of holistic healing modalities to the public.

Roz Zollinger

In 1992, Zollinger opened Heal Center in Sandy Springs, where she, along with 14 other holistic practitioners, offered reflexology, aromatherapy and other holistic services. She taught aromatherapy and reflexology classes at the center and at the massage school that had opened in Atlanta, too, and was often asked to speak around town. As Heal Center gained a reputation at home and internationally, it became clear they needed bigger digs. So Zollinger relocated the center in 1999 and once again in 2014 when it moved to its current location in Sandy Springs.

That was when Michael Zollinger, LMT, Roz’s son, stepped into the role of co-owner and director to help manage the center’s ever-expanding operations. Michael, a practicing massage therapist, organizes classes and training courses and coordinates the practitioners in the center’s “Wellness Collective”—the center’s select group of wellness professionals offering reflexology, aromatherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, integrative-functional medicine, acupuncture, nutrition and wellness consultations. 

Thanks to Michael’s efforts, Heal Center has become widely recognized as a resource for continuing education (CE) classes for massage therapists over the years. It has hosted a number of international teachers, including some from the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands, that have helped advance aromatherapy in the U.S. “He basically runs everything,” says Zollinger, happy for his passion, his partnership and his expertise.

Great Vibes

“The vibes at Heal Center are just incredible,” says long-time instructor, chiropractor, massage therapist and nutritionist Rudy Scarfalloto, DC. Scarfalloto had taught at ASHA School of Massage in Atlanta for many years and came on board at Heal Center after ASHA closed in 2013. Today, he’s practicing chiropractic part-time at Heal Center and teaches several courses.

Laura Thompson, NMT, echoes Scarfalloto’s sentiments about the welcoming energy at Heal Center. Thompson has been practicing massage, cranial-sacral therapy and reflexology at the center for the last six years. “There’s a feeling of being welcomed and nurtured right when you walk in,” says Thompson. “There’s a maturity there. You don’t have a lot of big egos and everyone is a pleasure to be around.” Zollinger changed Thompson’s life when Zollinger came to teach an introduction to aromatherapy and reflexology class when Thompson was in massage school in 2007. She learned Zollinger’s approach to body systems and fell in love with reflexology. “If you had told me then I would love working on people’s feet, I would have told you that you were crazy. Now it’s an honor and a privilege.”

Growing Trend

Michael Zollinger

Both Roz and Michael have seen the public’s interest in reflexology and aromatherapy grow tremendously over the past few decades. As for aromatherapy, Zollinger admits, “When I first came here, there was nothing, just a few really bad oils. I had to bring my own oils in from Europe.”

“Aromatherapy is a big trend at the moment, but people don’t always realize they need more education, too,” she says. Essential oils come very concentrated, she points out, so there’s a danger of misusing them. “You can get rashes if you don’t use them properly,” she warns. “So we try to teach people how to respect the oils.” Zollinger has also developed her own line of essential oil aroma blends using oils from companies that she’s thoroughly researched for quality. “I just want to educate people,” she says.

Reflexology is gradually becoming more well-known, too, from Zollinger’s perspective. The practice involves putting slight pressure on specific points on the feet or hands to balance and harmonize issues of mind, body, and emotions. People used to ask her, “What can you possibly do with the feet?” But now, she says, “people are familiar with it, and they’re into it and looking for different ways to help themselves.

“You can look at the feet,” says Zollinger, “and the feet tell you stories. I don’t just do a mechanical thing. I’m really zoning into that person.” People don’t just seek out reflexology to get their feet “worked on” anymore, she says. “People are starting to understand that we have to take more responsibility for ourselves and our health.”

But it’s not just people receiving massages who’ve changed. The needs of massage therapists have evolved as well, says Michael. “[Massage therapists] seem to be moving toward having a deeper understanding of the body and being more detailed and careful in their approach to treating clients,” Michael says. “That the body responds to a kinder touch. I think ‘no pain, no gain’ is losing its steam.”

The Legacy

Heal Center offers introductory and advanced courses in aromatherapy, five levels of reflexology classes, and a wide variety of continuing education classes for massage therapists. Most classes happen in person, but they occasionally offer webinars and online classes as well. Roz prefers live-in-person classes because “there’s nothing like having my students smell the oils, make their blends and share the blends. There’s a lot of meaningful interaction in my classes.”

It’s been 30 years since Heal Center opened its doors, and Zollinger, who also holds the title of Regional Director of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, is still practicing, teaching, and evolving the courses taught at the Center. She continues to expand her BodySystems Method training program, an organized, system-oriented teaching approach to make the overwhelming task of learning aromatherapy and reflexology more accessible. And she and Michael are currently working on developing a new curriculum to enable Heal Center to become an accredited vocational school they plan to call the Zollinger Institute of Professional Reflexology.

Roz is proud of the place that Heal Center has earned in the community. “The aromatherapy and reflexology communities in this country—and beyond—know of our teaching, but the Heal Center itself has also had an impact on our local community,” she says. “I never thought my teachings would become a legacy. So, it’s nice for me.” ❧
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