Alternative therapies and choosing a therapist
By Deanna Leach, CST, LMT, LMTI
People have often asked me, “How did you know that was in my body? You went straight to it!” Well, it’s a gift and I’ve been highly trained to listen with my hands. Our bodies show us what is wrong if we will only listen. They will even lead us to emotional connections to our symptoms if we ask the right questions. A well trained alternative therapist can assist our bodies to rebalance, repair, and renew.
In my work as a CranioSacral therapist, I’ve been trained and certified by the Dr. John Upledger (D.O.) Institute to listen to what the body is showing me. I may ask questions (what we call dialoguing) to help us find the origin of the problem, what purpose the body has for holding onto it, and how we can help the body release a restriction to help it get back to homeostasis. Say for instance, you had a car accident and in the moment of the accident, you suddenly turned your head back to check on your child in the back seat as you know the impact is unavoidable. You go to the doctor because you have whiplash symptoms and they prescribe muscle relaxers. That gets you through the worst of the whiplash symptoms but something is still lingering in your neck. You seek out my assistance and we find that the fear you experienced about the safety of your child during impact is still stuck in the tissue. Often, the effect of trauma leads us to have an emotional connection to it. SomatoEmotional Release is a release of emotional energy that may be necessary to fully discharge a trauma. The car accident is a simple example, but imagine the emotions connected to a woman being raped; or a child being neglected or abused; or a soldier or police officer killing someone in the line of duty; or any number of traumas, some minor and some severe, that humans deal with in their lifetime.
In addition to CranioSacral, I use Visceral Manipulation (and Visceral Emotional therapy) to find an organ that is holding onto some emotion that is causing it to be dysfunctional (or a dysfunctional organ that is causing emotional distress). You know the term “stuffing it,” right? We literally “put things” in our bodies, particularly when we don’t want to deal with them. Dr. Barral, D.O., who developed Visceral Manipulation and other modalities, has discovered that certain organs hold particular emotions. The body’s viscera are like a complicated timepiece, each part in subtle but perpetual motion relative to the others. Problems arise when trauma or malfunction throws the system out of alignment. For instance, when my father died suddenly, I had a very supportive family who helped each other through our grief. I thought I was handling his death well. I went to a Visceral Manipulation training a few months later and, as someone worked on my spleen, I started crying. I knew immediately that the emotion was about my dad. Turns out the spleen carries profound grief. Although I felt I was doing the work of grieving, I was apparently holding the overwhelming portion of that in my spleen. With precise but subtle anatomical work, we can release these things from our bodies.
We can also work in the brain and the limbic system to help dissipate emotional responses to previous trauma. The limbic system is our emotional brain. It can react before the cognitive brain governs with reason. It is that part of our brain that controls the fight, flight, or freeze response. In a stressful situation, the brain reacts by sending nervous, chemical, and hormonal messages to the body, either instantaneously or deferred. Visceral memorization takes its course: the organs’ cells record the messages and send them back to the brain, reinforcing emotional imbalance in the brain, and setting off an emotional resonance. We can help the brain tone down an overactive response with Visceral Emotional work. Imagine how this can help someone who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or a baby after a difficult birthing process; or an abuse survivor.
These therapies, sometimes used in conjunction with talk therapy (psychotherapy), can produce powerful results to help trauma survivors move through life in a whole new way, with better health mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Our bodies are amazing. They will carry our load if we can’t or won’t. However, at some point (we often recognize it as we age), we need to help our bodies release these restrictions before dysfunction becomes disease. If we will trust that our body can heal itself with the right therapies, we can have greater health and well-being.
A quick note on how to carefully choose your body therapist:
- Primarily, listen to your body, listen to your intuition. If a therapist doesn’t feel right, they probably aren’t right for you.
- The number of sessions should be based on simple logic and on moral agreement. You are working together and you must participate. What you do physically, nutritionally, and mentally between sessions plays a major role in treatment success. The therapist should want to refer you if you are not making some progress after 3 or 4 sessions. You should feel there is a plan. If the plan isn’t helping, try a different therapy or a different therapist.
- The therapist’s goal should be to improve the patient’s health.
- The therapist should keep their place, and not judge you or your family and friends. Avoid a therapist who makes you feel guilty or who mixes religion and therapy. Abuse does occur. Be aware of it.
- Certification and training matters. If a therapist claims to do a certain modality, ask for their training credentials. It takes more than one or two classes to become a good therapist in any modality. For the modalities I have discussed here, you can look up credentials information on IAHP.com (International Association of Healthcare Practitioners) by clicking “Find a Practitioner” and search by city or name.
Here’s to your better emotional and physical health!
Deanna Leach, CST, LMT, LMTI, is a certified CranioSacral Therapist who continues to train extensively in alternative therapies including Visceral Manipulation, Lymph Drainage, and Manual Articular Approach. She has been licensed as a massage therapist since 1999 and has practiced CranioSacral therapy since 2001. She regularly works in intensive multi-hands CranioSacral programs around the country and with dolphins in the Bahamas. She lives with two wonderful therapy dogs, Ruby Sue and Emma, and a cat, Elle, all who she regularly serenades with original ditties.
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