BY CHRISTOPHER KAHLKE
In the Midst of a Shifting Generation
APRIL 1, 2014
BY CHRISTOPHER KAHLKE
The practice of craniosacral therapy is at a unique time in history with unlimited potential and opportunities for both client and therapist. Society right now is in a whirlwind of change. It can really be called “The Shifting Generation,” in which the general public is faced with limited medical solutions and therefore is seeking out alternative therapies. Some medical professionals are also recognizing the need to integrate energy work into their medical models in order to treat patients and not just their conditions.
Holistic medicine might be considered “New Age,” but it is definitely not new. Even in the U.S., holistic practitioners have used herbs, physical manipulation, faith healing and other modalities to treat patients since the first colonists set foot in the New World (Linke 5). Every year the number of people searching for alternative methods for healing mind, body and spirit is on the rise; however, there has been such fast growth during this “Shifting Generation.”
Societal changes happen as a result of the relationship between humanity’s sense of fear and simultaneous curiosity about an issue, as in this case of acceptance of alternative therapies. “We fear the unknown, but we also want to make its mysteries known. One of the driving forces of humanity is the duality of fear and curiosity” (Pease 1). This does not only happen at the conscious level. Pease says, “Their combined effects have been dominant elements in the evolution of cultures, and remain major determinants of individual and societal behavior at both the conscious and unconscious levels (Pease 1). Group think, social norms, and peer pressure keep society stuck for long periods of time holding them down and afraid. Only when the time is right, and the “stars are aligned,” can this “shift” occur. Over time, society has broken down the fear of “alternative medicine,” and they are more open to what is accessible to them. The more accessible craniosacral therapy is to the masses, the more viable and credible it will be to the general public.
People of all ages, faiths, and levels of wellness are seeking out alternative therapies and are asking their medical practitioners about them. Not only are patients with terminal conditions turning to these choices, but also people who struggle with stress when it comes to living in this fast–paced world. Parents in particular, seem very open to drug-free alternatives for their children, especially when medical professionals have exhausted all aspects of their protocols. Children are more open to craniosacral therapy and have positive results in part because they have had less time developing negative behaviors. Then, parents “educate” others when they pass on their child’s experience to other families.
This paper will explore three areas in which craniosacral therapy should be and will be a household name. Craniosacral therapists in combination with their medical counterparts need to blaze the path in spreading the word about alternative therapies, so that more people know about their choices for improving their well-being. These three areas include the psychological profession, secondly as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and lastly as part of a menu offered by integrative medicine centers. While craniosacral therapy is a powerful stand-alone therapy, it needs to become more well-known in the psychological, complementary and alternative medicine and the integrative medicine communities.
Anxiety Gap in Psychotherapy
In psychotherapy, many of the issues and disorders people suffer with are rooted in anxiety. This is where craniosacral therapy can easily get its foot in the door and make a big difference in people’s lives. There are seven types of anxiety that the profession recognizes. The first classification called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common form of anxiety. People with this condition are described as “…constantly on edge, worried, anxious, or stressed either physically or mentally,” (Calm Clinic 2). While some anxiety is a natural part of life, some people seem to suffer with it, “for no reason or for reasons that shouldn’t be causing that degree of anxiousness, which is called generalized anxiety disorder” (Calm clinic 2). Furthermore, an overriding factor in diagnosis is that the anxiety does not go away and is persistent for six months or more. “GAD affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men. The disorder develops gradually and can begin at any point in the life cycle, although the years of highest risk are between childhood and middle age” (National Institute for Mental Health 3). People with GAD tremendously benefit from an integrated approach to treatment. Craniosacral Therapy can be used to relieve the symptoms and can also be implemented to address the underlying causes of the anxiety.
Psychotherapy also is used in dealing with people with other forms of anxiety including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Only a mental health professional is qualified to diagnose someone with a mental health disorder. There are very important distinctions for all seven categories of anxiety as it relates to a feeling/experience or anxiety disorder as a psychological diagnosis. What the above statistics show is the fact that there are not only millions of diagnosed adults but also indicates that there may be many people who fall short of this identification including children. Those undiagnosed people will have slipped into the ‘Anxiety Gap.’ Once more, craniosacral therapy is useful for these disorders through the process of unwinding so that the client can be more relaxed to address deeper issues. Unlike other therapies which leave the person feeling “empty,” craniosacral therapists are able to channel loving energy to fill that “emptiness.” With permission from the client, information can be shared between psychotherapist and the craniosacral therapist so that the client can experience a higher level of healing. The goal after all, is for the client to take over and heal himself/herself.
Taking this group that has fallen into the ‘gap’ further along with no treatments or therapy there is an increased possibility of them slipping into a state of depression. This serious disorder leads into a gamut of other issues. There is a short circuit for the ‘rabbit hole’ effect of falling into the spectrum of depression and that is the use of craniosacral therapy. Other alternatives as well as craniosacral therapy at the beginning stages of the patients ‘issues’ even BEFORE there is a GAD diagnosis would be very effective. In most all of the publications about not only GAD but other psychological diagnosis the recommended treatments almost never include alternative therapies, holistic remedies, or energy work but generally includes medicine. Of course there is no substitute for professional mental health therapists but if they recognize the benefits of alternative therapies as an early intervention, there may be a reduction of prescriptions. It is important to note that side effects have to be considered when discussing medications since many side effects are severe and even risky especially for children and teens. Craniosacral therapy has no side effects and is very beneficial to all seven types of anxiety. For the common man who doesn’t even go to the doctor let alone a psychotherapist going to a craniosacral therapist may be less worrisome. This stems from a common perception about psychological treatment. Many believe that the therapist is going to 1. Treat them as a steady stream of income (dependency on the therapist) and or 2. That they are going to be put on a rollercoaster ride of medications (covering up or masking the real issues). All of these perceptions keep patients from getting the help they need. If the public realized that craniosacral therapy was an option to be explored and if professional therapists had a strong understanding of just what craniosacral therapy is and can do, they would be more comfortable in referring patients. Here is where we as craniosacral therapists need to build respectable relationships with the professional psychotherapists.
Many in the medical and psychological professions have crossed over into energy work in the last few years. A growing number of psychotherapists have been trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Holographic Memory Resolution (HMR). “EMDR…is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.” “Once the block is removed, healing resumes” (EMDR Institute 1). Once the process begins, multiple sessions are necessary to be completely effective. This is often the case with craniosacral therapy. The psychotherapy community has researched the effectiveness of EMDR which has given it more credibility in the general population. This has led to EMDR being successfully recognized by many prominent professional associations. A second type of energy work psychologists are embracing is called HMR. It is different in that this therapy does not have the client relive the past trauma. “HMR@ is a body-mind technique that allows simple, easy access to past memories and the release and resolution of associated painful emotions, without having to re-live them. The technique begins with energy work, inducing a light meditative trance that allows the conscious mind to relax and that gently opens a very safe window into the subconscious. Guided visualization creates a self-healing process that reveals the history of a problem, pattern or illness, and resolves the attached emotions. Concluding energy work “locks in” positive changes to the subconscious, the body, and the energy field” (Equilibrium 1). Once again, this is similar to craniosacral therapy and the positive effects on the physical and spiritual body of a person. “HMR theorists surmise that the restoration of properly functioning cellular structures can serve to increase our immune system’s effectiveness and prevent disease” (Good Therapy 1). These two complimentary therapies are attracting the professional community, being accepted whole heartedly and are most definitely touching into the realm of energy healing work. Does this not all sound very familiar? The door is open and craniosacral therapists need to be introduced to and involved with these professionals.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The rise of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States for over twenty years is opening the doorway for craniosacral therapy’s more mainstream practice. In fact, craniosacral therapy is on NCCAM’s list of therapies that are currently being researched. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a research organization, established in 1991, which explores the effectiveness and efficacy of alternative healing modalities. It is a United States government agency whose parent organization is The National Institute of Health. According to this organization, “CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Complementary Medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine” (NIH NCCAM 1). In a U.S. News and World Report article, the benefits of CAM were explored and given a very favorable review. They also made the point that, “All 18 hospitals on U.S. News’s most recent “America’s Best Hospital Super Selective Honor Roll” provide CAM of some type,” (U.S. News and World Report 2).
So why the push back from doctors and the scientific community? It is a major roadblock that CAM faces regarding the measurable proof of effectiveness that the scientific and medical community wants and even demands. Even craniosacral therapy, effective treatment is difficult to measure using traditional approaches. It is primarily based on the client’s observations, which according to the medical community, makes it not scientific and therefore not effective. Another reason many medical people don’t like CAM is because billions in research dollars are being poured into CAM research that medical organizations would like to have for their projects. A report from George Mason University questions the allocating of funds
for CAM when the report cites, “…$2 billion taxpayer dollars over nearly 20 years, to confirm cures based not on scientific evidence but rather on cultural mythology,” (Measuring Mythology George Mason University 35). This has galvanized many doctors, scientific researchers and universities to call for the outright defunding of NCCAM. Unfortunately, years of testing have turned up little evidence of effectiveness. Measurable and favorable results are just not in yet. This is a blow to the CAM practitioners for sure but currently there is a rethinking of how these therapies are measured. The difficulty for researchers of these techniques is that the results are very often subjective and “…the means to objectively measure the impact of these interventions on important biological processes are frequently lacking, particularly those that purport to act through processes not understood or well characterized by modern science,” (Strategic Objectives 1). Even in the medical and psychological professions, the realization that a new methodology is required and possible new ways to quantify results are on the immediate horizon.
Patients, especially those dealing with terminal diseases, are researching CAM themselves and demanding it of their medical professionals. In many instances, medical professionals don’t know why patients are not responding to a prescribed treatment and do not have anything else to offer them. This is common in serious illnesses such as cancer especially after a chemotherapy regimen. This results in a sense of hopelessness which then motivates patients to seek alternatives on their own. “The use of [alternative] therapies is so much higher than what [patients report] to their doctors.” Daniel Derman, president of the Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group explains (Best of Chicago Magazine 3). Not only are patients opening to alternatives but hospitals are getting in the game. Hospitals offering CAM in 2000 was approximately 14% and by 2010 that number increased to 42%. In addition to that, 38% of adults had turned to some sort of CAM in 2007.
CAM is very useful for large segments of patient classes. The graphs show the diseases and conditions that CAM was most used for in adults and children.
Every one of the listed conditions or diseases could be effectively treated using craniosacral therapy. Also, the graphs show how much room there is for growth in alternative treatments.
Craniosacral Therapy is a great fit as a complementary therapy. A surgery while very necessary may be medically successful but the emotional and spiritual needs of patients could benefit from CAM practitioners. This is why the hospitals are embracing CAM at such a fast pace. They are finally understanding the abstract ‘touchy feely’ needs of patients are just as important for overall healing. Doctors should be encouraging patients to find what combination works best for them. There is a new breed of doctors that are much more curious and accepting of alternative healings. Dr. Rardin says, “My generation of doctors and those currently going through medical school are much more open to alternative medicine than the doctors who came before us” (Linke 6). Dr. Rardin graduated Loyola medical school 2002. The growth of CAM is truly encouraging in deed.
Integrative medicine combines conventional medicine with other healing modalities, and it is practiced at centers that have a medical affiliation. They utilize CAM treatments that have demonstrated proof of effectiveness and safety. The expansion and growth in hospitals with integrative medicine centers is increasing. A few of those include Northwestern Memorial, Drake University, Scripps Center, Yale University, Stanford University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Northwestern Memorial is outgrowing its 10,000 square foot facility and is slated to open a second location in Lincoln Park this year. This is due in part to the fact that “many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost than mainstream care – and they’re trying to learn from it,” (Atlantic Monthly 1). The type of treatments they offer include: acupuncture, Ayurveda, meditation, reiki, biofeedback and naturopathy. Currently craniosacral therapy is not on the list; however as the awareness of the unique effectiveness of craniosacral therapy increases in the general public and the medical community, it will soon be included in the available treatments. One of the benefits of craniosacral therapy is that the client does not have to remove or change something in their life. Treatment can be done on a more subconscious and spiritual level so that the patient feels only the benefits. How long the client feels them, does depend on the work the client does in conjunction with the therapy. Once the body feels what it is like to have light, love and higher vibration, the client seeks out more treatment. Helping a client feel more optimism and hope positively affects the other treatments a client is undergoing.
The time medical personnel spends with patients is shrinking. Doctors are spending less time explaining healthy options and more time prescribing medication. There is always a new pill to try with the promise of curing, reducing but sometimes only covering up symptoms. With the increase in information through the internet, patients are more educated about medications and their side effects and lack of effectiveness. There is a gap between what the patients really need and what the medical profession is allowed to offer. “Every single physician I spoke with agreed: the current system makes it nearly impossible for most doctors to have the sort of relationship with patients that would best promote health. Doctors are paid for providing treatments, not for spending time talking to patients,” says Victor Montori, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic” (Atlantic Monthly 10). Trying to fill the gap are the licensed professionals who are offering integrative therapies/alternative healing modalities in their practices. Last year the American Board of Medical Specialties announced that it will begin accrediting integrative doctors in 2014 and “….. last year the American Medical Association quietly dropped this line from its official policy: “there is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies.” An AMA spokesperson declined to comment” (Best of Chicago Magazine 5). This is a huge shift inside the heart of the medical model. Along with that, the Mayo Clinic stated in its June 2010 Special Report about Integrative Medicine that overall health should be looked at considering the mind, body and spirit together for healing. They suggest relating all three and consider strategies and therapies that will add to patient’s strengths and minimize any weaknesses. However, the Mayo Clinic Special Report explicitly notes that the report is not an endorsement of any alternative practice or products, only a recognition of this rapidly emerging segment of medicine. This report also seems to be directed mainly at the patients and what they can do for themselves with respect to alternatives, at the same time “soft selling” integrative medicine to the medical community (Mayo Clinic Special Report 1-8). Patient – driven demand has been recognized by hospital administrations. This has been the genesis for the creation of integrative centers and with the quick success of these centers, many others have jumped aboard. This approach is being realized by doctors as not a substitute for medical care but an addition. A filling of the gap of where they leave off or are not able to provide. The medical communities are slowly accepting integrative medicine as a very real productive part of the healing process.
Lastly, there is another gap that craniosacral therapists need to recognize. There are vast numbers of people who have no idea what healing modalities are and what is available. This is another “gap” that needs to be shifted. Instead of expecting others to fill in this gap, we, craniosacral therapists, need to continue to speak about our work to others outside of our circle. In a way, we must become humble teachers, even though we may not be comfortable in this role. We cannot expect clients to just come to us. We need to find ways to speak about our work more frequently, so that more people can benefit from this unique treatment.
In conclusion, craniosacral therapy, along with the various other modalities of healing and wellness can be effectively combined with the medical and psychological disciplines. Integrative medicine is on the rise at a fast pace. CAM is growing exponentially and helping to get exposure for alternative modalities pulling them out of the esoteric realm. We are on the cusp of a great awakening ‘The Shifting Generation’ that is currently in motion. As demand grows for alternative therapies, acceptance will increase from all levels of the medical model. When more acceptance increases, fears will dissolve and true healing will begin. It is time to be more aggressive in promoting craniosacral therapy to close the ‘medical gap’ so people can fully appreciate all of the choices available to them. The more work we as craniosacral therapists can do to introduce ourselves into the medical model, the more acceptance there will be for this powerful modality. We must strive to always be a shining light that lifts people up so that they can move to self-correction healing. Love, confidence, service, professionalism, and care are the prescription for powerfully shifting a generation into self-healing.
The reliance on medicine is shifting away in our society, and there is more focus on how people can be their own health advocates. Craniosacral therapists can be a helping hand guiding the public and medical professions through this shift with love, peace, grace and professionalism. As ‘healers’ there is a need to be fluid in this process. Don’t forget Milne says “It is a great richness to have a never ending path” (Milne 160)
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