Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Am NOT a Therapist!

Repeat: I am not a therapist. Say instead . . . "Teacher". Maybe, "Coach".
My career is in Rolf Structural Integration, sometimes called Rolfing®, a nickname after the originator Dr. Ida P. Rolf. This peerless and definitive approach to human health and well-being is an educational process; think, training.
Contrary to how people generally see this work, and how even my colleagues in the field have portrayed Structural Integration more accurately, how they’ve touted it's many therapeutic benefits — Dr. Rolf stressed that we are educators, and the therapist is in fact gravity. Any practitioner of this craft who is worth his or her salt is expected to get it clear with their clients that any therapeutic benefit(s) will be the result of balancing the body structure to be better adapted to the constant force of gravity. In plain architectural terms, stacked up vertically and level and symmetrical. And, the process is principally about that, not solely focused on symptomatic relief per se, or on just the immediate area of discomfort.
I had a very difficult time with a therapist who came to me with a gait problem. She could not understand why there was a good deal of work being done on areas other than her legs. Furthermore, she was quite sure that I was not applying the work properly, or at least to her satisfaction, since I was addressing the whole and not just the part.  Short answer, imbalances in the makeup of the body and their associated discomforts do not exist as isolated events, but are reflected in many and complex compensatory fixations throughout the body. It all has to be addressed if any real resolution is to happen. Local problem area work as many therapies will offer, from a structural point of view, can be very much like sweeping things under the rug. Or, like patching the cracks in the plaster, but the foundation of the house is off. That's particularly the case when medications are involved. Out of sight might be out of mind; but not out of the picture.
I may have contributed unwittingly to this general misunderstanding. For a period I was part of a program at a prominent research hospital and saw clients referred to me from other hospital services. The setting itself is therapeutic, so no wonder the impression is that it is a therapy.

Also, therapists and medical practitioners who mainly are concerned with methods and techniques tend to see Structural Integration in their own terms. As in . . . "What does a pickpocket see when he sees a saint?" Answer: "Pockets".

I am mostly interested in natural and easily available means of addressing the human situation. Nothing wrong with conventional therapies and medical modalities; especially if your idea of health care is examination and diagnosis, giving it a name, and then prescribing medications to put down the symptoms.  
A problem with thinking about Structural Integration as a therapy is that it misses the more exquisite purpose. Really, it's something that healthy people should do. Children especially should learn at an early age about their bodies first hand experientially and how to grow up unencumbered, with a sound body structure and full freedom of action and expression.

The misunderstanding also arises probably out of the fact that people generally don’t take action until they feel the pinch, until the wolf is at the door. So folks come to Structural Integration in trouble. They are looking for therapy. The really savvy ones come because they understand balancing the body along the line of gravity makes sense, for effectiveness in life in general and especially when top physical performance and form are being cultivated, or when creative expressiveness in the arts is what it takes to get you the part. 
Now listen to Dr. Rolf herself. She always said it best . . .

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