What is CranioSacral Therapy
Gentle, effective and patient-centered, CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a well-established treatment method designed to enhance the functioning of the craniosacral system. This vital system is made up of the membranes and fluid that surround, protect and nourish the brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the head, face and mouth to the sacrum or tailbone area.
Since the craniosacral system directly impacts the central nervous system, it is easy to see how an imbalance there could cause any number of sensory, motor or neurological problems. These might include chronic pain, motor-coordination impairment, eye difficulties, learning disabilities, and other health challenges.
CranioSacral Therapy essentially empowers the patient to recognize or release blockages or tension, especially in the central nervous system. Without pain or discomfort, the therapist facilitates the letting go of patterns which restrict vitality, enhancing the body’s natural capacity for self-repair. The results can be life-changing.
CranioSacral Therapy was pioneered and developed by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger, following extensive scientific studies from 1975 to 1983 at Michigan State University, where he served as a clinical researcher and Professor of Biomechanics. His work drew on the discoveries of Dr. William Sutherland, who first identified the wave-like movements of the craniosacral system. These subtle rhythms can be felt throughout the body, and are inextricably linked with physical and emotional health.
How Does CranioSacral Therapy Work
CranioSacral Therapy is performed on a fully-clothed person. Using a soft touch -generally no greater than the weight of a nickel – the therapist monitors the rhythm of the craniosacral system to detect potential restrictions and imbalances. In order to release these blockages, the therapist gently manipulates the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Of course, these membranes cannot be directly reached from outside the body. However, since they have attachments to the bones of the head (cranium) and the inside of the tailbone (sacrum), the therapist can use these bones to affect the membranes themselves .
In a typical CranioSacral session, which lasts from 15 minutes to over an hour, the first thing you may notice is a deep sense of relaxation. As membrane restrictions are released and the body begins to return to optimal functioning, many other sensations may occur. Because memories of trauma and injury are often stored in the connective tissue of the body, sometimes the release is accompanied by an emotion or memory related to the original cause of the restriction. When this happens, therapist and client work together to allow expression of these memories and feelings, often reducing or eliminating dysfunction in the area involved.
CST can dramatically increase wellness and vitality, as well as addressing physical aches and pains, acute and chronic disease, and emotional or psychological disturbances. Sometimes the benefits are not immediately noticeable but become obvious over time: since SCT aids the body’s innate healing process, it isn’t unusual for improvement to continue weeks after the session. The work can involve resolution of past events and is often deeply moving, profoundly refreshing and exhilarating.
What is SomatoEmotional Release (SER)
Somatoemotional Release is the release of emotional energy which was being held in the body. If emotion cannot be expressed or released at the time it was generated, or if a trauma is accompanied by strong emotions, the particular emotion(s) may become trapped in tissues of the body. SER is the process of discovering and releasing or redirecting the emotion or emotional energy.
The beginnings of SER were discovered when Dr. Upledger was attempting to decompress the temporal bones of autistic children. The children’s limbs and then whole body began to move spontaneously and involuntarily. Without continued following and physical support from the therapist, the movements would stop as though the touch provided the necessary support for the body movement process. As movements reached endpoints and were held there, releases occurred in the body. The children went into a total body release, with crying, wailing, expressions of fear, anger or frustration. These autistic children typically began to show affection and sociability after a series of such sessions.
An SER process begins when the patient, usually non-consciously, gives permission or makes an agreement with the therapist. The therapist communicates their permission through touch. The patient understands, whether consciously or no, that this is an opportunity for an SER process.
The therapist’s touch, whether supporting a limb, offering energy to the body at an energy cyst site or dialoging, facilitates the release. If the process begins, it is because the requisite trust is present within the therapist-patient “team". The patient’s body “trusts" the facilitator’s skill, sincerity and ability to accompany them wherever the process leads. It is uncanny how accurate and wisdom filled this innate, non-conscious assessment is. The patient may test the therapist, or simply present that process which is most appropriate for this session with this therapist. Knowing this can give the therapist confidence and trust, because they know that the patient's body will not present something they or the patient can't handle.
When an SER begins, so will movement in the patient's body. If you are supporting a limb or limbs they may make large movements; the whole body, in fact, may go into some pattern or other. If you have your hands resting on the body, the large movements may happen as well but you may detect very subtle, quiet movement or any number of release signs within the otherwise still body. What you feel may be as subtle as emotion leaving tissue with no other outward sign.
If we liken SER to "body psychotherapy," then the body's movement could be seen as analogous to the verbal aspect of psychotherapy.
As the energy is discharged, the patient can re-experience the emotional component of that energy and the incident which placed this foreign energy into the tissues. Dr. Upledger has observed that "organs, tissues and individual cells possess memory, emotional capacity and intellect. Release of retained tissue emotion and pain usually passes through the patient/client’s conscious awareness either at the time of the SER experience or within 24 to 48 hours. This concept of tissue memory is really the basis for SER work.
Realizing that an SER will happen when it’s appropriate and cannot be forced, one can still say that clinical applications would be: Any number of emotional issues; anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD, mood swings, nervousness, etc, as well as psychiatric conditions and any number of physical complaints which may well heal faster or disappear when the underlying emotional/spiritual aspects are addressed in order to release energy from the body. For instance, the case of acid reflux which disappeared when the fear was removed from the area via SER, or the sprained foot (which occurred coming out of the courthouse from getting divorced) and only began healing when that grief was found in the body and expressed.
Where there is a group of therapists, the process can be greatly enhanced. It is important for all to be blended with the patient and with the lead therapist. The extra energy and intuition enhances the empowerment of the patient exponentially.
Cranio Sacral Therapy and PTSD
Stress, Emotional Trauma, Anxiety, Depression
CranioSacral Therapy is well known as an effective and safe therapeutic support for individuals who have passed through traumatic experiences, and has been helpful to combat veterans, survivors of abuse or in working through the “invisible trauma” of childhood. CST works to heal us in our PTSD or ongoing stress by allowing the body and central nervous system to change their ingrained emotional patterns.
If you have symptoms you feel are related to ongoing emotional stress or previous emotional trauma, CST and SER may help you to significantly lighten the load you are carrying. Anxiety and Depression-like symptoms are often the result of emotional “energy” trapped in the human nervous system. Normally, the body dissipates emotional trauma soon after the event. If we do not have the resources to initiate our dissipating mechanisms, it is still possible at a later date to facilitate this process and help our central nervous system to release, integrate and heal.
Following a study of 38 Tibetan refugees suffering from PTSD, Naturopath Dr. Lisa Chavez explains: “I think this therapy works so well for body mind conditions because it induces the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, or as it is commonly called the 'rest and digest' state. This allows the entire body to enter a state of restoration, unlike psychoactive drugs that just dampen the sympathetic response."1
She found that ‘survey scores for anxiety and somatic complaints of the participants who received the Craniosacral Therapy decreased, while the somatic complaint scores of the participants who did not receive therapy actually increased. "The decrease in somatic, anxiety and total scores of the treatment group was statistically significant…”’2
Key in Chavez’ assessment is the idea that for deep and lasting healing from post traumatic stress or stress disorder, it is not enough to “dampen the sympathetic response” (the body’s anxiety/survival response). What we really want is to strengthen the body and indeed the whole person, reconnecting them to their core and facilitating a processing and release of trauma and trauma patterns within the emotional consciousness and the nervous system. This ultimately brings us into a “parasympathetic” state, where we are no longer looking around every corner for the next stressor, but calmly centered at home, in ourselves.
These processes: of realigning with our selves, and shedding stress, must generally go hand in hand. As we feel less urgency, we can come back to our center. As we feel our selves strong, stress falls away. -John Rollinson