You mention early in the book that you want to highlight your belief that CST is a feminine way of healing. Could you explain what you mean by this? Was this your original intention or did it evolve naturally out of your collaboration?
It was very much our original intention. The whole project essentially began by chance. We were talking about the fact that in the CST world, although most practitioners and a large number of their clients are women, most of the schools are run by men, and they have written the majority of books on the subject. We particularly want to emphasise though, that in pointing this out, we are in no way trying to say that the feminine way is superior to the masculine; simply that it is the other side of the story and that our voices need to be equally heard. CST is an extremely gentle and intuitive way of working but it seemed to be lacking those female voices who might give a more experiential view of the reality of how treatment can progress. We feel that the masculine way is to describe the nuts and bolts of the mechanics of the work and how to do it, whereas the feminine approach is to show how it feels when you do it, and to explore the images and experiences that both client and therapist might have during the process. Of course both aspects are part of the whole, but we wanted to address what we saw as an imbalance.
We found that our format and structure evolved organically. Liz had enjoyed the tv series – In Treatment and I had recently read Susie Orbach’s book – The Impossibility of Sex. Both of these show traditional psychotherapy from the alternative perspectives of both client and practitioner. We decided to take a similar approach to CST and to give a ‘warts and all’ account of how a series of treatments might develop. We wanted to show not only how a course of treatment might play out over time but also to discuss openly what happens when things don’t go according to plan. Nothing that we have read so far talks so honestly about what it is really like to be a therapist and to be a client. Many books give an idealised view, but very few mention the numerous insecurities and doubts that may occur on either side of the table. Experiencing uncertainty particularly applies to a therapy as nebulous as Craniosacral Therapy; while any therapy can feel intimate and exposing, the added stimulus of touch makes the process even more intense.
We both sometimes felt that, despite many years experience as bodywork practitioners, there were times when we didn’t know what to do, how to connect with our clients, or indeed, what had happened during a session. From feedback received in our workshops, we knew that we were not alone in having these doubts.
Why did you choose the process of 10 bodywork sessions between a fictional therapist and client to illustrate the relationship between the two? Can you summarise the arc of this journey?
To us the efficacy of the treatment depends largely on the relationship between the therapist and her client, but we struggled to find anything that is written for bodywork therapists or their clients which emphasises this important principle. Our book is divided into 10 chapters, each of which describes a Craniosacral Therapy session from 3 different perspectives: the experience of the client, the parallel experience of the therapist and lastly, a commentary by both of us. Initially we had planned that the third part of each session would be the voice of a fictional supervisor who would advise ‘Sarah’ our therapist and discuss the various ways the session might have gone, but who would remain behind the scenes. This never really worked successfully, so instead we chose to use our own voices and our combined experience of over 45 years of working in various bodywork disciplines. We believe and hope that the present structure is the most powerful way to illustrate our thoughts and beliefs.
We chose to illustrate the journey undertaken by a fictional client and her therapist over 10 sessions because we particularly wanted to show how this magical work can develop and grow. As therapists we all know and appreciate that this work takes a considerable amount of time and, more importantly, that neither the therapist or the client know at the outset where their journey might take them.
How much of this relationship is standard or is it unusual? Can you give us examples and situations where this might vary and describe a very different type of treatment / session / patient.
Not all clients are like Anna, and not everyone finds that CST is right for them. Therapy isn’t always an immediate answer to a specific problem and some clients leave disappointed after one or two sessions thinking it hasn’t worked. Sometimes people are looking for a quick fix, or to be ‘cured’ by the practitioner, and are not yet ready for the idea that they play a part in the healing process themselves. As in counselling or psychotherapy, the Craniosacral therapist helps the client to identify potentials avenues for exploration whether on the physical, emotional or mental plane. It is an invitation to a wider perspective and often part of a process of transformation.
Sometimes, however people just come with a sore back; with a little patience sore backs get better too, but because this work addresses the whole person, the result can often lead to healing at an unexpectedly profound level.
CST is extraordinarily intimate. Would you like to talk a little more about this and how you deal with it in practice?
It can be a shock to discover just how intimate this work can be for both parties, and with the best will in the world it can be hard for practitioners not to get caught up in the dramas of their clients.
A really clear sense of both internal and external boundaries is needed when working at this level. Respecting boundaries is not only about confidentiality and an awareness of the vulnerability of your clients but also about being conscious of your own preconceptions or agendas about them, your work or the course of the treatment. Most therapies are intimate but bodyworkers have the added dimension of touch to negotiate. This can be a double edged sword; on the one hand it can cut through familiar mental stories, but on the other hand it can so easily be misconstrued.
Needless to say there is no one approach to maintaining boundaries and we are running a series of workshops over the next year looking at just these issues and the different ways that each of us work this out and to find out what we can learn from each other.
How important are myths and fairytelling to you in the art of healing? Why did you choose to base your story on the archetypal Hero’s Journey?
We write in our book that “We knew from the outset that we wanted to weave myths and archetypes into the book. Myths illustrating rites of passage occur in almost every culture, they are timeless and universal and represent a map for life. They aren’t linear or logical progressions and they are discovered afresh and reinterpreted by each generation. They represent stages along the way where earlier travellers have left warnings of danger as well as encouragement to those who follow in their footsteps. A strong connection exists between these ancient narratives and our current emotional challenges. They are as relevant today as ever, perhaps even more so, since our culture is so rooted in a tendency towards abstract, rational and intellectual thought at the expense of the intuitive, symbolic, or even mythic dimensions.”
By seeing the passage of a life, either our own or our clients’, in the context of myth or fairytale it can be easier to gain a perspective and be able to project a deeper and broader appreciation of the particular problems faced by your client. We have only to think about Sleeping Beauty; the unawakened woman, of Bluebeard and his abused wives to see the universality of these stories. Personally I have always found it comforting to see that my own difficulties are not unique to me but are the timeless dilemmas that we all face in one form or another.
“We have based our story loosely on the stages of the Hero’s Journey [to show] its advances and setbacks, gains and losses. There are also echoes of Christian’s adventure in John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, and of many other mythical odysseys. Two myths in particular seemed relevant. First, and most obvious, is the archetype of the Wounded Healer which portrays the vulnerability of the therapist and its effects on both parties. Secondly, we have used the cyclical journey of growth and rebirth that is at the heart of the myth of Demeter and Persephone as an allegory of Anna and Sarah’s relationship over the course of the treatments.”
Can you talk a little more about the nature of the dual relationship between client and therapist?
Joint Practice is our way of describing the relationship between client and practitioner but also has many other connotations for us. Whilst working together to write the book we found that we were bringing different qualities and skills to the collaboration, some of which we were finding in ourselves for the first time. It was this developing dual relationship between ourselves that moved it along and made it such a voyage of discovery. The process of writing was also much like being midwives, supporting and encouraging the birth of our book. In the treatment room we are essentially in that role too; in a closely held environment, facilitating the birth of a new perspective, and bringing fresh life to a static situation. In an ideal world both client and therapist come to the session as equals. Being able to be as open and vulnerable as your client is crucial to establishing a relationship in which you both can grow from the connection between you. Working in this way is truly a joint practice.