Many people have never tried cranio-sacral therapy and they do not know what to expect once they do try it. Add to it that cranio-sacral therapy is a subtle technique that is hard to explain; if your cranio-sacral therapist is not a clear communicator, then one can walk out having had a nice session, and yet still not really know what has occurred in your body or what to expect as the outcome, or even if you are supposed to come back for more therapy.
It is reasonable to expect that when a person visits a professional who is an expert in her field, that she will explain the procedures before they are applied, and that the findings and the effect of the work once completed is described for review and understanding by the client.
Also, with any visit to a professional, we would hope that a “plan” is offered. The plan should meet the goals of the client based on what the client came in for, and the plan should take into account the unique findings and history of that client, as well as how the client’s tissues responded during the therapy. “Plans” should also be an “offering” with no obligation or sense of pressure attached….The plan is simply the therapist’s advice based on what you came in for, whether it be pain relief, tension relief or emotional support.
That being said, like with other fields such as chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture, each therapist is a unique person, with a unique perspective, skill set within their field, and unique approach. In every case at a cranio-sacral therapist’s office, the therapist will need to do an “intake” of some kind. The more information the therapist gathers (in terms of the “goals” of the client, and their history of injuries, stresses, medications, and life habits) then the more perspective the therapist has.
Our therapists work for a chiropractor (Dr. Sylvia Skefich, D.C.) and so therefore, typical medical paperwork needs to be completed even if the client chooses never to see the chiropractor. Every file at our shop passes before the chiropractor at least once after the client has had their first appointment so that the doctor may offer suggestions as to therapeutic approach, as well as to screen for medical red flags that could need a referral to a medical specialist.
The therapists look at the intake paperwork too, especially in regard to the “goal” of the client, history of past injuries and surgeries, and current medications (which can affect the feel of the tissues).
What happens once you arrive for your first session? You and the therapist will first sit down for just a few minutes to find out your goals and to discuss your history. Then she will instruct you to lie on the table, either on your back, face down, or on your side. Some therapists start with a standing “scan” in order to gather cranio-sacral information from your body through her hands on your shoulder tops and head placements.
Then the work begins! The therapists will place her hands on or under your body, and the location of that placement can vary widely, depening on what your pain complaint or goal is. Common areas of contact include:
- Therapist sitting at the head of the table, her hands on the sides of your head while you lie face up;
- Therapist sitting at the head of the table, her hands cupping the back of your neck while you lie face up;
- Therapist sitting at the head of the table, her hands on your shoulders while you lie face up;
- Therapist sitting at the side of the table, her hands under your sacrum (at the base of your spine) while you lie face up;
- Therapist standing at the side of the table in a lunge, her hands on the tops of your thighs, shins, or feet tops, while you lie face up;
- Therapist standing at the side of the table in a lunge, her hands on your shoulders, or your rib cage or your pelvis, while you lie on your side;
- Therapist lunging at the side of the table, her hands on your back and spine, while you lie face down;
- Therapist at the foot of the table, her hands on your feet or calves, while you lie face up, and other options.
Sometimes there is talking and discussion during the therapy, and sometimes there is silence. At our office, we let the client direct the amount of talking that goes on. Some people really like to give the therapist a full picture of what is happening in their life while they receive the work. Our therapists are wise people who offer help in terms of talk and reflection and are sometimes sought out for that purpose.
Other times the client rests in silence, getting to drop into deep states of relaxation. There may be brief interruptions in order to change positions.
Other clients express that they really like to hear the narration of the findings in their body. They like to know what is going on, and how their body responded to each manuever. When a new client comes in to our office, they are given the option to either hear the narration, or to rest in silence. And of course the client is allowed to talk or to bring up any topic of concern at their will. They are also allowed and invited to express any discomfort, such as if the room is too cold, the lights too bright or if the position is getting to be uncomfortable.
At the end of the first session, the therapist will tell the client that they might feel lightheaded or spacey for up to 20 minutes after their appointment, and that that is normal. They will also be told that they may hit a unique wall of fatigue later on in that day. That usually only happens after the first appointment, and is due to the nervous system going in deeply to integrate the work.
The client will also be told that their benefits will be noticed in the days following the appointment in most cases, more so that in the day of. The enhanced cranio-sacral range of motion rolls through and smooths out the tension as the hours and days go, with most notable changes happening in the day following the session, and improvements may be felt up to four days later. At the end of four days, a client can look back and know what that one session has done for them in terms of pain relief.
Clients often ask what they should and should not do in the day of their appointment: people are advised to do anything that suits them. Some people plan to exercise that day, other people wish to take it easy. The cranio-sacral work is achieved comprehensively throughout the fascia, so exercise will not “un-do” the work.
Then the therapist will give her advice (or plan) as to how many visits she thinks it will take to meet your goals. Often a three to six visits might be recommended, at about once per week frequency. Once a person has completed the recommended plan, the therapist may then recommend what she thinks you need to “maintain” your benefits. The stresses of life tend to come on faster than we can rest, exercise, or meditate them off, so to come in for cranio-sacral therapy once per month is often the recommendation (although some need more, some need less). And of course, it is always up to you. Some people like to come in only to get out of pain, and so they schedule periodically if they have a pain situation.
At our office, we offer the cranio-sacral therapy with the intention of providing skillfull body work, healing energy, care and support. We run the pragmatic and business side of the appointments with the intention of offering full awareness and being in agreement and consent. Our main goal is to elevate our community with all the benefits–mind, body, and spirit–that cranio-sacral therapy is known to bring. © Sylvia Skefich 2019