As many of you may know, I have a bunch of professional licenses/certifications, amongst them Acupuncture and CranioSacral Therapy.

Due to the popularity of Acupuncture combined with the length of most Chinese Medicine schools (3-4 year full time degree), many professions have begun to include Acupuncture in their scope, or have attempted to. The most recent attempt of this is by Physical Therapists, who call Acupuncture “dry needling” and say that their Acupuncture and usage of Acupuncture needles is “scientific” while Acupuncture is a bunch of hogwash. Nowadays Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, Naturopaths, and even Massage Therapists (in Canada) have begun doing Acupuncture with very little training and zero clinical training (most of the time).

The effect of this is either nothing (as in the client gets no benefit), the client actually does get benefit of some sort, or that something awful happens, such as the increased incidents of pneumothorax by physical therapists who have begun doing “dry needling”. But most of the time the effect of this is nothing. This basically means that someone goes to a chiropractor who only has a very surface understanding of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, the chiropractor does the same 6, or 12, or 15 points he/she does on everyone (or the only 6 points he/she knows), and the client gets little to no benefit.

And just to show that I am not biased, I will say that this happens a great deal with Acupuncturists as well. Acupuncture has become popular enough that a lot of students are flooding schools. These students may or may not cultivate themselves properly, be able to understand Chinese Medical theory, or ever get to the point that they are actually decent at Acupuncture before they leave the profession (the attrition rate of acupuncturists is pretty awful).

The same thing happens with CranioSacral therapy. Someone takes a weekend course and all of a sudden they say they do CranioSacral therapy, or are a CranioSacral therapist. The most ironic part of this is that I have seen many Acupuncturists (the same ones who may claim that chiropractors and the like are ignorant of Acupuncture and do not have adequate training to practice) have no problem with saying that they are CranioSacral Therapists, Energy Workers, Shamans, Spiritual Guides, or do other forms of bodywork after a weekend course. Ah, life ironies…

Any form of bodywork/massage, CranioSacral Therapy, Acupuncture (and Chinese Medicine) is a lifelong learning process. There is a quote by Ida Rolf, the creator of Rolfing, (I forget the exact quote) saying that she would not consider someone a Rolfer until they had a five year full time practice because before that time they are not doing Rolfing. This sentiment of course extends to any sort of modality including Energy Work, Spiritual Work, and even Psychotherapy.

Bodywork of any sort is an art. It takes time to be become an artist of any modality. Each modality I practice I recognize is a life-long pursuit. I have great admiration for an Acupuncturist I studied under who has been an Acupuncturist for close to forty years, and who comes from a lineage of Acupuncturists and great spiritual men. He is confident yet humble and once said in one of his talks that however much he knows he cannot know everything, and that he has so much more to learn. Each great bodyworker I have met is an artist. His/her work with clients is an artistic expression– as lovely as a painting, a poem, or a piece of music.

It also takes an immense amount of time to be skilled at any form of bodywork (I will use this as a general term meaning Acupuncture, CranioSacral Therapy, Massage, Energy Work, Herbal and Spiritual Work). It is a continual learning process that is never over. Many beginners focus on amassing a great amount of skills and workshops (I sure did at one point in time) and ultimately being skilled means doing one technique, one modality, one expression of that modality correctly. The real skill is the clinician being able to hold space, to hold stillness, so that the client can release their imbalances, traumas, and chaos… and return to a state of greater balance.

It also takes a great amount of knowledge to finally begin to understand any form of bodywork. Study of the history, understanding the innovators, how and why things came about, what it can help or not help with, and understanding the modality itself takes years, decades, and even a lifetime (or several) to understand on a significant level.

Any form of bodywork requires a great deal of cultivation of the Self. It will bring up your own issues, it will be tiring and trying if you do not have the personal cultivation practices to back it up. This means dealing with your own issues on your own time, doing yoga and meditating and building your own personal power so that you do not get burned out or suffer from compassion fatigue.

Finally, any bodyworker that has done significant work has a connection to something greater than themselves. Most are very aware of this. There is only so much one human, one person, one clinician can do. Having a divine connection and understanding of the flows of the universe and how to work with them is something every great bodyworker I know has.

Unfortunately most clinicians are operating with very surface understandings of their modality. Ideally each clinician would take a personal inventory of themselves and realize that there are certain conditions that they are unable to treat, that there are certain people they do not resonate with, and that there are certain modalities they are a beginner at and refer out. This does not happen. So what happens is that we have many people going to see Acupuncturists, CranioSacral Therapists, and Bodyworkers of all sorts who are not very good. Instead of saying that the clinician cannot help them, the client often says that Acupuncture didn’t help them. This is unfortunate, because Acupuncture with an artist, one who has cultivated themselves and studied and knows Acupuncture on a deep level could likely transform their life with a few needles.

This pattern of operating in the clinical world used to upset me. I would hear Acupuncturists (even fully licensed ones who have gone through four years of school with a clinical practice) tell me that they didn’t believe in qi and Craniosacral Therapists ask how they should treat an MS patient (when anyone who has even taken the first course in CranioSacral therapy knows that it is intended to be deeply individualized and that is why it works so well). I have had patients tell me Acupuncture doesn’t work when it is obvious they just went to a crappy Acupuncturist and patients tell me that they are learning CranioSacral therapy and when I look at their teacher they have only had a minimal amount of training.

But I have made my peace with this (although I have been talking about it a bit lately). Most of the world is at surface level understandings, and this includes clinicians. People who find me for CranioSacral therapy are ready for deep work. If they wanted more surface work they would find the practitioner who had one weekend of training. People who find me as a spiritual teacher are ready to move beyond the illusions of the New-Agers or the surface understandings of most spiritual communities, books, etc. And just to prove that I have humility, I will say that people find me for Acupuncture when they are ready for an intermediate-level clinician for that. It is such a rare, beautiful thing when you find a bodyworker who is a true artist. They can truly be life-changing. Be ready for one. Be open to one. Know that any of these modalities have their charlatans, their weekend warriors, the people who have taken one workshop and list themselves as an expert, the people who teach after taking a few classes. But there are true artists out there, people who can help you move beyond this surface clinical reality and hold space for you, be a catalyst for you to have tremendous healing, to find true balance and peace in your life.