CranioSacral: It’s about more than the evidence..

Posted on August 29, 2010


When people actually take time to look at alternative therapies like CranioSacral Therapy (CST), the first thing that is questioned is usually the evidence to support the many wide and varied claims that alt-med therapists make.  Whilst evidence for the efficacy of a treatment is a hugely important factor, it is not the only thing that should be taken into account.

One often overlooked, but I feel important area, is the actual training of the therapists.  This is particularly important when the therapist is claiming to be able to treat serious medical conditions.

People involved in the diagnosis and treatment of  healthcare issues are in a position where a patient may come to them feeling ‘unwell’, this could be due to a minor, self limiting condition that if untreated will clear after a few days, but there is also the distinct possibility that somebody could have an undiagnosed, potentially serious medical condition.

This is simply my opinion, but I firmly believe that what is required is somebody who, after undergoing sufficient training is capable of recognising these conditions, or at very least identifying that something is wrong and the patient is in need of further, specialist care for diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

The NHS have a special name for these people, you may have heard of them …… they’re called Doctors!   When you visit your local GP or hospital consultant you are getting the services of somebody who has undergone a serious amount of training.

“ It can take a minimum of nine years to train as a general practitioner (GP) and 12 years before a doctor is suitably qualified to apply for a post as a hospital consultant”

Simply completing a medical degree course will typically take at least 5 or 6 years

The “standard” five-year degree course”  or if  you’ve got the required background (perhaps 3 years of study for a biology degree) then  “Accelerated courses for graduates (four years)” are an option.

Those who practice CranioSacral Therapy (CST) often claim that they can treat a wide range of medical conditions.  For now let us put aside the need for good quality, scientific evidence and leave that for another day.  Lets have a brief look at the training requirements for a CranioSacral Therapist,.

How well trained are these therapists ?

How capable are they of identifying potential complications associated with these conditions?

The best place to get a feel for the training is the establishments in the UK who offer the training courses.  These are by no means all of the organisations offering CST training, but they certainly seem to be a representative selection:

Upledger Institute:

Arranged in five principal stages, the Upledger CranioSacral Training programme is built around a series of 4-5 day intensive workshops.

College of Cranio-Sacral Therapy (CCST):

Two Year Diploma Course:

Eighteen weekends (6 groups of 3 weekends) spread over two years.

Or take the ‘fast track’ on a One Year Diploma Course.

Six 6-day stages spread over a year in London

Institute of Craniosacral studies:

The Two-Year Professional Training in Process-based Craniosacral Therapy consists of 16 modules totalling 47 days.

Karuna Institute:

The professional training in Craniosacral Biodynamics is taught at the Institute over ten five-day seminars during two years;

Or to make things even clearer;

Organisation Duration of Training Qualification Recognised By
UK University 5-6 Years Medical Degree GMC/NHS
Upledger Inst 20-25 Days spread over 2 years Diploma CranioSacral Therapy Assoc

College of CranioSacral Therapy

36 Days spread over 1 or 2 years Diploma CranioSacral Therapy Assoc

Institute of CranioSacral Studies

47 Days spread over 2 years Diploma CranioSacral Therapy Assoc

Karuna Institute

50 Days spread over 2 years Diploma CranioSacral Therapy Assoc

Well it quickly becomes clear that there is a huge difference in the level of training.

All the CST training establishments say that the course consists of ‘intensive’ training and that there is work to do in between the formal training stages.  As described by the upledger institute, there is a need to

“absorb and apply the practical work, further develop your fine palpatory skills, review the course notes and cover required reading.”

So there is an element of home study & revision required, the same sort of thing required for any professional training course!

We can easily see that there is no comparison between obtaining a medical degree and a CranioSacral diploma.  But somehow CST therapists claim to be able to effectively diagnose and treat many of the same medical conditions.   Within the NHS treatment of these conditions can require the attention of doctors who have undergone specialist training to allow them to deal effectively with what are often complex medical conditions.  You simply cannot spend a few days a year, learning unproven therapy techniques and claim to have the knowledge required to offer these treatments.

All alt-med practitioners of all persuasions will eventually use the argument that it is down to patient choice and this is very true, but patient choice should be based on solid facts, reliable evidence and good quality training.  Of course CST is not alone in this level of professional training and other therapies have equally unrealistic levels of training before becoming ‘qualified

So when it comes to patient choice, your choice should include,  Medical Doctor or therapist,  Medical Degree or diploma ,  recognised & tested treatments with built in safety measures or an unproven, unregulated therapy!

Earlier I asked 2 questions:

How well trained are these therapists ?

How capable are they of identifying potential complications associated with these conditions?

Anybody care to answer…

Maybe it’s time to have a closer look at that evidence we put aside earlier …..

Posted in: Craniosacral