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Massage Today
June, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 06

Dissolving the Grip of Addiction with CranioSacral Therapy

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC

Martha Tassinari was married just a few short years when some unusual transactions in her bank account tipped her off to a major problem in the relationship. "Our money was dwindling," she says.

"The next thing I know the police called. My husband was arrested for possession." That's the day Martha discovered she was married to an alcoholic and drug addict. At the same time, she began suffering from severe pain in her low back and neck that wouldn't respond to traditional treatment. A physical therapist herself, she tried CranioSacral Therapy at the recommendation of a colleague. "I was amazed at what came up," she says. "My pain was subsiding. And I was able to get back into work and exercise."

What she didn't expect was the emotional release she also got out of it. "I started to see that I didn't deserve what was happening in the relationship. I tried to help the marriage. But when that didn't work, I realized I had to help myself." Martha ended the marriage and started taking classes in CranioSacral Therapy. Now in a healthy new marriage nine years later, she specializes in using CST to help women in pain and stress who have a history of alcoholism or addiction, whether their own or someone else's.

Common Trends and Techniques

What symptoms and conditions are these women presenting with that point to a history of drug or alcohol abuse? Surprisingly, they usually aren't global issues like chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Instead, Martha says they're more localized issues, like low-back pain, headaches and TMJ. "The jaw pain," she adds, "is huge. That's our avenue of expression so we hold a lot of anger there. If our father tells us to be seen and not heard, it feels like we don't have a voice. We have to keep the family secrets. We have to put on a brave face that says, 'Everything's fine. No problems here.' The trouble is, that stress builds in the tissues. And it won't go away without help."

CranioSacral Therapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Just as Martha sees trends in the symptoms her clients tend to show up with, she also finds certain hands-on techniques especially helpful. "Every case is unique, of course. But I almost always start a session with diaphragm releases. I also tend to do a lot of dural tube techniques like the Rock and Glide, L5/S1 Decompression and the Cranial Base Release."

Reducing the Emotional Scars

Even more poignant than the physical releases are the emotional releases Martha witnesses. "It's typical for my clients to bury their memories of an addiction for a long time, often since childhood. But if that memory or issue isn't acknowledged, it'll keep lingering in their tissues. So I try to get to the core feeling they're having around those memories." As she has her hands on her clients, if she suddenly feels their cranial rhythm come to an abrupt stop, she knows they've hit on something significant. ''What's happening for you right now?" she'll ask. It may be memory from childhood or from three weeks ago. And that's where she starts the process of therapeutic dialoguing.

As they dialogue back and forth, Martha simply mirrors what her client says, giving her space to voice the next thought. "I might say, 'Tell me more about that,' or 'Can you give me an example?'" she says. "By being neutral and non-judgmental, my clients feel acknowledged and safe. So the walls begin to come down." There's never an agenda, Martha stresses. "I've learned over the years that we may think we know what a client needs or wants. But the body knows more than we can imagine. So I never lead or try to solve anything for my clients. I just give them an avenue to express themselves and be heard."

What's critical, she says, is to resist the urge to rush past the dialogue and just get to the tissue release. "In my experience, the client can't release their memories until they're acknowledged," she says. "A lot of therapists and self-help books talk about releasing the anger and fear. But if you don't give yourself room to acknowledge that you have those feelings, they're only going to be released at the conscious level, not at the non-conscious level or the tissue level. "You have to give them space to step into their power and say, 'I am feeling this. This is real. And this is what it's doing to me.'"

Creating Sanctuary

To help give her clients an added level of comfort and security, Martha always starts her sessions with grounding techniques to help them relax deeply and feel what's going on in their bodies. "As they're lying on the table, I have them imagine that their feet are on the ground and they're soaking up healing energy from the earth," she says. "Then we scan their whole body, from the feet to the crown. I ask them to just notice any tension they might find. Not to judge, just to notice. That's the first step."

Once they fully get into the session, that's a different story. "They may have emotional releases like crying or anger or even laughing. As they're doing that, I stay hands on. In the past I wanted to grab a box of tissues for them. But over the years I've learned that once I take my hands off their body, we've lost the process. So now I always stay hands-on and let them go through their process completely." While every case is different, Martha says a typical client needs anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions to make a leap in their healing. "Then I like them to see me every month or so to stay on track." She's also big on urging them to connect to other healthy resources, whether they're AA or Al-Anon meetings or psychological counseling.

The most important point, however, is to give her client the experience of having a safe and sacred place for them to express themselves completely. "My treatment room is like Vegas." Martha smiles. "What happens here stays here."

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.


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