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August, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 08

How the CranioSacral Therapy Paradigm Applies to Other Modalities and Life

By Roy Desjarlais, LMT, CST-D; guest author for John Upledger, DO, OMM

Editor's note: Dr. John Upledger has asked Roy Desjarlais, LMT, CST-D, to share his insights in this month's column.

I took my first CranioSacral Therapy (CST) seminar in 1997, as a disillusioned art director.

I lit up with a profound knowledge that there was an exciting world for me to explore through this human experience of CST. I began understanding the mechanics of CST; that is, feeling the craniosacral rhythm, sensing fascial restriction patterns, learning to differentiate suture from membrane structures and more. However, I soon realized that CST is more than just mechanics and its greater understanding came at a much deeper level. Once I learned that this approach was symbolic and it represented a powerful way of addressing all modalities and life issues, my search for a fulfilling career was over.

The following concepts are at the core of CST. Over the years, I've heard many other therapists share how this paradigm translated to other modalities and areas of their lives as well.


It's difficult to do much of anything without an intention being involved. To me, intention is like a boat pulling a water skier, creating a smoother wake for easier travel. The more consciously I use my intention, the better the results. This translates in sessions, with my children and in all of my relationships. Each situation can have its own intention that frames the event to create a smoother wake. To quote my mentor, Dr. Upledger, "The shortest distance between two points is an intention." When you consciously use intention, you make a choice to switch off autopilot and be present with what is happening around you.


Sometimes the most you can do for a person is to simply be present. Words and actions often aren't even necessary. Being present is a practice much like meditation or yoga - some days are easier than others. You enjoy the easy times and persevere during the challenging times, relying on your intention to get you through. With repetition, you can become more comfortable being present in varied situations.

As I've seen throughout my life, presence can be used in degrees as well. You can be too present for someone's process. Have you ever experienced people so intense that you felt uncomfortable talking with them? Have you ever had someone make too much eye contact? Just like heavy hand pressure can be uncomfortable for a client, so can too much presence. They might not be ready for or want that much attention with their process.

Start Light

By starting with a lighter touch, the person you're addressing is more likely to respond in a positive way. The possibility of eliciting a guarding response diminishes to near zero. If you apply aggressive pressure to tissue or situations, you're likely to learn how well people protect themselves. As a therapist, this is counterproductive since your overall intent is to help people let down, open up, rebalance and heal.

Presence is a useful skill if you inadvertently use too much pressure because you quickly can become aware if there's a negative or resisting response and make adjustments accordingly. Many people are reluctant to speak up for fear of offending you. Being present allows you to make a change with your pressure and intent. The result often is a client who feels more appreciative and trusting since you were paying attention without needing to be told.


Blending or melding is a form of connecting that helps you tune in on many levels. It requires presence, intention and attention to sensory input. Therapeutically, I blend with my clients in general. I also blend with their desire to rebalance their inner wisdom, their structural and energetic restriction patterns and their emotions - all with the intention of facilitating their process to a healthier state. In a non-therapeutic setting, blending helps us understand situations, dynamics, dangerous settings, traffic issues, relationship challenges and more. We all blend to some degree on a daily basis. How consciously we do it is an individual choice.

Just sit in a busy mall and observe people sometime. What can you pick up from blending with them at a distance? Are they happy, distracted, frustrated or content? What about their health? Are they struggling with part of their body? Do they have pain and if so, how intense? All these answers can come from blending through intention and trusting the feedback you receive. Now imagine how much more information you could get by blending hands-on in a session.

Integrating Grounding, Boundaries and Neutrality

Grounding: There are many philosophies about how to be grounded - whatever works for you is great. For me, being grounded means being present without a non-therapeutic agenda. Am I thinking about a disagreement I had earlier before the session? Or, am I willing to let my personal stuff go so I can be fully present and fulfill my role as the therapist?

Boundaries: Standard definitions talk about lines of demarcation. My personal take brings it back to intention. Am I in the most therapeutic space to facilitate someone's process?

Neutrality: Another great intention for grounding is to be neutral. I define this as being nonjudgmental, nonreactionary, present and compassionate. In this framework, the antithesis of neutral is being analytical, enmeshed, "taking on," "feeling bad for," or any other emotional reaction.

Being neutral as a therapist, friend, parent or significant other allows the person you're blending with to have a clear space to communicate and just be. There's no agenda other than supporting how they wish to proceed. There's a popular concept in therapeutic circles about holding the space for clients. In my 20 years as a therapist and instructor, I have found that being neutral with intention is one of the most powerful ways of "doing" that I've ever experienced.

The Bottom Line

CranioSacral Therapy can be a subtle art. That's why it's vital to align with your inner self as much as your hands. If this resonates with you, try working with these concepts. Commit to practicing them for awhile and monitor your thoughts as you observe the results. Your clients and everyone else in your life will love the results.

Click here for previous articles by John Upledger, DO, OMM.

Roy Desjarlais is vice president of clinical services for The Upledger Institute and a certified CranioSacral Therapy instructor and staff clinician since 1994. He manages all aspects of operations for The Upledger Clinic.


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