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Massage Today
May, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 05

Overcoming the CST Language Barrier

By Sharon Desjarlais, CC; guest author for John Upledger, DO, OMM

One of the biggest challenges CranioSacral therapists face today is the same one with which I wrestled when I began marketing CranioSacral Therapy (CST) back in 1994. "How do you describe CST to prospective clients?" I asked therapists. What I heard was such a jumble of anatomical terms, it made my head spin.

Overcoming this language barrier is still a hurdle many talented practitioners struggle with. It would be a simple problem to solve if all you had to do was take a handful of modality, add a dash of physiology and sprinkle in a fascial system or two. But most of your prospects probably won't know a modality from a mole hill.

So how do you speak their language? By translating the technical jargon into terms even a 6th-grader can understand. It's not about talking down to your prospects. It's about making it easy for the information to enter the brain - and even easier for them to say, "That's for me!"

A Good Place to Start

Try this. Instead of saying something like, "CranioSacral Therapy is an innovative modality that enhances the flow of cerebrospinal fluid via the meninges to remove chronic restrictions in the fascial system to restore homeostasis," say something like this: "CranioSacral Therapy is a very gentle, light-touch approach that releases tensions deep in the central nervous system so that every other system in the body can relax and self-correct. It helps you naturally free yourself from pain, stress and discomfort. And it's performed on fully clothed clients on a comfortable massage table."

Crainosacral Therapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark See how the most important elements are all still there?

It's a very gentle, light-touch approach. Now your prospective clients know it involves touch but it doesn't hurt. And they can easily understand how CST can be effective for all ages, from newborns to seniors.

It releases tensions deep in the central nervous system. While many of your prospects won't be able to tell you exactly what the central nervous system is, they generally understand it's an important part of the body that has a great deal of influence on every other part. This focus on the central nervous system also helps distinguish CranioSacral Therapy from many other forms of bodywork.

It allows the body to relax and self-correct. This jargon-free phrase reinforces the gentle aspect of CST and makes another appealing point: It's a natural therapy that works with the body, not against it. And in a complex health care system, that's a refreshing distinction.

It helps you naturally free yourself from pain, stress and discomfort. You  may choose to view your prospects as perfect, whole and complete. But the truth is, they classify themselves first by their pain and discomfort. Spelling out what CST helps in this way reminds your listeners that this is for them. 

It's performed on fully clothed clients on a comfortable massage table. This one might surprise you, because it's an answer to a question most of your prospects will never ask. But believe me, they're thinking it. When you remove this mental barrier, you can almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief.

Next time you begin to describe CranioSacral Therapy in terms you personally know and love, take a moment to realize you may be in layman's land and translate accordingly.

Your Handy Translation Guide

Whenever you find yourself launching into "CranioSpeak," try translating some of your favorite terms into words any prospective client could understand.

  • acute = sudden
  • alleviate = relieve
  • chronic = long-term
  • cranium = head
  • efficacious = effective
  • facilitate = to help bring about
  • fascia = body tissue
  • homeostasis = balance
  • modality = method
  • palpate = touch
  • physiology = body
  • sacrum = tailbone
  • somatic = physical or bodily

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

Click here for more information about Sharon Desjarlais, CC.


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