Deane Juhan has been a Trager practicioner and instructor for 38 years. His original practice and training was in residence at Esalen Institute from 1974 – 1992. He personally trained with Dr. Milton Trager from 1978 – 1991. Click here to know more about Deane Juhan.
Jamie Johnston and Walt Fritz talk About “Touch Therapy”
Coach Jamie Johnston, RMT at MTDC recently wrote:
It seems like therapists are always looking for the shiny new course, modality, or technique when we are searching for our CEC’s.
As important as it is to continue our education and always strive to be better, it is also important to choose which courses to take wisely.
Oddly enough, all of these courses (well most of them at least) have some commonality between them.
Simple touch is just as, if not more important than that shiny new technique.
When we touch patients in a therapeutic intervention, how many different “things” or actions can we really be accomplishing? How many different structures can we really make contact with or elicit change?
Here is a reply from Deane Juhan
Jamie and Fritz,
It was the most inspiring and stimulating message I have received for a long time! I am so on the same page, and so dismayed at the ideological arrogance currently displayed by practitioners, new and old, about the “scientific” proofs that their respective modalities are the one and only answer to effective therapy.
There was a study conducted many years ago that demonstrated that the personal development and empathic presence of the practitioner had a far better correlation with beneficial results than the particular method they were applying. Sorry, I can’t give you a direct reference to this study–it was so long ago that I read it.
My own teacher for 25 years, Dr. Milton Trager, said so many times that restrictive and inhibitory patterns are “all in the mind; if we do not reach the mind with a new quality of feeling state, and reach the unconscious to alter past habituated patterns, no effect can be lasting.”
The Trager Approach uses gentle rocking, undulatory waves of the tissue and the heightening of pleasurable sensory messages to induce in the client a state of relaxation, awareness of tissue, and a deep sense of peacefulness that suffuses the mind and projects to the tissue a feeling of “how it should be, what relaxation and release feels like as a concrete and lasting mental and physical experience. Awareness is the strongest medicine there is, and the presence of the practitioner is the key to awakening its power.
My entire 42 year of practice has been dedicated to this approach. To my way of thinking, there are three pillars of effective coping with traumas and dysfunctional patters of all kinds: 1) sensory awareness, 2) improved self-regulation, 3) successful adaptation to all of life’s bumps and grinds. Sensory awareness is primary to our bodily consciousness–if you cannot feel it, you cannot change it. From heightened sensory awareness flows the capacity to access our own abilities to self-regulate the changes in habituated patterns and develop new, more healthy and functional ones, and from this flows the ability to successfully adapt our future development of pattern of posture and movement that serve us better and stimulate healthy changes in muscular habits, chemical physiology, and neurological control of our lives.
There are two startling facts that underlie all motor movement and habituated patterning: 90% of the nervous system is involved in one way or another in motor control (this is the assessment of Roger Sperry, a Nobel prize winner in neurology–his website rogersperry.com is fascinating). These involvements include the sensorimotor cortex, the cerebellum, the vestibular organs of balance control, the limbic emotional centers, the frontal cortex areas of memory and association, the brain stem, and the spinal cord’s plethora of reflex sensorimotor arcs that respond to the brain’s voluntary commands. And 90% of these processes are subconscious. It is no wonder that our development of motor patterns can lead us so catastrophically astray if we are not aware of how we are responding to our live’s injuries and traumas and how our compensations to these effect every aspect of our mental and physical experience of ourselves and our possibilities of healthy recovery.
There are three aspects of injury and trauma and healthy recovery that I consider primary: heightened sensory awareness, changes in the enormous influence of emotions on our muscular performance, and the cognitive memories and subsequent beliefs in what we consider possible for ourselves. Whatever the protocols of our modality of therapy might be, they must address these elements to be effective and lasting. The shift in the mind’s attitudes and capacities is the whole thing. The tissue can only respond to the mind’s influences.
The key to effective therapeutic touch of any modality is the continual empathic presence of the practitioner, the intention of reaching the conscious and unconscious mind with new messages of the possibilities of positive change, and the moment-by-moment response to changes in the tissue and the mental state as the session proceeds. No mechanical intervention of our hands can be truly effective and lasting without this presence and intention.
My own work is directed toward raising sensory awareness through new, pleasant sensations and bringing more and more into consciousness the many unconscious processes that contribute to our successful motor control so that the client can live more fully and with more awareness in their bodies. My favorite bumper sticker: “If you lived in your body, you’d be home now.”
My approach is two-fold: First, through pleasant and lulling movements and sensations to calm the nervous system, heighten sensory awareness, and ease current holding patterns in the mind and in the musculature. Second, to train the mind through interactive applications of resistance and response to more effectively coordinate synergistic muscular areas for increased strength, ease, and available of painless ranges of motion. The lulling of the mind is the essence of the Trager Approach, and the training through concentrated interactive efforts is my own development of what I call Resistance and Release Work. It uses specific vectors of resistance, responded to by the client, in order to awaken extensive synergistic muscle fibers to a new and more effective coordination of organized movement. These resistances are applied through the entire range of full lengthening, contracting to the fullest extent, and consciously lengthening again while maintaining resistance. The effects are rapid and often astonishing: all the mind needs is clearer focus on the process and clearer information of what successful coordination actually feels like in order to respond with new, more functional patterns of effort and movement.
Emotional releases and shifts in cognitive beliefs of what is possible are as common as the release of old muscular patterns, and are indeed part and parcel involved with them. The results are rapid relief of pain and a freer range of comfortable movement. It is simply a matter of fine-tuning the 90% of the nervous system involved in the movement, and of bringing more into awareness the 90% of its motor control processes that are unconscious. Sensory awareness, self-regulation, and successful adaptation.
The process of the work is enormously empowering of the client–gone is the hierarchy of expert practitioner and naively receiving client. We are in a co-creation together of new patterns of movement, and share equal roles in the enterprise. This fosters the all-important information that they are capable of being in control of their own development from now on, and that if they continue to use the all-powerful tool of self-awareness new and better patterns can continue to maintain and to add to their ease of movement and over-all health.
Whew! All of this is in grateful response to your email’s most important point that it is the presence and intention of the practitioner, and not the exclusive domain of their modality’s protocols and beliefs that are the decisive factors in fostering lasting therapeutic results in their work. Without this presence and this intention, it is all just mechanical manipulation. We cannot simply spot-weld the areas of discomfort; practitioner an client must mutually reach the mind with all its history and its profound effects on our muscular patterns and our health.
I thank you for your voice, and for the stimulation it has provided me for this reply.