Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2016

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Things can happen in a single multi- hands session that would have taken many sessions of one-on-one work. I have seen people let go of anger and hatred or the insurmountable grief over the death of a spouse or child. Several times, I have seen people break through the oppressive silence of childhood abuse. However, like other bodywork sessions, the body will set the direction and pace, so you cannot plan on an agenda or specific outcome. P RACTICING The role of practitioner in a multi- hands session is dynamic and educational. To feel how the client's energy changes as another practitioner places hands on her, or to be able to discuss with another practitioner what you are noticing and hear how they interpret that data, is a chance to expand your horizons. Trading groups can include one specific type of bodywork, such as craniosacral therapy (CST), or practitioners who are skilled in a diversity of practices such as aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, and reiki. I am a naturopathic physician and craniosacral therapist, and I am currently in a group with two other practitioners: one Rolfer/visceral manipulation therapist/craniosacral therapist and one acupuncturist/plant spirit medicine healer. When my current multi-hands study group first started, the acupuncturist wondered about using needles. We found that listening to the client's cranial rhythm would help the acupuncturist decide which point to needle, or she might put in a needle and I would feel the energy flow improve instantaneously. Over the years, I have traded bodywork with many different kinds of practitioners, and I find it is more fun if everyone brings every skill they have to the table, and then discover together how the different approaches interact. Anne Hoff, the Rolfer in this multi- hands group, says, "I had experienced a tiny taste of four-handed work before joining this group, but had never explored it in depth. Our group combines different modalities, but also has some overlap. The first thing I noticed in undertaking this work is the personal stretch involved: it was easier to be the primary (lead practitioner), as that was more like doing my own sessions, and harder to be the secondary (assistant practitioner), as it was a role I hadn't experienced. In the year and a half or so that we've practiced, we've built trust that allows for a comfortable dialogue between us that supports spontaneous unfolding in new directions." P RIORITIZING When first meeting, it is important for everyone to discuss and decide on the group's goals. Which is more important: Providing the client with the opportunity to receive the work or the educational benefits for the whole group? If the client's treatment is the priority, the therapists may not be able to stop and talk about technique. Also, if the client is working through an issue, the process keeps going even if the session runs long. If the priority is to learn techniques, you may need to stop the session to discuss and demonstrate. This requires conversation that can be distracting for some people. Is the client OK with practitioners talking over her? Is she willing to stay alert enough to be able to discuss what she notices? Since each goal presents its own challenges, it is essential that the group discusses and reaches consensus on what will be the focus. Usually a group is able to find balance between the two priorities, and the goals actually complement each other more in real life than they appear to on paper. 94 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a r c h / a p r i l 2 0 1 6 L OGISTICS AND BOUNDARIES For the client, there is an inherent vulnerability that comes from being on the table and having multiple hands on you, and perhaps going through an intense process with several people present. The practitioners are also taking risks sharing their knowledge, insights, and intuitions. If people are not compassionate and considerate, it is easy to feel evaluated or judged. Before a group begins, it is important to discuss and agree on the guidelines: • Everyone must feel safe. • Everyone's feelings and confidentiality must be respected. • Everyone must be willing and able to be open and honest. This includes speaking up immediately if things aren't going well. • Everyone needs to be a little bit adventurous. Successful multi-hands groups have a lovely paradox—each person happily gives a little extra, but feels like they are getting more. Where and When Where the group meets is usually decided by the size of the space—you have to be able to fit all the bodies. Rotating locations divides the burden of travel if more than one person has adequate meeting space. While it can be tricky to arrange, it's ideal if you can be the last one on the table in your own space, so you can stay on the table and relax after everyone else leaves. While a group of three keeps it nice and cozy, I have also been in groups where many people are invited. Based on who shows up that day, the group divides onto the tables differently every time. This approach provides more breadth and less depth. Two sessions each day is usually the best. It is important to keep the pre- table time to a minimum, or the second person gets shortchanged or distracted during the first session because he's worrying about getting shortchanged.

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