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  • Writer's pictureElise Broughton

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy

Updated: May 11, 2023

Therapist and client in a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy session

What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST)?

Biodynamic craniosacral therapy is a light-touch method of releasing stress and unprocessed emotion/trauma that is held in the body.

Psychologists and counsellors understand that in order to help an individual who is struggling or stuck, the most important thing they must do is simply to listen. The act of deeply listening, and providing gentle support where needed, allows the client to unfold and discover their truth on their own terms; a powerful and lasting way to achieve transformation. With craniosacral therapy, the same principles apply - you are in the driver’s seat. The difference is that the practitioner listens with their hands and your body does the talking.

The reason this approach is so effective is because our emotions and traumas are not psychological (contained solely in the brain/mind), they are physiological (residing in tissue throughout the whole body). Upon reflection, most people know this to be true - we have all experienced visceral ‘butterflies’ when anxious, or tense muscles when we are angry. Therefore, an approach that addresses the whole body can be profoundly restorative, and is particularly effective when we are unable to identify or verbalise the underlying cause of our emotional state, such as when memories are stored in the preverbal/subconscious aspect of the mind and body.

BCST accepts and honours you exactly as you are, where you are. The practitioner attunes themselves to you through various holds, and simply listens as your body tells its story.

If you are interested to know whether BCST can help you, we are pleased to offer combination massage and BCST treatments so you can dip your toes in.

Is BCST like Massage Therapy?

No. There is no manipulation of soft tissue in BCST; the touch is light and still, as the intention is to ‘listen’ to the body and create a safe space in which the nervous system can release. Generally people describe it as deeply relaxing and sometimes fall asleep. It is possible to experience sensations during and after the treatment such as heat, cold, shakiness, muscle twitching, shifts in the digestive tract, and spontaneous changes in breathing patterns and heart rate. These are all normal responses when the nervous system discharges bottled stress.

How is BCST administered?

You remain fully clothed throughout the treatment, lying face up or on your side on a massage table while the practitioner uses a series of holds on the body. Treatment is mostly silent unless the client or practitioner senses a need to verbally communicate sensations as they arise in the body.

Client lying on her side in a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy session

What does BCST feel like?

There is a range of responses depending on the person and the reason for receiving treatment. For example, someone who has experienced major chronic depression may not feel much for the first few treatments, as the nervous system is largely operating in a dissociated state and it can take time to increase body sensation and awareness. Some may experience strong sensations with immediate release, including heat/cold, twitching/jerking, shakiness, shifts in the digestive tract, and spontaneous changes in breathing patterns and heart rate. Some enter a dream-like state between consciousness and unconsciousness. Generally people describe it as deeply relaxing. These are all normal responses and nothing to worry about.

What types of conditions are BCST helpful with?

Because there are so many ways stress, emotions, and physical injury can impact the body, BCST can be helpful with symptoms for a range of conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Psychoemotional issues: acute grief/fear/anger/shame, and chronic diagnosed conditions

  • Unresolved interpersonal/relational trauma, dysfunctional relationship patterns

  • Digestive and reproductive system disorders

  • Tension migraines and headaches

  • Musculoskeletal pain that does not resolve with massage/physiotherapy

BCST is NOT useful for the following circumstances:

  • Damage to the spinal cord

  • Microbial infections - viral, bacterial, or fungal

  • Conditions resulting from inadequate nutrition status

Finally, BCST can also be beneficial to people who have no conditions, but are interested in experiencing a greater sense of body awareness and groundedness.

Therapist's hands on client's head during Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy session

How many treatments will it take to get results?

This varies dramatically depending on the issue you would like to address. BCST is like any other therapy in this respect. A minor, uncomplicated issue can sometimes be resolved in 1 or 2 treatments. A major, complex, chronic issue can take dozens of treatments and months or years to fully unravel. And there are some issues that may never fully resolve for which BCST may provide partial relief. With all this said, nearly all people will feel some level of relief or change within the first 1-4 treatments.

Is BCST a good replacement for other types of therapy, such as counselling or physiotherapy?

BCST can sometimes work for people who have tried other routes and failed to see improvement. However, it is generally best to use BCST in tandem with these other therapies, as it can enhance the results. For example, BCST can help the body begin to process stress and emotions, but it can be very helpful to have a counsellor to talk to about the feelings that arise as you go through this process. Similarly, sometimes physiotherapy doesn’t give good results if muscular activity is altered/hampered by the fight or flight response in your nervous system; however, the physiotherapy interventions may become more effective once you achieve a calmer state through BCST.

How does BCST help if the practitioner doesn't manipulate bone or tissue? Don't you have to physically do something to create change?

Listening IS doing something, regardless of whether the practitioner listens with their hands or their ears. In fact, physical touch elicits a very primal nervous system response because it is the first way we communicate when we enter the world before the verbal centre of the brain develops. You would not try to have a conversation with a crying newborn baby; you would hold them to help achieve calm. What is remarkable about our culture is that once we reach adulthood, we receive relatively low amounts of physical touch and it is nearly always qualified by the needs/desires of others. And yet there is plenty of epidemiological evidence that people in cultures where physical touch is normalised experience a lower level of baseline stress. It is notable that people with lower levels of chronic anxiety and stress are statistically much less likely to experience health problems as they age. As such, by providing highly attuned touch, BCST helps to achieve a lasting, healthier emotional state and is a powerful preventative measure for disease.


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