The Bowen Technique

The Bowen technique is a soft tissue remedial therapy, named after its innovator Tom Bowen. The technique involves the therapist using fingers or thumbs to move over muscle, ligament tendon and fascia in various parts of the body.

The work is very subtle, relaxing and gentle involving no hard or prolonged pressure. During a session the client will lie on a therapy table or bed, although the work can be effectively carried out with the client in a chair.

Most of the work can be performed through light clothing, although some therapists prefer to work on skin. The ultimate choice should be that of the client's however. Although each session will vary according to the skill and experience of the therapist, as well as the presenting problems of the client, an initial treatment will address the whole body. As a general rule, moves will be made over the lower and mid back and legs, the upper back and shoulders before finishing with neck moves with the client supine (face up).

A feature of the work is that between sets of moves the therapist will leave the room and allow the client to rest. This is a key element of Bowen and is a defining aspect of the technique as well as being one of the most important. The break allows the body the opportunity to create a decision about what action needs to be taken in response to the moves given.

As humans we create appropriate responses to most situations. We can clearly establish where danger is present and determine how we should respond. Similarly we are able to define appropriate responses to other stimuli, whether it be sexual, social, pain, heat, cold etc.

With a Bowen move the response mechanism is thrown into a degree of confusion as to what the appropriate response should be. The moves aren't painful and so therefore defence isn't called for. There is no friction or rubbing so no need to increase fluid to the area. The breaks give the nervous system a chance to establish the correct actions. In the process other information can be gathered by the body and it is common for areas not being directly treated to respond to the treatment.

A session will last generally around 45 minutes to one hour although this again will vary according to the way that individual therapists work. Treatments should be scheduled for between five and seven days apart and an initial set of three treatments is recommended in order to establish whether the client is likely to respond to treatment.

Reactions to treatment are not uncommon and include tiredness, increase in original symptoms, stiffness, headaches, flu like symptoms, increased dream activity. Aftercare advice given to each client will emphasise the importance of movement, the drinking of water and the return for treatments. It is vital that a client does not cease the treatment in response to a strong reaction. The moves are so subtle that if a strong reaction is experienced it demonstrates how profound the work can be and further treatments are essential if the full effect is going to be felt.

Most people will have responses within three to four sessions, when even long standing chronic pain can be relieved. Other conditions might need to be treated more often, but in either case it is recommended that clients return for regular treatments every six to eight weeks to maintain optimum health.

A fairly strong rule of Bowen is that it should not be mixed with other therapies. The treatment is in effect asking the body to undertake a process of repair and so should be allowed to do so without interruption or contradiction. This does not mean to say that a massage therapist might not discover that by adding some Bowen type moves to a massage, a more effective and therapeutic outcome is achieved. It is not however Bowen as the parameters of what Bowen is are clearly defined and do not include massage moves.

A client will be asked not to have other forms of physical or energetic therapy whilst receiving Bowen and to leave a period of a week either side.

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