Craniosacral Therapy Training and Courses
There are famous names in craniosacral therapy just as there are in many other disciplines. Think Sigmund Freud for psychology or Carl Sagan for astronomy. Similarly, osteopaths William Garner Sutherland and John Upledge had an important impact on the field of craniosacral therapy (CST).
In fact, both of these men significantly contributed to the modality, which focuses on releasing the tension that resides in a person's craniosacral system which includes their cranium, spinal cord, sacrum (the bone above the tailbone), and cerebral fluid . "Like the pulse of the cardiovascular system, the craniosacral system has a rhythm that can be felt throughout the body," the International Alliance of Healthcare Educators reports on their website. "Using a touch generally no heavier than the weight of a nickel, skilled practitioners can monitor this rhythm at key body points to pinpoint the source of an obstruction or stress."
People wanting to seek instruction in this unique healing modality can usually complete their craniosacral therapy training and courses in about two to three years. They typically need to be licensed to practice manual therapy in their state and then can seek registration through the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association (BCTA) of North America or certification through the UpLedger Institute (UI).
Degree Programs in Craniosacral Therapy
While there are no degrees to be completed to enter the CST field, there are educational programs that you can enroll in to help you seek credentialing, although credentials are not required. Your choice of program can vary depending on whether you decide to seek registration through the BCTA to be able to use "RCST" after your name, or if you want to seek certification through the UI to use "CST-T" after your name. No matter what path you choose, your courses should educate you more about how anatomy and physiology tie in to craniosacral healing and how you can help patients to release bodily pain. Some of the classes you could take include:
- Biodynamics of Health and Well-Being: Explore the biodynamic organizing principles of health and increase your understanding of craniosacral anatomy and biodynamic principles.
- Central Nervous System Motility: Learn more the midline, neural axis and spine, and how venous sinus drainage can be used to reduce congestion.
- Craniosacral Therapy I: Learn the principles that are foundational to CST, gain palpitation skills, and increase your skills in identifying and interpreting the craniosacral rhythm.
- SomatoEmotional Release I: Learn about energy cysts, improve your whole-body listening skills and find out about the body's Avenue of Expression.
You will be required to take more classes than these, of course, but courses like these can help you to flesh out your CST understanding and also to make important connections with your classmates, teachers and mentors.
In general, there are two basic types of programs that can lead to credentialing, either as a RCST or CST-T. The specifics for these two credentials vary, but in many ways they provide the same sort of learning. Here's a closer look at the guidelines for these credentials:
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association: Training for the RCST credential includes 350 hours of classroom instruction, 150 hours with clients, 10 hours of received CST treatment, an independent project, and additional independent study.
UpLedger Institute: Two levels of CST-T credentialing are available through this institute, including Techniques and Diplomate. The first requires completion of two courses and passing three exams, including an essay, objective exam, and practical/oral exam. The more advanced of the two, the Diplomate, requires more advanced study, passing three exams, doing a preceptorship of 20 hours, and completing other components.
Of course, hands-on experiences will be explored in your classes as well, as you learn from one another. Just think of CST as a way to enable your clients to reboot their craniosacral systems and it becomes obvious why proper training can be so important.
Career Outlook for Craniosacral Therapists
CSTs are often employed as contract workers for spas or salons, or may work for themselves in private practice. In fact, some therapists may hold another job while building up their client base while others might practice a variety of modalities, such as Reiki or massage, just to have a full client base. No matter whom CSTs work for, they are tasked with creating a calming environment for their clients. This is to enable their clients to drop into such a serene state of being that the healing and release process can begin.
CSTs often charge between $45-$125 an hour, according to veteran Craniosacral Therapist Lisa Gillispie. However, she cautions therapists tempted to see 40 clients a week, noting that the intensive, hands-on nature of the modality requires therapists pace their client load.
While it is hard to say what the job demand is for the CST field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job growth for massage therapists, a somewhat similar field, is expected to be 23 percent from 2012 to 2022. This job growth, considered to be much faster than average, comes as the Baby Boomer generation seeks massage to help maintain their health as they age. It is possible that this need is applicable to CST and other alternative healing modalities, as well.
Becoming a Craniosacral Therapist
It's not a healthcare treatment that most people are familiar with, but craniosacral therapy is an alternative hands-on approach to healing that allows tensions residing deep within the body to be released, according to the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America (BCTA). Craniosacral therapists focus on helping the body's nervous system to alleviate some of the tightness it holds on the craniosacral system, which includes the cranium, spine, sacrum and cerebral fluid. This might include healing from headaches, anxiety or low-back pain.
Entering the field of CST can take around two years or more. The first step is finding a program to complete. The Wellness Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, for example, is one of many schools offering CST training, and that follows the certification guidelines set up through the BCTA. Classes that you might take as part of a craniosacral program include:
- Cranial Base Patterns and Whole Body Dynamic
- Birth Dynamics in Craniosacral Therapy
- Nerve Facilitation
Of course, that is only a partial list of what you need to learn to see how anatomy and physiology tie into craniosacral healing. After you complete a program, you will need to take other steps or have completed the following steps to become certified through the BCTA. These include:
- 350 hours of classroom instruction
- 150 hours of client sessions performed outside of the classroom
- 10 hours of sessions received from a registered craniosacral therapist (the BCTA recommends receiving these from at least three different therapists)
- An independent project or research paper that takes at least 40 hours to complete
- 150 hours of independent study
Students must then submit an application with all of their information and a fee to the BCTA and await board approval. Once approval is granted, a craniosacral therapist may be allowed to use "RCST", standing for registered craniosacral therapist, after their name. However, registration does need to be renewed annually and continuing education requirements are necessary.
A craniosacral therapist can also become certified through the UpLedger Institute, which has been providing healthcare education since 1985, that has its own set of CST education requirements. By taking the courses specified by the UpLedger Institute and passing a certifying exam, practitioners may then be allowed to use CST-T, indicating certification, after their name.
Necessary Skills and Qualities
Before completing CST training, many craniosacral therapists already have a therapeutic background in fields like massage, osteopathy, physical therapy, reflexology or physiotherapy. While this can provide a helpful knowledge base, it is not necessary to entering the field. If you are interested in becoming a CST, you might already:
- Be intrigued by whole-body healing
- Have undergone CST healing yourself
- Have taken an introductory workshop or workshops
- Have an innate ability to connect with people
- Be able to move your hands slowly over a person's body
- Have an intuitive inclination
- Be interested in working in a calm, quieting setting
Work Environment for Craniosacral Therapists
CSTs often run their own practices and may combine CST treatment alongside any other modalities they specialize in, such as midwifery, massage, Reiki or energy work. CSTs set up their work in a environment that is relaxing, and will need to have a room or rooms with massage tables. Crasniosacral therapists can build their own client base, but may want to have hours available during evenings and weekends, in addition to the day, to better accommodate clients' needs. Most treatments they provide will take about an hour to complete.
Craniosacral Therapist Certification
An alternative healing modality, craniosacral therapy makes use of delicate touch on the body to help balance its craniosacral system, which includes the cranium, spinal cord, sacrum and cerebral fluid. Practitioners often are already licensed in massage therapy or a similar method before pursuing craniosacral therapy (CST). They may decide to pursue this modality, or method, to help bring more specific practices or targeted healing to their clients.
CST involves the practice of light touch, often described as light as a nickel, over a patient's body. And just as in massage, a patient rests on top of a massage table, but is fully clothed, and the treatment begins. CST can help provide relief from a number of illnesses, although success, as with any treatment, is never guaranteed. Some of these illnesses may include:
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Stress and anxiety
Of course, there are numerous institutions offering training in craniosacral therapy, including the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association (BCTA) of North America and the UpLedger Institute (UI), which offers registration or craniosacral therapy certification, respectively.
Be aware that, in addition to completing a CST program, you will also need to be licensed in your state to practice manual therapy. The qualifications for this vary, but typically, chiropractors, massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and even some doctors, dentists, and nurses are already qualified for this type of licensing. Students of CST can find out more by contacting their state's massage board of licensing or a similar board.
Educational Requirements for Craniosacral Therapists
Although there are no academic programs, per se, that need to be completed to pursue craniosacral work, there are hands-on programs that are needed to seek certification or registration in the field. Two of the well-known ones include registration through the BCTA and certification through the UpLedger Institute. Let's take a closer look at each.
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association: To be able to use the title RCST (registered craniosacral therapist) after your name, you need to complete a number of steps, most of which are already incorporated in programs that follow the BCTA guidelines, to qualify as "registered". These include:
- 350 hours of classroom instruction
- 150 hours of client sessions that are performed outside of class
- 10 hours of sessions received from a registered craniosacral therapist or therapists
- An independent project or research paper taking at least 40 hours
- 150 hours of independent study
A student would then submit their proof of program completion, a letter of recommendation, and application materials to the BCTA board in order to seek RCST approval. Once given, however, re-application and specific ongoing requirements, including continuing education, are needed every year.
The UpLedger Institute: Two levels of certification are actually available through the UI, including those of Techniques and Diplomate. However, testing at either level includes three exams: open book, objective, and oral, the last is administered by a certified examiner. Level one certification simply requires completion of UI CranioSacral Therapy 1 and 2, as well as passing all of the exams. However, Level 2 is more difficult, requiring all the following:
- Completing Advanced CranioSacral Therapy 1
- Passing all Techniques-level requirements
- Passing the Diplomate-level essay exam, objective exam, and practical/oral exam
- A 20-hour minimum preceptorship
- Five case-history write-ups
- Six hours of CranioSacral Therapy presentation to an organized group or publication of a CST-related article
Like with BCTA registration, continuing education is required to maintain UI certification, known as CST-T. However, this is only 24 hours every four years and can be done in the form of classes, mentorships, or presentations.
Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy Certification
Of course, anyone who has taken a few courses or even completed a program in CST can practice the modality, but that does not mean they will be able to use the RCST or CST-T credentialing. That is only available to those who have completed the necessary requirements through the BCTA or UI.
Although certification is not required, it can be an indication of competence. As noted on the Oasis Center for Craniosacral Therapy, operating out of Wilmington, N.C., certification [through the UI, in this case] "is a procedure that assures a high level of study and competence in the work." So aside from being able to set yourself apart by having a credential after your name, it can also indicate to your clients, if you go into private practice, that you have completed a training program. If you choose to work for someone else, like as a contractor at a salon or spa, it may also be helpful in obtaining employment.
Craniosacral Therapy Salaries
How much do independently employed craniosacral therapists earn?
It is hard to pinpoint exactly how much independently employed craniosacral therapists earn per hour or on an annual basis, and part of the issue, according to Pam Hower with the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America (BCTA/NA), is that people are involved in so many different aspects of this field that it results in different levels of earnings.
"Some work with adults, some work with babies, some work with various illnesses," she said, speaking specifically about members of the non-profit organization. "They are all different. Some lease space. Some teach other therapists. Our organization is comprised of many different types of people with many different specialties."
Hower points out that one way to determine how much can be earned in the field is to look at how much therapists charge for services: Sometimes therapists can earn more for the initial appointment, up to $150. Afterward, there could be a series of one-hour appointments scheduled, in which therapists could charge between $80 to $125 per hour. For longer appointments, at 90 minutes, they could earn between $120 to $185.
They may make less for appointments with children, Hower says, perhaps around $65, because these appointments are typically shorter, at about 30 minutes. How much craniosacral therapists can earn depends on the size of their client base, the number of treatments needed by patients and whether they are interested in having a light or busy schedule, she says.
Craniosacral therapist rates are often similar to or slightly higher than those charged by massage therapists. In fact, some craniosacral therapists also do massage therapy. Massage therapists earned mean annual wages of $41,790, as of May 2014, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This may provide a sense of the potential earnings of craniosacral therapists.
Request Information from Craniosacral Colleges
The craniosacral degree program you need in order to get your career started is listed below among many craniosacral therapy schools, colleges, and universities. This page was designed to provide you a resource to find what you need quickly and efficiently. Request information from several craniosacral therapist schools, colleges, and universities below in order to find the right program for you.
- Available CST Courses, Upledger Institute International, http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=160&mid=3
- Craniosacral Therapy, Wellness Institute Energetic Studies, http://www.wellnessinstitute.net/web/craniosacral_therapy
- CST Certification, The UpLedger Institute, http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=174
- Frequently-Asked Questions about CranioSacral Therapy, International Alliance of Healthcare Educators, http://www.iahe.com/html/therapies/cst_faq.php
- History of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America, https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/history-of-biodynamic-craniosacral-therapy
- Interview with a Craniosacral Therapist, Job Shadow, http://www.jobshadow.com/interview-with-a-craniosacral-therapist/
- Massage Therapists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-6
- "Crasniosacral Therapy", Wellness Institute, http://www.wellnessinstitute.net/web/craniosacral_therapy
- "Certification Programs", The UpLedger Institute, http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=173
- "Registered Craniosacral Therapist", Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America, https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/RCST.htm
- "What is BCST?" Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America, https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/what-is-bcst
- "What is Craniosacral Therapy?", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIY4hhFnJPI
- "What Qualifications Do I Need to Practice CranioSacral Therapy?", Carina Collins: Craniosacral Therapy, What Qualifications do I Need to Practice CranioSacral Therapy?
- Certification Programs, The UpLedger Institute. http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=173
- CST Certification, The UpLedger Institute. http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=174
- FAQs About Craniosacral Therapy, Oasis Center for Craniosacral Therapy, http://oasiscst.com/resources/?resource_id=10
- Registered Craniosacral Therapist, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/RCST.htm
- What is BCST?Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/what-is-bcst
- Craniosacral Therapy Pricing. http://craniosacralsandiego.com/craniosacral_therapy_prices.html
- Pam Hower, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy of North America (BCTA/NA). interviewed by the author via e-mail June 2015, https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org/
- Massage Therapists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://craniosacralsandiego.com/craniosacral_therapy_prices.html
- Oasis Center for Craniosacral Therapy. http://oasiscst.com/resources/?resource_id=10
- Solace Day Spa. http://www.solace-dayspa.com/craniosacral.html