Osteopathic Training

+ Comment from Cathryn Nitschke in Australia
about her Osteopathy training and how it
compares to cranio.

Dear John
Thanks for the link. I have just had a quick wizz
through the site and I think what you are doing is
brilliant, worthy and highly commendable. Good on

I first met you maybe around 2002 or 3 when you
were still in Brisbane. I did one of your
introductory CST courses and really enjoyed it. I
believe that the school wound down shortly
thereafter (my memory is not the greatest so
perhaps this is not quite the case). Anyway, I was
keen to look more deeply into CST which led me to
doing Patricia Farnsworth myofascial release/cst
course and then Roger Gilchrist came to Australia
for 4 years to teach biodynamic CST.

I have also studied with Mike Boxhall in England,
who I think is wonderful and have made contact
with Charles Ridley whose writings really inspire
me. Since then I enrolled in osteopathy at RMIT in
Melbourne, thinking this would take me more deeply
into the world of CST. I have just finished my
first semester there and it has been somewhat of a
let down. I really hear you when you talk about
problems with CST training or training of any
hands on healing modality. I find that the push
towards health degrees and measurable outcomes is
taking away from the power of the apprenticeship,
“hands on” model and I lament this.

I had studied at university before, but this was
in the arts faculty in the early 90’s.  The
science faculty as I find it in the late noughties
is a very different world. The lecturers are
generally not very competent or inspiring teachers
and they seem to find students a nuisance rather
than an opportunity. One of them told me I was
only allowed to ask one question per semester and
seeing as I had already used up my quota in the
first week, that was it.

I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t! This was
disappointing because he is a very knowledgeable
anatomist and I wanted to pick his brains, but
obviously this is not meant to be. Some of the
osteo lecturers find my questions challenging and
potentially threatening, especially the ones
firmly entrenched in the biomechanical model.

On the first day of practical osteo classes, we
practiced range of motion on the lower lumbars.
The technique left me with an instant sore back
and I had to self-treat with cranio work for the
next two days to relieve it! I thought, do I
really want to learn and be subjected to this? I
enjoy the philosophy and principles of osteopathy,
however, the prac classes seem pretty basic and
archaic compared to CST. I feel like it is a
backwards step for me. However, I have enjoyed
delving more deeply into the anatomy and
physiology, so my intention is to continue with
the medical sciences part of the course and drop
the osteopathic parts. Did you know that
osteopathy in the cranial field is only briefly
touched upon in 5th year?  All the rest of the
time is spent on HVLA, MET, counterstrain,
myofascial release, etc.

Many of my CST colleagues lament that they never
studied osteopathy and they seem to hold it up as
the holy grail of osteopathy.  This is not my
experience I can now say and I am glad that I
checked it out. I noticed that osteopaths in
Australia all have a pretty similar and extensive
training but in my experience there are some
pretty ordinary osteos around.

I am obviously not a fan of the “rub and crack”
school. And I have found a few gems whom I highly
admire and have as mentors. So this makes me
ponder what makes the difference b/w the
practitioners I adore versus the ones whose
treatments either leave me feeling worse or at
best, like I didn’t even have a treatment. I put
this down to the more subtle realms that CST takes
the time to unpack and explore. Consciousness,
presence, empathy, openness, etc. Such vital
qualities in a health practitioner of any
persuasion in my opinion.

So really what I want to say to you is good on
you. I admire the time and energy you put into
your newsletter and website to expose more people
to CST and encourage a discussion around all
things CST. I think this is vital work to bring
together a sense of community and to share ideas.

I notice the osteos have a very close knit
community and I think there is strength in that. I
love the opportunity to exchange ideas,
information, experiences with other health
practitioners with a biodynamic bent (gentle and
holistic). Also, I think that osteopathy is held
up as something quite exclusive and prestigious in
comparison to CST. They go to great lengths to
align themselves as primary practitioners with a
solid medical training. It seems that in turn, the
medical world rejects them and they are not really
embraced by the ‘natural therapies’ brigade
either. They are positioned in a potential no-
man’s land or on the flip side a potential
powerful middle way.

My greatest wish is to study this ‘stuff’ with a
mentor, one on one. I think anyone can teach
themselves certain things like anatomy and
physiology out of a book, but the influence of
someone who has walked the path before is
invaluable to point out some of the pitfalls, the
shortcuts and which bits of the scenery are worth
lingering on.

I have a chiropractic friend who I have great
discussions with, and he maintains that he could
teach me the ‘guts’ of the chiro 5 year training
in an afternoon and I believe him. This work isn’t
hard, as such, but the universities certainly turn
it into a cerebrally challenging exercise filling
the students heads with reams of facts at the
expense of understanding.

A phrase that speaks so much to me is “lose the
techniques” as I heard from Gangaji. After all the
study, to let it all go, and see what arises, to
follow the heart and the gut and the fingers and
the senses and feelings and to give the mind a
rest.  This is what I love and see as the power of
biodynamic CST.

So in conclusion, I think any monkey can be taught
the techniques, the vital part is how they are put
together in the final package, the quality of the
touch and the presence and care of the

I wish you all the best with this project.
kind regards

Cathryn Nitschke
somewhere between Brisbane, Melbourne and


Thank you for all your kind words Cathryn.
What a great letter.  I cannot agree with you more
about the mentors, they are vital.

I think I was lucky because that whole,
‘osteopaths are a more exalted form of cranio
sacral therapist’ thing was nipped in the bud for
me early in my training.

Liz Kalinowska was one of my tutors.  She told me
that she had become an osteopath first because she
thought it would prepare her to become a cranio
sacral therapist.  She spent 7 years becoming an
osteopath.  She told me she felt she had wasted
her time.  If anything she had to unlearn some of
what she was taught.

I have found over the years that it is very
hard to resist the temptation to ‘pop’ something
back into place if you know how.  I am lucky
because I never learned how to do any thrusting or
strong techniques so I don’t know how to ‘pop’
things back into place.   I am forced to sit and
wait and that is one of the reasons why I, and the
people I have trained, get such great results.


One response to “Osteopathic Training”

  1. Kate Pascoe Avatar
    Kate Pascoe

    Tanks for your insightful comments Cathy. I am a massage therapist in Brisbae who is interested in Cranial but also in deepening my anatomy knowledge and studying to be an osteopath. There are several osteopaths in my spa and one of them is really good an has been doing cranial on me. But his father is an American osteo so I gather he has learned from him beyond what he learned at RMIT. I confess that i have never had canil fomr a byodynamic therapist, so maybe I don’t know what I’m missing.

    Your experience is exactly what I fear would happen to me. But that’s great you’ve found a few mentors. What about Tom Myers and KMI- his approach is to see osteo and yoga and byodynamic cranial as all part of spatial medicine?

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