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How to Become a Craniosacral Therapist: A Step-by-Step Guide

There’s plenty to think through before becoming a craniosacral therapist. We’ve laid out the most important points in this article.

craniosacral feature image

Before you start telling your friends and family that you're planning on becoming a craniosacral therapist and fielding questions like "what in the world is a craniosacral therapist!?", take a look over this article. While it's not exhaustive, we've listed out a lot of the high-level things to expect during your journey.

The goal of this article was to paint with broad strokes about craniosacral therapy and provide some food for thought, so we've started with some topics you might want to skip over.

Here's a quick list of the topics in case you want to jump down the article:

  • Understanding craniosacral therapy

  • Education and training

  • Certification and licensing

  • Essential equipment and gear

  • Building your craniosacral therapy practice

  • Career development and growth

Understanding Craniosacral Therapy

Definition and Conceptual Basis

Craniosacral therapy can be described as a gentle, non-invasive form of treatment formed around the craniosacral system, which is a rhythmic system that flows between the head and the base of the spine.

The idea behind craniosacral therapy is that the body has the in-built wisdom to heal itself, and the therapist’s role is to collaborate with the client to help them restore the natural balance in the body.

Practitioners believe that tiny manipulations affect the pressure and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. This type of therapy can tackle many different health conditions like chronic pain, ear infections, and migraines.

History and Development of Craniosacral Therapy

Practitioner showing how craniosacral therapy works.
Practitioner showing how craniosacral therapy works.

Craniosacral therapy is based on the notion that the body is perpetually attempting to regulate itself and is able to do so with the right kind of stimulus. It uses gentle pressure on the head, neck, and back to relieve stress and pain caused by compression.

Craniosacral therapy was developed in the 1970s and is an evolution of a technique known as cranial osteopathy. This practice was developed in the 1930s by an osteopath named William Sutherland.

The ideas behind cranial osteopathy aren't super well documented and remain a little opaque, but it's largely based on the idea that the rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid is a reflection of the health of the body and that by manipulating the body, particularly the skull, it is possible to guide the rhythm of this vital fluid.

Education and Training

Cranial sacral therapy in action.
Cranial sacral therapy in action.

Finding a Reputable Training Program

If you're keen to become a craniosacral therapist, the best place to start is finding a course that is legit (there's plenty that aren't!) and has a good standing in the field of craniosacral therapy. A reputable program won't just help you become certified in craniosacral therapy but should give you a rounded education in all the challenges you'll face as a practitioner.

The best advice we can offer here is to look for a program that is accredited and well recognised by other craniosacral therapists (which will require talking to a couple). Another thing to check is whether the program offers training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, which is a specific approach to craniosacral therapy.

Last but not least, you should always check the program's curriculum to ensure that it covers all the essentials, such as the craniosacral system, central nervous system, and spinal cord.

Completing the Training Program

The training program should be very comprehensive, and it will most likely be made up of a combination of theoretical and practical learning. During your time on the course, you will participate in practice sessions allowing you to get hands-on experience and you will also work through some sample patient case studies.

By the time the course is over, you should be confident in your ability to conduct a session of craniosacral therapy and be able to assess and improve the rhythm of a client’s craniosacral pulse. Craniosacral therapy helps in treating various conditions such as chronic pain, migraines, and anxiety.

Costs and Duration of Training Programs

Training programs for craniosacral therapy can be a bit of an investment. It’s not too uncommon for it to take somewhere between 6 months to 2 years for you to get qualified as a craniosacral therapist. This can depend on whether or not you go for part-time or full-time enrollment. You might be able to gain access to loans or scholarships to help you finance your training.

Certification and Licensing

craniosacral therapy work in action with a young boy.
craniosacral therapy work in action with a young boy.

Obtaining Certification

After you have completed your training program, you should immediately apply to gain certification as a craniosacral therapist.

In Australia, the Craniosacral Therapy Association of Australia (CSTAA) is the recognised agency for craniosacral therapy. It sets standards for training and professional practice and hands out certification for practitioners.

Meeting Licensure Requirements

Should you wish to practice as a craniosacral therapist, you will need to check what the licensing requirements are in Australia. The CSTAA website makes this a little tricky to understand, but you can reach out to them and get a more detailed rundown.

The exact requirements for meeting the license typically involve obtaining a certain level of education and training, submitting to a background check, and obtaining liability insurance. These requirements exist to ensure that you are qualified to practice and to protect the public.

Essential Gear and Equipment

Pro-Lift: Access RMS provides a lot of versatility through it's adjustable sections.
Alevo sells all of the industry's best massage tables.

Treatment Table

A treatment table is necessary for any kind of massage therapy. During a craniosacral therapy session, the client will likely begin by lying down on a massage table. The table needs to be suitable for manipulation and should be adjustable to allow clients to get comfortable.

If you're working at an established practice, here are a few Australian-made treatment tables to check out:

Pro-Lift Apollo 5: The best money can buy

The Alevo Pro-Lift: Apollo 5 Advantage blows patient's expectations out the window.
Pro-Lift Apollo 5 is perfect for any craniosacral practitioner.
  • Fully electric and configurable

  • Endorsed by the Australian Chiropractors Association

  • Fewer moving parts, magnetic drops that last longer and provide a smooth, crisp and responsive action.

Pro-Lift Chiro Basic: Affordable, high quality

The Pro-Lift Chiro Basic is a great option for any physical therapist.
The Pro-Lift Chiro Basic is a great option for any physical therapist.
  • Australian Dunlop cushioning system suited to craniosacral therapy adjustments and manipulations

  • Adjustable head section and prone armrest

  • Choice of PVC, PU and genuine leather fabrics

Athlegen Stationary One Section: Best budget option

Athlegen Stationary One Section is great for physical therapists.
Athlegen Stationary One Section is great for physical therapists.
  • Dunlop triple-layered cushioning for superior comfort

  • Custom-made to your height preference

  • Extra heavy-duty

Whichever table you go with, make sure it has a face cradle, which is an adjustable horseshoe-shaped head support that makes it easier for the client to breathe while lying on their stomach. A table must be sturdy enough to hold up during the treatment and easy to clean in between clients.

Linens and Towels

Quality linens are pretty important. After all, you don’t want to put your clients on a stained sheet someone else has been on! Depending on how you’ve set up your treatment room, you may find it useful to have a few additional blankets on hand for clients who are particularly sensitive to the temperature of a room.

Pillows and Bolsters

Owning a range of pillows and bolsters that can support your clients in different positions like lying on their back, side, or stomach, will ensure you can help them find the most comfortable spot to enjoy their treatment.

Oils and Lotions

Hydro Oil is quality choice.
Hydro Oil is quality choice.

It’s also good to have some hypoallergenic, unscented, and organic oils and lotions for the treatments that will require a little extra help. If you can’t find organic or hypoallergenic oils, unscented options are always best.

Building Your Craniosacral Therapy Practice

Welcoming waiting rooms set the tone for a great session.
Welcoming waiting rooms set the tone for a great session.

Conducting a Craniosacral Therapy Session

When you’re actually running your own craniosacral therapy business (assuming you want to head in this direction), it will be important to learn how to conduct a session. This will involve knowing how to set the scene for your client.

It’ll also be important to understand how to use gentle pressure on the skull and sacrum and be aware of how this helps the body restore the natural balance.

Many clients report experiencing deep relaxation during a craniosacral therapy session. To extend this feeling, you can throw on some calming music and aromatherapy to make your client feel more relaxed.

Setting Up Your Therapy Space

If you can, you should make your therapy space feel as cosy and professional as you can. This will help your clients to feel comfortable and build some subconscious trust in you as a practitioner. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you’re a fly-by-night therapist, and an uncomfortable or unprofessional space can put that idea in your clients’ minds.

Pricing Your Services

This really is the most difficult part of owning any kind of small business. You don’t want to set the price too low because you won’t earn the money you need to make a living or keep your business open. However, if you set your price too high, you might price yourself out of the market, and no one will be able to afford your services.

You’ll need to consider the cost of living in your area, your professional experience, and the kind of clients you want to attract to your clinic.

The most important thing is to research competitors and find out what they're charging. There's no rule that says you need to charge the same rate as your competitors, but when you're first starting out, it helps to avoid overpricing yourself, which can make it harder to land new clients.

Client Management and Retention

You'll eventually need to set up a system for managing your clients. When you're starting out, this can simply be a notebook or calendar where you record your appointments.

Once you're up and running and need to manage lots of clients, it might be worth finding a piece of software that can help you keep track of them all. It’s always a good idea to have a system in place to monitor client satisfaction and reach out to them when they’re due for a follow-up treatment.

Building a Successful Practice

You will also need to find a way to attract clients and keep them coming back! This might involve creating a professional website and social media presence. You could also take a look at creating business plans to help you plan your practice.

Don’t forget to network with other healthcare practitioners, like osteopaths and massage therapists, to build up your practice and get referrals from them.

We've written an extensive guide on growing a medical practice that extends perfectly to this topic. To avoid repeating too much content, you should take a look at this guide here if getting more patients is a challenge you're ready to overcome.

Career Development and Growth

Practitioner working on cranial bones to aleviate mild discomfort.
Practitioner working on cranial bones to aleviate mild discomfort.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

To remain the best craniosacral therapist you can be, you should regularly be looking for opportunities to keep improving. This might involve taking part in workshops, conferences, and online courses to continue to build your competencies and your knowledge. Some craniosacral therapists also pursue additional training in related fields, such as physical therapy, to enhance their skills. Check out if there are any professional organizations that you could join. This will set you up with a network of other craniosacral therapists and allow you to keep up to date on industry developments.

Advanced Techniques and Specialisations

When you weigh up the idea of advancing your career, you might want to think about specializing in areas like sports injury recovery, paediatric craniosacral therapy, or any other focus that you find yourself particularly drawn to. Another option is to look into advanced techniques specific to craniosacral therapy.


Starting Your Journey as a Craniosacral Therapist

Becoming a craniosacral therapist is incredibly worthwhile, and being able to help people improve their health is a really commendable career choice. Through following steps, such as getting qualified and licensed, building an independent practice successfully and concentrating on continuous professional development, can help you become the best craniosacral therapist you can be! Keep learning, and you will keep growing!