Blending the Feldenkrais Method® into my Physical Therapy Practice
Thursday, January 18, 2018
by: Taro Iwamoto

Section: Professional Develpment




I started my professional career as a certified athletic trainer (ATC) in 2004. I helped injured athletes get back on the field as quickly as possible and provided them with therapeutic exercises to prevent injuries and maximize performance. Following that, I worked in orthopedic outpatient physical therapy settings to gain more skills and broaden my perspective. Over the years, I became very interested in neuromuscular re-education and motor learning. I started focusing on re-training movement patterns to optimize clients’ functions and improve their physical conditions. It wasn’t a coincidence that I discovered the Feldenkrais Method®--I’ve always been interested in movement, functions, and the roles of the brain and the nervous system in these aspects. Signing up for a Feldenkrais® training seemed like the next logical step for my career path, so I enrolled in Seattle Eastside Feldenkrais Training V (SEFT V).

It took me a while to realize what had changed. It wasn’t my colleagues or patients: it was me."

During the first year of the training, I struggled to return to my outpatient PT clinic after each segment. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to incorporate “Feldenkrais movements” and movement principles into my treatment. In fact, I didn’t have much trouble with that part. It was easy to incorporate proportional distribution of effort/movement, reducing unnecessary muscular effort (slower pace and less force) to increase kinesthetic sensitivity, and skeletal support/connection.

Instead, my biggest challenge was how to adapt a learning model into a medical model. I felt a conflict between my new, Feldenkrais-influenced beliefs and everyone else’s beliefs (that patients had mechanical problems that had to be fixed). How was I going to work with patients without trying to “fix” their “problems”? I concluded that I needed to change the beliefs of my patients and my colleagues. However, the harder I tried to change the thinking of my patients and colleagues, the more I struggled.

During my third year of the training, I noticed that it was getting easier to blend the Feldenkrais Method into physical therapy without as much struggle or effort. I wasn’t “fighting” as much. It took me a while to realize what had changed. It wasn’t my colleagues or patients: it was me. I had stopped imposing my beliefs and ideas about the Feldenkrais Method onto other people. Instead, I had started interacting with my patients without preconceived ideas or judgments. I met them where they were at, regardless of their physical condition, age, or diagnosis. I was more interested in learning about my patients beyond their diagnoses. I sought to understand how their current conditions impacted their lives. I focused on how I could assist them in getting back to their lives.
As I started to work with my patients from this place, I was no longer thinking about fixing or correcting their problems. Instead, I was focused on improving their functions and lives through movement. Interestingly, my patients also started shifting their thinking away from their diagnoses and towards improving their functions. It appeared as if this paradigm shift in myself allowed new pathways for others to emerge. As far as the actual movements I was teaching, they weren’t all that different from what I was teaching a few years ago. In retrospect, I had been more focused on what I was doing to my patients than how I was communicating with them.

Now, I understand that the essence of the Feldenkrais Method lies in how we connect with people, and not so much in what we do and certainly not in “Feldenkrais movements or exercises or techniques.” With this huge shift in myself, what seemed at first “impossible” (adapting a learning model into a medical model) became “possible,” which then gradually has become “easy,” and eventually “elegant,” just like Moshe’s famous quote. Blending the Feldenkrais Method into my physical therapy practice has now become seamless and indistinguishable. This practice has also extended to all my life. I’d like to thank my educational directors (Angel Di Benedetto and Richard Corbeil) and training assistant organizer (Lynn Bursten) for facilitating this learning process for me.


Taro Iwamoto is a movement educator/therapist with a background in orthopedic/neurological rehabilitation and martial arts. His passion is to help people improve their functions through movement re-education and reach their full potential.
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Comments (5)
Russ Hall
2/5/2018 8:32:52 PM
I can relate to your clear account of the transition from "doing to" to 'doing with", from urging a more sophisticated assessment or diagnosis to simply exploring and communicating more deeply. I found the daily translation of my work into PT jargon increasingly a burden, along with increasing pressure to "color between the lines" from management. So I left PT in 2012, and my sensory acuity and perceptual agility deepened even more than I had hoped. However, I can imagine a more ideal PT environment and hope you will be able to help create one where you are. By the way, Angel and Richard taught some in my Cincinnati 2001 training and were great!


Val
1/24/2018 4:21:56 PM
Are you also a licensed PT in addition to an ATC? The article was not clear. However, the title of the article could be misleading if you are not a PT.


Rick Derrickson
1/24/2018 9:46:41 AM
Thanks Taro, I'm also a PT and Feldenkrais practitioner. It's always a dance to view people and functions through a Feldy lense and be in the medical paradigm.
I feel that connection with the humans I am working with is the key. They are not a shoulder or knee, they are Jonny or Sarah. I find that I bring a Feldenkrais consciousness to my treatments and most of my patients ae willing to listen and sometimes totally get it. Of course many don't.
I'll just keep on dancing.


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