How to Find a Craniosacral Therapist for Your Baby or Young Child
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
It’s not uncommon for a parent to be astonished at how their usually fussy newborn is so relaxed and happy during a craniosacral session. It’s a joy to watch, but it also makes it more heartbreaking when I hear from parents about previous sessions that didn’t go well - instead of blissed out relaxation, they are left frustrated, disappointed and drained.
When I ask more questions, I almost find the same underlying reason: the family saw a craniosacral therapist who wasn’t trained or experienced working with babies and kids. Having specific training and experience with children is essential when it comes to finding the right CST provider for your family.
More and more families are discovering the benefits of craniosacral therapy when dealing with a multitude of infant and childhood concerns, including tongue tie and other breastfeeding issues, autism, torticollis and plagiocephaly, ADD and ADHD, anxiety, colic, a difficult birth, trauma, concussions and overall imbalance. But how do you find the right therapist to work with your child? Here’s a good primer on what questions to ask to find the right provider for your family.
1) What is your training and experience when it comes to working with newborns and young children?
A therapist should be comfortable with you asking this question. If they say, “not specifically with kids” or get defensive, that’s an instant red flag that this isn’t the right provider for you. They should have specific training in working with children and understanding children’s needs. Ask what percentage of their clients are children.
Babies and children are fundamentally different from adults when it comes to their needs and normal expectations for a CST session. In a craniosacral therapy session, we talk about a cycle of trust, treatment and assimilation. This means that the provider builds trust with a client, creating the kind of relaxed environment where they can provide treatment, and that environment allows their body to accept the treatment and assimilate the releases into their body’s ecosystem.
In adults, we see this cycle occur over the whole of an hour-long session, but with babies and young children, the cycle happens several times during a session. That means a provider needs to adjust their expectations, timing and treatment to fit where a child is at. If they don’t, the treatment won’t have the same healing effects that it would otherwise, and the session will likely be stressful and frustrating for everyone.
This is an area where training and hands-on experience makes a big difference in outcomes. Of course, not everyone has access to a multitude of providers, but I would personally never take my child to a CST provider who didn’t have specific training and experience working with babies and kids.
2) What does a CST session look like when you are treating a baby or child?
A provider that treats mostly adults may expect your child to lie quietly on a table for an hour, a tall order when it comes to a baby or young child. A provider who is trained and experienced working with kids will expect to move with your child, allowing them breaks when needed to nurse or play. They will incorporate toys, bubbles, songs and interaction to help a child feel comfortable and relaxed.
When a provider isn’t experienced with children, they may tell you that only 20 minutes of your child’s hour-long session will be hands on. That’s a red flag that they don’t know how to accommodate a child’s different needs.
Another red flag is a “no pain, no gain” attitude. Crying or fussing is a sign that the child is uncomfortable. A provider trained in working with kids will recognize it as an indication to change what they’re doing, give the child a break or just take a minute to observe. Trust and relaxation facilitate release. Our bodies won’t release when they’re in fight-or-flight mode. If a provider wants you to push through, or dismisses the child’s crying on an “emotional release,” that’s an indication that they don’t understand the unique emotional needs of children. Emotional releases can happen, but it isn’t the norm, and when they do happen, they are often a brief event that passes quickly.
Again, a craniosacral provider who is trained in working with children will be responsive to your child and their needs, noticing their mood, how they react to treatment, as well as their other physical needs, like needing to move, play or breastfeed. Don’t settle for 20 minutes hands on or crying through the pain. During my sessions with babies, they are usually playing, interacting with their caregiver or breastfeeding the entire time, with the treatment going on throughout.
3) What is your philosophy of care?
Our culture tends to view children as dependent beings, and of course, in many ways, they are. But a good CST provider will also respect a child’s autonomy and their ability to communicate their needs, even if that looks different than it would for an adult patient.
You want a craniosacral provider who respects your baby’s innate ability to heal – that her body knows how to release and to follow her releases in her body to the best path to wellness.
You also want a provider who respects your knowledge and expertise as a parent. You are the expert on your child, and if you have a hunch about what’s going on with your child, it’s probably right. If your provider gives you an “I’m the expert” vibe, find someone else. You want a provider who is about collaborative care - give and take between care provider and client - instead of a paternalistic attitude where they tell you what’s best.
When you ask a provider what their philosophy of care is, listen for words like “autonomy, respect, trust, collaboration.” If you don’t hear those ideas, that’s a likely indication that your child won’t get the respect and care they deserve.
Finding the Right Provider will Save You Time and Money
Although it might seem difficult to interview providers or seem rude to ask a lot of questions up front, finding the right provider for your child will save you time and money in the long run. Spending money on sessions with the wrong provider will be financially draining and emotionally frustrating. Follow your gut and be picky. Craniosacral therapy can do wonders for babies and children, helping their bodies heal and regulate, but only if its in the right environment, where their unique needs are seen, respected and followed. Doing the work now will save frustration and get you the best care for your child. When you find the right provider for your family, you’ll leave the session relieved that you are finding the care you and your child need. It’s a process, but one that will have immediate and long-term benefits for your entire family.
If you're in West Michigan and need craniosacral care, I’d be happy to work with you and your family. You can book a session with me here. For help locating a provider outside of West Michigan, the Upledger Institute is a wonderful resource.