Bowen Therapy Needs New Professional Standards
January 23, 2014
By Col Murray
Bowen Therapy Needs New Professional Standards
Remedial body technique Bowen Therapy has become hugely popular since it was developed in the 1950s. The simplicity of the Bowen Technique means it is easy to teach which has led to a bunch of schools popping up teaching below par techniques.

The distinction in teaching of Bowen Therapy has led to two types of practitioners emerging – Bowen Therapists and Bowen Technicians. Yet the professional standards for both are the same.

It is time Australia's two leading Bowen associations stepped up and enforced a requirement for professional standards that delineates between Bowen Technicians and Bowen Therapists.

So What is Bowen Therapy?

Bowen Therapy, a manual therapy based on the work of legendary Geelong therapist Tom Bowen (1916-82), also sometimes known as Bowen Technique, has often been labelled as the fastest growing manual therapy in the world – 'Australia's gift to the world' it has been said.

This claim has been made with great enthusiasm but without any real basis of fact - the research needed to confirm it would be, at the very least, difficult to compile and what would be the point anyway?

But if you scan the web you will see that it is, at least, a hugely popular therapy around the world.

Why is Bowen Therapy So Popular?

There is good reason why it is proving popular – it's a very efficient healing method for so many ailments, often those that would appear not to be the domain of a manual therapy. This latter fact is being explained by research that is now being conducted into the body's connective tissue, the fascia, described by a leading German researcher as 'the richest sensory and the largest contractile organ in the body,' a fact too long ignored by conventional medicine. But that is a story in itself.

Patients usually find the application of this minimalist therapy as being both gentle and relaxing. A treatment usually consists of single movements over muscles, tendons or ligaments at specific points relating to the presenting condition. Often patients leave clinics as sceptics and return the following week as believers.

Another reason for the popularity of Bowen Therapy is the fact that it is remarkably easy for most people to learn the basics of its application. And sometimes these basics can produce some extraordinary results.

Poor Teaching of Bowen Therapy is Rife

This latter point is both a positive and a negative. That ease of learning has prompted the growth of packet Bowen Therapy taught as a paint-by-numbers system where students are told that they don't need to assess a patient's issues; just do A in the first treatment, if that doesn't work you do B next time, and so forth, regardless of the patient presentation.

Informing students that they don't need to assess a patient's problems is an outrageous idea, particularly if we are training someone wishing to be a professional therapist. And many people do seek new careers with Bowen Therapy in Australia by following a government accredited form of education that is currently available.

Compounding this ridiculous situation is the fact that some schools, even Registered Training Organisations (RTO's) actually teach this form of bodywork through clothing. Apart from anything tactile, this denies the patient the Duty of Care that should be incumbent for all health professionals.

Bowen Technicians vs. Bowen Therapists

The reality is that we now have Bowen Technicians and Bowen Therapists, the latter being those who understand what needs to be done, where it needs to be done and what the result of that action is. But there is no clear line between these categories if we look at the two Bowen associations in Australia. Neither have a requirement for professional standards that delineates between technicians and therapists, despite what labels they give it.

The simple fact is that with this very forgiving therapy a very ordinary Technician can get reasonable results. This still makes it a worthwhile treatment option if you are unable to be treated by a Therapist. But I suggest that when you call a Bowen practitioner that you ask if they are able to assess your problem. If they say they don't need to assess it, seek another option if possible but if not, it still may be worth a try, especially if they work directly on the skin.

My partner, Lisa Black, and I, have had the pleasure of helping spread our interpretation of Tom Bowen's work internationally for 16 years through our school, the International School of Bowen Therapy (ISBT). We are proud of the fact that we are the first and only school to have had success in achieving orthodox acceptance of our work in a public hospital system. And this is mainly because our graduates are Bowen Therapists.

Col Murray is co-Founder and Director of the International School of Bowen Therapy (ISBT) and author of 'In Search of Tom Bowen and the Therapy He Inspired and Lots of Other Stuff'.
"The ease of learning Bowen Therapy has prompted the growth of packet Bowen Therapy taught as a paint-by-numbers system where students are told that they don't need to assess a patient's issues."