What is Structural Integration?
Hellerwork Structural Integration, the form of Structural Integration that I practice, is a process-based approach to manual and movement therapy that explores the possibility of change in how you use and experience your body.
Through education, awareness, and therapeutic touch, you can release painful, stressful patterns of tension, replacing effortful habits with comfort and ease.
Hellerwork systematically addresses your body as a whole, usually over a series of sessions. Skillful touch brings relief from pain and discomfort, and awareness to how you're holding and using your body. Together, we engage in an inquiry around how you relate with your body and environment.
My role in this process is to help you:
Recognize patterns of tension that no longer serve you.
Discover new options for movement/posture.
Explore useful ways of thinking about your physical experience.
Apply relevant self-care strategies to support your continued well-being.
This adds up to a more adaptable, resilient, authentic, and enjoyable experience of your body, and life. This is physical education for the 21st century.
SOME OF THE CONDITIONS I WORK WITH
While I most often recommend the Series because it gets to the root cause of many issues, I also do individual sessions with clients to address specific issues. Whatever your needs are, we can design a treatment for specific concerns.
What are YOU ready to let go of to manifest your more powerful self?
Some of the conditions I help my clients to shift:
Chronic pain and Fibromyalgia
Bunions and Foot Issues
Symptoms of PTSD
Ankle and Knee Pain
Whiplash and Neck Pain
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Relearning more efficient movement patterns
Neck Pain + Tension
Lack of Guidance
Posture + Misalignment
Pelvic Floor Weakness
Knee + Hip Replacement
Injury + Treatment Recovery
Lack of Motivation
Rotator Cuff Injury
Back Pain, Lordosis, Kyphosis
SI Joint Dysfunction
Decreased mobility after surgery, or cancer treatment
"Tennis" or "Golfer's" Elbow
Fear + Intimidation
Lack of Confidence
Lower Back Pain
Lack of Movement
This work may benefit you if:
YOU WANT TO FEEL BETTER
You want relief from chronic pain, stress, fatigue, or general discomfort.
Your suspect your issues are job or age-related.
You have been through many different therapies with little success.
You are looking into conservative options before drugs or surgery.
You want to restore your body after giving birth.
YOU WANT TO EXPLORE YOUR POTENTIAL
You're an athlete, dancer, actor, singer, musician or otherwise be looking to improve your performance.
You're a meditator or yoga practitioner who wants to go deeper in your practice.
You've tried other therapies, but are looking for something else. SI isn't intended as a replacement for other approaches, but can be complementary to many.
You may not be seeking treatment at all - it is perfectly fine to use SI as a way to explore your relationship with your body.
Who does it help?
Many people initially stumble upon SI because they're looking for a solution to chronic pain or discomfort. But since this work is about feeling better, moving better, and embodying our potential for awareness and vitality, even the healthiest people can benefit.
How does it work?
On the physical level, I will slowly use my hands to release adhesions, and strains in the structural tissues of your body.. The muscles become freer as the connective tissue around the muscles becomes more flexible. Through the nervous system, this work helps the body become more aware of itself and much less prone to injury. By addressing how you hold yourself or how you “brace for impact” we can get to the root of underlying restrictions that may have plagued you for years. If you are under a lot of stress or have had multiple injuries your body will most likely be compensating with complex and varied bracing patterns. It is a little bit like having 20 TVs on in a room while trying to watch one channel. By turning off the static from bracing patterns your body, and your nervous system will function with less effort and more ease. This experience can be profound.
How do I get started? What will my first appointment be like?
It all starts by scheduling either, a free 30 minute in person consultation to find out if this would be a good fit for you, OR coming in for an intake session. In the intake session, I’ll go over any relevant history, and you'll tell me about your goals for the work. We’ll do a postural analysis, and I’ll help you to develop new patterns that will make anything you do easier. In the intake session we will go over your intake form discuss your goals for our work together, and do some bodywork and a movement lesson so you have a feel for the work. The basic Hellerwork Structural Integration series consists of 11 sessions. Sessions are generally 75 minutes, though sometimes we may run over by 5 or 10 minutes, so please leave additional time after your session just in case. I usually recommend coming in once a week during the series, although scheduling is flexible.
What should I wear?
For Structural Integration most clients wear either underwear, loose fitting shorts and a jog top, or a two piece bathing suit for women while they are receiving the work, whichever is more comfortable. I will need to work around your shoulders and hips so clothes that fit tightly around the hips and shoulders or cover the arms and legs may not be appropriate. Clients coming in for Cranial Sacral sessions may remain fully clothed, but I may ask you to remove your belt.
How does Structural Integration improve posture, alignment or structure?
Structural Integration practitioners look at someone and ask themselves, “How can I make this person more comfortable in the field of gravity?” Structural Integration works to take the effort out of standing upright, sitting, walking or doing any moving activity by helping the body rest comfortably in relationship with gravity. We will work together to make easeful movement second nature so that whatever you do becomes more free, powerful and easy. Part of this process involves becoming more aware of and ultimately undoing bracing patterns that you may either be unaware of, or feel powerless to undo. This can be an extremely powerful experience, reconnecting to a way of moving that you may not have experienced in years, if ever.
Do the effects last?
This work has traditionally been concerned with lasting change. Please understand that changes in posture do not necessarily equate to other outcomes, and results are highly individualized, but in my practice I have seen many clients continue to shift over the series, even continuing to shift long after the series is over. Through awareness and self-care, you can benefit long after the initial process is complete.
In the same way that imbalanced movements will distort or wear down the body’s alignment and condition, balanced and efficient movements build the body back up. This is why I work with my clients to develop the most efficient and easeful movement possible. Everyday movements that are naturally more balanced and aligned will maintain and enhance the body’s structural alignment.
I have heard that people will use Structural Integration to open or release emotions that may be held in the body.
Any emotion that we experience is actually a physical event which includes changes in the tone, length, position and even temperature of our muscles. Over time, chronic emotional states like stress, fear or sadness can be recorded as patterns of tension in the muscles and connective tissue. Sometimes clients remember an incident, trauma, or event when a part of the body is worked on. In your sessions I will work to carefully modulate these releases so that you are strengthened and liberated both physically and emotionally by this process. Often these releases can happen days or even weeks after the session is over as your body adjusts to the work. After a session you may be more aware of patterns in your life that are holding you back and emotions can become more intense. This is a good time to be gentle with yourself, being as aware as possible to what comes up. Any new awareness of these stuck patterns is an opportunity to transform them.
The payoff is that often my clients report feeling more physical openness, enhanced flexibility both physically and emotionally, and increased resilience to deal with past and present stresses.
What about my bad habits? Won’t they pull my body back out of alignment?
The increase in body awareness that comes from Structural Integration makes the body more sensitive to the effects of “bad habits” or inefficient movement patterns. The body will naturally want to do what is more balanced and efficient because it will be more comfortable. If you continue to follow this new impulse in your body towards ease, your body will continue to move towards a natural alignment that suits your unique structure.
Does it hurt? I’ve heard rumors.
I’ll be honest, most people will tell you it can hurt at times. But if you ask them what kind of hurt, they’ll usually say something like, “It’s a good hurt.”, and other times they’ll report that it feels great! If you find stretching extremely painful this work might not be for you, but if want to jump start your nervous system to make everything hurt less, then this work is hands down the fastest way to change your experience of pain and take control of your physical experience.
In this work you will learn ways to:
Breath differently to manage intense sensation, while learning skills to create physical boundaries to pain.
Think differently so that pain doesn’t create a feedback loop that increases pain, but instead harnesses your thoughts to lower pain.
Manage your emotions to that you can be fully present without your feelings overwhelming you. This leads to feeling better while having richer experiences.
Let me create some context…. Pain is rich and one word isn’t really enough to describe such a wide range of emotion, and sensation. The pain of the best workout you’ve ever had, a good cry, or the pain of laughing so hard your belly aches are all “painful”, but they also make life rich. Your ability to feel deep joy is proportional to your ability to feel other strong emotions. So would you choose numbness over deep feeling? If you’d rather be numb, void of emotion, or keep your experience in a narrow range of mediocre safety while avoiding challenges and bracing against the possibility that something might hurt, then this work is not for you.
That being said, the intensity of our bodywork shouldn’t ever be overwhelming. I do my best in every session to keep the pressure I use within manageable limits. I also put a lot of effort into coaching my clients on how to best receive the bodywork. Learning how to create your own boundaries with another human being is something that will not only improve every bodywork experience you have after your series. It often helps to develop a keen sense of boundaries with other people outside of the session room. For some of my clients this is the first time that they’ve had a chance to create their own boundaries while still being in relationship with another person. This work can have a profound impact on your physical sense of self as well as your relationships.
Can I come to see you after my series is over?
Of course! After the basic Hellerwork series is completed, the body evolves and changes, and in time deeper, more subtle work becomes possible. Post series work can be extremely helpful after an injury, in times of higher stress or to help manage or resolve deeper patterns that may take more time to resolve. I usually recommend a break after the first series and a check up session after 3-6 months.
How is it unique? Is it like massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic?
There can be substantial overlap between these fields, and the different practitioners within them, but we can make some generalizations to help distinguish them from each other.
Massage, especially the type you'd receive in a spa, is typically more concerned with immediate relief rather than lasting change. Physical therapy and chiropractic are more closely allied with the healthcare system, and as such tend to be oriented toward addressing specific symptoms, or restoring lost function. While massage usually requires limited engagement on your part, physical therapy and chiropractic can vary between low and high engagement, depending on the treatment modality and practitioner.
While Hellerwork can (and often does) offer relief and benefit conditions, it is based on a systematic inquiry into how you move, feel, and relate with your body as a whole. It is exploratory in nature, offering you the opportunity to experience changes in ways you might not have expected. SI's process-based approach allows for changes to establish over time, while providing a framework with closure that avoids aimless, ongoing treatment.
This work is engaging and educational. I'll invite you to notice things about how you use and experience your body, and share your feedback with me. I'll occasionally ask you to get up off the table and walk around a bit to take note of any changes as they occur.
With many approaches you’re a passive, dependent recipient of treatment. But think about this: there are 168 hours in a week. What has more to do with your condition, the hour you spend on a treatment table, or what you're doing during those other 167 hours? With Hellerwork you aren't passive - you are engaged and empowered with new options for your everyday movement, posture, and ability to self-regulate.
How is this work different from Rolfing?
The honest answer is that the work is similar. Hellerwork Structural Integration (what I practice) has the same lineage as Rolfing and we practice a similar bodywork series developed by Ida Rolf. We also take a lot of the same continuing ed classes and I count many Rolfers as dear colleagues. This is where the similarity ends. Hellerwork grew out of the human potential movement of the 60s where people were seeing a Rolfer, then doing movement education with an Alexander teacher or Feldenkrais teacher, and then seeing a body centered psychotherapist. Joseph Heller witnessed the power of this combination with his clients and wanted to magnify the power and subtlety of Rolfing. Hellerwork answers the question: What happens if you combine Rolfing, movement education and body centered therapeutic coaching? Doing this work takes Rolfing to another level.
So much of what happens in the body is mediated by the nervous system. Through education and an experiential process that connects you more deeply to your nervous system, deep patterns can shift that would not shift with Rolfing, or coaching alone. When you do this work with me you get my 18 years of experience and training working with movement and bodywork, while seeing a Certified CoActive Coach trained to work with PTSD. This combination is powerful and deeply personal to me. I benefited from working with some amazing practitioners in my own healing process who combine these practices and I wanted to be sure I had the training and skills to catalyze powerful shifts for my clients.
Why is this type of bodywork sometimes specifically used to treat the effects of shock and /or trauma?
The effects of shock and trauma often affect the nervous system as well as the physical structure and metabolic function of the body. At times a physical symptom or imbalance is part of a cluster of symptoms created by energy trapped in a disorganized way in the body by a traumatic event. Often chronic symptoms can be the result of our bodies attempting to manage this energy trapped from a traumatic event. Bodywork is often one of the best ways to work with trauma symptoms, because trauma happens in the body!
"Trauma is in the body, not in the event" -Peter Levine
Over the last 10 years I have deepened my understanding of trauma and its treatment by studying Somatic Experiencing, a technique developed by Dr. Peter Levine, one of the leading authors and researchers on the clinical treatment of PTSD today. Integrating your physical, emotional and cognitive experience can have a profoundly positive effect on the benefit you get from psychotherapy.
Often my clients choose to do this work to support their work with a psychotherapist. While Structural Integration can be fantastic for working with trauma, I may suggest other, more appropriate ways to work together in conjunction with or separate from your series, such as Cranial Sacral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, or seeing a therapist for more ongoing support. I work with several psychotherapists and would be happy to connect you to someone for ongoing support during our sessions.
How many sessions does it take before I feel better?
Some pain patterns that people live with are old some are new. Older patterns of pain may take more time to alleviate. I recommend coming in for a session before I can provide you with a rehabilitative assessment. Describing this work is difficult if you haven’t experienced it. In a first session we’ll get a chance to meet and you can get a sense of whether this work is right for you.
Most of my clients discover other issues that have been previously overlooked as a possible contributor to imbalance and pain and a first session can be a great opportunity to learn more about your body and how to move towards greater health.
What is your typical client like?
My clients come to me with diverse histories and intentions for what they would like to get out of their work with me.
Many of my clients have tried seemingly every available conventional medical treatment (including non-effective surgery). They have been going around in circles from one health professional to another. They are generally still in pain, still frustrated and they want to regain the ability to regulate their own body. They are tired of living with lack of energy, due to nagging symptoms.
Others have a specific injury they’d like to resolve or just want to feel younger or healthier. Postural improvements and increased energy are the major deciding factor for some of my clients. I’ve worked with many athletes who’ve had significant improvements in their race times or their athletic ability as a result of doing the series.
Many of my clients come to do the series when they’re having difficulty in psychotherapy or are going through a big life change like a divorce or career transition and find that by deepening their connection to their bodies, they are able deepen their connection to themselves and their relationships begin improving as a result.
Some of my clients are healthy, take extremely good care of themselves, and come looking for a transformative experience. Some folks begin a series because they are interested in their own personal growth.
Whatever the reason I’d be happy to talk more about how I can help you in your own personal process towards greater health.