Ask the Faculty: When Is the Advanced Training Right for You?

Pages: 3-7
Year: 2016
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 44 – Nº 1

Volume: 44

Q: Why should I take the Advanced Training (AT) in Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI) and how will I know I am ready?

A: I would like to address the issue of Advanced Rolfer? certification by first telling my personal experience as a student of Rolfing SI, and second by sharing my perspective as an instructor. My hope is that if you are considering taking the AT, my story will be useful for you. I took my AT after eight years as a practitioner. For the first few years of practice I diligently followed the ?Recipe?. It taught me. I had good days and bad. The learning curve was steep, but there were occasional breakthroughs in my understanding and ability. I was a new practitioner at the time when many of us were confusing the Recipe for Rolfing SI. We were not yet well-versed in the Principles of Intervention that were being articulated by Jeff Maitland, Michael Salveson, and Jan Sultan. I, like others, feared that if I deviated from the Recipe my work might not be considered good enough, or even to be Rolfing SI. Eventually, I began to experiment with the Ten Series, first by adding sessions when I was unable to complete given sessions in the allotted time. For example, I would do a Six A and Six B because the territory of the session was so big and I was unable to make discriminating choices.

During these first few years, I was challenged to find the appropriate kind of therapeutic relationship that would help my clients realize the transformational power of Rolfing SI. Luckily, I was introduced in a workshop to Peter Levine?s work that eventually became Somatic Experiencing® (SE), and I became a student in his first two-year SE training. At that time Levine was collaborating with the Bodynamic® Institute of Denmark, and through SE I became exposed to Bodynamic?s ideas about the role under- and over-responsive muscle plays in embodied psychological development. As a relatively inexperienced practitioner, my hands knew there was meaning embedded in my clients? tissues and I wanted to know how to relate to them to help shift their habitual patterns. My Rolfing training had not prepared me to form the kind of relationships that were necessary, but I felt I was on my way toward learning what I needed to know.

The next several years helped me to become more comfortable in the role of practitioner, and I developed a better understanding of how to navigate client relationships. I knew the seven-year time frame had passed and I was obligated do my AT, but I quietly questioned whether it would be of value. I remember feeling I had an adequate set of tools, and I wondered if all the talk I was hearing about ligamentous beds and joint restrictions was really what it was cracked up to be. I also remember wondering what the Advanced Rolfing instructors meant when they said, ?the AT is designed to help Rolfers reach a level where the work becomes the teacher.? I decided to take the risk and I organized a training in the San Francisco Bay Area with Michael Salveson and Karen Lackritz.

What transpired in that training is something I will always be grateful for. I learned a lot, it was really fun, and I formed relationships with colleagues that have been sustained ever since. I was shown there were levels of Rolfing SI that I hadn?t known, that Rolfing SI could help people more than I knew, that indeed deeper layers needed to be accessed to create further integration, and that there are many ways of accessing deeper structures. I was also shown that the energy that drives inherent motion has a relationship to all structure and function, and that the Recipe can be transcended in a principled manner to meet the unique needs of each client. Furthermore, I saw that I could spend the rest of my life mastering these concepts.
Now that I am endeavoring to teach the AT, I have additional perspectives. The timing has to be right for each practitioner. Basic Rolfing training is short, and continuing education (CE) courses are even shorter. Nevertheless, there will be a time when a Rolfer runs out of rope with the skill s/he has. At that time, there is tremendous value to having an extended learning opportunity, and workshops are not a replacement. The next level of skill acquisition is crucial. Taking the time to delve into advanced levels of our work with instructors and colleagues is an essential part of furthering perception, skills, and our collective identity as practitioners. Workshops don?t afford the opportunity to do in-depth learning together, or follow-up. The AT is our unique platform for taking our work?s core ideas to the next level of competency. When more of us take this course, we become more effective individually and as a group. In closing, I want to encourage you to engage with instructors about the AT. Ask your questions, express your concerns. Find one you resonate with, and level up!
Russell Stolzoff
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Teacher-in-Training

A: What motivates me in my own practice is the ability to witness transformation in my clients and myself. Sure, ?fixing? a fill-in-the-blank body part gives a certain satisfaction, but I find that what really drives me in my practice are the moments when the client reports a shift in his or her underlying assumptions about the nature of the body or the world.

CE workshops and the AT both contribute to my proficiency as a Rolfer, but in different ways. What we take away from CE classes are some valuable tools for refined interventions in a particular case. What we take away from the AT is the context in which those particulars can relate to the whole in a more meaningful way. The AT was designed to complete a practitioner?s process in developing into a fully competent Rolfer. This statement is rather broad, and necessarily so, as what an individual practitioner needs to transition to the next phase of development can be highly varied, from a technical perspective.

What does not vary, however, is the need to immerse oneself in the culture and rituals of Rolfing SI. The AT, which is a commitment of time and attention beyond most CE, is just that.

In the same way that the Basic Training (BT) is less about technique and more about an induction into a particular way of approaching a person, the AT re-ignites that perspective and the attitudes that contribute to creating Rolfing sessions that allow the client to integrate the work. In the BT, the structure of the Ten Series provides the safety net that facilitates a successful interaction between client and practitioner. At the advanced level, a Rolfer is asked to create a cohesive and transformative session without the template of the Series. This skill, in my view, is what sets apart truly fine transformative work from treatment of symptoms. So, if a practitioner is interested in initiating him- or herself and the client into a clearer relationship with gravity (and thereby him- or herself), I believe that immersion into the culture and rituals of Rolfing sessions is critical.

Preparing for the AT has technical and personal aspects. A practitioner needs to complete a variety of CE courses and s/he needs to prepare for a rite of initiation/ renewal in the culture of Rolfing SI. Readiness for such an event is about creating the time and space in one?s life and practice to allow a full immersion into the experience. Just as the BT requires a tremendous amount of energy and creates bonds between the participants that span years and decades, so, too, does the AT. I write this not to frighten prospective students, but to entice them into a novel and rewarding experience.
Duffy Allen
Rolfing Instructor

A: Nowadays education is frequently fragmented in small training units. This has its good and not-so-good sides. The AT offers the chance to work with a group of colleagues within a time frame that offers a different rhythm of learning. Each Rolfer has to use his or her own intelligence to realize whether he or she is ready for this kind of class, and to make the right personal choice of class and instructor.
Peter Schwind
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Instructor

A: Personally, I think the labels are arbitrary in that BT is also very complex and ?Advanced? gives an impression more finite than ?continued?.

However, we can say that BT entails basic certification, joining the membership, and starting a private practice. For many, private practice involves working independence, developing our skills and clientele within the confines of our offices. It?s appropriate to work independently for a period of time to digest, own, and deliver what you have learned. Then there?s an interim or intermediate period where we intersperse our individual pursuit of the work with periodic returns to the classroom for further group study, mentoring, etc. There are advantages to interacting with other practitioners and instructors with varied experience and expertise. Once one?s practice becomes self-sustaining, there is huge benefit and merit to AT, to come back again to the classroom for continued immersion training, putting it back into the group in order to assess where one stands in terms of strengths and weaknesses and to maintain developmental momentum.

One indication that one is ready for the AT is if one has become too comfortable and complacent. In my opinion, a practitioner ?should? take the AT when s/he is: ready to delve further into the paradoxical nature of Rolfing SI as being both definitive and dynamic; willing to be aligned with the interplay of quantifiable and qualitative change; and able to personally participate in integrating the ongoing experience. Ideally we engage in an ongoing interplay of group learning and independent study. The AT offers an opportunity to bring back to the membership community what we?ve discovered and developed in our practice as well as to experience how the work has evolved within the organization itself.

There?s also the interplay of the membership group and the larger society within which we exist. In our marketing-based economy, confusion might arise as to the difference between product and process. The experience of Rolfing SI is ever shifting and changing as are we, as practitioners. Much as we like to define our terms and pin down specific theories and goals, the lived experience of Rolfing SI is much more; more like quicksilver than static. When we are present with our ongoing experience and our client?s process, we are inevitably maneuvering in what Dr. Rolf referred to as ?shifting sands.? It takes a kind of courage to step out of our comfort zone to learn what other people are doing; to give and receive work from fellow practitioners. The AT is an opportunity to give and get valuable feedback on the work that you?re doing and receiving. It offers an opportunity to talk about the work in ways that are necessary but impossible when you?re alone in your office.
Come back to explore and investigate how the body of work you originally encountered has evolved. Your work evolves in relationship to the body you have and the relationship between the individual and the community. They?re symbiotic: the individual in it flourishes when the community flourishes.
Sally Klemm
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Instructor

A: The AT offers an in-depth exploration of our work from an experienced point of view. That is, everyone who comes to it has experience to share, along with the teacher. It is a collegial setting. In addition, the length and continuity of the training provides for us to follow a process over time, allowing the power of our work to be expressed. It is a rare opportunity to learn in this deep way.

You are ready for the AT if you have been working for a while and you find that you would like to expand your ability to perceive the needs of your clients and address them more effectively and efficiently; to refine your work. Further, if you feel you are working too hard or are experiencing strain in your own self and want to learn some new ways of working, this class is for you.
Tessy Brungardt
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Instructor

A: The truth is, the ?why? part of this question escapes me. I guess it?s my nerdy nature. I really wanted to do my AT because I liked learning about our work. But I considered putting it off because I didn?t think I could justify the expense. When I was considering registering, a family member tried to talk me out of it. Life had taken a few swings at me and I was working hard to pay off debts. When I mentioned doing the AT, this individual got very serious and said, ?You already have a full practice. You?re already working at capacity so doing this training won?t make you any more money. It?s a waste of your time.? It was kind of a light-bulb moment for me. I remember thinking, ?Geez, you don?t know me at all.?

From the moment I started my training, I had a very clear goal to be the very best Rolfer I could be. Not to be the very best Rolfer, which is meaningless, but to really uncover who I was as a practitioner and make the most of what I bring. Rolfing SI was ? and still is ? an exercise in self-exploration and growth. The AT was an opportunity to return to the concentration and support of the classroom to review where I?d been, fill in the inevitable holes in my knowledge, and take time to rethink and revise my approach. It was an opportunity to work with teachers who I had heard about but not had the opportunity to study with to any extent. It was a gift to myself to be able to spend weeks with others in my tribe who also wanted to refine their craft.

The AT is different from CE classes because you?re working with seasoned Rolf Institute® faculty in an extended format, focusing on the heart of our work: assessing structural and functional patterns; strategizing sessions and series; observing outcomes; and educating clients. After our BT, we rarely have the opportunity to have such a comprehensive practical experience.

As for the ?how? part of the question: How did I know I was ready? I didn?t. But I knew that I was seeing a lot of clients and I had developed habits ? for good or for bad. By my third year of practice, my ?autopilot? was firmly established. By this I mean that I didn?t have to look stuff up all the time, and I had enough in my toolbox that I wasn?t afraid that a client would bring something and I wouldn?t have an idea of something to try. By this time, I?d taken lots of CE classes and studied a bunch on my own. No matter who came into my office, I always had an idea about where to start. Journaling on the subject of AT brought up thoughts like: ?There will never be a good time. I will always worry about laying out this kind of money. Life will always be challenging. It will always be difficult to take time away.? But, mostly, I was afraid that if I put it off, I?d get busy and never get around to it. So, I bit the bullet and I registered.

We each have to think these things through for ourselves. Not waiting to do AT was definitely the right thing for me. It?s true that it gave me an obvious reason to raise my rates, but that was a minor factor in my decision to train when I did. The training gave me new ideas and a fresh take on how I wanted to develop my skills. I also came out with connections and friendships that have been very important. And because I did my training sooner rather than, say, five years later, these gifts have been benefiting me in seen and unseen ways for that much longer. I look back at how my AT affected my path and it was very good. Learning is like compound interest. You never know what is going to result, but it has a tendency to add up and surprise you.
Bethany Ward
Rolfing Instructor

A: The AT is a valuable opportunity to put together, and make more conscious, what you already know. You add layers of understanding, plus new ways of approaching structural and functional issues. Clients bring similar problems to be ?fixed?, and we can easily fall into doing the same kind of session for those issues. One exciting potential of immersing oneself in the AT is the opening of these habits, and the simultaneous infusion of entirely new, more complex and comprehensive approaches. It is time, money, and energy well spent. Reviewing the basics of the Ten Series, and learning something beyond the post-ten three-session series covered in the BT, is beyond interesting and exciting. It will carry you into new dimensions of what it means to be a Rolfer. As someone (maybe Dr. Rolf?) said, you don?t learn Rolfing SI, you become a Rolfer. The AT takes you further into the depth of that territory.
Libby Eason
Rolfing Instructor

A: The road to my advanced certification brings back fond memories. I remember the CE classes necessary and the instructors involved: reviewing the power of the Ten Series with Ray McCall and Carol Agneessens and seeing Hubert Godard demonstrate his remarkable approach to Rolf Movement® Integration, trainings that still powerfully influence my work. But that only prepared me for what was to come. My AT with Jan Sultan, Tessy Brungardt, and Sally Klemm gave me insight into the next level of work. Most impressive was receiving work from instructors during the class. Feeling Jan connecting with my inside line and Tessy rearranging scar tissue in my abdomen are experiences I try over and over to replicate. Just being able to compare the differences in touch of all three instructors advanced my learning. Additionally, working with classmates who provided great feedback and developing strategy for clients in front of my peers refined my work and helped me look at things in a new way.

For me, the CE classes were extremely valuable appetizers that led to an AT main course created by master chefs. You really don?t know how good the food is until you?ve tried it. And once you have, you only want more. The whole ?meal? will fuel your passion and practice. You, your clients, and your business will benefit!
Larry Koliha
Rolfing Instructor

A: I did the AT just because I am naturally curious and considered myself a ?forever student?. I always want to know more and more. As what I learned recedes into the background, I feel I know less and less.

At the AT I found a new kind of understanding and knowledge of the work that I did. I also found the answers to many questions and mysteries that unfolded while I was mechanically doing the Recipe in the first three years of my practice. The AT gave me an intellectual understanding of the process unfolding in front of me and under my touch. Then the ?magic? was lost in a way, because I began to understand neural plasticity. For me, the gem was that it also gave me new ways to explore and go forward in my personal evolution, mostly due of my teachers? beingness and personhood. From then until today, I still marvel at the brilliance of our neural plasticity.
Ashuan Seow
Rolfing Instructor Rolf Movement Instructor

A: Our BT is the best SI training happening, and it is only a beginning. We need to get our hands doing the work until we know enough to really learn the subtle skills of Rolfing SI. I loved my advanced class. At that time I had been teaching movement for a number of years and had developed my skills. Still, the AT took my work and confidence to a new level. It also let me more fully integrate the movement work into my sessions.

It is my personal belief that true skill in our work requires post-Basic certification in Rolf Movement and Advanced Rolfing. This gives you a full understanding of the beauty of our work. The sequence of your training is a personal choice, and both are required to fully know the gift Dr. Rolf gave us.
Jane Harrington
Rolfing Instructor Rolf Movement Instructor

A: I remember the first day of my AT. We were asked to introduce ourselves with a question, and my question was ?What is Rolfing SI about?? The surprising and honest response from Jan Sultan was, ?We really hope that we will come a bit closer to an answer to your question at the end of the AT.? In that moment I could truly sense relief ? apparently I wasn?t the only one having those questions. I recognized that Rolfing SI is a ongoing developmental process rather then a certain goal I have to reach. In my mind that was clear, but my felt sense followed only after my AT. The BT was my first step into this realm. The methodical frame and the skills I learned there were prerequisites to integrating my own experiences working with people in gravity. I imagined the map, but the territory opened step by step working with clients. I faced challenges, and achieved good results with my clients, quite often without knowing exactly what the challenge was and what brought about the good results. Naturally I developed many questions.

I tried several approaches to answer my questions: visceral work, osteopathy, craniosacral work, but basically it was the AT that led me to have more confidence in my questions, rather than needing to find instant answers. For me, the AT was a mixture of my own experiences, a deepening of understanding and Rolfing skills, and a confirmation that I was on the ?right? track. There, I began to sense more confidence in myself, and more meaningful therapeutic relationships with my clients.
Jörg Ahrend-Löns
Rolfing Instructor

A: Why are there Basic and Advanced Rolfing trainings? As I see it, having taken and taught them both, the BT creates the base, the ground. It forms a mindset, brings in values, and teaches skills and techniques that will be further developed as they educate the practitioner who repeats them in his or her first years of working. Many questions will arise organically in this process, and over years of practice, and the AT is the opportunity for these to be answered and polished. The AT is also where the practitioner can be validated for (therefore enhancing) elements of the style s/he has developed, and corrected in elements that need refinement. The AT supplies what is missing, conceptually and technically, in one?s vision and practice, and supports development in the full range of perspectives Rolfing SI deals with, whether manipulation, functional aspects, or psychobiological approaches. This skill enhancement and broadening furthers one?s path.

Consider a Rolfer, like many in our community, who feels the need for better technical skills (whether to address physical structures, like joints, or layers of being like the functional taxonomy) and wants an efficient and comprehensive approach. One can take many CE workshops on these things, but then face the challenge of keeping his/her skills in a consistent theoretical framework. These are reasons to consider taking the AT. Or, the practitioner may be getting lots of clients who are ?advanced? bodies with unusual circumstances that call for something beyond the Ten Series and formulistic approaches. This is another indication for AT. Finally, someone may just feel the need to connect with peers and mentors to see in that community environment what others have developed and how we are working to further our profession.
Pedro Prado
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Instructor Rolf Movement Instructor

A: As a Rolfing instructor, my commitment to the BT is to teach students the Ten Series so that they can start to practice. What is taught in the BT is a sound foundation with which to start working as Rolfers. It is also the beginning of a journey that keeps unfolding during our careers. The AT is the next step we take to consolidate our vision and practice as Rolfers.

CE workshops enable us to explore some aspects of our work. They provide some answers and raise new questions, broaden our spectrum of touch so as to be able to meet a wider variety of clients, and help us discover new layers about ourselves and our skills. After years of practice as Rolfers, the AT is an opportunity to reflect on our work, to see Rolfing SI in a bigger frame, and to embody the work at a new level. The AT is not just a collection of advanced techniques, it is a unique opportunity to dip again into a nourishing ocean and emerge transformed.

I recently assisted Tessy Brungardt during an AT, and many of the Rolfers who attended had been students in BTs I assisted or taught. It was beautiful to observe the way they blossomed during the AT. All of them felt they were empowered by that training, and some of them who were previously in limited practice were ready to move into a full practice right after the training. They felt the strength and vitality of the advanced teachings. Gaining confidence in oneself and in the work seems to be a common outcome for Rolfers during and after the AT. I observed similar results in another AT I assisted, with Peter Schwind as the instructor. After that training, most of the Rolfers felt ready to change something important in their careers. Every advanced Rolfing instructor has a unique style and approach to teaching the advanced curriculum. While each AT might look somewhat different, what they have in common is the intent of the Advanced Faculty to ?advance you as Rolfers so that the next first session you give to a new client will be an advanced first session? ? as one of my AT instructors, Jeff Maitland, told us during my training.
Pierpaola Volpones
Rolfing Instructor Rolf Movement Instructor

A: I think students should take the AT because they are going to learn important techniques they were not ready to learn during their BT, and they will experience their own process from a different point of view. Signs that students might be ready for the AT include: discovering new relationships regarding their own and their clients? bodies; new understandings about the Recipe; and many questions or interest in topics not covered during BT.
Raquel Motta
Rolfing Instructor Rolf Movement Instructor

A: I had twelve years of a full twenty-five to thirty-person-a-week practice before I did my AT. I was five years late due to mothering and family detours. I took it because it is mandatory, because I finally had the time, and because I had accumulated many questions after working so hard for so long alone.

Because I take the Ten Series so seriously as a way to work, the AT shocked me into insecurity, and I questioned what was being taught. Jeff Maitland opened up the work to levels of skill and strategy that were related to everything I had been working on, but in a structure that was completely new to me. My criteria were still the guiding concepts, but my thinking had to open up and I was put to the test of defining what I knew and how it would be used without definite steps. I was learning to respond with intelligence, clarity, and strategy to the client standing in front of me in an environment of incredible support and ideas from other diversely experienced Rolfers.

Now, in co-teaching an AT, I can see even more clearly from the teaching point of view that the training is a ?synthesis? (Jan Sultan?s word) of everything the Ten Series and the BT includes. It consists of deepening and sharpening, and maybe understanding for the first time, what seeing is; what touch, layers, and options are open and have to be taught; and what concepts need to be underscored and held close when evaluating and strategizing.

It is also an issue for many of us that working alone our bodies begin to hurt, and no one is watching us to point out if our embodiment is a bit lacking. And while the therapeutic relationship may seem a ?handled? topic from having a practice, to create a plan for clients with the help of a teacher and a group of like-minded people is always a ?kick in the butt? that helps identify our weaknesses and fears and strengths in how we relate to our clients. Strategy-building and basic information is deepened, reinforced, and created with deep support and a pool of intelligence.

The AT is really a step out of the isolation of years of practicing what we think we know, to testing, creating, and receiving new skill levels that take us deeper into the power of this work. It?s really just the next step, and surely not the last.
Valerie Berg
Rolfing Instructor Advanced Rolfing Teacher-in-Training

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