Building a Rolfing Practice: the Results of a Survey

Pages: 46-52
Year: 1983
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Bulletin of Structural Integration Ida P. Rolf


This report presents and analyzes the findings of a survey conducted among Rolfers in the Northeast Region in the Winter, 1982-83. The purposes of the survey were to obtain descriptive data on how successful Rolfers are in building their practices, and to determine the kinds of efforts that are most successful in practice building. Of 52 Rolfers in the Region, 33 (63 per cent) participated. The study is generated out of a larger project of the N.E. Region, focused on assisting Rolfers to have a successful practice. The Region as a whole, however, is not responsible for weaknesses in the quality or errors in the interpretations of the study.

Without numbers and detail, here is the punch line. 1 For the group taken as a whole, specific practice building efforts such as lectures, demonstrations, advertisements and so on, do not enlarge our practices. What are associated with having a larger practice are the intention to have a larger practice and the length of time practicing as a Rolfer. If you are clear that you want a larger practice, and if you continue practicing, you will have a larger practice. There is no generalization possible on the basis of this study about the kinds of efforts, if any, that are more likely to produce results for any particular Rolfer. However, the group evidence suggests that each of us will successfully find our own way.

Having presented the bottom line, let me encourage you to read the story. There is much interesting detail here and some important refinements of the summary data, presented relatively non-technically. Much of it is presented simply as findings, so the report opens as many doors as it closes to further interpretation and study.


I. Personal Characteristics of Respondents

Months Practicing as a Rolfer
Average: 55 months
Range: 3 months to 14 years

Months Practicing in the Same City
Average: 38 months
Range: 2 months to 10 years

Level of Training
Basic Certified Rolfer: 18 people
Advanced Rolfer: 15 people
Average Number of Six
Day Intensives
Completed: 2 Intensives

Average: 39 years
Range: 28 to 60 years

Number of males: 22
Number of Females:11

Some relevant issues: As Rolfing becomes more established, is it likely that many Rolfers will complete their Advanced Training relatively early in their careers, and then go on to many additional years of Rolfing? Should we develop more post-Advanced Training training experiences? Should we, can we, conceptualize a lengthy career in Rolfing that helps it to continue to be lively, growing and changing? Can we build in additional structures to help avoid burnout over a Rolfing career that, for additional numbers of people, might spanthirty years?


II. Desired and Actual Levels of Practice of Respondents

Number of People Rolfed per Week in the Last Month
Average: 11 people
Mode:* 12 people
Range: 0-20 people

Number of People Rolfed Per Week in the last Six Months
Average: 11 people
Mode: 10 people
Range: 0-24 people

Number of People Practitioner Wanted to Rolf Per Week in the Last Month
Average: 14 people
Mode: 15 people
Range: 3-27 people

Number of People Practitioner Wanted to Rolf Per Week in the last Six Months
Average: 13 people
Mode: 12 people
Age: 0-27 people

Percentage of Rolfer’s Practice Consisting of Post-Ten Work
Average: 21 per cent
Mode: 0 per cent
Range: 0-75 per cent


III. Practice Building Efforts

Number of Lecture/Demonstrations in the Last Six Months
Average: 2 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-6 per Rolfer

Number of Talks Given About Rolfing in the Last Six Months
Average: 1 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-6 per Rolfer

Number of Advertisements Placed in the Last Six Months
Average: 2 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-9 per Rolfer

Number of Radio or T.V. Shows or Articles Generated in the Last Six Months
Average: .3 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-2 per Rolfer

Number of Individual Contacts Made With Potential Referral Sources in the Last Six Months
Average: 4 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-8 per Rolfer

Number of Groups a Member of With An Eye Toward Generating Clients
Average: 1 per Rolfer
Mode: 0 per Rolfer
Range: 0-6 per Rolfer

Number of Times Per Week Rolfer Talks With Someone Individually About Rolfing
Average: 4 per Week
Mode: 2 per Week
Range: 0-9 per Week.

Respondents were also asked to mention other activities in which they engage in order to promote their practices. The following responses were mentioned more than once.

1. I tell my clients directly to send me other clients, or in some way ask for their help in bringing Rolfing into the world. (4 mentions)

2. My life/the way I am in the world, my presence, my being, is the source of my practice. (3 mentions)

3. I mail out literature. (3 mentions)

4. I have become familiar with other health professionals in the area., and/or found the proper referral sources for me. (3 mentions)

The following observations come from these data.

1. Somebody, that is, at least one person, is doing a fair amount of each of the kinds of activity the study asked about.

2. No single kind of practice building activity predominates for the respondents as a group. We do many different things.

3. However, there does seem to be emphasis on individual contacts. Is an average of four individual contacts per week to discuss Rolfing a lot or a little?

4. Aside from individual contacts by Rolfers, as a group the sum of our conscious practice building activities does not seem particularly large.

IV. Source of Clientele

The study assessed the sources from which clients come into our practices. The following represents, for the respondents as a whole, the various “feeder” sources for clients.

Percentage of Clients in Your Practice From Each Source (Average For All Respondents)

To summarize this table:

1. Ex-clients, by a considerable margin, are the largest source of clients for the respondents, taken as a whole.

2. Individual contacts Rolfers make are the next largest source of clients.

3. Referrals from ex-clients, combined with clients resulting from the Rolfers’ individual contacts, together account for 62 per cent of the people the respondents Rolf.

4. For some Rolfers, any of the top five sources can be significant

V. Success Ratio

“Success,” for an individual Rolfer, cannot be measured strictly in terms of size of practice, since Rolfers very considerably in the number of clients they desire to Rolf. As presented in section II, respondents said they wanted to Rolf an average of 13 people a week over the previous six months. However, that average obscures the fact that the desired number of clients per week ranged from 3 to 27 people. A “Success Ratio” was calculated for each respondent. It consists simply of a ratio in which the numerator is the number of people the Rolfer wants to Rolf per week and the denominator is the number of people actually Rolfed per week, over the past six months. A Success Ratio of 1 means the Rolfer is Rolfing exactly the number of people per week that he or she desires to Rolf.

Success Ratio For Respondents Over the Last Six Months
Average: .85
Mode: 1.0
Range: 0-2.8

In other words, the respondents, as a group, are Rolfing 85 per cent as many people as they would like to Rolf. One Rolfer is Rolfing almost three times as many people as he/she would like, and some have been Rolfing no people, or virtually no people given rounding errors. This seems like a healthy average success ratio, bearing in mind that the average number of people Rolfers desire to Rolf per week is, depending of course on your point of view, somewhat small. Further, the largest single number of the same response, the mode, which represents six people, tells us that these six are Rolfing exactly as many people as they would like to Rolf.

VI. Correlates of a Larger Practice

For those familiar with statistical measures, I used a Pearson r to assess correlation between size of practice and all other variables, including personal characteristics of Rolfers, desired levels of practice, practice building efforts, and source of clients, with p significant at .05. For those not familiar with statistical measures, I established which of these variables is associated with a larger Rolfing practice.

The measure used to establish size of practice was the average number of people Rolfed by a practitioner per week over the last six months. Pearson r not only tells us what “goes with” this variable, it also tells us how much of the variation in one variable is associated with variation in a second variable. This does not exactly mean that one variable “causes” another. It means that there is an association between the two items such that x per cent of the variation in one is associated with the variation in the other.

The table appears on the following page. It presents the seven variables, and the only seven variables, statistically associated with size of practice for the respondents.

Correlates of Size of Practice


1. For the group as a whole, there is no evidence that any other effort
we make (talks, demonstrations, advertisements, contacts and so on) is associated with a larger practice. (By the way, it is also the case that none of these is associated with the Success Ratio.) In thinking about this finding, beware of the obscuring power of an “average.” For any particular Rolfer, these efforts may make a large difference.

2. By far, the most significant factor associated with a larger practice, and perhaps causing it but we cannot say, strictly speaking, based on this analysis, is the desire to Rolf larger number of people or, in our jargon, intention.

3. With the possible exception of the percentage of clients who come on referral from ex-clients, but probably including that also, each of the
other signficiant variables is clearly associated with length of time practicing as a Rolfer. That is, if you keep practicing, you will probably practice longer in one city, complete more six day intensives, become an Advanced Rolfer and, most likely, obtain more of your practice on referral from former clients.

4. These findings suggest, but do not prove, even for respondents, that you will have a larger practice if a) you want a larger practice and b) you stick with it long enough.

5. The exact mechanism by which intention and time convert to a larger practice is not clear and may very from Rolfer to Rolfer. The nearest this study comes to suggesting an answer to the question of how intention and time convert to a larger practice is through the base we build of former clients.

6. The importance of intention is supported by the reasons respondents gave to the question “If your practice is not as full as you would like it to be, what do you see as the major reasons for this?” The most often repeated responses, by far, centered on the Rolfer’s unclear intention, diversified interests, low energy, laziness or lack of aggressiveness (18 responses). This kind of response far outweighed external factors such as the economy (4 responses), competition (2 responses) or public lack of awareness of Rolfing (2 responses).

VII. Summary and Additional Questions

1. The analysis suggests that intention to Rolf more people and time as a Rolfer are the dominant associates of having a larger practice. Stay clear on your goal and stay with it, and it will happen, though the study cannot say for each person the specific way to make it happen. The evidence, for the group as a whole, is that people will succeed and do succeed.

2. We do not seem to be doing a great deal, as individuals, to create a larger public presence for Rolfing. Most of our public relations and educational work is on a one to one basis. That works when our personal energy is up and does not work when it is down. Possibly we are not creating enough larger awareness of Rolfing.

3. We Rolf 11 people per week, on the average. That works out to about 15,000 people a year Rolfed by all Rolfers. (There are several rough calculations built into this figure.) Is this a lot or a little?

4. On the average, the respondents are Rolfing at 85 per cent of their desired level. That does not seem bad. I wonder, however, if Rolfers lower their expectations because of the number of people they do Rolf? Are we selecting as Rolfers people who do not see Rolfing as a full time activity? If we are, is this a problem? As with most studies, this one ends up asking more questions than it answers.

1′ 0r, in the style of a researcher with whom we are becoming familiar, “We can form-ulate the fine-dings through the following re-presentation.” Or, to approximate still another approach, “I, Dr. Galper, have the unique privilege of personally presenting to you this aspect of Dr. Rolf’s work.”

*The mode is the most commonly reported number.Building a Rolfing Practice: the Results of a Survey

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