Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Bulletin of Structural Integration Ida P. Rolf


My Dear Colleagues,

In my view, the work we do has reached the place where expansion of our scope is imperative. The stance that Dr. Rolf took in placing this work as education rather than therapy was, in part, motivated by the political climate in which it developed. During those early years, the alternative (to allopathic medicine) therapies like chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, were often and vigorously persecuted by the allopaths as unlawful medical practice.

This climate is changing and today alternative therapeutics are enjoying a renaissance. There are “bodywork” schools springing up everywhere to the extent that the landscape looks much as it did before the Flexor report and the purges that followed it. It is sad that so many of these practices are plagued with the mediocrity and, in essence, unregulated. We are in a “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) marketplace by default.

The ROLF INSTITUTE has held to its standards and is known as one of the leading schools of manual therapeutics in Europe and America. We have continued to do our homework and build on the foundation laid by our founder. Our view of body in 3-space is a vital one that has already worked its way into the culture to impact on all the other “bodywork” schools including physical therapy. We are just beginning to affect orthopedics as well.

Here, however, comes a contradiction left by Dr. Rolf in the old and familiar form of “Do as I say, not as I do”. She talked about education and spatial order as the goal of the work, and yet we saw her (in classes and in practice) often addressing herself to pathology with the “tools” of Rolfing.

I don’t mean to imply that Rolfing is therapy exclusive of education, but to point out that most of the people who seek our work ate motivated by discomfort, dysfunction, or outright pain (either acute or chronic, emotionalor physical). Our public stance (as exemplified by our disclaimer) denies this, and yet we solicit insurance business and second-party payments. It seems we are a little schizophrenic about out role and value in the culture. The truth is that out vision of normal and our tools and methodology lend themselves very well to the alleviation of symptoms both in and out of the context of a basic (or advanced) series of Rolfing.

There are some hard questions we must answer to steer the course of Rolfing’s development. Who do we serve? What are the values of this work? What is necessary to secure our identity and survival? What is Rolfing: education, therapy, ?ju ju? in modern decor?

I think this culture and economic system are in for major changes in priorities. The motivations that have gotten people “on our tables” will change along with these values. Many people who have previously been concerned with personal evolution, individuation, and growth will be scratching to pay rent and food bills. This happens to include you and me as well I can’t imagine that we (as a profession) will remain unaffected by rising inflation and unemployment. One effect of this climate will be to shift more money from education toward service. Insurance doesn’t pay for education. They want specific results, relief.

I want to broaden the public definition of Rolfing to get people to realize the depth of our effect. Consider the market; the greatest single source of accidents are auto related. This means people get multiple injuries of the sort that include structural displacement. They get their traumas managed and healed but are never themselves again. God! how we could help. This kind of application is so valuable, but we deny it in our literature and public stance. The world needs to “get” that in addition to our skills in educating and teaching what order is, we are also damn good therapists.

This kind of change in public stance would have to be backed by a shift in educating Rolfers to include therapeutic competence. This could be accomplished by owning our pre-training. At present, we farm out all our prerequisites and only conduct our own anatomy review, movement, and manipulative training. If we would take control of this whole portion of the training, we could specify our intentions and shape the training toward these goals. Incidentally, this move would solidify us financially and provide a place to use all the creative energy of this incredibly diverse and skilled body of people. It would provide a much larger arena for participation. The pre-training could grant a massage diploma along AMTA guidelines and at the same time serve as a selection process to draw some very good people into Rolfing. Another way to handle it would be to franchise out the pre-training within the community (with strict guidelines as to content).

Another area for change would be the focus of the on-going trainings. The short workshops could be more diverse in content, ranging from energy to structural, pathology to magic.

All this needs some serious consideration because if it is our intention to seed this work and our ideas into the culture, then we should use as many avenues as are practical. If we are going to continue in the business of training Rolfers then we must do what we can to open the market for our work.

I hope to encourage dialog by bringing these ideas before you. Please write to the Lines, the teachers, the board with your comments. Talk to each other and consider these ideas.

I hold that we can expand and keep our identity, serve more broadly, without selling out.


Jan Sultan
Certified Rolfer
Certified Rolfing Instructor
Santa Fe, New MexicoRolfing: Therapy or Education?

To have full access to the content of this article you need to be registered on the site. Sign up or Register. 

Log In