Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

ROLF LINES – Vol XIX – Nº 04 – FALL 1991

Volume: XIX

In October 1990 I accepted the position as Director of Research for the Rolf Institute. Based upon meetings with the President of Institute, Alan Demmerle, we have agreed that I will structure a plan of research for the Institute. This will focus on an overall vision of identifying what research should be done, how the research should be conducted, and how the research should be funded.

Given the limited financial resources, past research accomplishments supported by the Institute have been notable. In reviewing past Research Committee documents, it is clear that the committee has worked extremely hard and has both provided information to members and generated interest in research.

In the past the Committee has operated to generate interest in research and to create liaisons with established researchers and credible research institutions. The Committee, by nature of its previous charge, stimulated and evaluated research proposals. Although this approach successfully stimulated several interesting research projects, there were limitations. First, by being dependent upon proposals for research direction, the approach resulted in diverse research rather than a systematic plan. Second, the completed research has not been successful in generating funding for new research projects. Third, the findings from the completed research have not been incorporated into Rolfing training (i.e., modification of methods) or Rolfing practice (i.e., recruiting clients).

Following a series of meeting with Alan Demmerle and a meeting with an advisory committee, we have decided to develop a research plan that reflects the needs of the Rolfing community. This plan will focus on identifying the benefits as well as the contra-indications and possible side effects of Rolfing. The research program is designed to use research as tool to improve both the application of Rolfing and the training of Rolfers.

As stated above, the former Research Committee had been instrumental in sponsoring and facilitating important research. In fact, my former involvement with the Rolf Institute was through collaborations with John Cottingham on the effects of Rolfing procedures on vagal tone. The research with John Cottingham has been well received outside the Rolfing community. However, even with publications in prestigious peer reviewed journals, the impact that research has made on Rolfing and the acceptance of Rolfing is limited.

Rolfing has prospered because individuals who have been Rolfed recognize its benefits and not because there is an existing data base to demonstrate efficacy. Research can serve several functions: First, it can provide information to the Rolfing community regarding the identifying characteristics of individuals electing to be Rolfed. This would include demographic information such as age, education, occupation, weight, gender, reasons for being Rolfed, and expectancy of outcome. Second, it can provide information on perceived outcome including contra-indications. This would include information on attrition before the full program is completed and whether clients perceived positive benefits from the procedures. Third, specific studies can be conducted to explore physiological and physical mechanisms of the Rolfing procedures. Fourth, clinical trials can be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of Rolfing procedures on specific populations. Thus, research can provide information to both the Rolfer, and client regarding expected outcome.

The history of Rolfing research has been focused on demonstration studies driven by interested investigators as opposed to the an integrated program to serve the needs of the Institute. Although the Institute clearly needs interested, dedicated, and talented researchers, we also need an efficient approach. This approach starts with asking four questions:

1. Who is being Rolfed?

2. Why is the client electing to be Rolfed?

3. What expectancy does the client have for being Rolfed?

4. What is the outcome (i.e., perceived benefits or contra-indications)?

For example, if we generate an accurate data base, we can provide information to clients regarding expected outcome. For example, it maybe possible to tell a client that 85% of male adults between the ages of 18 and 45who suffer from low back pain experience improvement following the complete Rolfing sequence. Another hypothetical example might be that if the client is female the outcome expectancies increase, although the attrition rate also may increase. Alternatively, it is possible that we might identify that Rolfing of older people (i.e., above 65) is less effective and results in more reports of bruises. Thus, the creation of a good database with appropriate information provides a set of expectancies that are specific to the characteristics of the client.

Demonstration of perceived efficacy is extremely important in generating future funds for research. The “client-perceived outcome” database enables potential donors to feel more confident about their decisions to contribute to research. The data base provides a concrete documentation of their experiences.

There are two important initial research goals: one, to obtain information regarding clients and to disseminate this information to the members; and two, to use this information to generate research funds to study mechanisms (e.g., physiological, biochemical, physical, psychological, etc) mediating the Rolfing procedures.

The long term research program may be summarized in the outline below:

1. Determine who is being Rolfed

2. Determine perceived benefits

3. Provide information to Rolfers that will be helpful in recruiting clients

4. Generate research funds to conduct

A- Research or mechanisms(e.g., pelvic tilt)

B- Clinical trials (e.g., whiplash clients)

5. Provide information to Rolfers to enhance training and treatment.

To obtain this important information, we will be constructing a client questionnaire to evaluate perceived benefits. This questionnaire will have pre-Rolfing and post-Rolfing forms. The questionnaire will include a number of subscales evaluating various psychological dimensions. The questionnaire will have a component focusing on stress and stress vulnerability. The questionnaire will be structured to be completed within a 30 minute period. We would like it administered prior to the first session. A follow-up questionnaire will be administered approximately 6-weeks after the last session. Before the questionnaire is finalized, we would like input from you. Attached is a questionnaire designed to obtain information regarding your experiences with your clients. Your participation will help us structure a successful research program.Rolfing Research

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