He has worked in manual therapy, post-secondary education and somatic psychology, as well as organizational and leadership development.
He became certified in massage at the Esalen Institute and is a Certified Advanced Rolfer® and a former Rolf Institute instructor. His private practice is based in the Boulder-Denver area, and includes myofascial work, practitioner supervision and professional coaching.
Til is also a MASSAGE Magazine All Star, one of a group of body-therapy masters who have dedicated their lives to empowering and informing massage professionals.
These innovative therapists and teachers are lined up to educate MASSAGE Magazine‘s community of massage therapists by sharing their expertise in our print magazine, on our social media channels and on massagemag.com.
Til spoke with MASSAGE Magazine‘s editor in chief, Karen Menehan, sharing advice on what massage therapists can do to be more comfortable financially, naming those who inspire him, and discussing how research is changing assumptions about how touch therapies help clients.
Til Luchau: Before I got into bodywork, I did a lot of things. I trained as a psychotherapist, and practiced that at the same time that I was learning and practicing hands-on bodywork—but I did everything from being a foreign car mechanic to an Outward Bound instructor to a high school teacher.
TL: It was actually my psychotherapy training. The method that I was studying emphasized the role of the body, and our program encouraged us to get some body training. This was when I was living at the Esalen Institute, and they had all kinds of trainings available.
So I just jumped in, and it stuck. I liked the hands-on parts so much that I kept practicing that, even though I also developed a career path as a psychotherapist.
TL: It was the early 1980s, and a lot of pioneering teachers in the bodywork and human potential field had been there or were still there, and so I got to study with Ida Rolf’s and Moshé Feldenkrais’ and Milton Trager’s first-generation teachers and students. And [there were] human potential things going on there, like Gestalt therapy and bioenergetics, and it was still a wild, crazy time.
It’s calmed down a lot in the years since, like the rest of culture has, but it was still very experimental, and it was all about pushing edges and finding out how far we had to go before things changed, before people grew.
It was a great learning environment. In some ways it was like my graduate school. It was the place that I did a lot of my formative, developing thinking, and it really launched me into the direction I’m going now [in] just my five years there.
TL: It was some of my teachers at the Rolf Institute, including Jan Sultan, Pedro Prado and Robert Schleip. And later, the work of Arnold Mindell. I considered him my primary teacher for about 15 years. Also, Lorimer Moseley.
TL: I did a large-scale study of what attitudes and behaviors were correlated with people’s practice success, where we interviewed 2,500 practitioners. We got to narrow that down to a really specific set of attitudes and behaviors that seemed to work for people. The big ones were kind of surprising. One was having an open attitude toward the idea of being in business.
TL: Thinking of oneself as a businessperson, as being in business. Being willing to frame it in those terms, and speak about it in those terms, being comfortable talking to clients about business and money issues. That is one [attitude] that correlated really highly with practice success.
Another one is actually having a day job. That correlated surprisingly really well with people who were happy with their practices. The most satisfied practitioners had a second job. I think it takes off some of the financial pressure. And I think it allows them to do bodywork motivated by their love for it and their passion.
TL: Sure. That’s great a question. I think that’s probably the dream that appeals to a lot of people when they get into the profession. It worked out for me, it worked out for a lot of people I know.
And the people that are flexible around that dream, [flexible about] how it manifests, they have the most fun. And they end up being the most satisfied. So being flexible about how [one’s career] actually looks.
TL: I think it’s blowing people’s minds, actually.
TL: Well, that’s what I aim for in my trainings. I just want to shake people’s assumptions up, and get them thinking about different things, different ways. And the same thing in my practice, I want to help people experience things they didn’t think were possible, either in the movement sense or the sensation sense or how their bodies feel.
TL: Well, there’s a lot of happening now. A lot of the mechanisms that we thought explained our work turned out not to hold up very well. So it’s probably true that we’re doing a lot less on the physical level with our pressure and massaging than we thought, but doing a lot more on the neurological level.
When we really start to understand the implications of that and how to apply it, it’s a mind-blower. We end up retooling the way we think. Some of what we do doesn’t change, but it’s a whole different way of mapping it out and deciding how to approach things.
TL: It’s a really natural fit, I think, for our field to start thinking in a more biopsychosocial way, not just physically.
So, who are the people conducting leading-edge explorations in massage and bodywork now? Who blows your mind?
TL: Some of my competitors just amaze me for the amount of ideas they put out. Erik Dalton and Tom Myers always just amaze me with the volume of what they do.
I think I get inspired by some of the practitioners that come in, too, to our trainings, who are just making it work, who are helping people even when there is financial challenge or even when they’re trying to figure it out—just their passion for the work keeps them coming, and there’s a lot of it in this field, a lot of people doing it out of passion, which is really satisfying.
Let’s talk about your work, Advanced Myofascial Techniques. Can you give an overview of the mechanics of what you do and the benefits that you’ve realized from the work?
TL: The mechanics probably have more to do with our heritage and lineage we come from—definitely as a teacher at the Rolf Institute for about 20 years, and this being work that I developed while I was teaching there. There’s a lot of that Rolfing, or structural integration, influence.
It does include a lot of attention to mobility, ways to enhance mobility, but then we are really emphasizing the role of proprioception and sensation, and that’s where the biopsychosocial approach and pain science have been great influences as well.
So, we’re looking through two lenses. One is options for mobility and the other one is refined proprioception. And we do that with our hands, with active movement and with guided attention.
TL: That’s our primary series, just five workshops that cover the whole body. And then we have 10 specialized topics focused on certain conditions like TMJ or headaches or scoliosis or sciatica. We have 10 of those for the most common client conditions.
TL: Well, definitely the clients come in with that first goal. They want to be out of pain, but the paradox is if we fall into the trap of making pain our focus, we miss a lot of the good that comes along the way. So, our goal becomes options for movement and refined proprioception. And a lot of those symptoms clear up or diminish, or people’s relationship to those symptoms changes.
TL: It’s about inspiration. I think that’s the fuel that burns the fire, keeps us going. And anything that feeds our inspiration is going to make us better practitioners.
Getting burned out is not always [about] doing too much. It’s [about] not being fully given to what we’re doing. And so, paradoxically, going even deeper into the inspiration ends up handling a lot of burnout or disillusionment or barriers.
TL: I have the best job in the field, I think. I get to just dive into pretty much anything that I’m interested in and learn about it and then come back and tell people what I’m learning, and in that sharing I get to refine and course correct. It’s a side benefit that I get paid for it, but I just really enjoy the process of learning and sharing and applying this to people’s actual problems.
About the Author
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Her recent articles for massagemag.com include “Meet the MT Who Helped the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Win Olympic Gold” and “The MT’s Guide to Marijuana and Massage.”
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