BY Carolyn Stevens
The Fulcrum, Issue 91 January 2024
Lizette Villaverde and I are the birth mothers of the Craniosacral Collaborative, a space for therapists to share, enrich and empower one another through collaborative practice. Our objective is to empower practitioners and assist the wider community through acts of creative service.
Lizette and I met 10 years ago when we both started to tutor at the College of Cranio-Sacral Therapy in London (where we both continue to teach) and are from vastly different professional backgrounds. She has a background in social work, which eventually led her to craniosacral therapy (CST), whilst I started my career in IT and transitioned into my holistic journey with homeopathy training, followed by CST.
I hold a belief that most individuals who choose to train in CST do so with the intention of helping people. However, reaching those who are genuinely in need, yet may not be aware of CST, or who lack the means to afford regular sessions, can be quite challenging. While partnering with charities can be a way to reach some of them, there are also entire communities out there that require assistance.
Volunteering is of paramount importance when it comes to building a better community. It fosters social connections and brings people together to address local needs, filling gaps in services, supporting vulnerable populations and driving positive change. It promotes empathy, understanding and a sense of belonging among community members.
Lizette envisioned a resource that would not only cater to the community’s needs but would also offer support to newly-graduated craniosacral therapists. Her dream was to create a platform where charities could showcase openings for CST therapists to collaborate with them and practitioners could either connect with those charities or upload their own profiles. This was the birth of the Cranio in the Community project. This synergistic approach aimed to make CST accessible through charitable organisations and existing community-based projects.
We wanted to take our efforts a step further and organise outreach programmes. At that time I was volunteering as a homeopath with a group of colleagues at “the jungle” in Calais, providing essential care to those in desperate need. In 2019, in conversation with an incredible homeopath from our group who had been a first-responder to the Grenfell tragedy, I learned of a clinic she was running for that community in collaboration with Kids On The Green (KOTG) charity. This presented itself as an ideal moment to establish a CST community outreach initiative, seamlessly aligning with the Cranio in the Community project under the Craniosacral Collaborative umbrella.
Cranio in the Community and Kids On The Green
In 2019, the KOTG complementary therapy clinic had been relatively quiet, with only a few regulars seeking homeopathy and kinesiology treatments. We enlisted CST volunteers and began visiting the premises of the KOTG-hosted clinic. Today, CST has breathed new life into the clinic. Initially, the regulars tried the new therapy, and word of mouth attracted more clients. We have steadily grown and, after a pause due to lockdown restrictions, we are now back to holding two clinic days a month. CST has become a highly-sought-after offering, alongside homeopathy, kinesiology and the recent addition of acupuncture.
Many of the individuals who visit us have little to no prior knowledge of CST but, once they experience it, they become hooked! The constant flow of returning clients is complemented by a steady stream of newcomers, most of whom have been recommended by existing clients. We have visitors from all walks of life and they come in with many different stories. There is still lots of community trauma from the Grenfell Tower tragedy and we commonly see stress, overwhelm, sleep issues, anxiety and general life stresses.
Our therapies are offered to the community free of charge, though donations are always appreciated, and we operate on a drop-in basis. During a typical clinic day, we provide 25 to 35 craniosacral sessions, thanks to the dedication of our eight to 10 volunteers who offer CST in shifts of approximately four hours each. On average, a volunteer holds space for three to four treatments during their shift.
Community working brings a lovely dynamic and we are really holding a whole community healing space. Although practitioners see people individually, we share a space at KOTG with three treatment tables in one room. Occasionally, we work with children and family members together in their field by treating them in a family room. We never know who and what we will see but when you open your heart to community work beautiful things happen.
As the work can be challenging, it’s important to recognise the need for insights and support. To enable us to collaborate on various topics and provide an opportunity to discuss any challenges that may have arisen during clinic sessions, one of our dedicated volunteers recently initiated an online peer support group for our regular volunteers.
A model for community outreach
Establishing a community platform demands a significant investment of time and, while we are all passionate about extending our reach to help as many people as possible, we are also mindful of the financial responsibilities and time constraints we face in our own lives. For practitioners who wish to contribute but may not know where to begin, our organisation provides a means to give back a few hours each month, with expenses covered. It also offers an opportunity to be part of a supportive volunteer community that brings us together.
The KOTG outreach as it is today is the result of this time investment. We’ve had to be fluidic with working on many levels, with space, with other therapies, with volunteers and with the community we serve. This has enabled us to be in a position to offer a model and an umbrella for other community engagement projects. It just makes so much sense to centralise some organisation, marketing and funding opportunities.
Engaging in acts of giving back is a truly remarkable experience. It’s difficult to put into words the profound sense of fulfilment that comes from witnessing our KOTG visitors being embraced and supported in such a caring manner. As they enter our sessions, you can observe the transformation in their faces, demeanours, and auras – a heartwarming sight. The feedback we receive is incredibly positive, with numerous grateful individuals who would, without the clinics and the dedicated volunteers, lack access to this wonderful therapy. Our volunteers arrive with open hearts and have a transformative impact on everyone they help, often working back-to-back sessions to accommodate the demand. Gifting allows them to focus on their practice without concerns about “performance” and “value,” which can sometimes be sources of worry when you’re starting out and building confidence. It’s a fantastic way to gain invaluable experience and nourish the soul.
For Lizette and myself, like many others, the study and practice of craniosacral therapy ignited a deep passion within us to extend its benefits to as many people as possible. Many individuals simply wouldn’t have access to CST if therapists didn’t contribute to their communities. Striking a balance between sustaining ourselves financially and reaching those in greatest need is an ongoing challenge. By pursuing this endeavour thoughtfully, we aim to create an environment where therapists can give back and be ‘in service,’ dedicating a few hours each month without incurring financial burdens.
At the Craniosacral Collaborative we are currently busy in the process of developing our postgraduate course offerings for 2024 and a portion of the proceeds will help fund our Cranio in the Community initiatives and outreaches.
With the Cranio in the Community project we have put in significant effort to create a flexible and functional template and our vision is to witness the emergence of similar outreach programmes in various UK locations starting in 2024. We’re fully prepared to provide assistance with setup, support and resources for these initiatives under the Cranio in the Community umbrella. Currently, we are actively involved in the planning of outreaches in Brighton, Bristol and Croydon. Our objective is to secure funding that can be used to support these endeavours financially, particularly during the setup phase, with the belief that overall donations can cover location and travel costs.
We are developing a centralised marketing approach, including outreach to established charities. This approach will enable us to offer opportunities for these organisations to guide individuals to our services while also encouraging them to host their own outreaches, thereby covering location and travel expenses.
We envision expanding our offerings to include programmes in schools, youth clubs, baby clinics and hospitals. It’s important to note that the administrative work we invest is unpaid, so we are tempering our enthusiasm to manage our commitments effectively.
Who can volunteer?
We embrace volunteers from all colleges and operate as a collaborative effort, minimising hierarchy to maximise benefits. We warmly welcome fully-qualified and insured therapists. If you’re interested in becoming a part of our outreach initiatives or if you’d like to observe our work with the intention of establishing your own outreach, please don’t hesitate to contact us at CranioInTheCommunity@gmail.com.
Find more information about our initiatives, CPD courses and retreats at www.craniosacralcollaborative.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @craniointhecommunity
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the CSTA.