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Bellingham Osteopathic Center

Comparison of Osteopathic Physicians and Craniosacral Therapists


The primary and most significant difference between the practice of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field and Cranio-Sacral therapy is the level of training of the practitioner. William Garner Sutherland, DO, introduced his cranial concept in 1929. Dr. Sutherland saw Cranial Osteopathy as a modality of diagnosis and treatment to be provided by licensed physicians as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. As such, it is not merely a therapy, but an integral part of the physician’s overall management of their patient’s Healthcare.

Cranio-Sacral therapy (CST) is described as a “light touch therapy” that can be provided by a practitioner with as little as 8 days of training by the Upledger Institute. The only prerequisites for entrance into the CST program are having read Dr. Upledger’s book and possession of any form of healthcare license, such as an audiologist or dietician or massage therapist, although people without any healthcare license or training are also accepted. It is left to the states in which the craniosacral therapist resides, to become aware of their practice and to develop standards for its regulation.

Dr. Upledger is an Osteopath who took courses from Dr. Sutherland’s students in Cranial Osteopathy in 1975, some 8 years before he established the Upledger Institute and published his first book on CST.  And although Dr. Sutherland’s concepts and techniques form the foundation of the CST model, it is Dr. Upledger’s contention that it was he alone who “pioneered and developed” CST. Dr. Sutherland, on the other hand, credits his “Cranial Concept” to Andrew Taylor Still, MD, the father of Osteopathy. Dr. Still, for his part, takes credit only for having discovered the science of Osteopathy, saying that “no human hand framed its laws”.