The Practitioner-Client Relationship & the Phases of Motion

The Client-Practitioner Relationship

Do you ever wonder why you relate differently to each client that shows up in your treatment room? Of course, personalities (ours and theirs) play a big role, as well as circumstances, conditioning, expectations, etc. But there is another, rarely identified reason for why we vary our approach in working with each client: the phase of motion that is currently prominent in their body. In other words, the amount of life force flowing through someone’s system determines not only how we do bodywork with them, but how we relate to them. Most of the time this is done unconsciously; by doing it consciously we can interact in ways that promote effective treatments.

The 3 Phases of Motion & Treatment Approach

If you have studied Shin Tai work, you have heard about the ‘phases of motion’ or ‘phases of resonance’ that are broadly delineated as Phase I, II & III. Motion throughout the body reveals the internal life force and healing power that is flowing through someone’s system. We learn to identify specific motions that indicate restrictive forces are releasing and the life force that has been trapped is circulating more freely.

These motions can quite general, such as increased breath amplitude, or very specific, like lateral rib motion. They are broadly grouped into 3 categories, I, II & III. Identifying the dominant phase of motion at any time during a session becomes a guideline for how the practitioner applies technique.

The motion in the receiver’s body is an effective guide for how to work in order to give an effective, efficient session. For example, if there is ample motion in the thoracic/cervical spine, and ribcage, but little movement in the hip structure, the practitioner may work to mobilize and align the hip joints and sacrum so that motion/life force can distribute down through the pelvis and into the legs.

In our last article we mentioned that when there is less motion in the body, the practitioner needs to do more hands-on, physical techniques in order to introduce adjustments in the body. We are initiating change from the ‘outside - in.’ As movement increases, indicating release of compressive forces, the client’s own inner life force begins to do the ‘work’ of the treatment more. Now the practitioner gives less physical input. For example, a vertebral adjustment during Phase I motion requires more time and a deeper touch that one done during Phase II/III resonance.

Using motion in this way is quite unique in the bodywork world and one of the things that makes shin tai work so effective. Although being aware of motion in a general way is common, it is another thing to go into it with such detail and use it as a framework for how to proceed during treatment. This capacity of the practitioner to perceive motion in this way helps to amplify life force deep within the body and heightens the potential to introduce deep change. Applying this principle of identification and perception of motion to the client-practitioner relationship can increase efficiency and effectiveness in a similar way.

Motion & the Emotions

Dealing with client interactions before, during and after treatments can have quite a learning curve. Usually bodywork training focuses on theory and technique, without much education on how to relate to those who will show up in your treatment room. It can be one of the most challenging parts of doing treatments and one of the main factors in building a thriving practice. We would like to offer insight into using the phases of motion as a tool to better navigate interactions with clientele.

During pre-phase I/phase I motion, a person’s body is in a more restricted and dense state. The hara may feel like it is in separate ‘pieces,’ with some areas being tight and others very loose. The spine feels rigid with little wave motion into the head or down into the legs. When the body is in this condition, the emotional and psychological state is usually in a similar state expressed at these other levels: more separate and polarizing, rather than synthesized and functioning together.

Opinions might be strong and defensive. People and situations and the overall world view is seen in a polarized fashion with little room for open listening. Perceptions and beliefs tend to be more narrow. Because there is literally less space in the body, there is usually less ‘space’ in the emotions, beliefs and perceptions. As a practitioner, you can use this awareness to guide your choices in how to interact with the people who come to you so that you can work more effectively and enjoyably with them.

The Practitioner-Client Relationship…. or is it?

Phase I

Some clients will come to you with a list of symptoms and a litany of explanations and questions. They want a condition cured so that they can get on with their life. Perhaps they have a herniated disc in their lower back or menstrual issues or migraine headaches. The symptoms or diagnosed condition have the focus of their attention and are usually a large part of the conversation.

They relate to you like a traditional medical practitioner or doctor, wanting to be ‘fixed’ and then requesting a ‘prescription’ afterwards that will keep them well. They are in a painful place and really need assistance. They do not necessarily want to change any behaviors or lifestyle choices at this point. They see illness/pain as something that comes from outside themselves and that needs to be eradicated. There is little motion (of the type we define as Phase I-III) presently in their body. The short leg tends to stay on one side. This is a ‘Phase I’ client.

It is important to relate to this person as a client/patient as that is a framework that feels the most comfortable to them. Keep a professional attitude and firm boundaries. Make an appointment and call it a treatment. Speaking in terms of anatomy and western physiology will make more sense than going into a monologue about lung energy, the role of diet in reproductive health, or chakra balancing. Have them fill out an intake form and go over their health history briefly.

In other words, use your style of dialogue to connect with and open the door to treatment in the same way you use bodywork technique. Just like you will be using more mechanical technique, use more deliberate and focused language grounded in familiar terms. It is important that you direct or lead the dynamic in order to keep it moving. When they ask ‘When should I come back?’ give them a clear answer as to what you think will serve them best. If you say ‘Come when you think you need it’ they will most likely not make another appointment.

Phase II

People that show up in your treatment room with a degree of involvement in self-care regimens, such as exercise, meditation or whole foods cooking will most likely have understanding what bodywork can offer. They understand that it that can assist them in regaining balance and vitality and that it is a process. The mind/body/spirit connection is a familiar concept. They already have a measure of movement in their system and can move into Phase I & II motions during treatment. The short leg is sometimes switching back and forth during sessions. This is a ‘Phase II’ client.

The relationship with this person can be more of advisor-receiver. You can be more of a facilitator while they are a receptive participant. They are usually interested to hear some things about shiatsu diagnosis or nine star ki. They won’t be uncomfortable with the mention of energy and want to know more about how their body functions in ways they may not have heard before. In the same way that you apply technique with a lighter touch and less ‘input’ when there is Phase II movement in the body, you will most likely have less verbal dialogue and give less input. Listening becomes more dominant in your role, with your hands and your heart. No need to be the leader all the time here. If they ask you about the next appointment, give a general suggestion and encourage them to begin to listen to their own inner guidance as to when would be best for them to come again. Since their system is becoming more clear, they will be able to access more accurate information themselves.

Phase III

Working with someone who moves easily into Phase III resonance on a regular basis usually occurs with a client who you have been treating for a period of time, or with a fellow practitioner. At this point the relationship is becoming one of co-creators. You are collaborating on a shared venture of frequency expansion. You no longer even seem like separate people during treatment, but more like a synthesized energy field going on a journey to expand, explore and create. The short leg regular shifts back and forth and leg length check becomes implied rather than biomechanical. Little physical input is required to initiate adjustments in the system for stretches of a session. This is a ‘Phase III’ receiver.

When this person arrives for a session they often lay down without much preamble and leave afterwards without much need to talk. The atmosphere shift that occurs during treatment is affecting the way in which you relate, making verbal conversation (which is at its root more linear) less necessary or desirable. Information is exchanged at other levels much more effectively. Sometimes you may mention other consciousness fields or influences that are participating in the treatment. Alignments are occurring at higher vibrational levels, making certain experiences that used to seem extraordinary more commonplace. There is deep engagement in the process without extreme emotional responses or attachment.

The Phases are Dynamic

Of course, each person with whom we work is not always in one phase of resonance. They will expand and contract into different phases of motion as layers of compression release. This occurs within each session and also over longer periods of time. Being a bodywork practitioner necessitates a constant process of focus so that you can adjust how you relate with and treat the people who come to you. Before, during, and after sessions it is important (and enjoyable!) to bring awareness to what is happening and how to best proceed.

Identifying phases of motion both physically and emotionally/psychologically is not meant to be judgmental in a negative way. It allows us to move more clearly in how we relate to the people who come to us for bodywork and create a positive experience. It requires awareness and ongoing application. You will make ‘mistakes’ and have interactions that don’t go so well. You may realize at times that the way you handled a discussion led to a client going elsewhere. At a wider perspective, this is part of the process you are each involved in and the best thing to do is keep learning without getting down on yourself about it. As we work with others to free up life force in their bodies this will also affect and expand our life force, allowing an ongoing experience of learning and energy to unfold.


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