Interview with Craniosacral Therapist Michael Brightwood - Rancho La Puerta Learn about our health and safety protocols.

Interview with Craniosacral Therapist Michael Brightwood

Michael BrightwoodI first met Michael when I attended his class on Craniosacral Therapy and energy healing, which I found fascinating. I had heard about other forms of energy healing before, but I didn’t know much about it. I was also able to have a session with Michael, which was enlightening to say the least. He was able to detect a soreness and pain in my right lower arm that I didn’t even know I had, which he said resulted from carrying a heavy purse on my right shoulder and working on a computer (he was correct.) He also detected that I had adrenal fatigue, which apparently affects a lot of people these days. He was right on. I hadn’t told him about this, but I constantly feel like I have some obligation, a never-ending to do list forming in my brain. I was already feeling stressed that day (as usual,) but I tried my best to hide it. Well, I couldn’t. Right off the bat, my stress was the first thing he noticed. By the middle of the session, I began to feel calmer and, amazingly, the soreness in my arm began to subside. It’s hard to explain in words what this healing feels like, but below, you will hear straight from Michael what Craniosacral Therapy is all about and how it works. I learned so much from Michael during the class and our session. I hope you enjoy the interview on this intriguing topic.

Kate Anas: What is your background in health and wellness? How did you get interested in these subjects?

Michael Brightwood: My father was the White House physician for President Truman and his family. I remember the pride he took in being able to serve the president and his family. I thought that I too would become a doctor but, by the time college came around in the late ’60s, I had other priorities. I had already learned how to give massages so that I could trade and receive them after hurting myself on a trampoline. I pursued alternative health care interests including Shiatsu and sports massage as an avocation for many years and then seasonally in my 30’s. When I decided to go full-time into health care, I received two graduate diplomas in counseling. I tried integrating body work and counseling, but I just couldn’t get it right.

KA: When did you first learn about Craniosacral Therapy and what drew you to it?

MB:  It was during my years as a counselor that I developed Bell’s Palsy, an impingement of the nerve that supplies the muscles of the face. I looked like I’d had a stroke. My acupuncturist referred me to a biodynamic craniosacral therapist who cleared it up in one session. Having been a person who loved deep massage, to be so affected by what seemed like a “laying on of hands” was transformational for me. By Grace or Karma I was living in Devon, England where the world premier developer of this approach lived and taught. I enrolled in his school the very next year.

KA: Tell us about Craniosacral Therapy and its benefits.

MB: Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy works holistically with the three components of the mind-body-spirit matrix. It is a light touch technology that facilitates the body’s own self-healing response. Trained craniosacral practitioners can work with many kinds of physical issues, even long-term chronic or persistent pain. Likewise, restriction in motion can be resolved so there is less pain and more mobility. The practitioners can also help facilitate the resolution of emotional issues by facilitating a balance in the structures in the brain that generate limbic (emotional) responses.

The biochemistry produced by a limbic activation affects emotional and stress responses. A patient will experience feeling calmer, lighter and less burdened. In biodynamic craniosacral work, there is also the possibility that a patient can access a perspective of life, different from that experienced in going about normal activities. A fully trained practitioner can also assess certain aspects of the central nervous system, thyroid, liver, pancreas, spleen, stomach, adrenal glands and the pelvic bowl relative to overall health.

KA: How does Craniosacral Therapy differ from traditional western medicine?

MB: Craniosacral therapy originated in the osteopathic tradition. There is still a branch of craniosacral therapy originating from the Upledger Institute that uses cranial-osteopathic techniques. This approach differs from Western medicine in that it uses very light physical manipulations to effect change in the body as opposed to chemical medicines or surgical operations. Biodynamic craniosacral is more of an energy medicine. We use quantum field dynamics, the bio-electric field of the human system and fluctuations in the fluidic field of the human body. We encourage, engage and facilitate the body’s own self-correcting mechanisms with little or no actual physical manipulations.

KA: Tell us about some experiences you’ve had with this therapy and how your patients have responded to it.

MB: At Rancho la Puerta, I usually see guests just one time. Occasionally people will come back for a second and third visit during the week. About 70% of the people can tell that at least something beneficial has happened. For another 20%, it takes until the next day; but most people report either less pain, more mobility or a sense of emotional ‘lightness’ depending on why they came in. In my private practice, I encourage people to give me three chances for them to notice a change, because there are a number of factors that might limit one’s ability to notice change: 1) Their system is depleted, tired or stressed. 2) Their body awareness is constrained. 3) The shift was so slight that it might not be noticeable.

KA: How is energy medicine being used to help ailments today?

MB: There are many energy medicine modalities. Acupuncture, Reiki, sound therapy, color therapy, Shiatsu, and craniosacral therapy are all in the category of energy medicine. X-Rays and radiation therapy are also kinds of energy medicine. Even the purring of cats near healing bones has shown a quickening of the healing process. Most common modern ailments will respond to energy medicine of one kind or another.

KA: What can a guest expect in a Craniosacral Therapy session with you?

MB: Less pain, more ease of mobility, less stress, less burdened by emotional issues are many of the most common responses to one session. The guest can also see if they respond to the approach to health. I can then refer them to a practitioner near where they live. What can someone do in their daily life to enhance the healing they receive from Craniosacral Therapy? Reduce Stress through meditation and/or diaphragmatic (yogic) breathing, Yoga, laughing or taking a walk in bare feet.

KA: Where do you see energy healing heading in the near future?

MB: Non radiation energy medicine is only about 1% of current health care in the U.S. In Europe it has more of a presence. I feel it is at the cutting edge of what will be more accepted and more widely used in the future. The use of laboratory medications has it’s limitations. It’s interesting to listen to the list of side effects on medicines advertised on TV. It’s not uncommon for one of the last in a long, quickly spoken list to have ‘death’ as a side effect. In the U.S., 100,000 people die each year from the proper medication given for the proper diagnosis, in the proper dosage. As far as I know no one has died from a craniosacral therapy session. I have helped scores of people avoid surgery for pain. I know of hundreds of returning Veterans with PTSD who have been helped by craniosacral therapy. In some counties in Europe, craniosacral therapy is part of their national health program. Acupuncture and Shiatsu have thousands of years of clinical usage. If and when the American Medical Association is removed from ‘road-blocking’ complementary medicine, there will a chance to utilize non-invasive, non-harmful approaches to health. In the near future, it will be a hard slog.

KA: Any last words about health, wellness and Craniosacral Therapy?

MB: There are many integrative medical doctors who have learned about treatment outside of pills for symptoms. Many of them refer patients to complementary health care. They acknowledge the body-mind-spirit unity of the human condition. As more and more people accept that there are many pathways to health, just as there are many roads to disease, there will be an increased demand for complementary health care that includes craniosacral therapy and other energy medicine modalities.

KA: What’s the best way for our readers to contact you?

MB: My email is

KA: How can our guests make an appointment with you at the Ranch?

MB: While at Rancho la Puerta, you can dial either 625 or 640 from any Ranch phone. In advance, people may call the health centers or the concierge directly.

KA: Thank you so much for your time, Michael. And for sharing your expertise with our readers!