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Avadhan Larson: What TBS1 & SER2 Bring Us

Could you tell us a little about your background and what first got you interested in – and then committed to – CST?

I began my career as an acupuncturist in 1979. I kept hearing about this mysterious modality called CranioSacral Therapy and I was intrigued. One weekend I received a massage at a local health spa and at the end of the session the therapist did two amazing things that dramatically changed my state both physically and mentally. (I didn’t know it at the time of course, but she did an OCB release and a CV4 still point.) I got off the table afterwards and said, “What was that?? Wow!” When she replied, ‘CranioSacral Therapy,’ I began looking for a course.

A few weeks later I enrolled in a CST1 class in San Francisco and midway through the first day I was “hooked.” I knew then that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I’ve been practicing CST now for 32 years, and teaching for 23. And loving every minute of it!

What is the history of the TBS class from Dr Upledger’s point of view and your sense of what was important for him when he developed it?

Dr. John developed TBS during the first new wave of neurobiological research that emerged in the ‘90s. It was (and continues to be) a very exciting time of exploration during which we really began to realize as a scientific community that what was known about the brain was not just the tip of the iceberg, but rather more akin to a molecule of frozen water on the tip of that iceberg! Because of his interest in and success with Therapeutic Imagery and Dialogue he decided to use it to explore brain functioning: “Why don’t we just ask the brain and its parts how they work and what they do?”

From that beginning, the TBS class emerged as an exploratory adventure of discovery. The class has continued to develop over time, however, and has since emerged as a kind of ‘brain overview’ class from a CST perspective. We use all the techniques of CST: palpation, listening, arcing, following tissue, as well as our dialogue skills, with an emphasis on palpation, evaluation and treatment. We learn brain anatomy from a thorough but experiential perspective, much as we learn about the anatomy of the craniosacral system in CST1 and 2: we learn how to evaluate the brain and the brain parts, recognize dysfunctions and then treat them very effectively with CST.


How did you come to be involved in it and why?

I took the first TBS1 class with Dr. John. It was the most exciting and fun class I had ever taken! Years later, when I began teaching it, I wanted to explore more efficient ways of communicating the material, however. Students would usually love the class, but confess that they didn’t use it in their clinical practices because they got overwhelmed by the amount of information and anatomy, and intimidated by the early emphasis on dialogue. So along with the other instructors I changed the approach we were taking, grounding it in palpation and treatment skills, including dialogue where needed, but relying much more on palpation and manual treatment approaches.

We also broke the class down into more digestible parts, working in pairs like in CST1 and 2 and taking a systematic tour through the brain, working with just a few structures at a time during each lecture/demo/practice. We have found that as a consequence students leave TBS1 with skills and knowledge they are able to apply in their clinics right away. And of course they do so with phenomenal results! As CSTs we work successfully but indirectly with the brain and CNS every day, but when we begin to address these structures more directly our clinical results are dramatically improved.

What do you feel are the key things students take from this class and bring to their clients and practices?

Much more effective treatment of head injuries, seizure disorders, hormonal imbalances, migraines and headaches, neurodegenerative illnesses, and so many other things! What we don’t discover until we begin working with these structures is that often the brain dysfunctions are primary, and once they are addressed many other things resolve more easily and completely, including many bony and membranous lesion patterns.

Since Avadhan will also be teaching SER2, we asked:  What is your take on the SER2 class and what do you see as being most important for the students at this stage?

For me, SER2 is where we really get to play with and explore the potential of the work. CST1, CST2 and SER1 are the 3 Foundation classes. In them, we learn all the basic ‘tools’ and techniques of CST, including being introduced more deeply with each class to the essential CST paradigm.   

In SER2 we refine, deepen and explore all of these things, not just Therapeutic Imagery and Dialogue. Of course we DO also work further with TI&D because what we learn about dialogue in SER1 is really just an introduction and is necessarily presented in a simplified way.

Many students don’t know this, but SER2 didn’t even exist when I and some of the longer-time students went through the curriculum. Fairly early on, though, Dr. John realized that the majority of students needed more than one class to begin to feel comfortable with the use of TI&D. And, as we hopefully learn in SER1, good dialogue skills are based on a foundation of  accurate perception of arcing, the significance detector and palpation of tissue responses, so we work with refining and deepening all of these skills in SER2.

How important are the different psychological approaches included and how did they get to be incorporated in this way?

Just as in structural bodywork we need to use anatomical “maps” of the body to guide and inform our palpation and treatment, the field of psychology has developed many different maps of the psyche. Our CST paradigm emphasizes that there are no divisions between body, mind, psyche, spirit and emotions. They function as one, on a continuum, and deeply influence one another. So it is necessary for us to have some working understanding of these other aspects of ourselves and our clients, because everything we do influences every other aspect. The three psychological roadmaps that we choose to work with in SER2 (primarily Gestalt, with some input from Jung and psychosynthesis) adapt very well to our CST paradigm, or are in deep harmony with it.

How do you think students know when they are ready for this class?

I think a student is ready for this class when they have completed the requirements and practised the skills of CST1, 2 and SER1 extensively. We usually recommend a minimum of six months of practise after SER1, but really it depends on how much and how deeply a student is practising those skills. In SER2 we want a student to feel relatively comfortable with all the material from these earlier classes so that they can develop it further. Of course there is always some review in all the levels, but the review in SER2 is intended to be deepening and broadening, rather than remedial…!   


Thanks so much Avadhan. We are really looking forward to seeing you in Brighton in March and showing you some of the sights in between classes!