Transformation - the Nature of Structural Integration

We all know what transformation is, right? It?s when the kissed frog turns into a prince, or when I finally win the lottery and I can do what I really want...

But surveys of major lottery winners show that within five years they usually have less money (and happiness) than before the jackpot. And although I?ve seen lots of tadpoles turn into frogs, I?ve yet to see a frog turn into a handsome mature man.

So, what is the nature of transformation and what is its relationship to bodywork?

I went to a Structural Integration practitioner for my back problem. Certainly my back did improve but what I wasn?t prepared for was that my life would be turned completely upside down. I slowly began to realise that my personal relationship and my career were destroying me. It was as if my practitioner touched this magic spot in me where I saw and knew what was really happening. Then she supported me through my uncertainties and pain as I found my new way, my new self. Structural Integration was a total transformation for me!

The enormous life changes that clients continue to experience keep drawing me back to a deep consideration of ?what is this Structural Integration process?? How can we account for the fact that a client who receives deep tissue bodywork and movement repatterning with a practitioner who speaks with them about what is happening in their body and their life will make huge changes, like leave an abusive partner, switch careers or follow their dreams ? in short, transform their life?

The Oxford Dictionary defines transformation as:

1. changes of state such as when water becomes ice.

In Structural Integration our pressure and movement changes the state of the connective tissue matrix, rehydrating and shifting fluids in our 70 precent-water-body to a new balance and integrity.

2. A change of form such as the change from caterpillar to butterfly.

Clients with a collapsed structure who find new alignment and an exciting sense of support and vitality certainly experience a dramatic change in form.

3. to reduce or increase the voltage of a current.

Clients often describe post-session results as energising and revitalising. Others who have too much tension and pent-up energy may experience a calming and refreshing effect.


I believe that we are most successful as Structural Integration practitioners when we are fulfilling the role of shaman or a facilitator of healing, and it is in the initiation of the 10-session Structural Integration series that the client experiences transformation.

For Robert Moore, Jungian analyst and author of King, Warrior, Magical, Lover, there are three factors in transformation:

1. The presence of the ritual elder. In our work the initiated practitioner has this role.

2. understanding of initiation. Classically initiation occurs in sacred space with some kind of ritual wounding. In Structural Integration the wounding could be seen as touching the unconscious hurts of the past or experiencing the pain, physical or otherwise, that is part of us.

3. Sacred space. This is outside everyday reality, a high-energy awareness bubble. In Structural Integration sacred space is the relationship we create with our client and the atmosphere of the physical place where we work. Warmth and compassion have the power to create safety and allow previously unconscious material to surface.


Says More: Effective transformative initiation slays the ego and its desires in the old form to resurrect it with a new subordinate relationship to a previously unknown power.

From an Integrative bodywork perspective, the client?s realisation of his responsibility and his desire to participate in the healing and body/mind consciousness process is the force that carries him to the core of his experience, and the possibility of transformation. As one client said: I feel like an absentee landlord returning to my body to put it in order.


According to Ron Kurtz, founder of the Hakims method of psychotherapy, transformation happens in the zone between structure and flexibility. If there is too much structure there is no freedom or room for transformation; if there is too much flexibility there is not enough safety for transformation.

A basketball team in top magic form is the epitome of structure and flexibility. The intuitive teamwork is not an intellectual experience. It is faith and trust in action.

Says Kurtz: It may be that the transformation begins with the client accepting a new belief, a belief like: I?m okay the way I am. Or it may be that the transformation begins with expressing something, like anger or love, something that the client has a habit of holding back. Then in the safe, comfortable setting of therapy, the client experiments with her new options. The client studies her options, noticing their effects.


Studies of the therapeutic experience show that after client motivation, the second most important factor in success is the ?person?of the therapist and the therapeutic alliance. The impact of this has been found to be eight times greater than the actual therapeutic techniques employed. The powerful conclusion is that the essence of the therapist ? their authenticity, wakefulness, warmth, compassion and understanding ? may be 90 percent of the effectiveness of the therapy.


Zhabotinsky and Beluzhov found that cells placed in different areas of a laboratory dish and left alone will alter from pulsating at different rates, coming into alignment and pulsating together. This can happen between practitioner and client. The practitioner, who vibrates at a high level of awareness, compassion and knowledge of the inner teacher and healer, can begin to elicit the same awareness in the client.

The moment of transformation depends on all parts relating to each other. The wholeness and integrity of the Structural Integration series is an effect of the psychophysical communication that we set up between all parts of the body through the work.


Laboratory experiments show that monkeys deprived of touch at an early age experience neurosis and brain damage. I believe that western society is largely touch-deprived. Receiving Structural Integration gives a high potency touch dosage for the neuromyofascial body. It is nourishment for the body, mind, heart and soul.

An Italian scientist presenting a transformative model to a group of bodyworkers noticed interesting behavioural changes in animals that experience an endorphin rush (endorphins are the body?s natural opiates).? In nature this rush happens in extreme situations where an animal faces pain or possible death. After an endorphin rush was induced, it was much easier to shift old ingrained patterns and get the animals to take on new behaviours.

The deep touching if the periosteum around the bone elicits a similar endorphin neuropeptide cocktail in a Structural Integration session. This stimulates learning and allows for changes of deep behaviour patterns.


In my teaching experience and in private practice my evolving model of the mechanism of transformation is this:

The first requirement for transformation is personal readiness; an awareness of the need for healing and a readiness to be healed. Without this there can be no transformation.

Transformation occurs in sacred space (a state of heightened awareness) when a core belief (an attitude or decision around which we are organised, like if I show my my vulnerability people will take advantage of me) is touched in present time, in consciousness, and a felt experience and a new possibility (like I can feel vulnerable and safe ? at least here for now) is perceived by the individual. Just envisioning the possibility may be enough. Transformation happens as our desire or will couples with the vision of the new possibility and enables us to begin to create a new reality.

Some clients come seeking relief from acute or chronic pain. Some want to explore new possibilities of posture and movement. Others want nothing short of total transformation. But it seems that whatever the initial motivation, the Structural Integration experience is always transformative ? for the client and the practitioner ??

Sol Petersen is a Structural Integration trainer based in New Zealand. He is the director of Mana Integrative Therapies and organises MYO and Structural Integration trainings in Australasia and Europe.