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  • Jim Gilkeson

The Multi-Handed Healing Team

(Note from long ago and far away—10 years ago at Harbin Hot Springs):

One of the most compelling regular events in my week takes place on Friday mornings in one of the warm pools at Harbin Hot Springs. There, I join with a small group of fellow practitioners and we work together on a single individual. Sessions range from deep dives into still, meditative spaces to wild, at times hilarious, all-hands-on-deck dynamic releases, sometimes alternating between extremes in a single session. Though we do this in the water, multi-handed healing work is truly “amphibious,” as it is very effective both on land and in water.

You will probably have to get away for a moment from the image of the weekly trip to the massage therapist to take in the notion of multi-handed healing. Though not without structure and some common understandings about what we are doing, our sessions are very open-ended as to what emerges in them. Fascinatingly, each of the sessions has a clear beginning, middle and end, but these are unknown to us as we wade in to meet the person we work with. When we move into this more open-ended style of working, we open the door for processes to emerge from deep within the individual and it is here that therapy and healing work takes a turn. The therapist becomes a facilitator in the truest sense of the word, namely as one who makes the (already existing) process easier.

In the case of our Friday morning group, all of us are experienced therapists, each specializing in various sub-specialties in healing work, ranging from aquatic bodywork like Watsu and Healing Dance to craniosacral work, Trager and Zero Balancing and all kinds of release techniques. All of our modalities, however, seem to vanish when we work together, as our client’s process comes into the foreground and leads the way. In this way, our multi-handed work is non-modality-bound, and therefore free to move with our client without any of the strictures of the thinking that goes with following a protocol or adhering to a style. Carl Jung said that, ideally, a new therapy is created with each new client and each new session, and this group work is definitely in that category.

A Revival of an Ancient Healing Practice

It does not require much actual exposure to multi-handed work to realize that this is one of the most powerful forms of hands-on healing work. In the right setting, and at the right juncture in a healing process, it is the ideal approach to meeting and treating the whole person. The caring attention and skilled touch of a group of healers unquestionably speeds up processes of release and transformation. People who receive multi-handed work are often startled at how quickly and how deeply they encounter their resistances and then move through them into the kind of release that leads to renewal. One of the beauties of multi-handed work for the practitioner is that all the skills you have developed in being present, meeting, supporting and following the process at hand truly get to come into the foreground.

There is a great deal of precedent in the world of healing for multi-handed practice, especially from eras before modern notions of “therapy” and symptom-management were invented, when healing practice was seen as a ritual act intended to re-align the individual with the forces of Heaven and Earth. The healing temples of antiquity are said to have had, as a matter of course, both male and female healers working in tandem, quite often within a circle of other healers who directed healing energy into the ritual.

In pondering what it is that makes multi-handed work so powerful, I am drawn again and again to the huge role played by awareness in energetic healing. In a normal one-on-one bodywork session, whether it is massage, craniosacral work, energy healing, or some other specific modality, awareness is increased, typically in one or another area of the body, and then another. This awareness gradually extends to heightened awareness of the receiver’s whole body and system. Multi-handed work accelerates and greatly amplifies this effect, since there are more hands in more places at the same time. A well attuned group can effectively attend to the person on a variety of levels simultaneously, and the skillful healing team knows how to graduate this so as not to overwhelm the individual under their hands. Still, there is no getting around the fact that more energy and awareness is going into the process when a group of healers is involved. The subconscious cooperation of all involved is key to the process, and once that is truly in place, the potential of the healing and transformative process has virtually no limit.

I have had several phases in my career in energy healing when I have had the opportunity to explore multi-handed healing work. My first hands-on healing sessions as a healer in training were done in tandem with an experienced healer. I have since taken part in healing involving prayer and the laying on of hands in a ritual setting and worked with teams of four in advanced craniosacral work, both on the table and in the ocean. In my teaching, I make the experience of group work a part of my classes in subtle energy therapy.

The resurgence of my interest in these forms coincides with my awareness that there is an increasing need for healers in general, and also for multi-handed work like this. I believe this may be one of the best ways to work with certain forms of trauma. One of the truly inspiring, though unfortunately short-lived, programs for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder using multi-handed therapies was conducted by the Upledger Institute for Viet Nam veterans. The before-and-after documentation from this program is quite convincing. It is a shame that the program ran out of funding, and I would bet that the veterans who participated would agree. Another instance known to me is that of multi-handed groups that traveled to New York City and worked with people there in the aftermath of 9/11.

It is my intention to offer opportunities to work in small teams. These will be three-day retreats in which I will present a framework for working in small teams. Mornings consist of instruction in working in small bodywork teams, as well as work around the previous day's sessions. Afternoons would be spend doing multi-handed team sessions.

The next multi-hands healing retreat is scheduled for early October, 2018. If you would like more information about these retreats, please contact me.

For now, however, I am off to Italy for three weeks. Diane and I will be teaching and offering private sessions at Sasseta Alta, an eco-resort in southern Tuscany.

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