How does one go about learning to be an Osteopath? What does one need to know? First and foremost a thorough knowledge of functional anatomy is absolutely required (functional anatomy includes physiology in my mind). The principles governing body functions are necessary knowledge as well. Knowing those two broad topics may leave someone out in the cold if they have no exposure to actual hands-on methods. The dilemma for the Principles based teacher or practitioner is how to introduce hands-on methods without having the student taking the demonstrated method as the only way to actually apply treatment? Further to that, how does the Principles based teacher or practitioner bridge the gap between telling a student that they NEED to do something a SPECIFIC way while they are learning it to ensure safety and once they have mastered that method they are required to create their own way?
I have some thoughts on this dilemma just the same as I have thoughts on many things (I am sure that comes as a surprise in only the best kind of sarcastic way). If the “discoverer” of the profession, Andrew Taylor Still, refused to script out methods then why should anyone even bother showing a student how to pick up a limb and apply a movement which would be considered a treatment? The main reason is to ensure safety for the patient and efficiency of the Operator. Providing a student with manual methods is an exercise in developing SKILL SETS, not in teaching them how to treat. All things that humans do require time for learning, time for understanding, and usually more time to develop the ability to utilize the thing they have spent time learning and understanding. Learning how to move the body of a patient is a skill which requires development and, as such, requires diligent training. The student that receives skill training through hands-on demonstrations would be well served to take the time to truly explore the boundaries of any demonstration they are asked to work with. The student would be well served to truly find the strengths and weaknesses of the method they have been shown so that they are keenly aware of its practical usefulness. My thought, generally, is that Osteopathic education provides the student the chance to explore methods so that they have some that they know thoroughly such that, when the time comes, they have the basic skills to apply or create any method necessary for any patient.
What do treatment models provide for anyone in Osteopathy? They provide a framework to EXPLORE. The exploration of any model seems to carry usefulness when the boundaries are explored and recognized. When a model is simply taken at face value dogma begins to show up in the form of “this is the BEST model” or “the one true Osteopathy is integration”. The dogma seems to create what I choose to term “high walled Osteopathy”. My chosen term of “high walled Osteopathy” simply means that there are those in the profession who are so attached to a specific model that they develop high walls intellectually and only work within the boundaries of that model. Osteopathy is, by the definition of Andrew Taylor Still, a practical science. The theories and models have use, they are not Osteopathy. The extremely positive benefit of models to those in Osteopathy is that they provide a known quantity from which we are able to then explore the unknown. The student needs to have things that they can know and be confident in and models are perfect for this purpose. The challenge is to instill the understanding that the model is a training tool and that the real Osteopathy begins when the student has explored the boundaries of the model so much so that they are then able to venture BEYOND the model and begin finding their own methods and tools which are free from the dogma.
In the end, what am I really trying to say? It is my position (at the time of writing this) that models are great for training skill sets and to set the stage for someone to truly perform Principles based Osteopathy. The models in themselves are not Osteopathy. The models provide points from which to further investigate the practical science that is Osteopathy.