In my heart as an NKT Movement Therapist, I want to help my clients move better, live more fully, and thrive. This means helping them change the way they move in life and through life on fundamental levels. Until this past year, however, I often felt as if something were missing from my practice. Clients would leave my office after a massage therapy session feeling great, but return within a couple weeks with the exact same pain complaint. Something was missing.
I took NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) Level One in June 2013. I was completely wowed by this modality of movement assessment and therapy. I immediately realized that NKT was the missing link in my practice with clients. Integrating it into my existing work, however, has not always been an easy or elegant process.
After the Level One workshop I felt totally overwhelmed. NKT completely crushed any concept I had about my identity as a therapist and what I had been offering to my clients. Don’t get me wrong–this was a good thing. It meant I was being pushed to grow, which I appreciated, but as with any new challenge it was not an easy pill to swallow. For the first three months, I felt depressed. My ego was crushed. I felt like the dumbest kid in the class. It brought up insecurity, frustration, and fear. In essence I was being pushed to let go of an old self-created concept of my Self and embrace something entirely new. This was scary.
Something I understood early on was that I was learning something entirely new and foreign. When I could surrender the ego expectation that I should immediately be an expert, I realized that “of course” I wouldn’t be very good at this at first. Like a toddler learning to walk, I had to invest my time and patience practicing, studying, experiencing, and learning.
This is what I did
1. I sent out an email to my friends offering free sessions. I knew for the first several months I could not practice this new modality in a paid session. At the time, NKT was a skill I did not own…yet. As much as I needed the practical experience of integrating NKT into my work, I also needed the confidence in my own ability before I could fully give to paying clients. So I offered 6-10 hours of NKT free each week, and continued to maintain my regular practice. This gave me the freedom to completely suck. I could experiment! If I got stuck or had a question, I could use my book or computer as a resource.
2. I found a mentor and a study group. I hadn’t even left New York before I sent Austin-based Jedi Master NKT therapist Joseph Schwartz an email asking to meet. Within a couple of weeks we started a monthly study group with some other new NKT practitioners in the area. Joseph has proven to be a fantastic mentor; he has about 20 years of experience working with NKT and is one of the most intelligent movement/bodywork therapists I’ve ever met. It has been years since I worked with a mentor, and to have one now is such an amazing gift. Studying with another, more experienced practitioner is invaluable and has furthered my learning process at a tremendous speed.
3. I started studying anatomy. (Again.) I quickly realized that what I knew about anatomy–more specifically, movement anatomy–was grossly inadequate. I bought new books and apps on anatomy and movement for my phone and Ipad. Besides using these regularly as a learning resource for myself, I now use them as a teaching tool with clients as well. The greatest gift I’ve received from NKT is a reinvigorated love and desire for learning.
4. I went to the Level Two workshop within three months of Level One even though I wasn’t 100% confident in my Level One material. This was huge. Level One is an introduction to NKT. It’s kind of like learning to write by focusing on just the alphabet. Level Two really brings NKT into a larger movement perspective. For me it was going from the alphabet to complex sentence structure, paragraphs, outlines, and essays. Taking Level Two brought the Level One material into greater context. I came back from the Level Two workshop with the confidence to start truly and fully integrating NKT into my practice.
5. I assisted a Level One workshop. The first workshop I took was taught by the founder of NKT, David Weinstock. The second Level One workshop was taught by Dr. Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain. Taking the workshop a second time was great on many levels. First and foremost, it was easier to digest the material since I was already familiar with it. Also, when you assist you get to teach, and teaching is a wonderful way of learning on a deeper level. The best part of re-taking the workshop was the opportunity to learn from a different teacher. Each has their individual way of instructing, and I learned a ton from both. With each workshop, it was as though I was able to climb inside their head and witness their NKT thought process in action.
What I’ve learned along the way
NKT is a door into another world. It is less a modality in and of its own and more of a connecting link between the worlds of movement assessment, traditional physical/manual therapy and movement therapy. It is not teaching an isolated paradigm, but providing a way to shift all former paradigms into a new wholly integrated therapeutic movement outlook. You don’t become a better movement therapist by learning NKT. It is not simply another modality of treatment to add to an existing practice. You become a better movement therapist by integrating what you already know with everything you continue to learn through the lens of NKT. It is this aspect of NKT which has reignited my passion for learning.
This concept is what most excites me. I have been shown a door into a new level of learning, and I feel challenged to learn. I have never felt so passionate about what I do. In the past seven months since the Level One workshop, I have learned more than in my previous 15 years of practice, and I’m a smart guy. This stuff is that powerful. And I’m still barely cracking the surface. (That’s exciting!)
My suggestions for new NKT therapists
1. Practice, Practice, Practice! Don’t introduce NKT to your clients until you have the confidence that you can provide a valuable service by integrating this specialized skill. For some this will take weeks. For others, months. If you introduce something new that you don’t fully know, you will lack the confidence to do it well out of fear of failure. You need sessions in which you can give yourself the freedom to be a complete failure at NKT. This is the only way you will become successful. A session with a paying client is never a good time to practice. They pay you for a skill, and like me at the beginning, NKT is not a skill you own…Yet. Take the time to get there. Offer free sessions to your friends and family. Get as many hours in each week as you possibly can.
2a. Join a study group. Find others in your area who have begun to study NKT, or who have been practicing for a while. If you live in the boonies, drive for hours to get to one. If all else fails, find an online study group. This is where you will refine your testing and touch skills. During the sessions, ask questions of each other, get worked on, make mistakes. Most importantly, learn.
2b. Find a mentor and be a willing student. The most successful people practicing NKT, such as Thomas Wells, Perry Nickelston, Kathy Dooley, Joseph Schwartz, David Weinstock, etc are still students. They may be NKT teachers and instructors, but they are still actively learning students as well. Without a mentor your potential to grow is stunted. Find a mentor to study under, and trade sessions with them whenever possible. Pay for their sessions if you have to. Each week, I drive 45 minutes out of town to work with my mentor. We trade sessions and then do movement work. I walk into his place like a sponge ready to absorb; I leave feeling like I’ve doubled my knowledge and understanding.
2c. Re-educate yourself with anatomy and movement. This is what NKT is all about — helping your clients feel and move better. If you don’t understand what healthy movement is supposed to look like, it’s going to be hard to teach it to your clients.
3. Take the Level Two workshop. This is an investment in your growth as a professional. If you follow the above advice, by the time you get to the Level Two workshop you will be ready enough. Things will begin to connect.
4. Take the Level One workshop again. If you get your certification after your first Level One, you can assist subsequent workshops for FREE. (Minus the cost of your transport and lodging of course.) Taking it a second time will allow you to absorb so much information that you missed the first time–when you perhaps didn’t even realize you were missing anything.
Where I’m at now
As I explained previously, my first three months after NKT Level One were rough. I felt like I was fumbling around in the dark quite a bit. But somewhere along the way things began to shift. Between practicing, study groups, working with my mentor, and taking additional workshops, lightbulbs began to turn on. Things started coming slowly together, connections began forming. Once I started working with clients, the shifts came even faster. Over the past several months, NeuroKinetic Therapy has completely evolved my practice. I now offer it almost exclusively and have seen some amazing results with clients suffering from long term chronic pain.
This was my experience learning NKT over the past several months. I hope you find these explanations and suggestions helpful in the process of discovering NKT for yourself.