What will happen in my first appointment?

Before your first appointment, we can talk on the phone or have an in-person consultation to address any questions you may have. We can review session times, office locations, parking, fees and payments, and what to wear during your session.

You will receive a health questionnaire after you schedule your appointment and we will start your first appointment with a review of the questionnaire. This will include a summary of your medical history and current and chronic problems you are having.  We will be sure I understand what you hope to achieve through the Rolfing Structural Integration process so that your expectations are realistic.

After this review we will do a brief assessment of your body’s movement patterns while walking and your patterns of balance and imbalance while standing and lying on the table.  I will talk with you about the patterns that I observe during your assessment. These compensations are usually obvious enough so you can see them when you are at home. You may not have observed them yourself only because you haven’t know what to look for.

Then we will get started with the first Rolfing session. Our work will always be based on your history, complaints and the patterns we found in assessment.

We often end this first appointment as we do later sessions with a few exercises and stretches you can use daily for a few minutes to help advance your realignment process between appointments.

Why the 10-session Rolfing series?

Dr. Rolf designed the 10-session series as an orderly process that effects the alignment of the whole body and integrates the way of all of the body’s segments work together.  Working in the series allows us to devote earlier sessions to working in the surface of the body, middle sessions to focusing on the deeper layers and later sessions to integrating the work we have done surface to deep and from segment to segment.  10 sessions seems to be the number we need to get this integration work accomplished.

The Rolfing 10-session series can be divided into 3 groups that work with different layers and segments of the body in a carefully designed sequence.

  • Sessions 1-3 are concerned with work in the surface layers of the body.  Opening and organizing the surfaces makes it easier for us to release and organize deeper layers in the second and third groups of sessions.
  • Sessions 4-7 are concerned with organizing and re-patterning the deeper layers of soft tissues and the relationships between segments of the body. It is the changes in these deeper layers and relationships between segments that create long-term changes for the entire body.
  • Sessions 8-10 are concerned with connecting and creating communication between the deep and the surface layers. This increases our ability to move from our deep layers with increased comfort, ease and grace.

Do I have to take all 10 sessions?

When clients call for a first appointment, some of them have the idea that they want to “sign up” for the whole series, some have a specific complaint they want help with and some want to try out Rolfing before deciding whether they want to go further.

I have worked for many years with these two formats; working with clients in the 10-session series developed by Dr. Rolf and working with clients in a problem-solving orientation to address their specific problems within a series of a smaller number of sessions.

When you call to make a first appointment, I will suggest that you think about coming for 2 or 3 appointments before committing to the 10-session series.  This will give you a feeling for the Rolfing work, the kind of benefits that you can expect and whether Rolfing is a good fit for you at this time.  

How is Rolfing different from massage?

When my clients ask me about these differences, I tell them that most of the difference between Rolfing and massage is the way that we assess a body’s functioning in gravity, standing and moving and our understanding of the specific work we can do to improve that functioning.  When I say specific, I mean that we plan to move specific layers and soft tissue structures in specific directions in order to change functioning of a local part of the body (for example, plantar fasciitis, a stiff and sore neck) and how those changes will contribute to whole-body function and alignment.  Our plan for sequencing work within and over sessions includes what we need to do to approach change in that local area and what we need to do to sustain change in the whole body.

Clients also ask whether they should continue getting massages. I strongly support massage for most of my clients.  I am happy to refer to massage therapists and other body therapy modalities when needed – acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy – in Evanston and in Chicago.

Will the changes I get from Rolfing last?

The changes to our bodies from Rolfing are long lasting.  I am always delighted to work again with a client I haven’t seen for months or years and find that their bodies are still supple and relaxed from the earlier Rolfing work.  When we have corrected your alignment and released restrictions in your tissues, you will not tend to reestablish the patterns of tightness and compensation that brought you to my office.  

Photographs Rolfers have taken of their clients show that the changes from the basic Rolfing series are still present many years after the series is complete.

What about my bad habits? Won't they undo the benefits I received? Can I learn more about improving my posture?

Rolfing is more than the direct work on your body.  The work we do on the table will be complemented with coaching to help you establish new patterns of movement and new postural habits that will help you maintain and expand the alignment you achieve.  We work together to find out when  and why you use your “bad habits” and then we work, in sessions and with homework, to develop new patterns of movement and posture that will support your improved alignment.

Very commonly, clients report that as they progress through a Rolfing series they notice that their old habits have become uncomfortable and that they have started paying attention and avoiding them.

With most clients, I do not try to prohibit or inhibit a habit but rather work to expand the repertoire of movements they have to chose from and help them to make more useful choices.  I believe we should be about expanding our repertoires, not constricting them.

An integral part of the Rolfing™ process is establishing a new base of support that will help make your “bad habits” unnecessary.

Does Rolfing hurt?

When your chronic achy tightness is released, you feel much better. The pressure I use to allow that release can be uncomfortable, however this discomfort is stops as soon as I stop pressing.  Sometimes you will have the familiar uncomfortable feelings of old injuries and traumas as we are releasing the tissue involved with those insults. The remembrance of your past trauma is usually limited to the time we work with that specific part of your body.

The question, “does Rolfing hurt?” is usually linked to Rolfing’s reputation as a painful process. This reputation has its roots in how Dr. Rolf taught the first practitioners and Rolf Institute faculty. In those early days, 1960’s and 1970’s, Rolfers were taught to use enough pressure to feel that they were “moving” the client’s fascia. Rolfers stuck with that method because they could see the immediate changes to alignment and patterns of compensation. Since then, Rolfers have worked steadily to preserve the quality of the results while finding ways to make the process more tolerable. This is possible as we deepen our understanding of the body’s systems so that our work is increasingly more specific and effective while requiring less pressure.

During our first appointment I always let the client know the importance of interrupting if the work we are doing is too uncomfortable. Too much discomfort reduces benefit because your nervous system loses the flexibility needed to adapt to the structural changes that we are asking it for.

Will Rolfing™ affect me psychologically?

Many clients say that the Rolfing™ process gave them relief from psychological blocks that were tied up in their physical patterns of tension. When the physical patterns of tension get released, there can also be relief of patterns in the psyche. Beyond this idea of release, Dr. Rolf taught that when we help establish a stable foundation and flexible structure we are providing the basis for a self-confident and competent individual. Robust physical functioning gives support to healthy psychological development.

What is this fascia that Rolfers talk about?

Discussion of Rolfing Structural Integration often refers to how Rolfers “manipulate the fascia”. Very often when clients show up for their first appointment, they want to know what we mean by “fascia”. When Rolfers talk about fascia they are referring to the mass of connective tissue fibers in our bodies. This mass includes the tendons and ligaments but more importantly, includes the layers that wrap and separate every muscle, nerve and organ from the “whole muscle” level, like the wrapping around our bicep muscle down to the wrapping around each muscle cell, nerve fiber or blood vessel in that bicep muscle.

The fascias provide a smooth, low friction environment where muscles contract and relax and organs can move, slipping over their neighbors and not dragging those neighbors along.  It wraps around bony surfaces, creating attachment surfaces for tendons and ligaments and holds the body's organs in place.

The fascia create a supportive and movable environment for nerves, blood and lymph vessels as they pass through and between muscles.

I have included a page with some pictures of fascial layers. These photographs are taken from a human cadaver dissection. Not everyone will want to look at them. If you are interested and want a clearer picture of what I’m referring to, click this link