When Dr Susan Hillier was a young hospital based physiotherapist, her boss noticed that she was not entirely engaged by her work. She had the foresight to suggest that Susan attend a workshop about something new called ‘The Feldenkrais Method®’. She went along to that workshop and another. She recalls being amazed to realize that “I lay the floor, did a few weird movements, nobody touched me but I felt so much better when I got up.” She then discovered that driving home was easier – she had instant power steering.
Later, intrigued by her experience she joined the first Melbourne Professional Feldenkrais Training program in 1988. Carrying residual pain and limitations from a serious car accident, she initially saw this as a personal insurance policy to help her cope with the physically demanding Physio work she was involved in. Later, when the local Feldenkrais practitioner moved interstate and left her practice to Susan, she really began to discover the potential of the work. This busy practice brought challenges and opportunities to work with a wide variety of people.
The approach she had learned in the Feldenkrais Training gave her a new and more encompassing way to look at people’s movement. She felt it gave her whole strategies rather than a collection of techniques to help them. She found that she had clear guiding principles that made sense to her scientifically and she was much more comfortable taking an educational approach rather than a purely treatment-based one.
“People were not sick,” she says “but needing help to learn how to do something better.” In her practice she works with people who are recovering from neurological damage, people with chronic pain and movement disorders. Often they have already been through the system and tried all sorts of interventions before they get to her. Whilst initially some would like to find the magic pill, treatment or therapy to help them feel better, “They intuitively know they need to learn to be different from how they used to be. They need to learn new ways of functioning in the world. What I really love,” she says “is that this works puts the locus of control firmly in their domain. They discover that they can be the cause of their improvement and with this insight, anything is possible. Although I bring my skills, experience and willingness to help, change is their responsibility.”
When she worked as a Physiotherapist, Susan found that the patients expected her to fix them. Now she is able to create situations where her clients can experience change at a real physical level and ways they can continue the journey of discovery themselves. She is no longer concerned about measurement of range or strength but working together, her clients find creative solutions to their real interests of functioning in the world. They find ways to tie their shoes, roll over and get out of bed. They reduce their anxiety about pain or balance and develop confidence in their own resourcefulness.
Susan practices in Adelaide and now as a Certified Feldenkrais Trainer shares her experience with others wanting to learn the Method.