I recently came across the ‘Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy’.

Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy?


I know what osteopathy is but what exactly is a ‘cranial college’?

Perhaps they mean ‘Sutherland College of Cranial Osteopathy’?

Anyway, they explain on their website that:

Cranial Osteopathy uses the same osteopathic principles that were described by Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy. Cranial osteopaths develop a very highly developed sense of palpation that enables them to feel subtle movements and imbalances in body tissues and to very gently support the body to release and re-balance itself. Treatment is so gentle that often patients are quite unaware that anything is happening. But the results of this subtle treatment can be dramatic, and it can benefit whole body health.

Sounds good?

I am sure you are now keen to become an expert in cranial osteopathy. The good news is that the college offers a course where this can be achieved in just 2 days! Here are the details:

This will be a spacious exploration of the nervous system.  Neurological dysfunction and conditions feature greatly in our clinical work and this is especially the case in paediatric practice. The focus of this course is how to approach the nervous system in a fundamental way with reference to both current and historical ideas of neurological function.  The following areas will be considered: 

    1. Attaining stillness and grounding during palpation of the nervous system. It is within stillness that potency resides and when the treatment happens. The placement of attention.  
    2. The pineal and its relationship to the tent, the pineal shift.
    3. The relations of the clivus and the central importance of the SBS, How do we assess and treat compression?
    4. The electromagnetic field and potency.
    5. The suspension of the cord within the spinal canal, the cervical and lumbar expansions.
    6. Listening posts for the central autonomic network.
Hawkwood College accommodation

Please be aware that accommodation at Hawkwood will be in shared rooms (single sex). Some single rooms are available on a first-come-first-served basis and will carry a supplement. Requesting a single room is not a guarantee that one will be provided.

£390.00 – £490.00

29 – 30 APRIL 2023 STROUD, UK
This will be a spacious exploration of the nervous system. Neurological dysfunction and conditions feature greatly in our clinical work and this is especially the case in pediatric practice.


You see, not even expensive!

Go for it!!!

Oh, I see, you want to know what evidence there is that cranial osteopathy does more good than harm?

Right! Here is what I wrote in my recent book about it:

Craniosacral therapy (or craniosacral osteopathy) is a manual treatment developed by the US osteopath William Sutherland (1873–1953) and further refined by the US osteopath John Upledger (1932–2012) in the 1970s. The treatment consists of gentle touch and palpation of the synarthrodial joints of the skull and sacrum. Practitioners believe that these joints allow enough movement to regulate the pulsation of the cerebrospinal fluid which, in turn, improves what they call ‘primary respiration’. The notion of ‘primary respiration’ is based on the following 5 assumptions:

  • inherent motility of the central nervous system
  • fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid
  • mobility of the intracranial and intraspinal dural membranes
  • mobility of the cranial bones
  • involuntary motion of the sacral bones.

A further assumption is that palpation of the cranium can detect a rhythmic movement of the cranial bones. Gentle pressure is used by the therapist to manipulate the cranial bones to achieve a therapeutic result. The degree of mobility and compliance of the cranial bones is minimal, and therefore, most of these assumptions lack plausibility.

The therapeutic claims made for craniosacral therapy are not supported by sound evidence. A systematic review of all 6 trials of craniosacral therapy concluded that “the notion that CST is associated with more than non‐specific effects is not based on evidence from rigorous RCTs.” Some studies seem to indicate otherwise, but they are of lamentable methodological quality and thus not reliable.

Being such a gentle treatment, craniosacral therapy is particularly popular for infants. But here too, the evidence fails to show effectiveness. A study concluded that “healthy preterm infants undergoing an intervention with craniosacral therapy showed no significant changes in general movements compared to preterm infants without intervention.”

The costs for craniosacral therapy are usually modest but, if the treatment is employed regularly, they can be substantial.


As the college states “often patients are quite unaware that anything is happening”. Is it because nothing is happening? According to the evidence, the answer is YES.

So, on second thought, maybe you give the above course a miss?

6 Responses to Cranial osteopathy revisited

  • As the course is only 2 days, it seems there’s a spelling error in its description:

    “This will be a spacious specious exploration of the nervous system.”

  • Ah, wacky Stroud!

    Hawkwood college is part of the Steiner empire here in Stroud. I’ve previously mentioned them in connection with all manner of scam and pseudoscience, not to mention their generally unneighbourly behaviour. They also own the now closed Wynstones Waldorf school currently on sale for a rumoured £4m.

    • Socrates, You mentioned Stroud being one of the Steiner centres of the UK here:

      Hawkwood College has a Wikipedia article:

      Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking [Hawkwood CFT] is a registered charity and independent centre for education in a 19th-century Grade II listed building, on 42 acres of grounds, including gardens, pastures, woodland and a natural spring overlooking the Stroud Valley in Gloucestershire, England.

      No formal qualifications are needed to participate in Hawkwood’s courses.

      Founding of Hawkwood CFT
      In 1947, the house was sold to Roland and Lily Whincop. Mr and Mrs Whincop had become interested in Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy and, after being deeply moved by a visit to Sunfield Homes at Clent Grove, Worcester, where they experienced the quality of care and devotion given to the Special Needs children there, wished to found some kind of retreat for the staff of the home and for others who wished to withdraw for a time to write or study. At a conference in Wynstones School they shared their intention and were told that the Hawkwood estate was up for sale. On their way to take up residence there, Roland Whincop suffered a stroke and died three days later.

      During a conversation a month later with Margaret Bennell, co-founder of Wynstones school at Brookthorpe, whom Lily Whincop had come to know at the Wynstones conferences, the two women found they were both looking for a new direction. Margaret Bennell wanted to branch out into adult education and establish a further education college in accordance with the principles of Rudolf Steiner — a place where young people could experience an inner awakening and come to an understanding of life. Lily Whincop is reported to have stated, “I have a house, you have a plan,” and on that day, 20 November 1947, the initiative was taken. Hawkwood started with 12 students at Easter 1948, one of them Eileen Brooking, who was later to become vice-principal, and on 28 March 1949 opened officially as Hawkwood College which was later rebranded as Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking in 2019.

      In the next years students came from many countries of the world, the education changing the lives and outlooks of a large number. Lily Whincop died at the age of 70 in 1957 and Margaret Bennell entitled the obituary she wrote “The Mother of Hawkwood”.

      To begin with, Hawkwood offered a year’s course including most aspects of anthroposophical endeavour such as natural science, social science, agriculture, architecture, medicine, world religions and so on. Soon it began to offer English language courses for foreign students and for English teachers, as well as weekend and week-long courses on anthroposophical topics and enrichment courses for teachers. A group of specialised guest lecturers supported the work as well as people such as Benedict Wood, another founding teacher of Wynstones, Armyn Wodehouse and others.


      Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Training A two-year part-time training course based at Hawkwood. Course organiser Lynne Oldfield is author of Free to Learn: Introducing Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Education. The course is a validated Level 5 diploma.

      School of Homeopathy Established in 1981, it has been based at Hawkwood for a number of years.

      Waldorf College runs outdoor activities at Hawkwood for its Stroud-based Bridging the Gap educational programme for young people aged 16–19.

      Stroud Community Agriculture is a co-operative of two hundred members managing an organic/biodynamic farm in the grounds.

      • Yes, Stroud along with Totnes is a Steiner centre. There are around 30 various ventures based here covering all aspects of the woo spectrum. There’s biodynamic stuff, schools and kindergartens, therapy centres of various sorts, cafes etc. There’s a whole valley full of rundown fish farming and ‘educational’ horticultural whatnot. You can get anthroposophical medicine, eurythmy and karmic healing. And various Camphill institutions.

        Alongside all the bullshit you have a very valuable property empire much of it funded by public money. I’m quite prepared to accept that many of those involved are well motivated but the institutions are all controlled by a hard core Steiner cult who exploit their workers as much as their clients.

        Despite all this Stroud is a great place to live.

  • Stroud is indeed a lovely place to visit and there many hotels that offer a better rate for a two night stay. If you pay £400 for a shared room you need your bumps felt. Oh wait. I understand now.

  • I recall that when the self-agrandised ‘College of Medicine’ held a conference at London’s Mansion House (Nelsons, the homeopathic remedy manufacturers being a sponsor), permission was granted by the Lord Mayor whose wife was a ‘cranio-sacral therapist.’
    She graciously gave the opening address.

    With so much need for healthcare to be given with integrity I despair at folks proclivity for unevidenced tripe, piffle, balderdash and poppycock.
    But it’s a free country…

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