Matthew Kirsch L.Ac, LMT, Cert VSCW, FOUNDER
Licensed Massage Therapist
Certified Visionary Craniosacal Therapist
Diploma Asian Bodywork Therapy
My brother is three years my senior and as he prepared to make his leave to college for law school, questions turned to me as to, “do you know what you want to do.” Randomly flipping through channels on the television, I came across a movie and an interaction between a physical therapist and his patient that connected with me and I thought, “that is what I want to do.”
Coincidentally my high school just launched their School to Career program, where a high school student can shadow a professional in the community in their career of interest, and so for once a week for the next two years I shadowed a physical therapist and physical therapy assistant in private practice.
They had one rule and one main gift to teach me, “Don’t be afraid to touch,” and this is the first place I learned how to make a good therapeutic contact.
I was accepted to the 5 Year Graduate of Physical Therapy Program at Quinnipiac College in Connecticut. During my first year, my chronic digestive issues escalated. I had already transformed my body from being an overweight child to someone active and fit (and even today I weigh the same as when I was 12 years old), but diet and emotional holding still needed work. I began receiving regular acupuncture, and became more interested in books in the college library on alternative medicine than my undergraduate physical therapy books. Radical Healing by Rudolf Ballentine and Get Healthy Now by Gary Null were transformative.
In the summer break following my first year of Physical Therapy, I took on a job as a physical therapy aide in a clinic heavily intertwined with insurance, where I helped to move two people every 10 minutes through their treatments, and was miserable. It felt like the drive-thru of care to me, and looking back I can now clearly see how each therapy station was set up to satisfy a specific code to maximize billing and income, instead of maximizing what the person needed to heal as an individual. Concerned this would be my future and having been very much helped by acupuncture, I took a flight to visit the Academy of Oriental Medicine in Austin.
The first class I sat in was in nutrition, and to be honest I did not resonate with the teacher, and coming from a large college to such a small school so far away from home literally felt like a leap I wasn’t prepared for, so I was about to leave at the break, or you could say I was about to “make a break for it” but as soon as I moved the person in front of me turned around and introduced herself as Rivers Sterling.
Rivers was not a student, she was a teacher sitting in the class to observe the class (as teachers at AOMA do this to reflect to each other on teaching methods). Rivers taught an elective class called “The Healer’s Presence,” and her specialty was craniosacral therapy, the form of manual therapy I most observed and fell in love with during my initial shadowing of the first PT office. (She received her name while being a River Guide in Colorado, when a young boy called her Rivers the whole time, and it stuck).
I knew I needed to study with her.
I withdrew from Quinnipiac, packed my things, and headed to Austin, where I would spend the next four years and over 3,000 hours earning my Master’s in Oriental Medicine. During this time, I concurrently entered a two year apprenticeship with Rivers who taught me craniosacral therapy, perception with roots in Native American Healing and Shamanism, and the deep of art of listening. At the end of the two years she encouraged me to begin formal studies with her teacher of craniosacral therapy, third generation Scottish osteopath, Hugh Milne.
Over the next 7 years I would take annual journeys to California to study with Hugh Milne of the Milne Institute for Visionary Craniosacral Therapy, continuing to learn more ways to help the brain and spine decompress, the body to unfold, emotions to unwind and to listen to what truly troubles the person before me.
While in the 1,000 hours of the clinic portion of my acupuncture training, there was little to do once the needles were placed for the patient. We saw one patient per 90 minutes which left plenty of free time, so I began to stay with each patient, applying and practicing the craniosacral therapy during their needle retention, and this gave birth to how I now practice – one person at a time, one hour at a time, combining acupuncture and advanced manual therapy.