DO’s vs Craniosacral Therapists

Comparison of Osteopathic Physicians and Craniosacral Therapists

Graduate Training 4 Years Osteopathic Medical School Variable. Some have PT or massage license, but people without any healthcare training can become certified and practice CST
Post Grad Training and Practice 3-8 Years Residency Training depending upon their specialty. Then 5 additional years in practice before they are eligible to apply for certification One 4 day course is necessary to begin practicing. Two 4 day courses are necessary for certification
Licensure/Scope of Practice Fully Licensed to practice the complete spectrum of Medical and Surgical Specialties in all 50 states No state or federal licensure and no governing body
Professional Organization Dr. Andrew Taylor Still Founded the first Osteopathic Medical School in 1892, based upon the body’s innate healing capacity.In 1939, Dr. Sutherland, introduced Cranial Osteopathy, which he characterized as merely a “Contribution of thought” to Dr. Still’s Osteopathic Science. John Upledger, DO introduced CST in 1983 and chose to teach it to non-physicians. Dr.Upledger gives no credit to Dr.Still and only references Dr. Sutherland to criticize aspects of his Cranial Concept
* The Upledger Institute


The primary and most significant difference between the practice of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field and Cranio-Sacral therapy is the level of training of the practitioner. William Garner Sutherland, DO, introduced his cranial concept in 1929. Dr. Sutherland saw Cranial Osteopathy as a modality of diagnosis and treatment to be provided by licensed physicians as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. As such, it is not merely a therapy, but an integral part of the physician’s overall management of their patient’s Healthcare.

Cranio-Sacral therapy (CST) is described as a “light touch therapy” that can be provided by a practitioner with as little as 8 days of training by the Upledger Institute. The only prerequisites for entrance into the CST program are having read Dr. Upledger’s book and possession of any form of healthcare license, such as an audiologist or dietician or massage therapist, although people without any healthcare license or training are also accepted. It is left to the states in which the craniosacral therapist resides, to become aware of their practice and to develop standards for its regulation.

Dr. Upledger is an Osteopath who took courses from Dr. Sutherland’s students in Cranial Osteopathy in 1975, some 8 years before he established the Upledger Institute and published his first book on CST.  And although Dr. Sutherland’s concepts and techniques form the foundation of the CST model, it is Dr. Upledger’s contention that it was he alone who “pioneered and developed” CST. Dr. Sutherland, on the other hand, credits his “Cranial Concept” to Andrew Taylor Still, MD, the father of Osteopathy. Dr. Still, for his part, takes credit only for having discovered the science of Osteopathy, saying that “no human hand framed its laws”.