The guiding principles established by Tom Bowen

The movements

The movements used in Bowen therapy are very distinctive and are used on precise points on the body. It involves moving the soft tissue in a particular way. It’s a rolling type movement using the fingers, hands and/or elbow, depending on the area being worked on. It creates focus for the brain by stimulating the nerve pathways and tissue. The movement uses the slack of the skin to move the tissue underneath. Each movement will only cover a small area, depending on how far your skin can move. Typically, it’s no more than two to four centimetres.


Tom Bowen found that he could utilise certain parts of the body as reference points for other procedures or movements. For example, the entirety of the spine can be seen as a shock absorber for the body. So some parts of the spine will become stressed – typically the convex and concave of the spine’s curve. Tom Bowen named the movements in these areas blockers or stoppers. Even though they don’t really block nor stop, they do give an area to focus on when treating, so the given name isn’t too inaccurate.


Tom Bowen was a very observational person. He could see when parts of the body were subtly imbalanced, so he could then begin treatment quickly. Once he started what now has been dubbed Bowen therapy, he would leave the room for a few minutes before returning to check how the patient’s body responded. This would determine if anything else needed to be done.

The principle of resting the body for a couple of minutes is vital as it starts the process of repair. The length of time between procedures will differ from client to client. The breaks, however, can be hard to master as they are one of the most difficult concepts to learn as a Bowen therapist. Even though breaks are one of the least understood principles of the therapy, they are considered the most important as it’s the time when the repairing starts.

Avoid other alternative treatments

One of the key principles of the therapy is that it’s the individual’s body that’s doing the work, not the therapist. So for this to take place, the body needs time to recuperate. This principle isn’t stating that other therapies are any less effective than Bowen; it simply needs time for the effects to process. If you treat each therapy as a specific radio signal, you would be asking a single radio to pick up two stations at once. There would be a lot of interference.