GHN — Water not only sustains life on this planet but also is a healing agent. The healing quality of water is gradually becoming known to people and today we have aquatic therapy, or aqua therapy, as a form of treatment for various illnesses. For the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs, Michell Spoden talked to Stephanie Dutton about aqua therapy. Dutton, 58, is owner of Aquatic Therapy & Specialized Swim Instruction (ATSSI), and the creator of swimming with The Mind/Body Awareness Program.
Michell: Stephanie, please tell us where do you work?
Stephanie Dutton: I work in several places; Cleveland OH, Harrisburg PA and Tring, Hertfordshire in England (North London).
Michell: What is Aqua Therapy and are there different types of such therapy?
Stephanie Dutton: Traditional Aqua Therapy consists of exercise in water, working toward improving the physical problem. My Aquatic Therapy sessions are helping the client connect the mind and body, and working toward healing from the inside out. There are also different versions of Watsu being developed all the time. One of the most common is Water Dance and Healing Dance which involves you being gently submerged underwater. It incorporates movement based on those of aquatic animals – dolphins, etc – rolls, shapes, and dance positions. You may also come across Free or Free Flow Watsu which is an even more flowing and nurturing form of the therapy which increases relaxation and movement.
Michell: How long have you been an Aqua Therapist?
Stephanie Dutton: More than 25 years ago, I qualified in England with the ASA as a swimming teacher. In 2000, I qualified as a Watsu, Ai Chi, and Healing Dance Practitioner.
Michell: So how long has this type of therapy been around?
Stephanie Dutton: Harold Dull, BA, MA, created and started to develop Watsu in 1980. In the years since, Dull has continued to practice Watsu as well as teach it to others. He established, and is the president of the Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA), which oversees the training of Watsu practitioners around the world.
Michell: Let me ask why someone would choose this type of therapy over another for recovery.
Stephanie Dutton: Not all traditional therapy helps the mind and body to heal and relax. Watsu is a unique form of bodywork that combines immersing the body in warm water with traditional Shiatsu massage. The water can help the mind and body to heal in ways we never imagined… in body, mind, and spirit.
Michell: What kinds of illnesses are able to receive this type of therapy?
Stephanie Dutton: Dr Andrew Weil tell us that the working premise of Watsu is that water takes weight off the vertebrae. Watsu is also said to help decrease muscle tension and promote a deep state of relaxation. It has been shown to increase mobility and flexibility, decrease stress, reduce pain and promote better sleep. Health concerns that have been successfully treated by Watsu include injury to the spinal cord or brain through trauma, stroke, or a degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease; arthritis, back and neck pain, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain states; and mood disorders such as generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Watsu has also benefited patients who have undergone surgery and have subsequently developed post-operative pain or limited range of motion.
Michell: Can this type of therapy be done in any kind of water?
Stephanie Dutton: Watsu can take place in any form of water, providing it is not cold.
Michell: What kind of training does a person need in order to be an aqua therapist?
Stephanie Dutton: The Worldwide Aquatic Bodywork Association (WABA) is an educational non-profit organization that oversees the training programs for Watsu practitioners as well as establishes guidelines for certification. It authorizes Aquatic Bodywork courses, programs, providers, practitioners, and instructors and maintains their authorizations and transcripts. There are core requirements specified by the WABA, with additional requirements based on state and local laws.
WABA specifies training in massage techniques such as Shiatsu or Tantsu in addition to the 16-hour basic course and the three 50-hour courses that prepare the Watsu professional. A total of 500 hours of WABA-approved classes and supervised sessions are required for full certification.
Michell: Does aqua therapy work only for people or is it also helpful in case of pets or animals suffering from some kind of illness?
Stephanie Dutton: As far as I know, it is only for humans.
Michell: Has there been any recent scientific research to validate the effectiveness of this kind of therapy for people and/or animals?
Stephanie Dutton: Dr. Andrew Weil recommends Watsu – http://www.drweilblog.com/home/2011/7/25/what-is-watsu.html. A summary of the current scientific evidence-base for Watsu® cites only five studies. This post looks at the conventional approach to research and asks how we might expand our study models and conceptual frameworks to encompass all that is healing in aquatic bodywork. Read more at http://www.aquapoetics.com/2011/06/watsu-research.html#ixzz28FhlhCBD and http://www.livestrong.com/article/521564-watsu-water-therapy/.
Michell: Thank you very much Stephanie for participating in this chat!
About the Interviewer
Michell Spoden is a survivor of a cold case rape case and author of the book Stricken Yet Crowned. She has an associate’s degree in Business Science Administration and is presently working on her Bachelors in Project Management.