People who lived in Australia had access to at least some stories about Tom Bowen. Some knew a lot more. Those from the Northern hemisphere, like me, needed to evaluate what was relayed to us, and gradually reconstruct the rest. The following outlines my journey of discover. What I call Bowen Technique: Middle Ages in the USA.
The vast majority of people who identify themselves as Bowen practitioners or therapists, learned it from one source, [or rather from one lineage]. This source and this lineage was one of Tom Bowen’s students — Oswald (Ossie) Rentsch. His influence was so strong in the U.S., I’m tempted to call it the Rentsch Technique. He was not among Tom’s longest standing students, but he was definitely the quickest out of the gate and longest-traveled teacher.
In fact, in the days pre-internet and instant worldwide communication, a simpler, less comprehensive story could be told. There was Tom, the founder, and here was Ossie, Tom’s chosen successor. Not until years later did we even hear any mention that there were other students even existed.
In fact, people were so taken with this interpretation that it’s confidently referred to as the “real” or “original Bowen; and all else is considered suspect or derivative, or not Bowen at all. Also over time variously called Bowtech™, and Bowenwork™.
Full Disclosure: Ossie Rentsch was my first Bowen teacher as well. In 1992 I was among the first wave of Bowen classes, beginning in the little firehouse in Auburn, CA. As was strongly urged, I took several sessions of the training levels available, applied for and was granted Instruct and then Advanced Instructor status, and continued on to teach dozens of classes in a number of states, provinces and counties. Although it was clearly a franchise and we paid fees to represent the work, we learned to refer to it as “royalties,” as if the work were a patent.
Probably at this point, you are thinking I considered The Rentsch’s work bad or ineffective therapy. Not at all! Ossie had done something truly remarkable. What Tom’s students had spent a number of years learning and practicing, and condensed it into a set of skills that could be leaned in a few weeks of classes — even without previous therapeutic training. Yes, the training was pedestrian and somewhat Yoda-like, but the results and relief were unmistakable.
An interesting sideline with practitioners was that those who began and stayed with the Rentsch variation of Bowen, work very gently —almost militantly so. The instructions use the phrase, “eyeball pressure,” meaning never press harder than that which a client could comfortably accept on a [closed] eyelid! And wouldn’t this change the entire dynamic of the therapy? The policy was justified by the claim ghat this was exactly how Mr. Bowen worked.
All I’ll say to this is that Tom Bowen was a modern historical figure. Many of his contemporaries, students, and patients are still alive, and have good memories. Tom was sometimes delicate in his manipulations, and equally often made his subjects jump and twitch. For many reasons, including pacing and esthetics, I don’t like to be stuck in either extreme — enforced gentleness or pain for the sake of pain.
See, “Does Therapy have to hurt?”
Whatever their reasons, the other five ‘boys’ (as they were sometimes called) didn’t put a larger effort into place to spread the work for about 30 years. Without Ossie Rentsch’s somewhat pedestrian and imperfect interpretation, chances are that most people would not ever have heard tell of the wonders of Tom Bowen and his work.
Given the limited information we had, I was not an unwilling participant. Working with and for the Rentsch’s and passing on the blessing to people around the world was very gratifying. But eventually certain things began to feel somewhat off. Ossie often, in zen-like fashion urged us to “empty your cup” of whatever you had studied or practiced before, and replace it with Bowen [exactly as relayed]. Mr Bowen, he explained was such a consummate genius and intuitive healer, that we could not realistically be expected to match his abilities or results. We’d be much better off learning (as Ossie had) to imitate more and more exactly what Tom had done. “Trust the technique,” he said. Don’t try to analyze it, second-guess it, or reinvent the perfectly functioning wheel. And it did work surprisingly well, on a host of problems. It was as if there was a built-in minimum degree of success that even beginners could achieve. But what if there were a maximum benefit as well?
This was the inspiration, but eventually became the impediment to growing beyond a certain level of effectiveness. What if Mr. Bowen didn’t want his students to imitate his actions, but rather his curiosity, inventiveness, and sheer persistence?
Gradually, as more of Tom’s original students (a private and quirky bunch) were ‘outed’ and identified, and had opinions and modalities to share, it became apparent that Ossie Rentsch might have been the least qualified of the group. And a well-rehearsed imitation was all he had to offer. I offered on many occasions to teach some of the techniques and approaches I had been privately been developing, for student who had mastered the Rentch’s playbook, and was flatly denied permission: “This will ruin everything we’ve been working towards. And besides, Tom long ago tried and rejected what you only think you’ve developed.”
It was time (after a brief foray into yet another pre-programmed Bowen adventure) to strike out on my own. Just about all the new work was, in fact, mine (or recycled from previously learned theories and therapies). It became more solidified with recent coaching from Dr. Romney Smeeton, Tom’s student with, in fact, the longest-standing practice of anyone in the group.
People ask me, “Why the name change? What is this Neural Touch business?” I had watched the growth of Bowen technologies expand over time. It was so contentious, and I didn’t want to be one more combatant in the arena. I wanted some distance from the perennial battles over naming rights and ‘provable’ legitimacy. According to the National Health Service in the U.K., there is some question as to whether Tom Bowen himself could use his name for a therapeutic practice (if he were to come back to life)! I really don’t really want every conversation about therapy to begin with politics: Are you doing “original” Bowen, and if so, how can you prove it?
Thus, the birth of “Neural Touch”. It is as much Bowen; as pure and true to the teachings; as safe and effective as I can possibly manage it to be.