Bowen Therapy – What Is It?

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Bowen therapy was designed by Tom Bowen, born April 18 1916, died October 27 1982. He developed a remedial technique that was designed to offer patients pain relief and faster healing times.

He seemingly came across his technique by accident, and little is known of exactly when he started to use his techniques. For many years he was a labourer and general hand at the cement works and only later became a full time therapist.

He was untrained and self taught with no real experience of body work and started his practice from the room of a friend in Geelong, Victoria Australia.

Much of his work was within the community and he was awarded an honorary medal by the Victorian Police Service in recognition of his services to the Police Department.

In 1975 the Victorian Government Inquiry into Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Naturopathy reviewed Tom Bowen’s work. He personally told the Webb Commission that he was seeing some 13,000 people a year and achieving a success rate in his practice of over 80% of presenting conditions.

He applied in 1982 to the Chiropractors and Osteopaths Registration Board to become a registered Osteopath, but was turned down.

A headline in the Geelong Advertiser March 31 1982 read ‘Red Tape Ties Healing Man’s Hands’ accompanied by a photo of him treating a disabled 6 year old child.

Bowen claimed his technique was “a knack” he possessed, which he ‘supported over the years by studying books containing information relevant to osteopathic.’Bowen failed in his application on the third condition of professional competency an assessment based on verbal questioning rather than examining how the therapist treated.

At the time, he was still claiming to treat up to 40 clients per day even having already lost one leg and died on October 27 that year, after surgery to remove his other.

Although it was suggested that this was due to diabetes, he had never been tested for this and as a heavy smoker it is more likely that this was a contributing factor.

His technique was observed by a few men one morning a week, one of whom subsequently went on to teach his version of Bowen’s work.

Variations of this, bearing the Bowen name are in widespread use throughout the world, although disputes still inevitably arise as to who holds the true legacy of the Bowen work.

He was survived by his wife Jessie who died in 1995 and three children, Barry, Pam and Heather.

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