Feldenkrais, The Guild and “Professionalism”

"For Seneca, the Stoic sage should withdraw from public efforts when unheeded and the state is corrupt beyond repair. It is wiser to wait for self-destruction." - Nassim Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

I have been thinking of the quote above in relation to the Feldenkrais "guild system." I take the somewhat pessimistic system that the guild system is not amenable to change and that even if it were, spending my time and energy to help fix it would likely not pay off financially. I have a great number of projects that take up my time. For example, learning Spanish, blogging, and learning how to effectively use DEVONagent and DEVONthink Pro. I can literally spend all week working on those things - finding it very satisfying - and not making even a dollar. To spend time organizing against the Guild or for change within it? It pays even less than nothing.

Though, I still admit a certain fascination with what has happened to "the work" after Moshe's death. And to spending much time thinking about the insanity of the entire system and what could either change it or replace it. Something that reminded me of the insanity was a recent quote on the FeldyForum by Feldenkrais "Trainer," who is otherwise a very intelligent and well-spoken individual. He wrote:

"For some, maybe this work is best suited for personal development, and not as a profession."

At first glance, I had a hard time disagreeing with that statement. It seems rather innocuous and undoubtedly true. But as I thought more about it, I started to remind myself of what Feldenkrais professional training programs really are. They are licensing schemes. Pay your money to a guild certified Feldenkrais training program, attend classes and you will get the opportunity to pay to use the trademarked terms, Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, ATM®, and Functional Integration®, amongst others. That is essentially it. Pay your money, get the trademarks.

There are no meaningful standards for enrollment in Feldenkrais training programs other than the ability and willingness to pay. One does not need any particular background or qualifications. There are no meaningful standards for graduation. There is virtually no practicum nor supervised practice. There are no internships, few jobs available, little name recognition.

After 30+ years of this system, neither the guild nor any of its associated organizations nor trainers can point to any meaningful evidence of its own effectiveness nor the ability to launch practitioners into practice. And again, the Feldenkrais trainer above notes that: "For some, maybe this work is best suited for personal development, and not as a profession."

I wonder if he includes himself and his fellow Feldenkrais trainers in that category? He is likely a very skilled individual when it comes to giving Feldenkrais sessions. But does he or his friends have any evidence of the success of their training programs or graduates? Perhaps I should change his statement to give a different flavor being a Feldenkrais Trainer might be best suited for someone who wants to do it for personal development and not as a profession.

Sure Feldenkrais Trainers are good people. They mean well. I assume at some level they believe in what they are doing. But they are not held accountable for any particular outcome, or indeed any outcome at all.

Perhaps you think, I am being too harsh in my assessment?

What if medical schools were run like Feldenkrais programs? That is if anyone could enter med school as long as they could pay. If they had no evidence of competence of graduates and no internships and jobs available. People might be enraged and offended. But wait! Here comes the medical school professor to explain it: Not everyone is meant to be a medical doctor. Surely not. But would that explain away the incompetence of the medical school?

I think not.


  1. A couple of years ago a friend of mine who was studying Osteopathy told me her school wanted to create the best possible practitioners, in order to give the school a good reputation. Her teachers wanted their students to surpass their own work.

    And I thought, what a shame, I just finished my Feldenkrais training and have a feeling that I just went through the opposite logic.

    I have a feeling that knowledge is either withheld or at least some teachers pretend they know a lot, make students insecure and perfect docile customers.

    A friend from Holland told me that after research it came out that only 7% of Feldenkrais practitioners in Holland where doing it professionally.

    And when I questioned an assistant trainer, who was organizing a training, about the fact that only 30% of students , that finish a Feldenkrais training worldwide practice Feldenkrais professionally after, she laughed and told me that if their are 20% it’s already a very high number.

    I can’t waste time changing the system, let’s create, as you proposed in the past, different more efficient ways of learning.

    I still believe some of my Feldenkrais teachers are very good but their in a system that does not work.

  2. I have nothing unique or far seeing to add. Basically, I agree with you. Never thought about personal development on an emotional/psychological level, but do know that for me Feldenkrais was a more gentle way for my bodys to begin to ease its way out of patterns and knots. It was up to other modalities to help to resolve some muscler-skeletal issues. That made me angry at first as I’d counted on The Method to resolve all addressable physical issues. Perhaps it could have if I had had the money to pay the few practitioners I had heard were brilliant. Instead, I searched for physical therapists who were also Feldenkrais practitioners so that my health insurance would pay all or part of their fees.

  3. The statement you mentioned (“For some…”) was in the context of a conversation where this trainer maintained that his education and credentials as a physical therapist were irrelevant to his success as a Feldenkrais practitioner. His believing that just absolutely boggles my mind.

    Having a rigorous background in anatomy, physiology, pathology and how to interpret research strikes me as clearly relevant to the daily practice of a Feldenkrais Practitioner. Even if you choose not to utilize the interventions and various schools of thought within mainstream PT, there is still an incredibly important basic science foundation that trainings do not require, provide, or even encourage (in my own training, an in depth knowledge of A&P seemed discouraged because it would promote “reductionistic thinking”).

    Aside from the educational advantages, there are visibility issues. People have a general idea of what a PT does. No one knows what Feldenkrais is, and interest in it continues to decline. There is much more positive regard for PT as a profession. Physicians will refer to you. You don’t have to have an awkward “felden-christ?” conversation with every potential client (say you’re a PT and save your specialty for later) . You don’t have to convince someone you’re not a member of a cult right off the bat.

    [ASIDE: If you want people to believe that you are a member of a profession and not a cult, then you should not spend a whole week celebrating the birthday of your Guru thirty years after he died.]

    And then there’s just the basic economic advantages. You can accept insurance and Medicare. This drives decision making for a lot of people. If things go poorly, you can pick up some per diem work while getting a practice up and running. You don’t have to live in poverty or depend on a benefactor for 15 years while you establish yourself. You have a lot of bodies on which to practice your manual skills.

    Being a PT is helpful for a multitude of reasons. Maintaining that it’s not and that your success is rooted in your own artistry and sacrifice…well, I think that’s a lie, and it’s cruel to people who don’t have those credentials and struggle with obstacles you don’t have to deal with.

    But I believe that this trainer really does believe what he says. He has to. Once you’ve been making money off the training system for a while, and you see the throngs of failed practitioners and failing practitioners, you have to ask yourself “What am I doing with my life? Am I taking advantage of these people’s trust?”.

    It would take a steely resolve to answer that honestly. Most people let the cognitive dissonance bail them out: I’ve succeeded and these other people who’ve paid me to train them haven’t…It must be that I have some inherent artistry and they don’t. I must be willing to suffer more and longer for this craft than they are.

    Because otherwise, you are a fraud. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

    ***note: i just reread this and see the harsh tone of it. I’m generally a happy guy these days and excited to be moving forward with the profession of physical therapy (which has slowly been and will continue to adopt the useful insights of MF, adding to them and leaving the rest behind). The guild system is a dysfunctional backwater and thinking about it dredges up all sorts of emotions. Your utah blog helped me confirm my suspicions about the guild pretty early on, and it saved me an enormous amount of time and suffering. I think that’s why I feel compelled to write about this. To let those few lonely souls out there know: You aren’t the crazy one.

  4. Hi Mac – Thanks for the comment. Your writing may have felt harsh, but I didn’t feel harsh to me when I read it.

    Amongst the many things that you mentioned that I agree with, having a categorization that makes sense to people and that they already have positive associations to , ie. “Physical Therapist” can go a long way towards building a practice and name recommendation. In the English-speaking world anything of than “Feldenkrais” would be an improvement.

    And virtually any type of Master’s degree or other post grad training can help someone positions themselves and their work within the larger history of ideas and science. Moshe, unlike many of the Guild Trainers, was deeply versed and skilled in many different scientific areas. The work did not jump out of his head fully-formed.

    Much more, I could say, perhaps more later.



  5. Hi Lisa – Thanks for commenting. I had a similar experience with emotional and anxiety-type issues. In 2009, I began doing 2-3 Feldenkrais sessions daily, as many days as possible, in the belief that I could “finally” work myself out of some issues. Two years later, I started having the nagging feeling that Feldenkrais simply was not going to help me and that I need to look else where.

    When I bumped into Peter Levine’s work and the work of Pat Ogden, I realized that I had traumatic experiences and chronic fear responses that Feldenkrais was not helping me with. And I have slowly but surely begin to deal with them, very gently,bringing more of myself “online”and in the present moment. And interestingly enough, like the work of Moshe, the various body-based trauma treatments are process-based, non-judgemental and very respectful of the individual and his experience.

    Getting back your comment, I hope more practitioners get licenses and such to help people who need to use insurance.

    I hope you are doing well out there.


  6. Hi Mac – I just want to add that I do not partake in these Feldenkrais Awareness weeks and celebrations of Moshe’s birthday for the same reason. It feels a bit too “culty” to me. One year, 100’s of practitioners put a picture of Moshe as their profile picture on Facbook. yuck! I think I will pass on that.


  7. Thanks Robert. I agree whole heartedly with the two statements below and will do my best to keep them in mind:

    I can’t waste time changing the system, let’s create, as you proposed in the past, different more efficient ways of learning.
    I still believe some of my Feldenkrais teachers are very good but their in a system that does not work.



  8. All so called board certifications are intended to establish monopoly of practice. In the case of medicine, only certified doctors can issue prescriptions, honored by insurance, etc. Same thing with Feldenkrais practice(in this case the use of trademarks, etc). The difference is that with medicine you have all the books to read about it. Anyone can understand enough medicine if you really wanted to. In Feldenkrais, where are the books that explain the what and how of the method as well as the principles behind it. Nada. I have been looking and reading and still does not know what’s inside Functional Integration(FI). Even Moshe who noted he read many books in psychology and physiology and none describe the how just the what. He himself did not really describe the how of FI. Like his book on Nora. I was looking for details about a particular FI session and nothing. How about his few trainers. Oh go for training. I talk to some practitioners who went into training and could not answer my questions. What do you learn from training? Seems like everything is hidden. So you want me to pay money with no guaranteed results? This is more fundamental problem than the Guild you are talking about. There is nothing a Guild can do if there is no body of knowledge available for anyone to read and learn and verify and improve. Can you imagine if in medicine all books are hidden by the Board of Medicine and we just have to rely on certification of practitioner?

    Despite my complaints, I am really pursuing my study of Feldenkrais on my own. I want to figure it out. I believe it is so useful and can not believe that so many great minds missed it. In the mean time I’ll do some ATM based on Moshe’s published movement exercises. I’m currently reading about basic human anatomy, neuroanatomy, physiology, cell biology, brain structure and function. And I keep on reading Moshe’s writings/books. My background in Artificial Intelligence (computer science) is helping me understand the mechanisms in the neocortex. But I am very far away still. If there is any suggestion on what else to read or do, I would appreciate highly. Thanks.

  9. Hi Bob. Good to see your message. I agree completely about what you wrote about board certifications. Much more that I could say about that but it deserves a full post – if not a book.

    I started to write a long reply to what you wrote, but then stopped. I found myself getting muddled in my thinking and also tired. I will need to wait for another day. I will say quickly that reading about the method and it’s principles is quite different from experiencing it (more accurately, experiencing one’s self at a particular moment). But even so more written material will be welcome. Though I can easily imagine people arguing about the words and concepts without experiencing the work..and missing the point.

    Have you read any of the books or research by Yochanan Rywerant? One that I can recommend, is The Feldenkrais Method: Teaching by Handling. Yochanan would have been one who could have written a textbook on the work. As could’ve Mia Segal. But they chose not to. There might be something to that.

    Yochanan was sidelined by the young american students. He was shunted to the side though he was experienced and a master in his own right.

    Good luck out there. I may write something longer and more coherent when I am more energetic.


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