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Julia notes that Aquatic Therapy encompasses far more than Watsu (water shiatsu) - which is true of course. Watsu, however, has certainly given this field a powerful boost and led to the development of many other related modalities outside the physical therapy field which are now being adopted into some clinical practices.

Thoughts I'd share this extract from a recent post on my own blog about Aquatic Bodywork - Aquapoetics: Creative Aquatic Bodywork. The full post addresses the issue of Documenting and Researching Alternative Aquatics (click for full article).

What is aquatic therapy? by Sulis (Sara Firman)

A recurring discussion in aquatics circles is that of when practitioners who offer exercise or bodywork in water can use the word therapy, as in aquatic therapy, and when they should not. How we answer this will influence our attitude towards alternative aquatic practices, their therapeutic models, and their beneficial effects.

We can argue over semantics or we can recognize the value of exploring, with open minds and hearts, the differences and similarities between all aquatic practices, while bearing in mind shared goals. This article sets out to encourage those in clinical aquatics to appreciate the therapeutic work, and alternative models for healing, of their non-clinical colleagues.

In a clear, non-exclusionary discussion of the terms aquatic therapy/ therapist, Andrea Salzman (Aquatic Resources Network) concluded that: 'Different therapeutic disciplines and wellness/ fitness instructors have unique (and sometimes mutually exclusive) things to offer the public' (1.). However, they all have in common therapeutic intent.

Understanding the experiences and actions of healthy people may well provide the solutions to problems faced by those who are unable or unwell. The natural affinity people have for water play, from fitness to pleasure is relevant to any study of water's therapeutic value. Preventing ill-health and maintaining good health are valid and valuable pursuits.

I have found it useful to make a differentiation between aquatic healing (non-medical) and aquatic therapy (medical), where healing refers to the restoration of health or overall well-being, which may or may not make use of medical modalities. Aquatic healing might then go beyond the physical (concerning itself with emotional and spiritual dimensions too) while clinical aquatic therapy usually does not.

Still, whatever we call what we do, therapy or healing (or even leisure), the impulse behind it is both to bring relief to those who are suffering and to enhance our mutual enjoyment of life. In the end, it is not possible nor universally effective to reduce our sense of what it is to be fully human - in sickness or in health - to any kind of model.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Sulis-
I am trying to locate where you actually practice. Is it at a retreat in Missouri? I am opening a center in NJ and would like to make it green as possible. We will have a Watsu pool using the ecosmart copper ionization systme instread of chlorine. Can you give me more info on what trainings you are holding ? Thanks
Lisa Hapeman
Fantastic article, thanks Sara!

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