Marie Duggan, accredited course provider at Butterfly Touch Therapies shares a case study for World Reflexology Week (21-25 September).
*Please note, the details in this case study were recorded pre-COVID-19 and Marie’s client’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
‘I received a phone call from Alice asking to book in for a reflexology session’, Marie writes. ‘Upon her arrival I carried out a client consultation, Alice was 70 and in good health but had been widowed 12 months prior. Alice answered all the consultation questions in a flat, controlled way. With no outward show of emotions, she explained how she had woken up to find her husband had died in his sleep beside her as a result of an embolism.
‘Alice explained how she could not grieve and was struggling to release her emotions, she felt she could not cry or talk to anyone about her loss. In fact, she admitted to not really wanting to discuss her feelings with others and just felt in a continual fog she could not find her way out of.
‘She had been on anti-depressants from her doctor and had attended months of individual and group counselling. She said neither of these approaches had helped, she was respectful of the counsellor but said the sessions left her feeling more disconnected and decided to discontinue with both.
‘I asked her ‘why Reflexology?’ Alice answered she did not know why she was coming but felt drawn to it. I explained I was not a counsellor, but I would hope reflexology would relax her system and help her reconnect with her heart. She said she was realistic and had no expectations but would like to be able to relax her mind if possible. Alice requested no music, just silence throughout the session and of course I obliged. We agreed to a treatment once a week and to assess a month later.
‘On the first treatment I started by holding Alice’s ankles, a technique I learned during my craniosacral therapy training. I found it a powerful tool to assess a client’s life force before and after treatments. I stand at the end of the bed, gently cup my hands around the ankles and slowly lift the feet a few inches off the bed. By softening my back, shoulders and hands I am holding and supporting but with the gentlest of touches. My immediate impression was how tightly held Alice’s system and energy was. At first it was barely detectable but after a few minutes I could feel her energy flicker and connect, it was slow and sluggish and I felt the sense of the deep shock her system was holding. I waited until I felt a softening, I refer to this as a meeting of energy, an unspoken surrendering. Once this happens, I begin.
‘I adapt my reflexology treatment to a gentle and light pressure feeling this lady needed a caring and nurturing touch. Alice’s feet are pale and cold to the touch despite being a warm day. I have found over the years my reflexology has evolved to incorporate a deeper listening of the feet. I find the lungs are being tightly and rigidly held, so I spend some time working the lungs, shoulders, arms and the breast area, finishing by sandwiching with both hands the dorsal and plantar of these areas. As I hold, I feel her energy increase and flow, the foot has become warmer and more flexible.
‘I continue to further her relaxation by working the head and spine, incorporating spinal twists. I am aware of a lower vibrancy in the cervical, lumbar and coccyx reflexes and work the head and neck more before placing one finger and thumb at either side of the base of the big toe. This is a holding touch I have always found immensely powerful; you are holding at the neck (occipital area) and throat. If you were to visualise holding someone physically you would be cupping your hands under their head. I feel a release and energy starts to flow again.
‘It is only now that I feel I can work the heart, solar plexus and adrenals. All of these are a gentle touch, at times I decide to softly pump the area, creating a rhythm. I finish working these reflexes by holding the heart and solar plexus together. For the rest of the treatment I continue to work the whole foot before crossing over to repeat this on the left foot. At the end of the treatment I hold again at the heels and listen to the feet. The vibrancy has changed, although it is still slow and gentle, the energy now flows with ease, the feet have colour and are warmer.
‘Alice’s feedback is that she is sleeping better, all her treatments are in silence. I ask her at the end of every treatment how she feels, and she tells me more relaxed. Her energy and vibrancy continue to improve and responds well to this gentle approach. In her fourth session Alice allows tears to gently flow, she keeps her eyes closed and does not speak. I hand her tissues and continue with the treatment. This happens for many more weeks with Alice releasing her emotions in a gentle way with no verbal exchange; she is grieving in her own way.
‘After eight sessions we decide to have treatments every two weeks and then once a month. I was aware of how much lighter she is and that she is interacting more with me and the world. When Alice had been coming to me for nine months, she said one day “Marie, I feel so much better, this has really helped me so much and I feel I want to get back into life again”. Alice then asked me if I knew of a good beautician she could go to and I knew my work was done. The power of the feet.’