Amanda Fleissner is a licensed and Board Certified Occupational Therapist specializing in treating chronic pain and tension conditions in children and adults. Her specialties include PUSH Therapy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- How grief and trauma become trapped in the physical body.
- The specific conditions PUSH Therapy and Cranio- Sacral Therapy can help in adults and children (including autism).
- The body has an innate ability to heal from anything, including grief, which can form an “energy cyst.”
- PUSH Therapy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy can be helpful regarding mental illness.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS AMANDA:
- Do PUSH Therapy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy ease migraines?
- Can you help children, even when they are infants?
- How do you listen to a person’s body?
Listen to the podcast here
Amanda Fleissner Registered And Licensed Occupational Therapist, With Specialties In PUSH Therapy And Cranio-Sacral Therapy
You will want to read this interview with Amanda Fleissner, a gifted healer who knows how grief and trauma get trapped in the physical body and how to help the body heal itself. She is a New Jersey Licensed and Board-Certified Occupational Therapist who specializes in treating chronic pain and tension conditions in both children and adults. She’s also New Jersey’s only occupational therapist trained in PUSH Therapy, which is a specialized muscular therapy.
Amanda’s rich career in the mental health, pediatric and rehabilitation arenas of occupational therapy culminated in the creation of her practice, Find Relief Therapy, in 2008. In addition to our expertise as a certified PUSH therapist, she also has extensive training and clinical experience with Cranio-Sacral Therapy. She strives to help her clients discover the source of their dysfunction, find relief from physical pain, and gain empowerment in relearning how to use their bodies doing the things they love to do every day.
I’m sure each of you is thinking, “What exactly is PUSH Therapy? What the heck is CranioSacral Therapy? How can they help me?” Full disclosure, Amanda has helped me heal TMJ and other health issues via CranioSacral Therapy. I’m a huge fan of this modality and of Amanda. I want to share both of them with all of you. Amanda, a warm welcome to the show. Let’s begin our interview with this question. How do grief and trauma become trapped in a person’s body?
Thank you so much, Irene. I appreciate being on the show. I look forward to talking with you about something important to me and do every single day in my work life. Grief and trauma can be trapped in a person’s body in several different ways. The realm of CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle touch therapy that deals with helping the person’s body unlock its healing potential.
Oftentimes, grief can be conformed into an energy cyst. When someone experiences physical trauma, emotional trauma, or they have toxicity in their body, sometimes that energy of that toxicity or the energy of that trauma can get concentrated and localized into a specific part of their body. The body is always trying to protect, heal and maintain balance, it can create a cyst around that trauma and work around that, or sometimes that trauma begins to try and extend into other areas of the body. A person can have pain and symptoms. Chronic conditions can develop from there.
What inspires you to specialize in Occupational PUSH and CranioSacral therapies? How exactly does each therapy treat chronic pain and tension conditions in both children and adults? I never understood this energy cyst concept. That is cool. I may have it, but I didn’t realize it. When you talk about blockages, that’s like an energy cyst.
Energy cysts are powerful. I feel like I’ve been creating and going on this journey of my career for my whole life, even going back all the way to high school when I had injuries. I started to become interested in the body. I started as an occupational therapist. I graduated from the University of Scranton back in 2002 with a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.
What drew me to that therapy is that it looks at the whole person and the person’s recovery within the context of what’s important and valuable to that person, how they use their body, and what they do in their everyday life. That seemed to make sense to me. In anything I’ve done in my career and even in my personal life, I always wanted to light up that inner sense that inner intuition, and occupational therapy was certainly one of those things for me.
Is occupational therapy a little bit like physical therapy?
It is. Occupational therapy and physical therapy are closely related. Physical therapy looks at the function of the body, specifically the body parts in relation to an injury, trauma, or disease. Occupational therapy also looks at the body, but it looks at it within the context of functionality, the context of how the person uses their body, what they do, and how they can be independent in their everyday life.
I entered into the mental health arena of occupational therapy, which addresses coping skills, stress management, self-care, and all those sorts of skills that a person dealing with mental health issues needs to have. I was introduced to PUSH Therapy through a personal experience of mine. It clicked and made sense. It is a multidisciplinary therapy that deals with the manual treatment of the body but also retraining the body on how to move effectively. You don’t have to lose mobility as you age. You can gain mobility and strength as you age.
I have to ask this question. My mom went into assisted living. Many people can’t move and are stiff. Can PUSH Therapy prevent conditions like that?
Absolutely. When there is a presence of chronic, it has passive tension in the body. When the body is at rest, you need to be able to release the tension from the body and retrain the body on how to move. Even if there have been years of dysfunctional movement patterns, overuse, or repetitive stress use, it is completely possible to retrain the body because I’ve seen it done in my own practice. You work with the person’s physical tissues within the context of what they do and how they use their body. It is a powerful therapy. I love it.
Around the same time as I was discovering PUSH Therapy, training, learning, and beginning to incorporate it, I also started learning CranioSacral Therapy, which is a gentle touch therapy that helps the body access its ability to heal issues along the spine, the central nervous system, the brain and all of the cranial bones. It is extremely powerful and gets to even deeper levels of issues, both physically with the tissue as well as emotional issues that can get trapped in the body.
Even though I know my practice will never stop growing, at this point, it’s come to a culmination of being able to give people the opportunity to heal in whatever way their body needs, whether it be physical with actual tension in the tissues, from a physical movement standpoint, or it’s something deeper within the cells, organs, and fluids of the body that needs to be released and healed.
You do this for both kids and adults, right?
I do. In my practice, I use mostly CranioSacral Therapy with children. I’ve worked on little ones as young as ten days old. I never stopped going to training and learning. I’m going to training about pregnancy, conception, and birth. You can work on the mother and baby in utero. There are many ways to access healing in the body. I love working with little ones because they’re still open and connected. Neurologically, their system is new. They’re usually willing and easy to work with. Their bodies can heal amazingly fast.
In CranioSacral, there is no pain. I often fall asleep in the middle of a session. When I wake up, you’ve done your thing, and I’m feeling better. I can imagine it’s non-threatening for a mother to bring her child.
It’s non-threatening. The thing about CranioSacral Therapy, which is a principle I’ve taken to apply to all of the therapy I do, is that you are working with the client’s body and what the client needs. A little baby can’t tell me what they need. I have to listen to their body and body’s inner wisdom and have their body guide what we do in a session and what their body decides it needs to heal.
I can have all the therapies, protocols, and agendas. I could know what I want for the client, but what’s most important is what that client needs and what their body wants. As a therapist, I’m staying neutral and staying grounded, present, and allowing the person to have the experience that they need to have, not what I think they should have. It gets you a much deeper level of healing.
You answered my next question, which was how do you decide which of your specialties you apply to help a patient heal? In some way, you listen to their body.
I listen to their bodies, whether they come to me for CranioSacral Therapy, PUSH Therapy, or anything else. First of all, I listen to the client when they come in my door and they tell me, “This is what hurts. This is what’s bothering me. This is what I can’t do and what I would like to do.” I take all of that into consideration.
I also keep an open and grounded approach when I’m physically working with their body. In CranioSacral Therapy, it’s called melding. I meld with their tissue, and I listen. It’s that listening that is important, not judging it and bringing my own experiences, judgments, or preferences into it, but staying neutral and allowing the experience to unfold.
Let me tell you. We’re all human. If any of my stuff ever seeps in or I’m not as grounded or present as I should be, the body will let you know. Even little babies. I have seen little six-week-old babies. If their body says, “Amanda, that’s enough. I need a break,” if I don’t listen right away, I’ve seen a four-week-old baby bat my hand away and be like, “Get off. Come on. I told you we were done.” As a practitioner, one of my most important jobs is staying grounded, present and focused.
Can occupational therapy, PUSH Therapy and/or CranioSacral Therapy be helpful for mental illness?
Yes, it can. Occupational therapy, as a broad therapy, is important for mental illness in terms of dealing with coping skills, stress management, and self-care skills. When I work with my clients who specifically I use PUSH Therapy with, a lot of times, they have chronic pain. I’ve never met a client who has chronic pain that doesn’t have some level of depression or anxiety because it’s constantly there, and it can weigh on a person’s mental health. In CranioSacral Therapy, you can have emotions trapped in the body. People will feel different mental illnesses and issues in their bodies. They need to release that trauma or those patterns of trauma in the body.
I’m not a psychotherapist. I have psychotherapists, psychologists, and lots of other mental health professionals that I refer my clients to if I feel the work that we’ve done would be aided by some professional mental health work. I do it myself. I’m a huge proponent of mental health work. When I’m working with a person, and they’re releasing emotion, grief, and trauma, we are working directly with the body tissues and allowing that to process out. If the person needs further assistance, I will refer them for mental health counseling.
If a person is struggling, they can get go to you and get relief, but they can be steered to someone who can help even more. That’s fabulous. I find it amazing the conditions PUSH Therapy can help and specific conditions that CranioSacral Therapy can help. You indicated that they could both be helpful for grief, but if you’d like to speak more about that, I’d appreciate that.
PUSH Therapy deals with chronic passive tension in the body. That’s good for chronic conditions that stem from tension, like migraine headaches, TMJ, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, and knee pain. There are a lot of chronic pain conditions that PUSH Therapy is good for. I use PUSH Therapy a lot in my office when we’re dealing with chronic physical tension symptoms.
Sometimes when the cause is a little bit deeper or a different type of tension pattern in the body, I go more for CranioSacral Therapy, which can be effective for things at a deeper neurological level, people who’ve experienced concussions, traumatic brain injuries from some traumatic injury, and a lot of people with headaches and migraines.
There are a lot of different causes and sources of dysfunction in a person’s body. The most important thing when I’m working with a client is finding the source. Is it emotional pain from abuse suffered when you were five years old? Is it chronic tension in your muscles because you’ve been sitting at a computer desk for twelve hours a day? You could get migraines for both of those reasons, but we need to discover the reason and the cause and help that person both discover what it is and release it to allow the body to heal.
Without any, you know, any judgments or preconceived notions, what we seek to do in therapy. It’s finding that source. CranioSacral Therapy is one of the ways that we can do that. It’s amazing to me when I’m working with someone and grief surfaces or a traumatic memory surfaces as I’m releasing the physical body tissues.
A lot of times, people are shocked. They’re like, “I haven’t thought about this in 20 to 25 years.” It’s something that we allow to come up, come out, and release as the body tries to heal this type of tissue or the trauma that’s been trapped in the tissue. Being there and holding that space for the person and allowing their body to have that beautiful healing can be impactful.
What about someone who comes to you and they were a few years out, and they’ve had a tremendous loss? They’re grieving. They lay on your table, which is noninvasive and pleasant as you work on them. How does that work? Grief is a process. You have to have your feelings, but sometimes it’s way over the top and exacerbated by other issues that have gone on in a person’s life. As you release it, that can also help release some of the grief.
When a person lays down on the table in my office for work, I meet them and their body where they are right in that moment. Wherever they are in that grief process, that’s where we are in that moment. I trust that their body knows what it needs at that moment, whether that’s something gentle to begin to find balance even. Maybe they’re not ready to process grief and trauma, or they are processing it in the middle of it. What they need is some grounding and balance.
Maybe they’ve buried something down deep that needs to come out in order for them to heal. It could be anything in between. I try to listen to what their body is telling me they need and meet what they consciously have told me when they’re coming in because you want to have a happy client and have them have the experience they want to have.
I was going to ask you about children and infants. You’ve answered that. You certainly do help kids. People bring their children to you all the time and their infants too.
I have a lot of mothers who bring their infants in who are having trouble with breastfeeding issues due to torticollis, which is when they have a tight neck or a tension pattern in their neck and back. Sometimes when they have a tongue tie, it makes breastfeeding difficult. I work with the infant, but I also work with the mom because infants and moms have such a close bond. They’re both physically and emotionally connected. You have to look at the whole family dynamic, not just the infant.
Mom comes to you, and she’s distraught because she’s having trouble breastfeeding her child. You can help her and her child.
Even simple childhood things like chronic ear infections, constipation, developmental delays like delays in speech, and any sorts of global developmental delays, a lot of these things, especially at a young age, there aren’t a lot of answers for, like why is this happening with this child? There’s no specific diagnosis. They’re just delayed.
We can get to the deeper neurological connections and try and help the body rework around or heal whatever issues need to be healed. In addition, the parents are usually dealing with some level of grief and/or acceptance in terms of becoming new parents or dealing with the hardships of being a parent or grief in terms of realizing that their child has been diagnosed with some issue.
Can you help with autism?
There are many ways that you can access healing in the body no matter what age the client is. I can work with the client’s body and listen to what they need. It opens up a lot of answers and doors, where before, a lot of my clients who come in are like, “I was told there’s nothing I can do. There’s only this one thing I can do, this medicine or this surgery.”
I believe in my own and for my clients that there is an endless number of possibilities of ways our body can heal or modalities that can be helpful. What works for one person doesn’t work for another necessarily. I also know that when someone comes into my office, for however long they’re with me, that’s where they are in their journey. I’m working with them. I’m blessed to be able to work with them at this time in their life. Hopefully, I can send them on their way either to the next step that their body needs or with some good healing and resolution to what they were looking for.
I’m sure people reading this are going, “This is a modality. This is something I can use. I didn’t think there was any answer for my child who was having this or that problem.” That’s a great thing for people to know about. Tell us about this Upledger Institute and how it was founded. You’re talking about how it can help the body heal emotional and physical traumas, but it’s such a new concept.
The Upledger Institute was started by Dr. John Upledger in 1985. He also started a clinic down in Palm Beach, Florida, that same year. He was the pioneer of CranioSacral Therapy. He discovered the dural pulse, which is the pulse of the CranioSacral fluid within the spine. He studied it for many years at the University of Michigan. He was a biomechanics professor. It was developed through research and through the work that he did along with the first pioneers of CranioSacral Therapy.
The reason I chose to be trained through the Upledger Institute is because it’s an international institute. They have 125,000 therapists in 10 countries. It’s global and has been gaining more traction. The more research done, the more experiences that are documented. I find it personally, in my own practice, very helpful.
When you talk about CranioSacral Therapy, you talk about sensory integration. Can you explain that connection?
Sensory integration is a type of therapy often used within the scope of occupational therapy. I’ve done training in sensory integration therapy. It’s another way to look at the body systems. In terms of children and their development, some children can have difficulties with sensory processing disorder, which means the way that their body takes in sensory information. It would be sight, sound, touch, and movement information. The way the body takes that in, interprets or processes that information somewhere along that process, there’s a breakdown in the system. Sensory integration is used within that looking to help the body reorganize and structure it. I use a clinical therapy as a system to help children and infants regulate their sensory input.
Let’s get to how this works because everybody is going, “This sounds interesting.” Tell me a story. Can you share a couple of your powerful healing stories on how you turned a child’s life around you using CranioSacral Therapy and how you also helped an adult’s body to heal in that modality you chose?
A mother brought me her child. For several months, she had been having a lot of constipation to the point where this little girl was in tears all the time and having a lot of difficulties using the toilet. She was given MiraLax and different things to try and allow her to go with more ease, but it wasn’t working. The mom knew about CranioSacral Therapy. She brought her, desperate to do anything.
How old was she?
She is four years old. I’m working with the child’s body. Her body is indicating that there’s an issue with her mouth that need to be released, specifically with the roof of her mouth or palate. I asked the mom. I said, “Her body wants to release something in the mouth. Has she had any injuries, dental work, or issues in the mouth?” The mom said, “She fell in a department store and hit her mouth on the metal clothing rack. It didn’t injure her teeth, but she got injured.”
As the mother’s talking this story out, she goes, “That was a week before she started having her constipation.” I said, “Okay.” I started to work. We released her palate and several other areas in and around her mouth and body. She left the session, and the mom texted me later, saying. “She went to the bathroom.” From that point on, the constipation resolved itself. She came back for one more session. I always have follow-up sessions.
I like this example because it’s concrete. It’s rare that it happens that quickly. It’s a joke. I was saying this to another mother. “I have so many little kids. I can get any kid to poop in my practice.” I always tell the parents, “Bring extra diapers and underwear because you never know.” Nobody had any answers as to why this little girl had been constipated for six months. Her body had the answers. Her body knew what it needed. It told me, and I listened. We released it, and there you go.
A lot of times, we get it in our heads. I know I’ve done it myself where you think this trauma or this thing is huge. It’s going to take a huge release or thing to heal this. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. Sometimes it’s a matter of releasing and being able to give in and let it go. Sometimes it takes months, and that’s fine. Sometimes it takes one session, and that’s fine. It doesn’t matter.
Tell us about an adult’s body to heal on the modality you chose to help that person.
I have a lot of clients, but I had one particular client who came in with low back pain and sciatica, where the sciatic nerve is inflamed. You get a lot of pain down the leg, numbness, tingling, and pain. For her, I could identify through talking with her and working with her body. She was a teacher. She is standing and walking all the time up and down stairs. She was using her body a lot. We identified that there was a lot of chronic tension in her body. I used PUSH Therapy to physically release the tissues of her body as well as to help her to retrain how to use her body. She didn’t have any trauma or grief. This issue was not related to that.
There was another woman at the same time that I was working with who had low back pain and low back issues, where the source of the issue was coming from grief and trauma from early childhood issues. I remember this because I was working on them, and they were both similar symptoms, but they were coming from different spaces. For her, it was more about accessing emotions she had locked up in her pelvis because of early trauma and childhood abuse that needed to be released for this pain to dissipate.
Did you use PUSH Therapy?
The first thing her body needed was to release that grief and trauma. After that was done, any residual physical tension that might have been left, I was able to deal with using PUSH Therapy. Everybody needs to know how to move from their core and move correctly. I teach all of my clients how to do that, even if we’re releasing grief and trauma because it’s important. It was a matter of what her body needed to deal with first because if we had dealt with the tension and the physical tissue and not dealt with that early trauma, I don’t think we would’ve gotten as deep a healing or lasting results for her.
We’ll have to talk about that another time about all of that philosophy of moving from the core. That’s a whole other subject.
We could talk for days about all of this.
Are all of these modalities covered by health insurance?
Most people have occupational therapy coverage with their health insurance. In my practice, I’m out of network with most insurance companies. If people have out-of-network insurance benefits, I help them find out what they have and what type of reimbursement they can expect. I work with people with their insurance as much as possible.
Since these modalities must be experienced in person, where do our readers who do not live in New Jersey or New York and can’t get to your office find a qualified therapist to help them locate healers well-versed in these healing modalities?
If you’re looking for a CranioSacral therapist in your area, you can go to www.Upledger.com. The front page is a Find A Therapist button. You can click and type in your ZIP code. Usually, there’s a therapist within some proximity to a person, especially in the United States. In terms of PUSH Therapy, the best would be to call my practice because there are PUSH therapists throughout the country all the way from California to myself and a few other therapists out on the East Coast.
In this digital age, I’ve even started some of the PUSH Therapy things and body and core retraining we were talking about. I’ve even started doing some telehealth sessions for clients when they’re far away, and their low back is hurting, or they’re having issues. These are some quick teachings on how to use your body correctly.
Is core work best for low back issues?
Yeah. Shoulders, heads, necks, the whole body. PUSH Therapy defines the core as the hips and thighs and a little bit of the low back and abdominals. It is a unique and specific way of engaging and grounding the body so that people can move with more efficiency and put less tension into their bodies.
All the people walking around the planet are in pain, and they don’t know much help they can get that’s available to them. Speaking of that, do you have a message about the importance of healing from your experiences in your heart to share with our readers?
Absolutely. I believe that the body has an innate ability to heal. The body can heal from anything. I know that’s a bold statement, but I’ve seen the power of healing in people’s bodies. I’ve seen the power of belief. The body is a miracle. People are amazingly powerful in their body’s ability to heal. Every client who walks through my door, I believe the same thing about their body. No matter if they give me 1 problem or they list 20 problems, it doesn’t matter. Their body has the ability to heal those things.
How can our readers reach Amanda Fleissner and Find Relief Therapy?
They can call my office at (973) 240-7730 or find out more information on my website, which is www.FindReliefTherapy.com.
Amanda, what is your tip for finding joy in life?
My tip for finding joy in life is to be present. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working or I’m with my children, husband, or friends. If I need to find joy in any given moment, I do one simple thing. I ask myself, “Where are my feet?” I focus on my feet and where they are on the ground. I feel my breath and look around me. I become still and present. The present moment is what is real. The past has happened already. The future, who knows what’s going to happen, but being present at the moment is where joy is found.
Thank you, Amanda, for this incredibly informative and helpful interview. You are helping people find relief from both physical and emotional pain to attain a new and improved quality of life. I am one of them. Make sure to follow and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Thanks again for joining us, and as I like to say, to be continued. Bye for now.