Growth versus Treatment: What’s your mindset?

by / Wednesday, 03 September 2014 / Published in Feldenkrais Practitioners



In my nearly 20 years of practicing the Feldenkrais Method, I’m continually fascinated, and sometimes baffled with the question of how to promote sustainable progress and lasting change. What often perplexes me is how some students significantly benefit from private or group lessons and others seem to notice no progress or change at all?


When I talk with other practitioners this seems to be a common quandary.


I have come up with three main questions that play a role in my students’ progress. 


  1. How well am I working?
  2. What’s the student’s mindset: growth or treatment?
  3. What’s their story?


Because I’ve had students who’ve benefited from my lessons and those who don’t in the same time span, I’m going to leave out the question of the quality of my work. I certainly don’t mean that my quality is always as good as it can be but over the years, my consistency has improved so I’ll skip over that question.


I will address the, “What’s their story” question in a future post, so in this post I’ll focus on the question of mindset.


When someone comes to me and wants to be treated, I can rarely help them. Treatment means that they want their malaise to go way and go about life as before. In the past, I have sometimes been able to “treat” students but it’s never been satisfying to me. In fact, I’m discovering that the more I work, the less I can help people with the treatment mindset.


When someone comes and understands at some level, that they will need to learn and grow, success or progress is almost a given. These students already have, or can adopt a growth based mindset. They become interested in how they can change in order to support their learning and improvement. Growth minded students often report improvement in other areas of their lives.


Here are two short “case studies” to illustrate my point.


In the same time span, I had one student, a 4th Degree black belt in Aikido who was suffering from chronic lower back pain. The other student was a 75 year old woman who also had back pain. With the black belt, I thought that our work together would be very interesting and productive. After the first lesson, he reported that the back pain was gone for a day or two and it then came back. After subsequent lessons, the pain never changed. The thing that helped his back the most was lying in a hot bathtub.

Just here for the treatment.







With the older lady I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to help her because she didn’t seem to understand anything about movement, wore a corset, and we couldn’t communicate very well (at the time, I wasn’t able to understand some Swiss dialects). To my surprise, after two lessons she said her pain was gone and for the third, she just wanted to do something that was, “Good for her soul.”  Fortunately, I was able to follow up on both students and learned that even years later, the results, or lack of had continued.


So what was different?


I’m growing!


With the lady, she realised, in her own way that she needed to change something and did so. She grew and apparently that was enough to help over the long term. The black belt didn’t want to look at the way he was practicing Aikido, and sitting at his desk to look for clues. He wanted to have the pain done with and forget about it.







When talking to prospective students, I’ve become more acutely aware of the signs that may indicate a treatment mindset. Some of them are:

  • “My husband/wife told me to come because I walk funny.”
  • “What exercises and how many repetitions per day will I need to make the pain go away?”
  • “The ___________  (insert name of doctor other practitioner here) said that my posture is bad and that’s why I’m in pain.”
  • “My secretary can better tell how tense or relaxed I am than I can myself.”


Yes, I’ve heard all of these. 


There is of course one more possibility so that we have the required minimum of three choices. Those who shift from treatment to growth mindset. I’ve found that the best way to foster this process is through clarifying expectations, what the student thinks is realistic, and how the way I work may differ from what others do. It also helps to have some form of benchmark or reference so the student can huge her/his own progress.


If your students are not getting the results you think they should then you might want to take a closer look at their mindset. Are they expecting you to fix them or that if they do a certain movement the right way, they will feel better? Let me know what other ways you recognise your students’ mindsets and how do you talk about that with them?


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