Bowen therapy today, a history of the schools


  • Research shows that Thomas Ambrose Bowen probably started his work during the second world war ... earlier than the popularly assumed Cement Works employment period of 1955-1961.  

  • Bowen first registered his business in 1959 but didn't pursue fulltime clinic work until 1961.  

  • Accounts from people who were treated by Tom Bowen have been captured in the Healing Hands, Unsung Voices Anthology along with accounts by those apprentices who remained clinicians in professional practice.  These are arranged chronologically and cover both his informal clinic period and his formal clinic period from 1959-1982.
  • Tom Bowen was well known in Geelong's football and community circles and was a good friend to many.  He had mates who were masseurs who he invited to work with him. Others he tried to encourage to learn from him and to go to Chiropractic College but for various reasons couldn't take up the opportunity.  A few apprentices most of whom were already college trained professional men sought him out to learn his successful methods. 

  • Football masseurs who worked with Bowen include Ron Garner, who spent a period with the Geelong Cats as their masseur in the late 50s and Doug Sells a masseur from the East Geelong Football Club.  Others are likely to have spent time with Tom but they were not remembered by Rene Horwood (Bowen's clinic manager) in an 1998 interview recorded three years before her death. 
  • Chiropractors sought Bowen out.  Those who spent longer periods at Bowen's clinic include Keith Davis DC from Mornington Peninsula who introduced to Bowen Kevin Neave DC and Nigel Love DC (both deceased) and Romney Smeeton DC.  Osteopath Kevin Ryan DO independently asked to observe Bowen work after hearing of his successful results from a patient. 

  • Romney Smeeton is the only clinician expert and former apprentice from this group now in full time clinical practice. Smeeton still uses Tom Bowen's approach as learned through the transfer of tacit knowledge via the traditional master-apprentice teaching mode adopted by Bowen. Many of Tom Bowen's former patients attend both Romney Smeeton and Kevin Ryan DO for treatment.

  • Others who became acquainted with Bowen's methods and went on to teach them include the late Robert Lucy who taught Myorthotics and Neil Skilbeck DC who titled his training Myopractic.

  • All of these men, with the exception of the late Nigel Love DC are known to have demonstrated Bowen's methods to professional audiences, or taught Bowen's methods.  In the case of Neave and Davis they showed Bowen's techniques to a large gathering of 200 chiropractors in 1979 in Sydney when Bowen was still alive and with his personal approval, he too unwell to travel. 

  • After Bowen's death Kevin Ryan taught to small professional groups before tutoring to 5th year osteopaths at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Techology for nearly 10 years.  

  • In 1986,  Oswald Rentsch a farmer- turned-masseur and a Bowen observer of the early 70s set up a company and went on to teach an explicit and simplified representation of Bowen's methods in Australia and overseas.  Other schools followed, building on the first commercial interpretation. There are now around 10 overseas schools and 10 Australian Schools though the school set up by Oswald Rentsch has trained the largest number of people - around 30000 in over 30 countries since 1986. 

  • Due to the large number of schools and associations around the world, various separate individual sites and registers are available by searching elsewhere on the internet.  The only centralised international register developed as a smart phone app is iBowen. It is available for practitioner listings and for use by the public to find a therapist in their geographical area, anywhere in the world. It is also a website with a search function for use on PC. 

  • About 2400-2700 practitioners are active on professionals-only social media groups.  It is difficult to know how many practitioners are operating business concerns as no statistics are shared between the schools and associations. Using the 1:5 ratio of social media uptake in the general population, it is possible to estimate that around 13500 practitioners are in ongoing practice with the majority based outside of Australia.

  • The following report outlines the chronology of when the various teaching schools came into being. An oversight is that it does not include Dr Robert Lucy's teachings of Bowen's methods as "Myorthotics" or mention of his College of Somatics Studies but the report will be amended to address this in the future.



Download  Bowen Therapy Today - an 18 April 2014 overview [2.37mb, 43pages, colour images]