Osteopathic Physicians are frequently asked about the differences between Cranial Osteopathy and Cranio-Sacral Therapy™. Because this is often a confusing topic for the public, the Osteopathic Cranial Academy has clarified the differences by providing the information below.

Cranial Osteopathy is a medical treatment applied by licensed physicians who have completed a thorough osteopathic medical education and numerous years of additional training in this specialty. In the United States, only actively licensed physicians are permitted to diagnose and treat using Cranial Osteopathy.

Cranio-Sacral Therapy™ requires little to no medical background. A single 24 hour course provides a certificate.1


Discoverer of Fundamental Osteopathic Principles Initiated 1874 2 Andrew Taylor Still MD DO
(1828 – 1917)
Expansion of the Osteopathic Concepts into the Cranial Field Initiated 1930 3 William Garner Sutherland DO
(1873 – 1954)
Introduction of Cranio-Sacral Therapy™ N/A Initiated 1983 John E. Upledger DO
(1932 – 2012)
Required Education 4 Years of Osteopathic Medical School One Course in Cranio-Sacral Therapy™
Required Hospital Training 1-6 Years of Residency None
Required Licensure National and Individual State Osteopathic Medical Licensure No Licensure for the Practice of Cranio-Sacral Therapy™ 5
Training in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Principles and Practices Whole Body Evaluation & Treatment Integrated into Osteopathic Medical Curriculum: 300 – 400 Hours Minimum. N/A
Beginning Course 40 Hour Basic Course
(after extensive training mentioned above)
24 Hour Course
Mandatory Faculty/Student Ratio for Hands-on Training Minimum 1 : 4
One Instructor for Every 4 Students
One Instructor Usually Leads a Large Group with Limited Individualized Instruction 6
Minimum Continuing Education
To Maintain Licensure
120 Hours Every 3 Years No Licensing or Continuing Education Requirement
Diagnosis An Integral Part of Osteopathic Education
and Practice
Not Allowed By Law*
Individualized Treatment An Integral Part of Osteopathic Education
and Practice
Not Allowed By Law**

Generalized “Therapy” Protocol
Taught in Courses.

** unless the Cranio-Sacral Therapist is separately licensed to perform treatment.



In summary, Osteopathic Physicians (USA) trained in the Cranial Concept:

  • Are taught the depth of Dr. Sutherland’s vision, and the evolution of his legacy dating from the early 1900s.
  • Are fully qualified to practice the full range and scope of medicine and surgery. This thorough training brings a profound depth of understanding, knowledge, experience, and commitment to the Diagnosis and Treatment process.
  • Receive in-depth training in the applications of osteopathic philosophy and technique. Cranial Osteopathy is an expansion of basic osteopathic philosophy. Without this basic osteopathic background, the full potential of cranial treatment may never be realized.

We, the physicians and staff of the Osteopathic Cranial Academy, are committed to helping you find the best care possible. To be assured of receiving appropriate Diagnosis and Treatment, we strongly recommend seeking out an Osteopathic Cranial Academy Member in your area.



  1. Cranial-Sacral Therapy Level I: Course Description, International Alliance
    of Healthcare Educators, Upledger Institute Web Page
  2. Still, Andrew Taylor, Autobiography, 1897, p 46
  3. Sutherland, William Garner, Contributions of Thought, 2nd Edition,
    1998, p 47
  4. Upledger, Vredevoogd, Craniosacral Therapy, Eastland Press, 1983,
    p 2
  5. Search For A Practitioner, International Association of Healthcare Practitioners,
    Upledger Institute Web Page
  6. What To Expect From An IAHE Course, International Alliance of Healthcare
    Educators, Upledger Institute Web Page