Conference “Shiatsu in Integrated Medicine, current experiences and future perspectives”. Friday 16 June 2023 – Giorgio Cini Foundation – Venezia (Italy) – Excerpt of some proceedings of the Conference.


Director of the Paracelso Laboratory of the University of Ferrara(Italy)


Good morning everyone. I am very pleased to participate in this important day of reflection on the topic of Shiatsu in integrated medicine, current experiences and future perspectives.

The topic I would like to address is that of the professionalization path of the shiatsu operator.

My reflection starts from a sociological investigation, which we carried out between 2017/2018 on Shiatsu operators in Italy through a representative sample in which we highlighted the expectations, expectations and skills of existing operators, but first we did a background investigation, as they say a context analysis, examining much of the existing European and global literature, where we have highlighted the existence of a path in the development of what are commonly defined as complementary and/or alternative medicines, or medicines unconventional by placing everything in a framework that is supposedly homogeneous but which in reality is not completely homogeneous. We have experienced, at least in the west countries, a so-called “alternative” phase, in which within social and cultural movements critical of the ways of dominant lifestyles that developed especially in the 60s and 70s, some medicines from other sources were introduced into thewest countries or which had not developed until then and aroused a certain interest, therefore a so-called alternative phase compared to the official traditional medicines in the west. We then moved in the following years to a phase, which was called more of a “complementary” type between the 80s and 90s, in which these associations began to be seen more as places in which practices, skills and abilities were developed. and training experiences were started, that is, schools aimed above all at an interested public.Starting from the last twenty years of 2000, we have arrived at a phase that is often called “integrative” and even in the title today this integration is called, it is a phase in which we try to develop, as we will see, even greater professionalism and greater insertion within the western context, in particular in a broad field of health not only of therapy or care, which has a continuum, which goes from health promotion to primary care and rehabilitation, in which there is also room for the practices, as we will see, that generate health, that are based on a health approach. We have said that within the large container of so-called non-conventional medicines there are actually differences in the development of paths and also in the recognition of our scientific-cultural environment. In particular, the practices that derive more directly from oriental medicines, for example Acupuncture, have had partial recognition if we want and over time, for example there are fundamental documents from the World Health Organization, which say that these medicines in their countries of origin, called traditional medicines, have nevertheless ensured a basic level of assistance.In western countries they arrived with some techniques, some practices. Acupuncture for example is recognized as a therapeutic practice often also entrusted to western doctors in 142 countries around the world. Then there are the medicines of western origin but not of the allopathic type that they have had controversial recognitions, here I mention the best known which is Homeopathy which as we know generates continuously having discussions about recognition, effectiveness and so on. Then there are the techniques that we can call psychosomatic, for example meditation, mindfulness, etc., which have had various adaptations and insertions into western lifestyles, have received recognition for their ability to develop healthy lifestyles and have therefore begun to be introduced and accepted also in the western panorama. Then we arrive at “corporeal practices” in which effectively from the eastern origin we also arrive at developments, insertions, western-type evolutions and recognition also in progress. For example, if I mention Chiropractic or Osteopathy, we know that they have also entered the western category. Shiatsu is certainly part of these bodily practices that are waiting, which are making a professionalizing and recognition journey.There are several international and European documents, in particular like the one cited here, on the contribution that alternative complementary medicines can give to a sustainable treatment system in Europe which try to highlight what are the contributions that the presence of these practices, of these techniques , of these medicines, in some cases they can provide. For example very briefly the overall vision approach, a dynamic idea of ​​health, not only as a stimulus to vitality and resistance, also in the face of diseases and the salutogenic perspective that is of generation and regeneration of the energy of bodily and psycho-corporeal vitality, also in the face of the difficulties and situations that the subject may face. The personalized, individualized treatment raises the issue of the care relationship which, as we will see, is certainly important in these techniques, which seek to put the person at the centre, not least the development of skills, the ability to take care of oneself, attention, presence and the ability to be aware, on the part of the person who takes care of us.I will mention the main stages that we have developed so far: the survey on Shiatsu operators in Italy, the identity and professionalism that we have already spoken about previously, with a series of workshops including the one on the theme of language and communication, as we it seemed very important to adopt new terminologies and make oneself understood more and more for what Shiatsu can and does give. In fact, there has already been a laboratory on the theme of the experience of the Shiatsu operator, which in particular has developed on the theme of the care relationship, on the emotions that the participants in the relationship transmit to each other. Then there is the investigation into the experience of people in treatment, told through the health and treatment diary, which we will talk about in another component of our Paracelsus laboratory in the next intervention, which gave rise to a volume, which is coming out in these days “The contact that transforms” an investigation into Shiatsu treatment paths. Here we finally arrive at our Shiatsu. What is the possible role of the Shiatsu operators operating in the area in this framework? Certainly the theme of care, which as was said in the European programmatic document that we have seen develops attention, awareness, self-care and the personalization of care. Psychosomatic contact is a particular specific technique, which is located within the various help and treatment techniques, which are available in particular for fragile people, for people who are sometimes not self-sufficient, for rehabilitation and so on. Second term: health. It indicates, as we have already mentioned, a central dimension of the Shiatsu intervention, which increasingly must be seen not only as a supplement to the treatments, but as a perspective that we have called salutogenic according to the concept developed by Antonovsky, that is, of generation and regeneration of health, both in the promotional perspective of well-being, but also in the perspective of facing difficult moments and transitions in life, i.e. resilience. Shiatsu certainly fits in very positively in this context, it carries out a specific and extremely interesting action, integrative of the other existing perspectives in particular the medical one, with which it absolutely does not interfere but on which it can provide valid help. Then there is the theme of the Community. Certainly Shiatsu associations are very inclined, for example on the theme of the third sector, of volunteering, of becoming a community, that is, not waiting for an existing community but rather contributing as an associative resource, as a presence on the territory.