Tom Bowen, Founder of Bowen Therapy

Tom Bowen (1916-1982), working on a client. Tom Bowen's Life by Deni Larimore Albrecht with Heather Edmonds, daughter of Tom Bowen.

We were very fortunate to establish contact with Pam Trigg and Heather Edmonds, daughters of Tom and Jessie Bowen. Both women live in Australia with their families and they also have a brother, Barry, who currently lives in the US. I wish to thank both for their kind words and generosity, and I sympathize with them regarding the outpouring of incorrect information about their father.

What follows is a brief history derived from the knowledge I have gained over the past 15 years, as well as daughter Heather’s recollections of her father’s life.

Tom Bowen was born April 18, 1916, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Finishing school at approximately age 15, he later married Jessie MacLean in 1941, and the couple had three children. As was common in Australia during that period of time, Tom was employed in a series of laboring jobs, eventually settling in at the Geelong Cement Works.

Early on, Tom developed an interest in massage and bodywork, observing football trainers, and volunteering his service with the local clubs (Australian football is similar to soccer, only using a football and very little padding). The following is from Heather's writing:

When I was growing up we didn't really get involved with what dad did. As far as I was concerned, as a child of about 5 or 6, he worked as a general hand at the Geelong Cement Works.  But he also did something else because he used to come home and have tea (or dinner as we call it) and then dress up in good pants, and shirt and tie, and he would disappear at about 6:30 - 7pm; I would not see him again until next morning. As you can imagine, as a small child what he did was a mystery, and I didn't really understand until I was much older. (This would have been in the late 1950's.)  Dad had a friend at the cement works, named Stan Horwood, who knew somehow that dad had a special gift, as he used to help the men at the cement works if they got hurt. Also, at this time, dad used to meet with a group of men in an outer Melbourne suburb, called Footscray, and they used to talk about muscular problems of the body. It appears that dad knew far more than this group of 3 men, and stopped visiting them, and just developed things on his own. It was Stan who convinced dad he should do something with this gift and offered him the use of a front room at his house in which he could treat people away from the work site. After Stan died, this practice continued until it became so big that he had to move, and so the decision was made that he do this work full time. Our mother was never one to take risks and she was a bit apprehensive, but as they say, the rest is history. This is my understanding of how it all got started.

The wife of Stan Horwood, Rene, had secretarial skills, and while he worked in their house, helped Tom with the administration of the business. When he moved into a larger facility, she came along to continue in the same capacity.  Rene assisted Tom with patients from time to time, when a client had a specific problem which needed more than two hands.

Tom Bowen began a full-time practice in the late 1950’s. He called himself an osteopath (an unregulated profession at the time) and practiced what he called "soft tissue manipulation." In 1973, in an interview by the Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Naturopathic committee of the Victorian Parliament, Tom stated under oath that he had treated about 280 patients per week, with an assistant and a receptionist.

Tom was a very generous man with his time.  He often treated people for ‘no charge.'  If people were in dire financial trouble, there would be ‘no charge’ and he would often say ‘pay when you can’. Tom ran a free Saturday evening clinic for people who had injured themselves playing sports during the day, and this applied in particular to those who played football and cricket. Establishing a special clinic every Saturday morning for physically disabled children, Tom was known to these children as "Uncle Tom."  On Christmas Day, he would also visit them before spending the day with his own children.

Probably because he was so busy, Tom didn't write down any of his technique or philosophy. From time to time, he would take on an associate, working as an unpaid assistant one day of the week, to follow him and watch as he worked. By all accounts, there were six men who were called “his boys," and all had different backgrounds; osteopathic, massage therapist, chiropractor, etc. There were several other practitioners who came and went over time, but if Tom did not think that they had the understanding for his work, he would advise them to leave. Tom left it to each of these men to take their own notes and formulate their own ideas about what he was doing. Partly because of this, there are varying ideas regarding Tom Bowen's work. However, there is no question that the philosophy and procedures which have been handed down affect the body in miraculous ways. Tom Bowen 1916-1982

Bowen had strong convictions regarding quality control. He noticed there were many improperly trained practitioners calling themselves everything from chiropractors to osteopaths. He felt these credentials were too easy to get, so he volunteered to go through relevant examinations so as to get registered. However, Tom never received registration as an osteopath, as the Board felt his methods were too radical, and yet today, his methods are taught in Australia at University level to final year Osteopathic students.

Bowen possessed a gift for healing. His quest for knowledge about how the human body works never ceased, and he continued to improve his knowledge on textual matter from shiatsu to osteopathy, until shortly before his death. Tom realized that the key was in opening up the body's energy pathways to allow it to begin the process of healing. In other words, the body is its own best physician.

Tom Bowen died in 1982. Although I never met him, I need to personally thank this man for developing a healing modality that has given me a much greater quality of life than my physicians, ever dreamed possible. I am also grateful for one of his students, Ossie Rentsch, for teaching this school of thought to Milton Albrecht. Milton was my husband, and acquiring these skills gave him an occupation which changed both of our lives in a way neither of us ever dreamed possible. These men are both gone now, but both gave extremely significant and meaningful contributions to our knowledge about helping to heal the human body.