About Thai Bodywork School and Clinic

A World-Class Resource for Therapeutic Thai Massage Training

Thai Bodywork was founded by Chuck Duff in 2001 in Evanston, IL, when Chuck began offering Thai massage workshops in addition to his private practice. The school has grown steadily since that time, and now offers more than 30 workshops per year. Chuck's focus on the therapeutic benefits of Thai massage led him to develop Clinical Thai Bodywork as a modality and he taught the first CTB course in 2005. Thai Bodywork is now the only school anywhere that offers not only a full repertoire of Thai massage techniques, but an in-depth understanding of the muscular effects of each technique along with professional training in trigger point therapy. Our students learn to treat specific pain complaints with a high rate of success using CTB, and we offer two levels of professional certification in coursework approved by NCBTMB for continuing education in massage.

"Truly the best and most enjoyable bodywork training I have attended. The DVD Series is a great complement to the training. Everyone I practice on comments 'that was great'" - Ecila, Level 1 student.

Our courses are primarily offered in intensive workshop format, and students may design their own path and schedule through the program. Anyone is welcome to attend our Level 1 training, with or without prior bodywork experience. Our school attracts students from many demographics, including yoga teachers who wish to gain an understanding of hands-on work, physical therapists looking for a more efficient way to deal with pain and dysfunction, massage therapists interested in an approach that involves reliable clinical benefit, movement and is kind to their bodies, individuals wanting to transition to a new career in the healing arts, personal trainers wishing to provide benefit to their clients with pain, and many more.

Differences between CTB and Traditional Thai Massage

Traditional Thai massage is often taught in a way that fosters imitation rather than understanding, leading to therapists who go through the motions without knowing why or what decisions they should be making for the benefit of the client. Techniques and tricks are useless unless the student is given a framework for deciding when and where to use them. Traditionally, anatomy education is weak or non-existent, and muscle knowledge is completely absent. Because we are training our students in trigger point therapy, our students have to understand how muscles function, pain referral patterns, how to shorten and lengthen them, and what specific techniques are useful to treat them. For these reasons, we differentiate what we do from Thai massage. We retain the energetic healing component that is such a key aspect of bodywork, but add clinical knowledge as another layer. We train our students in Clinical Thai Bodywork, which can be done in a more general manner to provide the relaxation benefits of Thai massage, but most importantly is an incredibly effective way to help people in pain.

Experience Clinical Thai Bodywork Sessions at the Thai Bodywork Clinic

Our clinic provides a range of treatment options for clients. We use the clinic as an important aspect of our training program, and our clinical certification apprentices work alongside instructors during their work toward CTB certification. We get very positive results with our approach, and have an expectation that we will be able to resolve pain issues in most cases with our most experienced therapists. Clients can choose student sessions with students completing our basic certification program, or two levels of clinical apprentice sessions with students completing advanced clinical certification, with or without instructors present. CTB2 apprentice sessions are booked directly with instructors, who lead the session in a teaching environment with apprentices, but may bring apprentices in to do some of the hands-on.

Studies have shown that over 80% of pain complaints presented at clinics are likely to be caused by muscular sources. Unfortunately, the medical system tends to interpret all pain as a symptom of an injury, and relies upon ineffective, side-effect-laden treatment approaches like drugs, steroid injections and surgery. CTB has a high rate of success with even very serious pain complaints.

"The therapist took the time to understand my pain & worked diligently to alleviate & improve it. Wonderful reduction in pain and increase in movement.." - Carolyn, clinic client.


History of Thai Massage

  • Traditional Thai Massage, also called Thai Yoga Therapy, Nuad phaen boran or Nuat Thai, is a form of bodywork that dates back thousands of years. Its precise origins are unknown, but practitioners traditionally trace their lineage to Jivaka Komarabhacca, also known as Shivago, who was a personal physician to the Sangha, a friend and physician to the Buddha and renowned as a healer in Buddhist tradition.

    Traditional Thai medicine is a natural, holistic approach to health and well-being, developed over thousands of years, which includes proper nutrition, physical exercise, the use of medicinal herbs and therapeutic massage. Traditional Thai medicine is not only concerned with curing diseases and ailments: its primary goal is maintaining health and well-being, as ancient Thais believed that "the absence of illness is the best blessing". The medical knowledge developed by Thai people through many generations has come to be known as the ancient wisdom of Thailand.

    Diagrams inscribed on the walls at the temple of Wat Po in Bangkok illustrate one of the fundamental principles of traditional Thai medicine: that energy flows through the body along ten major channels, or sen lines. If an obstruction occurs in any of these channels it is believed that pain or disease results. In this sense, traditional Thai medicine is similar to many other ancient healing systems, which believe that illnesses are caused by an imbalance or obstruction within the individual, or by an imbalance between an individual and his environment.

    Ancient Thais treated a number of ailments by using massage to restore the flow of energy throughout the body. Traditional Thai massage is a deep, full-body treatment, which includes both stretching of the joints and muscles and applied pressure to the sen lines.

    Historically, Thai massage has an energetic basis and does not target or identify specific muscles for treatment. Thai Bodywork teaches a deep repertoire of traditional Thai techniques, informed by the modern discipline of Clinical Thai Bodywork. This modality, originally developed by Chuck Duff and later co-developed with Jennifer Wright, combines trigger point therapy and other western clinical approaches with the Thai techniques, resulting in a powerful formula for addressing conditions of pain and dysfunction.

Thai Bodywork School History

  • Chuck had trained in traditional Thai massage and established a private practice, and after he was asked to teach, opened Thai Bodywork School of Thai Massage in 2001. He met Betsy Trapasso, MSW, who had spent many years doing hospice social work and then had studied to become a Thai Bodywork practitioner as an additional way that she could help people. Betsy came to Chicago from LA, and was instrumental in helping Chuck build the school to be a nationally known center for the study of therapeutic Thai bodywork until she returned to her beloved LA in 2010. Betsy is a well-known advocate for end of life issues whose work has been covered in major media, including the LA Times, the New York Times, and TedX.

    During her time in Chicago, Betsy co-taught most of the classes and helped develop the core curriculum, working with Chuck on the Level 1, Level 2, HandsFree and Herbal Compress courses. Betsy also fell in love with Chuck's dog, Sparky and ensured that Sparky was well-represented in all of the workbooks and at the classes. Sparky became a beloved part of the Thai Bodywork community and is now spending his advanced years in the warmth of LA with Betsy, who teaches the Thai Bodywork curriculum there. She and Chuck continue to collaborate on bringing the benefits of Thai clinical work to a wider population.

    Chuck developed and taught the first course in Clinical Thai Bodywork in 2005 based on his work to date with trigger point therapy and using the Thai techniques in a targeted manner to address myofascial pain. He found that by employing the principles of trigger point therapy, his rate of success with clients increased dramatically. He met Mary Biancalana in 2006, a trigger point therapist and teacher who co-developed MyoPain Seminars with Sharon Sauer, and has spent many years as President of the National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists (NAMTPT). Mary is co-author of Trigger Point Therapy for Low Back Pain. Chuck and Mary taught several of the CTB courses together, and Mary helped expand the CTB curriculum to multiple body areas. Chuck and Mary continue to collaborate closely and Chuck has been an invited speaker at several NAMTPT conferences.

    Jennifer Wright, a yoga instructor with an interest in bodywork, joined the school in 2009 and worked closely with Chuck to fully develop the CTB curriculum. She co-taught the CTB and Thai Bodywork classes with Chuck for several years, and continues to teach Functional Anatomy.

    Please see the Thai Bodywork Facebook Page for another record of our history.

The Development of Clinical Thai Bodywork

  • Clinical Thai Bodywork grew initially out of Chuck Duff's challenges in helping an early group of clients with severe, life-impacting pain issues and feeling that the traditional training left him without sufficient tools to target specific pain conditions effectively. Chuck came across Claire Davies' Trigger Point Workbook when it first came out and found it to be a revelation. He studied with Claire and then began applying the principles of trigger point therapy from Travell & Simons using the techniques of Thai bodywork. He began applying these ideas with great success with his clientele of musicians, athletes, dancers, yogis, and others who sometimes struggled unsuccessfully with serious pain conditions before having success with CTB.

    Chuck taught the first CTB course in 2005 at Thai Bodywork. He collaborated with Mary Biancalana (co-author of the Low Back Pain Workbook with Sharon Sauer) and began expanding the curriculum to focus specifically on individual body areas.

    In 2009, Chuck met Jennifer Wright, and they have collaborated on developing the CTB ideas and expanding the program to include a full certification track.