ROLLA - Ten years ago, Elizabeth Hanson was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to look at institutional care for a daughter with severe autism. As the mother of two severely disabled daughters and a sickly infant, she was at the end of her rope.
"I said I didn't know how long I can do this," she said. "I was searching for anything that could help."
Her search ended in February 2003. That's when Hanson, of Rolla, discovered BodyTalk, and she and her family began a new life that was shades different from the torment that they had been enduring. BodyTalk uses neuromuscular biofeedback to identify what the body needs and a tapping on the head and chest to then turn the body's attention to healing itself.
Elizabeth Hanson, right, and her daughter, Esther Hanson Bercier, sit Tuesday in The Health Tap suite in Rolla, where they practice BodyTalk.
Esther Hanson Bercier, left, demonstrates BodyTalk with her sister, Hannah, Tuesday in Rolla.
Hanson said it is thanks to BodyTalk that she is the mother of three healthy children, a grandmother and a business owner. There was a time when she never dreamed that she might be described in any of those terms.
Before 2003, Scott and Elizabeth Hanson were the parents of two daughters with autism and hundreds of allergies. Their youngest daughter, an infant, also was suspected of having both conditions. Consequently, the Hansons were dealing with vomiting, fevers and obsessive-compulsive disorder on a regular basis.
The older daughter, Esther, had a hearing impairment. The middle daughter, Sarah was not toilet-trained at age 9, frequently defecated on belongings, had self-abuse issues and had sleep problems that even medicine sometimes didn't help. Hannah, the baby, suffered chronic infections.
What is BodyTalk?
The BodyTalk System increases internal communication to get a body back in balance, according to information from the International BodyTalk Association.
Neuromuscular feedback provides a practitioner with yes or no answers to a comprehensive protocol of questions, allowing the practitioner to establish what type of balancing the body needs to harmonize body-mind function. This includes finding out which body systems need to be in communication at the physiological, biochemical, circulatory, nervous, emotional and/or energy levels.
The patient and/or practitioner touch the parts that need repair, and the practitioner then uses his or her fingers to gently tap the head of the patient in order to focus the brain toward repair. Experiments with biofeedback apparatus show a major increase in brain activity in relation to those parts when tapping occurs. The practitioner then lightly taps the chest to store the changes in deep memory.
BodyTalk involves no invasive or dangerous techniques. However, the association advises that BodyTalk is not a substitute for conventional medical care.
BodyTalk originated in Australia in 1996. Dr. John Veltheim developed a treatment protocol to address diseases such as dyslexia, chronic infections, poor immune system functioning, certain types of allergies, poor blood sugar balancing, arthritis and musculo-skeletal disorders. The system is based on the wisdom of advanced yoga, the energy dynamics of acupuncture, the clinical findings of applied kinesiology and western medical expertise.
Visits to the doctor were weekly, and emergency room trips were monthly. There were trips to medical specialists around the state, occupational and physical therapists, speech and language therapists and to autism clinic in Minneapolis as well as numerous daily supplements and medicines to take.
"Our life was a prison to the children's disabilities," Elizabeth Hanson said. "People don't see that now because we were set free. BodyTalk set us free. It changed the entire trajectory of our lives."
The Hansons learned about a chiropractor, Jonathan Dietz, and his wife, Stephanie, then of Bismarck, who were seeing good results with BodyTalk to treat allergies.
Elizabeth spent a month in February 2003 in Bismarck with her daughters so they could receive frequent treatment. When they returned home, Sarah was toilet trained and her abusive behavior stopped. Esther no longer had obsessive-compulsive tendencies or hearing loss. Hannah recovered from a constant infection. Their allergies were gone.
"When I went down to Bismarck, I had three very sick and disabled children with me. A month later when I went home, I had three very healthy children and one disabled child," she said.
Sarah, 18, continues to have autism, although it is less severe. She finished high school and is taking vocational training, including doing office work in her mother's business.
Esther, 20, was a fifth-grader functioning at kindergarten level and receiving most of her education through home school when she was treated with BodyTalk. Immediately, she improved academically and graduated from Rolla High School in 2010 as an honor student. She was active in Girl Scouting, 4-H and dance. She now is a married college student with a son.
Hannah, 11, is home-schooled and is following her parents and sister Esther in training in BodyTalk.
Hanson said Jonathan Dietz encouraged her to become trained in BodyTalk to continue providing care to her daughters at home. She received the training in August 2003.
"It was so logical. It just made so much sense, and it was so simple and easy to follow. It was just amazing," she said. "I never planned to have a job outside the home. I never planned to have a business. I only did this to help my children. That was it. But other people starting bringing me their children."
Her husband also started bringing people home to try BodyTalk. Hanson realized that she was going to need her own space. A Rolla chiropractor urged her to set up in his office.
"It just grew from there and it wasn't anything I planned, but it's something I am passionate about. The whole reason I do this is to remove suffering," Hanson said.
She said BodyTalk doesn't replace conventional medicine but it picks up when traditional medicine has done all it can.
"Doctors are valuable. They helped us. They did for many, many years what they can do," Hanson said. "BodyTalk just does more."
Her children's doctors, in seeing the change in the girls, told her to keep doing what she was doing, she said.
"It doesn't make me better than (doctors). It just makes me different," she said.
A BodyTalk practitioner has no special powers of healing other than getting the attention of the subconscious so the body can heal itself, just as it heals a wound or fights off a virus, she said.
Because of the billions of bits of information the subconscious mind handles every second, the body might not get around to addressing an issue that needs its attention, according to the principles of BodyTalk. Stress, poor diet and other factors can add to that inattention. The theory behind BodyTalk is that the body can communicate its issues using neuromuscular feedback. Then a connection can be made with the subconscious so that the body can heal itself.
The body determines the priorities and guides the BodyTalk practitioner, Hanson said.
"I cannot do anything but what the body asks," she said.
BodyTalk has been used to aid in treatment of infections, menstrual irregularities, multiple sclerosis, emotional disorders, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, arthritis, migraines and to promote athletic performance. It can improve quality of life for cancer patients, Hanson said.
There are 34 practitioners listed with the North Dakota BodyTalk Association at (ndbtassociation.wix.com). Twelve hold certification from the international association. Hanson has trained hundreds of people in the technique. She holds advanced certifications achieved by just 70 practitioners around the world. Body Talk is practiced in 40 countries.
Hanson's studio, The Health Tap, is located on Main Street in Rolla. Her daughter, Esther Hanson Bercier, who trained in BodyTalk at age 12 and became certified at age 16, now has her own practice, The Happy Tapper, at her mother's studio.
"What I like about BodyTalk is it's simple and it's a complete way to treat the body," Bercier said.
Bercier has few memories of her childhood before BodyTalk. The memories she recalls sometimes are unpleasant, such as having to take numerous bad-tasting pills.
"After BodyTalk, I became normal and had a life," she said. "I have a life where I probably wouldn't have."
Because of what BodyTalk did for her, she wants to help other people, Bercier said.
The founder of BodyTalk, Dr. John Veltheim, is writing a second book that is expected to be published next year. He has indicated that Bercier's story will be included.
Also in the new year, Hanson will be holding an entry-level BodyTalk Access class Feb. 10 in the Skyline Room at Trinity Hospital, Minot. Information will be posted on the state association website.