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Who is Shelley Cowcill?

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Shelley Cowcill, BA, BScPT, FCAMT, CGIMS

Shelley graduated from McMaster University in 1996 with a degree in Physiotherapy. In 2005 she became a fellow with the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Therapists (FCMAT). She is certified in Intramuscular Therapy (CGIMS) and has completed numerous interest courses within the osteopath and physiotherapy disciplines. She has developed and led workshops for physiotherapists and allied health professionals in addition to acting as a mentor for physiotherapists completing the FCAMT process. She regularly works with sports teams to health facilitate education on injury prevention and moving well in sport.

Shelley is passionate about movement, education and empowering her clients to find health in every stage of life.


How long have you been a practitioner?

I’m not sure I want to answer that question - since it will make me seem incredibly old…

But if I must, I graduated in 1996 at the tender age of 10….oh alright, at the age of 24. Prior to my physiotherapy degree I completed a BA in psychology.

What does a typical clinical day look like for you?

After 25 years of clinical practice I have the ultimate privilege of working from home in a studio that I was able to design based on my preferences and needs. Each morning I enter my space with my coffee, turn on my fireplace, drink my coffee and quietly prepare myself for my day. I think of the things that are cluttering my head space and I let them go. I then remind myself of the things that center and ground me. This way, the moment my client enters my room I am fully present and completely tuned into what their current needs are.

Each interaction is dependent on who that client is and what stage of treatment we are in. With new assessments I spend an enormous amount of time educating them on their body and how it interfaces with gravity and common functional movements. I help them interpret what they are experiencing with what “is” . I try to give them a framework to understand what is happening and why, so that they start to see the patterns of dysfunction and how to correct them. I have some clients who are already doing everything they can to stay mobile,

but they have chronic issues that need addressing so that they can continue to keep moving. For these clients I use my IMS and manual therapy to reset tone and optimize joint function. I regress their exercises, give guidance on how to navigate the flare ups, listen to their frustrations and answer their questions.

I am a facilitator, I am a listener, I am an advocate, I am a burden sharer and sometimes I’m just downright silly. I don’t always get it right, but my clients always know that every single thing I do as a physiotherapist has a very specific objective, a rationale and an expected outcome. More importantly, they know I do it from a place of deep caring and that at the center of my practice - it is their well being, not my ego that is the omphalos.

What kind of clients do you see?

Every single one of my clients has a common thread. They are actively engaged and committed to the process of being the autonomous directors of their health. I have treated a wide spectrum of clients, from pro athletes to budding soccer players. I have clients who hate exercise but love playing with their grandchildren or tackling their gardens with vigor. The age and athleticism varies greatly within my caseload, but each one of them knows that the person who has the biggest ability to change their reality - is them.

What are your hobbies and interests?

My whole life, sports and travel were my big passions. My favourites were volleyball, soccer, hockey and kickboxing. As I entered my forties I was hit hard with aggressive arthritis and despite my determination to never stop, I had to set this passion aside. In its place has settled a deep gratitude for any movement my body will allow. Daily exercise is my mood modulator, my frustration settler, my joy bringer and a necessity for managing my pain.

As my ability to be physical has declined I have turned to learning Spanish and spending long amounts of time travelling and exploring Spain. All my clients know I love to travel and that every summer I disappear for two months. This is what feeds my soul and is my biggest source of enjoyment outside of my family.

What are the biggest issues you see in the physical rehabilitation professions?

I would have to say dualistic thinking. The idea that one truth negates all other truths. This has a few dangerous fall outs. First of all this ”either - or” thinking leaves no room for the clients who fall outside of the norms. When these clients encounter a professional like this they feel dismissed, not heard and they move farther away from health. Secondly it creates divisions between health professionals. If you believe that your way is the best way then it must mean that everyone else is wrong, or at best - not as good as you. To me, balance and health are achieved when you are able to hold two truths in tension.

What made you want to create IMMT?

I had completed the post graduate education stream within manual therapy for physiotherapists and was looking for what was next. I started doing some courses in visceral therapy and ended up being so intrigued that I signed up for the Osteopath program. Sadly, life intervened and I wasn’t able to go beyond second year - but my time there was paradigm shifting. The holistic perspective and the time that went into teaching us how to palpate differently was incredible. It suddenly gave me a whole new lens from which to interpret what I was seeing and doing already. My biggest thought was “if only I had learned to palpate like this when I was a new grad….”. Being in the program made me acutely aware of where my profession excelled and where it fell short. IMMT was born out of our collective desire to share our knowledge, learn from each other and give clinicians a new lens from which to operate.


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