He had no formal training or qualifications in any therapeutic background but became one of the busiest and most effective therapists of his generation. His parents emigrated to Australia in the early 1900s from Wolverhampton. They were a working class family and Tom left school at the age of 14, taking various labouring jobs, before following his father's trade of carpenter, finding work at Geelong Cement works. An interest in sport led to an interest in treatment for sporting injuries and It was while he was working at the cement works that he started to treat people after work.
Having no therapeutic background or qualifications Bowen was under no restrictions about how he should run his clinic. He saw many patients each session, and talk was minimal, with patients being told not to see any other therapist and that "If I don't get you in two visits go away and save your money". Both points were good advice.
According to evidence that he gave to the Australian Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Naturopathic Committee Enquiry in 1973, all he had learned was self taught by experience and by reading. It was often said of Bowen that he could take one look at an individual and see what was wrong and where the problem stemmed from. In addition he only needed to do a few simple moves, allowing the body to rest for a while, before seeing that the body had started to change. Once he recognised this change had started, his work was done and the patient discharged, maybe to be brought back next week or maybe not needing any more treatment.
What Bowen could see was not something that could be easily verbalised or classified in the strictest sense of diagnosis. He just knew where there was an imbalance and had the ability to know when that imbalance was changing. Once Bowen had got the process moving, that was enough for him and he then knew that the through the week, the body would take over and do the rest. He was, apparently, rarely wrong.
Over the years in practice, Tom Bowen had many people who watched him work and who learned from him, but six men are considered to be the main ones with whom Bowen shared much of his understanding. One of the men, Oswald Rentsch started teaching his interpretation of the work in 1982 after Bowen's death and it is due to Oswald Rentsch that the work of Bowen did become as widespread around the world as it is today.