How It Began
Slow Crock Cooking Over Time
Having arrived at the age of the speed limit on many highways (no, I’m not that old!), I see by looking back that there is a thread that joins how I grew into being a psychotherapist. I have always been drawn to being a caregiver.
Turning On The Crock Pot
It began in a hospital. Four years as a candy striper convinced me I was to work in the medical field. So off I went on the Suzuki, wearing a motorcycle helmet and short uniform dress down the main street of Harrisburg, PA, to medical technology school. The best part of nighttime hospital laboratory work that followed was getting to talk to the patients whom I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to draw their blood. Fortunately for them, I was a good “sticker”.
Adding Just the Right Ingredients
The next step came during my volunteer work for a telephone crisis helpline. During this work, I learned how to really listen. Thank you, Carl Rogers, for introducing thousands of lay counselors to the art of active listening. Paying attention to the world of feelings came alive and my ability to connect with others went to another level.
The transition from listening with my ears to listening with my hands was an easy one. To de-stress the helpline workers, I often gave them shoulder and back rubs. When one of the volunteers suggested I look into massage therapy, every cell in my body said, “Yes!”. Attending the Florida School of Massage with its emphasis on using touch to restore physical as well as emotional health was the best six months of my life. Several months after graduation and “just by coincidence” I met a psychotherapist who was also a massage therapist. I eagerly enrolled in her training program for massage therapists who wanted to work with survivors of sexual abuse.
Let It All Simmer
For over the next ten years, I practiced as a licensed massage therapist. Working collaboratively with psychotherapists, I focused on helping those who had been abused a children to regain trust that touch can feel safe and good.
Along the way, I came to appreciate that an even more effective way to help these clients heal would be if the massage therapist could also be the psychotherapist. That way, clients would less likely compartmentalize how they understood the impact of the abuse and how they felt emotionally and how the abuse affected them physically. To help clients make these connections, I knew I needed more education beyond my training as a massage therapist.
Adding One (?) Last Ingredient
Getting to Naropa University was a nine-year dream come true, inspired by a former psychotherapist/massage therapist mentor. The Contemplative Psychotherapy program’s principles of mindfulness (being able to watch our internal process), the belief that at our core is sanity and health, and the need to balance wisdom with right action laid the foundation of my counseling practice. This foundation, however, was just that and additional training in specific therapeutic skills called me. (Did I say that education has been a long lifetime endeavor?) After acquiring a Masters degree and being licensed as Professional Counselor, I completed a two-year study of Hakomi, a body-centered psychotherapy with emphasis on how we develop from birth, and three years of specialized trauma training called Somatic Experiencing©, developed by Peter Levine, PhD behind me. At last, for now, I’m “all cooked”!
So, Is There Life Beyond Work and Education?
Well, no and yes. I am passionate about education, my own as well as others. I teach whenever I get a chance. I have been an instructor in listening skills at the telephone helpline and in massage schools in Florida; a guest lecturer to University of Central Florida’s graduate students in counseling to advocate for having their clients work with body workers; and an adjunct instructor at Naropa University. In the psychotherapy office, educating graduate students as to the how trauma affects us on all levels is key to their learning process.
In my personal life, I have no doubt about the wisdom of the body. When unexplained aches arise that are beyond my normal “aging process”, I turn immediately to trauma specialists to help me unlock the mystery of what needs to happen to resolve old traumas. Even when my mind cannot make sense of it all, my body “speaks” clearly and loudly about what is out of kilter and how I can make things better.
Living in Colorado, I have grown fond of hiking, attending the Rockies baseball games (when they are winning) and driving to the tippy top of the highest drivable mountain in the world and along other thrilling high mountain passes.
Yes, for an “older woman” I love to take an occasional risk. To keep me grounded after flirting with the edges of 1000-foot drop-offs, I dance like a fool at the dance hall, soak in hot springs or tube down the Arkansas river.
So, after 60+ years of living, I’ve arrived at that magical time of knowing what I love to do – helping others heal after trauma- and feeling skilled and experienced enough to offer that out into the world.