The more I’ve developed as a psychologist, the more I’ve noticed that most of the work I’ve been doing has been related to listening to our bodies, being present with what is, and finding peace in the present moment.
I want us all to be deeply connected to ourselves in this way, and I know there’s a lot that gets in the way of this. Most of us have been taught about hustling, pleasing, control, and boundaries in ways that don’t serve us. At work, we’re treated like machines. Outside of work, there doesn’t always seem to be space for the fullness of our humanity. Directly and indirectly, we’re taught to disconnect from our feelings and our needs in order to survive.
As we work to move away from the shame-invoking and toxic messages that were passed onto us about who we were supposed to be, I think it helps to have something to move toward.
This is where embodiment comes in. To me, it’s a practice. One that involves slowly and safely finding ways to turn inward again and start listening. To be with our experience with compassion rather than judgment. It involves finding ways to be present, playful, and curious in our lives, rather than driven by the need to always be productive or pleasing.
Being embodied involves slowing down. Taking care of the parts inside of us that are still on high alert and making peace with the adaptations we’ve made to get this far.
I’m so glad to be able to offer a space where we can work on embodiment together.
About Somatic Psychology
I turn to my training in Somatic Experiencing (SE) when I’m working with clients who are hoping to heal from a traumatic experience. This may be an acute incident (such as a sexual assault, car accident, or fall, for example) or a chronic stressor (eg., childhood abuse, intimate partner violence, experiencing homelessness, living through war). SE is a gentle, body-based approach to healing trauma. It is based on the idea that trauma lives in the body and can be thus be released by slowly working through body sensations.
What can you expect during an SE session? I invite clients to begin with the part of the experience that is least activating for them. This is known as titration. It basically means doing a little bit at a time (the smallest amount that the client can stay present to) and not just overwhelming the nervous system by diving into the most difficult part of the trauma. As they remember this image, I invite them to slow down and notice what is happening in their body, in order to give the body space to process the event. Some people might notice sensations like tightness, heat, or pressure, and together we take the time to allow and explore these sensations without judgment. With time and the container of the room, people usually notice that the sensations change and the activation that has been held inside begins to release. All of this happens at the pace of the client and after we’ve established some grounding practices to help them feel safe.
As clients work through what’s happening in their bodies, I’m there as a guide and a constant reminder that our survival responses are all incredibly adaptive. These natural instincts include fight, flight, freeze, please/appease (fawn), attach/cry for help, and collapse/submit. I recognize that people can be blamed for their experiences and their survival responses, so I help clients work through any leftover shame they may be experiencing for the ways in which their bodies helped them survive. This is also a feminist counselling approach.
About Feminist Psychology
“The symptoms that women bring to therapy are the individual manifestations of what is essentially a collective problem for all women [and] the cure for this problem must be collective as well” –Miriam Greenspan
So, what does feminist therapy involve? As with most therapies, the most important thing is the relationship that we form together. Beyond that, here’s a bit of what else you might be able to expect with me:
1) Believing that the client is the expert on their own lives. My job is not a prescriptive one nor does it involve acting as if I know what’s best. Instead, it’s helping the client sort through anything that’s clouding their own expertise and strength. It’s accompanying them through their struggles and healing, putting ideas on the table, but encouraging them to do the same and meeting them where they’re at. It’s allowing the client to decide what’s best for them and believing in their power to do so.
2) Acknowledging the system we live in. We acknowledge that the problem the clients comes in with (whether it be self-esteem, anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma, body image, relationship issues, sexuality concerns, violence, assault, or something else) do not just exist on an individual level. Rather, these are problems that exist on a greater scale in our society and the individual is living the effects of those. The feminist approach directly addresses the real social, political, and cultural environment that the individual faces. Whether or not you like the word “patriarchy”, we do live in a system where things like domestic violence, sexual assault, hate crimes, homophobia, ableism, and racism still exist.
To create real possibilities for all people, feminist psychologists believe that we must fight the systemic barriers that face them. We can do this by creating space within the counselling session to discuss the existence of the problem as a community problem, rather than individual problem. We can then address the importance of addressing the individual concern at a societal level, and inevitably, we can create real opportunities for people of all genders through a social, institutional, political, and cultural revolution. Counselling cannot end oppression, but it can help people of all genders understand it and find ways to fight against it on a broader scale, and well as discover the collective power we do possess. We can also start to challenge the systems, roles, and identities that no longer serve us, and start to change those.
3) Engaging in a mutual sharing process. At times clients feel alone in their pain and it can help to hear the stories of others, including my own.
As a feminist psychologist, I have special training in working with those who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault. This includes work at two sexual assault centres (Edmonton and Victoria) and at the Men’s Trauma Centre (Victoria). As I described above, it also includes training in an approach called Somatic Experiencing. Some of the other common issues I see include self-compassion, loss, stress, anxiety, body image, boundaries, burnout, and healing old wounds. I am also kink-aware and poly-friendly.
Online Portal for Clients
Once we are working together, please use the Owl Practice Client Portal to
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