Serendipitously, just after I retired from Albemarle County Schools and was getting ready to open my private practice, I attended a seminar which introduced me to the new developments in attachment research and neuroscience. I was mesmerized. Not only did it provide new clinical information, but it also touched me personally in a very deep way, and opened the door to a whole new way of thinking about human development.
At this seminar, I learned how the thinking brain is hijacked by stress (including everyday stress, not just big events), and that the stress needs to be soothed before full functionality is available to us. This was in direct contrast to the standard “behavior modification” model which emphasizes rewards and consequences.
In addition, I learned how early attachment patterns are biologically imprinted on the brain and are largely responsible for how we experience and respond to stress. This led to the astounding discovery that behavior, and many mental health disorders found in the DSM (the doctor’s bible for labeling mental health disorders) can be changed and repaired through attention to one’s current attachment patterns. In essence, this focused on creating a “felt sense” (body based/not intellectually based) experience of safety in the world. It pulled the plug on self judgment, shame and blame, and judgment of others.
I devoured the presenter’s bibliography—going directly to the evidenced based sources. This study drew me towards becoming a more emotionally and experientially focused therapist, using research proven methods of body based psychotherapy. I am now passionate about being a credible voice for the limitations of traditional talk and behavioral therapy. I study and champion experts such as Bessel van der Kolk and Peter Levine, who validate body work, and Sue Johnson, who developed Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
I have taken this paradigm to a deeper level by studying with birth psychology expert, Myrna Martin. I have completed her three year advanced certificate training in birth psychology. I use this material to work with clients, heal myself, and strengthen my relationships with my two daughters and husband. I have found that, after living much of my life plagued by anxiety and turmoil, it is possible to live life with inner peace, even when things on the outside are not going so well. Happiness is, indeed, an “inside job”.
In summary, I have gone from being a student of and consumer of traditional talk therapy, with a strong interest in defining pathology in people, to becoming a passionate and credible professional voice for the attachment/neuroscience/trauma/birth psychology paradigm which sees the potential for health and happiness in everyone. My intent is to provide both education and experience to help advance this field.