My Practice & Philosophy
My mother immigrated to New England from a rural Arctic region of Norway in the 1960's, where she met my father and birthed my two brothers and me. Her curiosity to explore and connect to the stories and people of this land, and keep us close to my relatives and lineage in Norway, has led me on an epic journey into the heart of belonging. Belonging, yes, the most fundamental need we share as humans. Belonging to ourselves, to each other, to the land, to our lineages and to a story that unifies us, not just as humans, but with a way of being that illuminates our interdependence with all beings, and honors our vulnerability for the precious short time we're here on this sacred planet.
The personal within the professional:
You've probably noticed that health professionals don't disclose much about their personhood. So let's start there. My compassionate attention and awareness is generously available for all of my clients and students who do and do not share my identities, interests and preferences. This is the most fundamental premise of clinical social work and where two or more humans can truly meet: in this field of curious, compassionate, collaborative and well resourced awareness.
Another foundation (there are many) is that the focus of the therapeutic relationship is on you, the client, and we cultivate this relational field of awareness, together, for your benefit. Yes to both agreements. And. Disclosing nothing creates an unnecessary power imbalance, which social work is all about dismantling. So let's nip that in the bud and start with some basic brush strokes about me before I describe my education and training, which is further down on this page if you want to skip this part:
Music moves me every day and I'm a Spotify playlist curator and improvisational dancer, co-hosting dance jams on Sunday afternoons. Singing in choirs lit me up me when I was young and I'm still singing, mostly acapella, vibing on harmonies with devotional lyrics with friends in a handful of local ensembles.
Creating beautiful and tranquil sanctuaries through sustainable interior design captivates me almost daily. I'm an avid gardener and house plant tender, and will be happily learning to connect with plants and herbal medicine for the rest of my days.
I harvest energy as an ambivert, swaying between social extroversion and introversion, and am a soul family tender and community cultivator.
I've been an auntie and godmother to children for decades and enjoy young people so much that I worked in K-12 schools for 10 years. And, I chose not to be a birth mom this time around. I've always loved cats, and currently share home with a young and wild tuxedo kitty, Cleo, whom we rescued early on in the pandemic.
Being a cancer thriver means I survived the diagnosis and treatment phase of that ground zero awakening, and that I'm cancer free! Big lessons in love are still rippling out from that experience. I keep consulting with holistic practitioners on what a cancer prevention diet and lifestyle are all about, and pass this wisdom on when asked.
As a child, I lived in an inter-racial and multi-faith co-housing community in New England and thought everyone in the world shared their resources and their land. As a tween, I was shocked when we moved to New Mexico and I discovered most neighborhoods in the United States have a lot of fences and social distance. It took a long time to recover.
That's when I started to learn about the history of land theft and genocide of Indigenous peoples and the thriving resistance of Native tribes in the Southwest. Whenever I visit my family, who still live in New Mexico, my mom likes to remind me that adequate reparations have still not been made and we're guests on this land.
I have a strong bicultural identity since my mom grew up in the Arctic, speaks another language, raised us to assimilate as well as honor her culture. I'm Norwegian-American. Because of this, I feel a kinship with folks who have immigrated more recently to the United States.
I'm white and that's an unearned privilege in this country. Given that, I was raised to be a white accomplice to Black, Indigenous and People of Culture, as well as non-Christians, which is an ever widening community practice that I'm devoted to.
Christianity is part of my heritage but I am more deeply connected to my pagan roots and the wisdom traditions of yoga, with a sensitivity to cultural appropriation.
My pronouns are she/her/hers and I identify as a woman and femme. Early on, I was initiated into an interfaith and multi-cultural feminism, and to this day gather with women to celebrate the cycles of the sun and moon, continuously uplifting one another in a culture that devalues us. My favorite temples to visit are vast wild landscapes in nature, and I prioritize outdoor adventures, the more remote, the better, most especially, lately, on my trusty bicycle.
Well before the internet was a glimmer on the technology horizon, I came out as bisexual, which was terrifying and a huge relief having known I was a sexual minority since I was five. Some identities are fluid, and bi eventually shifted to queer, which is not a slur if said with respect. I've found refuge sharing a sense of belonging to, as well as an ally with, the LGBTQIA communities.
The last tidbit is that while Greta Thunberg and I may or may not be related, I'm pretty concerned about climate change too, and she and others inspire me to take action in the small ways one person can, including sticking to a whole food plant based vegan diet.
Beginning my heart path of service:
And now for my professional credibility mixed in with my personal journey, because they're inseparable.
My primary orientation to meeting the call to heal the impact of complex developmental, generational, relational, institutional and systemic trauma and to fully awaken the capacity to thrive is interdisciplinary. I'm part scientist and part mystic. I dig the latest techniques to fine tune our psycho-neuro-biology and relational skills, and I bow to the wisdom of what humans have been practicing for centuries to arrive home to spacious present moment awareness, where we're certain of our belonging to ourselves, each other, the planet and the cosmos. Both ways in are not linear or even sequential or hierarchical. Remembering is simultaneous. And it's sparked in loving relationship.
How'd I choose this vocation? It chose me. I remember watching bits and pieces of John Bradshaw's PBS special on the, "The Family", when I was just a child. My mother was tuning in to it and while I was playing nearby, my interest was piqued. It was my first introduction to family systems work and I followed Bradshaw's publications into my teens. I would ask my friends to join me in working through the reflective inner child exercises.
After 18 years of marriage, my parents got divorced when I was in high school and the tools of psychology became life savers. I kept following the thread and my boyfriend introduced me to mindfulness through books like, Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. Since my mother had set me free to explore my spirituality long before my teen years, I joined a Buddhist group and learned to meditate and chant. I spent a lot of time hiking in the Sandia mountains and went dancing with my friends every weekend. I ran on the track and cross country team and completed a program that enabled me to go to high school half time and get credit for working the other half.
The wisdom seeds of eastern and western approaches to alleviating suffering, the power of movement to shift mood, being in nature to connect to Source, belonging within positive peer culture, and the ethic to serve and study were all planted in that stage of my life. By the time I headed off to college in New Mexico at 17, I was clear I would major in psychology and anthropology, where lineage, culture and family systems meet, and on the side, I would study dance which led me to yoga.
Like in high school, working through college was a necessity, so I began my path of service, tending to the needs of elders as a home health aide, like my mother before me, and teaching aerobics classes on campus. Nine years later, all of my studies, training and work culminated in graduating from the University of Michigan with a Masters degree in clinical social work. It was a big moment in shifting the legacy of the women in my family.
Here's something folks don't talk about much publicly. As a class straddler, at the age of 26, transitioning from a lineage of working class to a professional position with my own office with my name on it was really unsettling. Don't get me wrong. I was thrilled to work with clients and have colleagues who were just as into it as I was, but it was going to take some time to reorient and dissipate my sense of nagging guilt having more access than my elders. I began having panic attacks before work.
Transitions. They're something, aren't they? The DSM, the reference book used to diagnosis mental health conditions, defines the difficulty of making a transition smoothly as an adjustment disorder. Well, that was me at 26, 27, 28.
I had discovered Hatha yoga through dance years before, and turned to it in earnest to soothe, strengthen and orient myself to the unfamiliar set of class norms I had stepped in to. I also hired mentors to help me bridge the gaps. As my whole system began to reorient and adapt, I was honing my skills with the guidance of dedicated colleagues and through my clinical work with inspiring 5 to 105 year old clients from all walks of life. I served folks in many settings including at an outdoor adventure leadership center, substance abuse treatment center, a hospital, K-12 schools, non-profit organizations, retirement communities and a research institute.
My job titles were adventure education facilitator, outdoor leadership guide, substance abuse counselor, therapist, prevention specialist, intervention specialist and school social worker. I spent the longest stretch, seven years, in a small school district near Detroit working with an incredible team of women serving middle school students and their families and teachers. We offered individual and peer support, a robust group counseling program, after school programs, summer school programs, classroom presentations, conflict resolution, anti-bullying and sexual harassment prevention training and interventions, behavior and academic plans - it was very full and highly collaborative.
While I was on staff, I became ready to share my yoga practice and one summer I attended an immersive yoga teacher training program in the Berkshire mountains that was life changing. Reluctantly at first, and then with full on joy, I began teaching at the school district, and then yoga studios and eventually retreat centers.
Shifting to private practice:
After 15 years of public service as a clinical social worker, in 2011, I got laid off from my school social work position. A lot of people did that year. So I took that opportunity to pause. I studied Thai Yoga massage, taught Hatha yoga and partner yoga classes, led my first weekend retreat, and transitioned to a full-time private practice in Ann Arbor. I've been offering holistic psychotherapy for adults and couples since, as well as yoga classes, workshops and retreats.
In my practice, I bring together my life experience with a fusion of decades of clinical training. I'm most present to how the wisdom and integration of somatic psychotherapy, internal family systems, EMDR, transpersonal and ecopsychology, attachment theory and compassionate communication meet the developmental needs of couples and individuals in distress.
My yogic path encompasses ethics, postures, breathing, meditation, mantra, and chanting, and we'll go there in session when it meets the moment. I also share the power of singing simple songs, like nursery rhymes only for adults. While I don't offer this for clients directly, I do guide some couples in the basics of Thai yoga massage, a practice I taught for five years. I am also a Reiki Master and deepening my skills as a channel of this resourcing energy. There's a massage table in my office and sometimes clients opt to receive Reiki while processing trauma.
I accepted a part-time faculty position at Washtenaw Community College in 2014, where I teach a two-credit course on the philosophy and practice of Hatha yoga. My mission is to inspire students to claim an ever deepening commitment to what I discovered a few decades ago: there's sovereignty and agency in the simplicity of stretching, regulating breathing and focusing our attention and awareness.
In 2019, I dipped back in to where science, somatics and mindfulness meet and began studying SensoriMotor psychotherapy. I'll always be an enthusiastic student and look forward to learning about polyvagul theory and practice next, as well as deepening my understanding of one of my favorite therapeutic topics: trauma-informed attachment focused couples therapy.
So that's a snapshot about me. Our work together is going to be focused on you, or you and your partner or spouse. I encourage folks to build a team of practitioners, practices and loved ones to help them find their way through tight places, because being well supported lights the way and cushions in some kindness when reorienting in the dark. There's not really one ultimate destination I can help you get to, but I would be honored to offer my gifts in service to your lifelong journey of rediscovering wholeness, moment by moment, which will ease whatever transition you're in and help you reorient your compass to presence. Check out my contact info below to reach out.
Blessings to you and yours,
MSW in Clinical Social Work from 1996-98 at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
BA in Psychology & Anthropology from 1992-95 at University of Colorado, Boulder
Psychology & Anthropology from 1989-91 at New Mexico State University
Level 1, 2019: SensoriMotor Psychotherapy Institute
Reiki Master, 2019: Arramai Services
Reiki Level 1 & 2, 2014: Wellness Beyond Words
Thai Yoga Therapist, 2012: Blue Lotus Thai Healing Studies
LFY Level 1 & 2, 2007: LifeForce Yoga
Yoga Teacher Certification, 2006: Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
LICENSE & PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
LMSW - Michigan: Licensed Master of Social Work from 2003 - present
ACSW - National: Academy of Certified Social Workers from 2003 - present
E-RYT - Yoga Alliance: Registered Yoga Teacher from 2006 - present