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Brave Therapy™ is a blog site created by Andrea Szasz, a Psychotherapist and Counsellor living and practicing in Sydney, Australia.

Somatic Practice with Anita Whelen at Brave Therapy™

I am very excited to introduce Anita Whelen Somatic Experiencing Practitioner who joined my practice in January. While we practice in different ways, our work highly compliments each-other. Anita’s background is in body work, while I am a psychodynamic and somatic psychotherapist. Here is a conversation I had with Anita about her work.
As a Somatic Practitioner, I work with your nervous system. To help find and grow resilience, reducing your experiences of overwhelm. Overwhelm is anything your physiology cannot tolerate, the symptoms of overwhelm can be varied and complex. Chronic nervous system overwhelm may be due to shock trauma, surgical trauma, developmental trauma and/or chronic stress.
Some symptoms are:
Ongoing, niggling pains and aches, depression, anxiety, PTSD and CPTDS, chronic fatigue, migraines, adrenal fatigue, IBS and gut disorders, fibromyalgia.
Sessions are 55 minutes, taking place on the treatment table, or seated, they can involve movement and sound, always tailored precisely to the client’s needs at the time of the session. In resolving old hurts, traumas, pains or chronic stress, Somatic Practice restores health, vitality and resilience.
Why Somatic Experiencing®? What pulled you towards this modality?
I found the modalities I was working with fell short in being able to help people the way I felt they could be helped. But I didn’t have enough information. Those modalities are fantastic and can offer many a great deal of relief, but I wanted more. I was looking for deeper healing, not just relief. In looking to heal others, I found that healing for myself!
What is somatic practice?
It’s learning how to get to know what your nervous system is really telling you. It’s letting yourself try out the idea of being present and vulnerable with another human being. It’s learning to trust. It’s being brave enough to let go of all the old stuff that got you where you are, but is holding you back from being more, from being healthier, happier, kinder, freer.
It’s a big deal! In my opinion.
How does a session look like with you?
I hear your words and I listen to your body. We might explore movement or sound and get curious about how that feels – Pleasant? Scary? Joyful? Soothing?
Touch can bring about huge shifts for people. Some people love contact and some loathe it. I get curious about the individual’s relationship with touch and how we might be able to work with that, rather than change it. We might play with proximity, pressure, positioning, timing. Always, my aim is to respect and work with who and what is there in that moment, rather than try for or do something that the nervous system may really not want.
Do you combine the different modalities like craniosacral and SE? 
I draw from all my trainings and use whatever best supports and encourages regulation and the expansion of the nervous system’s capacity for the client in that moment. Touch is always and only with permission. My practice is very Somatic Experiencing® oriented but it is built on my skills and experience as a body worker. So, I am always curious about the bodily experience and how that is for the individual.
How can people get in touch? 
The best way to contact me is via phone or email. Please be sure to let me know how you found me, too!
Mob: 0422 469 570
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Book Review: Strange Situation, A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment

I love this book! As a researcher and a clinician with special interest in trauma,  attachment and body-mind connections, I was excited to listen to the audible version of this book. Attachment theory become part of  pop psychology and seems to be everywhere in popular media. I often hear phrases: “he is so avoidant” or “she is just ambivalent”, but often there is no clarity about what these ‘labels’ really mean. Often even clinicians use these phrases without real knowledge what they mean and how the research developed regarding attachment theory.
Bethany Saltman wrote a fantastic book which takes you through the history of the development and research of attachment theory via her personal journey.
I share Bethany’s excitement and enthusiasm about Mary Ainsworth , Bolwby , Mary Main and others who brought amazing and essential research to us. I also share the enthusiasm about the Adult Attachment Interview that  I am qualified coder for and offer this unique service in my practice.
If your are interested either as a practitioner or as someone who is interested how we work and hw does attachment influances our life through generations, I suggest to read this book. The only problem with the book is that I did not write it 🙂
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How to BRAVE the Holiday Season in 2020

How to BRAVE the Holiday Season

 

The holiday season is the time of the year when there might be some extra relational demands of us. While the festive season is generally a happy time, the reflections and celebrations can also be challenging. There are expectations; from family members with whom we may share some difficult history, or perhaps the opposite – we may find that we don’t have enough people to share in our experience.

Below is a small list of skills I’ve put together for you on the occasions when you might find yourself overwhelmed. The exercises are adapted from Somatic Experiencing®, The Daring Way™ (Brené Brown’s work), and are also informed by the Polyvagal Theory.

Breathe. Wherever you are, this is the easiest option to start regulating your nervous system. Practice three counts in-breath (via the nose) and five counts out-breath (via the mouth), pushing the air out. Repeat this sequence three times and practice at least three times a day. This technique will help you to engage the calming part of your nervous system – the part we refer to as the parasympathetic nervous system.

Remember a recent day or time when you felt most like yourself. It could be a day when you had a good session at yoga, a superb coffee in bed, or that time you spent with people who you connect to. It can be anything really. As you remember, and recall the sense of being most like yourself, feel the sensory experience of that. You may have a sense of expansion into your chest, maybe you feel tall or a sense of spaciousness in your stomach. Stay with the experience and let it grow in your body. You can practice this for a couple minutes per day. This can be really useful in situations when other people’s thoughts and actions can get overwhelming, like a Christmas gathering 🙂

Awereness or orienting is a skill that you can also practice anywhere and anytime. When you reach a location, take a couple of minutes to arrive. Notice your feet, then if you are sitting down, notice the support that the seat provides. Slowly, gently moving your head, neck and eyes, look around. This seems very simple I know, but it helps your nervous system to relax by giving you chance to reduce any implicit triggers and to notice safety.

Values are the lights that help us to show up in difficult situations, as Brené Brown says. So, carrying our values inside our bodies when we show up to a difficult holiday gathering can make a difference. Choose a couple of your values; compassion, or gratitude or maybe integrity. Think of one of them and check in with your body – where do you notice this value? Is it in your heart or more in your stomach? Don’t mind if this does not make sense in a cognitive way, we are looking for sensory experiences here. Stay with the sensation of the value, see if a colour comes up, see if there is a shape that is appearing, and go on like that, finding all the sensory details that you can. You will see how good it feels noticing that this value that is so important to you already lives inside you, and it will support you in challenging situations.

Empathy is not an easy skill to practice in difficult relational situations. I still suggest to go with; ‘everyone is doing the best they can, with the tools they have in that moment’. If you find yourself in tricky situations where, for example, your aunt makes comments about your body at a NYE gathering, instead of getting really angry or hurt, think about why is that so important for her? Did she learn somewhere maybe that looking a little different can be dangerous? Was she bullied when she was your age because of how she looked? These are just ideas, but you get the drift. Go easy, go kind with yourself and with others. You can also gently tell this aunt that you feel fabulous in your skin and hopefully she does too.

 

Wishing you a safe, peaceful and fun Holiday Season.

Love from

Andi

Brave Therapy™

 

PDF to download the skills

 

 

Click here if you are interested in the Rising Strong Online Workshop in 2021

 

 

 

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Self-Love?

One of these mornings I woke up with a sense of dread. Feeling the stresses of our ‘new normal’; the way we have to think about wearing masks and hand sanitizers. Feeling the pain of lack of real, face-to-face connection with loved ones. Dealing with the general ‘I am over it’ attitude from basically everyone. Part of me just wanted to stay in bed with chocolate and watch, scary ‘Scandi’ movies all day. But then I remembered how it feels after I go for a run and jump into the cold ocean. A part of me got my shoes on, grabbed my keys and off I went. By the time I reached the shore, the dread was starting to disappear. I was even able to look at the ocean and feel gratitude for the deep beauty that is.
As I was walking I started to listen to a podcast from Alan Alda interviewing Brené Brown. (BTW Alan Alda’s podcast is great, check it out.) At a part of the conversation they were talking about empathy, self-compassion, self-love and Alan started to wonder out loud: what is self-love, how do you practice it? Do you say ‘Jee my heart beats faster when I think you?’ 🙂
I thought about self-love further, and a Hungarian psychologist, Popper Péter  came to mind who said “love is something that makes your life better, saying I love you is not enough, it has to be an action that the receiver of that love experiences as an enhancement of their life.” The check point is: is my life becoming better by being loved by you?
If I practice self-love, I have to do things for myself that are benefiting my life, things that make me feel good, feel loved. So I guess I can thank that part of myself that got me out of bed, and made me move my body, have some positive sensory experiences, that part helped me to feel gratitude and to lift the dread.
Loving oneself takes action, the action of doing something that makes our lives better. Of course, chocolate in bed with ‘Scandi’ movies has its place too 🙂
With Love
Andi
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