Tell us a bit about yourself & what you do in the world.
I work as holistic psychotherapist in private practice. I love outdoor adventure, beauty, and thrive when I can see stars, climb on rocks, and be creative. Although I have a strong foundation in western clinical psychology, I would say that I am an unconventional therapist. I work with individuals and couples and lead a variety of groups and retreats, including wilderness and yoga retreats, and expressive art therapy groups. I also consult with group leaders and managers of organizations seeking to incorporate more collaborative and empowerment based styles of leadership. I work both in person and remotely, via phone and video. I have a background in yoga, wilderness leadership & rites of passage, ecology, and art – including clothing and jewelry design.
Many people think that therapy is a place you go to speak aloud all your hurt, fears, past traumas, and then to be cleared of them – almost like a form of confession. Sharing is absolutely part of what heals, but as many have found, it is not always enough to generate transformation. We are biological creatures, not just brains with bodies. So much of human experience arises out of the nervous system, patterns of attachment and our instinctive “yes’s and no’s.” Talking is valuable, and absolutely has its place in my work, as do evidence-based techniques and interventions. However, moving beneath the choppy surface of mental dialogue and more deeply into the body is how we can expand. The mind can think one thing, and the body can know another. Especially in instances of anxiety, stress, or trauma, the part of our brains that allows for creativity, adaptability, and considering solutions to problems (the neo-cortex) literally becomes inaccessible. During challenging times in our lives we unknowingly switch into fight or flight mode, and without support can get stuck there, wondering why we can’t seem to get out of a rut or make new choices.
I treat my practice with clients as a collaborative and creative journey that addresses the whole person, part biology and part mystery. I hold the analytical and solution-focused aspects of therapy in tandem with the powerful wildness and wisdom of the human psyche. Interventions including yoga, guided meditation, wilderness experience, organized exploration of physical sensations, working with dreams, images, preoccupations and desires take us below the surface and into the flexible and mysterious terrain of what shapes us. I am constantly in awe of the complexity and creativity of human beings’ inner landscapes.
Why did you choose to become a therapist?
I initially chose this path by discovering it from another direction. The very short answer is: because I love people and connecting in meaningful ways about what matters most to them. I am insatiably curious about human consciousness, fascinated by neurobiology and evolution, and beneath the clinical knowledge, practice, and discernment, I get to love people for a living!
I grew up backpacking with my family as a child and through my teens, and became hooked on the raw experience of being in the wilderness. As I grew I could feel how it changed me, and I wanted to know why. I developed an early sense that many parts of human suffering were related to a culture of constant acceleration, consumption of non-essentials, and emotional isolation. In college I majored in Environmental Studies and Ecology, which is so much about how natural and cultural systems relate and co-arise. I was passionately curious about how humans relate; to one another, to the whole of which we are parts, and to themselves. I was drawn to all the ways I could contact my own inner compass and how to help others do this. I explored music, dance, and creative projects of every sort. I read endless books about religion, systems theory, and ecopsychology. I discovered yoga, which changed my life, by helping me to change my nervous system. I have a natural instinct to synthesize information and find patterns across disciplines, to examine the overlap of different fields, and I was driven to integrate my experiences into a role where I could support people to find meaning and navigate our world. And that was just the beginning: I decided on pursuing the path of psychotherapy. What followed was an educational, personal, and professional journey that transformed me more than I ever would have imagined!
What are you personally learning from being a therapist as well as an entrepreneurial business woman?
Being a therapist requires ongoing self-reflection and awareness; part of why I love it is because I can’t do high quality work if I go to sleep at the wheel. It is a profession that demands high levels of honesty and personal integrity. As a therapist my presence and relationship with my client are my tools. I am really excited right now about the constant balance I must hold between speaking authentically, offering my reflections and providing interventions, with giving a client room to experience discomfort and move through it organically. Each client needs a different balance of this, we could call it the support/challenge continuum, and this shifts moment to moment.
As far as being an entrepreneurial business woman, it is an ongoing opportunity to express and extend myself to larger and larger circles, almost like casting a golden net into the world, or singing into a megaphone, sharing authentically and with excitement about what I am doing. People who are drawn to me respond. The more inspired and aligned I feel with what I am doing, the easier it is to reach out. It is not about selling myself, but about tending my passions and contributions to the community, and inviting people in! My current breakthrough has to do with this: when I feed my soul, my left and right brain work as a powerful team, I do great work, it’s easy to talk about, and opportunities abound!
If there is a main message you want your work to convey, what is it?
Explore, Express, Embrace.
Laurel’s website | www.laurelfine.com