5 Key Takeaways of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Training

Take an expedition into the heart of psychedelic-assisted therapy with Numinus’ Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy course. In this 8-week virtual training, you will uncover a wealth of insights and skills that transcend conventional forms of mental health treatment options. 

The Course Unveiled

At the core of this journey lies the opportunity to learn from seasoned Numinus practitioners. Our team’s real-life experiences in integrative and transformative mental wellness will be your guideposts, illuminating genuine scenarios and situations that you’ll likely uncover as you build your career as a psychedelic therapist or guide.

Key Learnings

Holistic Model of Care

Psychedelic Therapy Arc

Inner Healing Intelligence

Psychological Flexibility in Practice

Navigating Altered States

Professional Resilience

As you emerge from Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, you not only carry a certificate of completion but a newfound community. This course extends beyond education; it's an opportunity to build connections with like-minded individuals who share your commitment to reshaping the future of mental health. Listen to Fundamentals alum Reilly Capps reflect on his experience with our training.

Join Numinus in contributing to the evolution of mental healthcare. Enroll in the transformative journey of Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy and empower yourself to make a lasting impact on the well-being of those you serve.

Sign up for Fundamentals today! 

Psychedelic Therapist Training: The Fundamentals

By Julian Bost

So, you’re thinking about becoming a psychedelic therapist? Numinus' goal is to pave the path to certification for folks interested in this profound healing modality. We offer a range of courses to help fully prepare you for work and experiences in this field. Our Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy course is the first step. Collaborating with the folks over at Healing Maps, we created this blog series to provide both scientific rigour and practical insights into the training journey of a psychedelic-therapist. Whether you're a therapist looking to expand your skillset, or someone curious about the intricacies of this therapeutic field, you're in the right place.

 

The Emergence of Psychedelic Therapy

The undeniable potential of psychedelics, from MDMA's effectiveness in treating severe PTSD to psilocybin's impact on major depression, signals a profound shift. The word 'psychedelics' now echoes in coffee shops, office corridors, and even the National Football League. This cultural shift is evident when highly public figures like Aaron Rodgers discuss their ayahuasca use without repercussions.

 

On a larger scale, philanthropists and institutions are actively backing psychedelic research. The CEO of TOMS pledged $100 million to this cause, while venerable, longstanding institutions like Johns Hopkins University are conducting groundbreaking studies on the link between psychedelics and consciousness. On a global scale, Australia became the first country to legalize MDMA and psilocybin for prescription use.

 

Psychedelics have entered our culture through various avenues, from microdosing to shamanic retreats. However, the most regulated and standardized path may be through therapy. Over the last seven decades, psychedelic-assisted therapy has proven both safe and effective in Europe and North America, with Numinus being at the forefront of today’s movement. As psychedelics gain more approvals globally, the demand for mental healthcare professionals trained in this therapy is set to surge.

 

The Questions That Arise

The growing prominence of psychedelic-assisted therapy prompts crucial questions: How can one become a psychedelic therapist? What is the path, and what does it entail to step into the realm of psychedelic therapy?

 

In being a psychedelic therapist, your job will combine two key elements: The use of a psychedelic substance (such as psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA, etc.) coupled with traditional psychotherapeutic practices. 

 

It's important to note a couple of critical points. Without the therapeutic component, psychedelic use is often considered “recreational.” While recreational or “underground" use has its place, psychedelic therapy is deemed particularly effective due to its professionalism, safety, and therapeutic integration components.

 

The Role of a Psychedelic Therapist 

 

The role of a psychedelic therapist varies based on location but generally requires being a licensed mental healthcare professional. This includes clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and chaplains who have received specialized training in psychedelic therapy. In essence, a psychedelic therapist is a licensed mental health professional equipped to combine psychotherapeutic practices with guided psychedelic experiences, unlocking individuals' innate healing potential.

 

How to Get Involved

The future holds significant demand for certified psychedelic therapists, and you could be one of them. Explore Numinus' Certification Pathway for more information. As this field continues to evolve, it is vital to ensure our knowledge is rooted in evidence and thoughtful consideration. 

 

Stay tuned for our next article, where we will explore the global legal landscape of psychedelic therapy.

 

Meet Cory Cooperman: Clinic Director in Montreal

Technology, Tools, and Changing Lives For The Better

 

Meet Cory, Clinic Director for Numinus in Montreal! Cory's dedication as Clinic Director provides transformative psychedelic-assisted therapies to those seeking healing and growth.

We recently sat down with Cory and discuss his role at Numinus, his passion for psychedelics and mental health, and his invaluable advice for anyone considering a career in this groundbreaking field.

What brought you to Numinus?

I came to Numinus as part of the Mindspace acquisition in February 2021. I was eager to join a company so aligned with our mission and values, pushing forward at the cutting edge of mental health care services.


Could you describe your role in 1-2 sentences?

As Clinic Director for Numinus in Montreal, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the clinic spaces in Montreal by managing the Care Coordinators and Personal Health Navigator, recruiting new practitioners (e.g., therapists, nurses, doctors), and administering our electronic medical record, billing and client scheduling system. Ultimately, when it comes to turning new programs into reality, such as our new Group Ketamine-Assisted Therapy pilot project, I am the lead in making sure everything is taken care of.


How do you act in service to yourself to make your mental health a priority?

I am blessed with a partner who happens to be a psychologist, as well as extensive training myself as a therapist, and it all starts with a strong work/life balance. I love to use technology (like Focus Modes in iOS) to help me maintain good work/life balance.


What do you love about Numinus?

I love the feeling of making a difference that comes from being part of Numinus, which is strongly felt when you connect with your co-Numis during meetings and see brilliant, caring people coming together to solve problems.

 

What inspires you the most about the field of psychedelics and mental health? 

I have concretely seen the difference mental health care, provided in a timely and evidence-based fashion, can make. It changes lives for the better, and there’s nothing more rewarding than that.

 

What has been the most transformative experience in your career so far?

I have been lucky to enough to get to transition from being a student therapist to someone who gets to enable practitioners in the field to do their very best for their clients. It brought me full circle, back to my roots in technology and management, while still getting to use my knowledge gained during my clinical training.

 

What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in your field?

Curiosity is your best tool, and if you approach challenges with a genuine openness to learning something new, even if you don’t solve a particular problem, you’ll come away with something that will help you the next time around.

 

Interested in joining the Numinus team? Check out all of our open roles HERE.

 

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Technologie, Outils et Changer des Vies

Rencontrez Cory, Directeur de clinique chez Numinus à Montréal ! L'engagement de Cory en tant que directeur de clinique permet de proposer des thérapies assistées par les psychédéliques à ceux qui recherchent la guérison et la croissance.

 

Nous nous sommes récemment entretenus avec Cory pour discuter de son rôle chez Numinus, de sa passion pour les psychédéliques et la santé mentale, ainsi que de ses précieux conseils pour toute personne envisageant une carrière dans ce domaine révolutionnaire.

 

Qu'est-ce qui vous a amené à Numinus ?

J'ai rejoint Numinus dans le cadre de l'acquisition de Mindspace en février 2021. J'étais impatient de rejoindre une entreprise si alignée avec notre mission et nos valeurs, poussant vers l'avant à la pointe des services de soins de santé mentale.

 

Pourriez-vous décrire votre rôle en une ou deux phrases ?

En tant que directeur de clinique pour Numinus à Montréal, je supervise les opérations quotidiennes des espaces cliniques à Montréal en gérant les coordonnatrices de soins et le navigateurs de soins, en recrutant de nouveaux praticiens (p. ex. thérapeutes, infirmières, médecins) et en administrant notre système de dossier médical électronique, de facturation et de prise de rendez-vous. Enfin, lorsqu'il s'agit de concrétiser de nouveaux programmes, comme notre nouveau projet pilote de thérapie de groupe assistée par la kétamine, c'est moi qui veille à ce que tout soit mis en œuvre.

 

Comment se mettre au service de soi-même pour faire de sa santé mentale une priorité ?

J'ai la chance d'avoir un partenaire qui est psychologue, ainsi qu'une formation approfondie en tant que thérapeute, et tout commence par un bon équilibre entre vie professionnelle et vie privée. J'aime utiliser la technologie (comme les modes de concentration dans iOS) pour m'aider à maintenir un bon équilibre entre vie professionnelle et vie privée.

 

Qu'aimez-vous chez Numinus ?

J'aime le sentiment de faire la différence qui découle de mon appartenance à Numinus, sentiment qui est fortement ressenti lorsque vous vous connectez avec vos co-Numis pendant les réunions et que vous voyez des personnes brillantes et bienveillantes se réunir pour résoudre des problèmes.

 

Qu'est-ce qui vous inspire le plus dans le domaine des psychédéliques et de la santé mentale ?

J'ai vu concrètement la différence que peuvent faire des soins de santé mentale fournis en temps opportun et fondés sur des preuves. Cela change des vies pour le mieux, et il n'y a rien de plus gratifiant que cela.

 

Quelle a été l'expérience la plus transformatrice de votre carrière jusqu'à présent ?

J'ai eu la chance de passer du statut d’étudiant au doctorat en psychologie à celui de personne qui permet aux praticiens sur le terrain de donner le meilleur d'eux-mêmes à leurs clients. Cela m'a permis de boucler la boucle, de revenir à mes racines en matière de technologie et de gestion, tout en continuant à utiliser les connaissances que j'ai acquises au cours de ma formation clinique.

 

Quels conseils donneriez-vous à quelqu'un qui souhaite entamer une carrière dans votre domaine ?

La curiosité est votre meilleur outil, et si vous abordez les défis avec une réelle ouverture d'esprit pour apprendre quelque chose de nouveau, même si vous ne résolvez pas un problème particulier, vous repartirez avec quelque chose qui vous aidera la prochaine fois.

Vous êtes intéressé(e) à rejoindre l'équipe de Numinus ? Consultez tous nos postes ouverts ICI.

Experience & Collaboration: A Practitioner's Approach To Teaching

Foundational Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Training, Taught By Experts. 

Dr. Steve Thayer is a licensed clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. He started his career in the U.S. Air Force, overseeing a mental health clinic and managing programs for preventing and treating alcohol and drug abuse. Currently, he focuses on helping his clients through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, teaching counselling courses, and co-hosting a podcast on psychedelic therapy. Steve is facilitating the upcoming cohort of the Fundamentals of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy, and we asked him questions about the course and his teaching approach.

 

What experience do you bring to the Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy course?

As a clinical psychologist specializing in psychedelic-assisted therapy, I have helped thousands of clients navigate their own healing journeys. I have been trained by MAPS in MDMA-assisted therapy, provide ketamine-assisted therapy in my practice, and serve as lead therapist on several psychedelic clinical trials. I also supervise clinicians providing psychedelic-assisted therapy and facilitate psychedelic medicine retreats abroad.

 

What can students learn from you?

Students can expect to learn the essential skills, qualities, and principles necessary to provide effective, compassionate, and ethic psychedelic-assisted therapy. I like to emphasize the importance of clinician self-knowledge, self-development, and self-care as a key component to doing this work well.

 

How do you approach teaching this course?

I take a collaborative approach to teaching. There is so much we can learn from each other! I try to draw out the collective wisdom of each group I teach so that we can elevate and support one another .

 

Why should people take this course?

This course will equip professionals with the foundational knowledge and skills to practice psychedelic-assisted therapy. I have extensive experience teaching, supervising, and mentoring therapists and I am committed to helping the rising generation of practitioners wield psychedelic tools safely, powerfully, and responsibly.

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To learn more about the Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, click here. To listen to Steve on the Psychedelic Therapy Frontiers Podcast, visit Spotify, here.

Episode 28: Creating a Mindful Culture at Work with Michael Bunting

 

“Mindfulness is both gift and challenge at the same time.”

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Dr. Joe speaks with Michael Bunting. Michael is a business leadership consultant with a focus on mindfulness in the workplace. He is the founder of The Mindful Leader, an online resource for developing mindful leadership skills and WorkSmart Australia, a leadership consultancy.

His consulting work focuses on cultural transformation in organizations with mindfulness training at the core of his services. He has worked with companies like Novartis Pharma, Qantas, Hilton Hotels, and Rio Tinto. He is also the author of The Mindful Leader, A Practical Guide to Mindfulness Meditation, and a contributor to Extraordinary Leadership.

Michael and Dr. Joe spoke about:

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn

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Episode 16: Mindful Peak Performance with Pete Kirchmer

 

“Research shows that mindfulness gives athletes greater access to flow states.”

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Joe speaks with Pete Kirchmer, Mindfulness Coach and Program Director of UCSD Center For Mindfulness mPEAK (Mindful, Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge). The mPEAK curriculum builds on the foundation of MBSR to help people cultivate an optimal mindset for performance and life around it. Pete works with athletes, executives, leaders, musicians, dancers, law enforcement, military personnel, first responders and anyone else who pushes themselves towards excellence. He is also developing the mPEAK Coach Training program, for mindfulness teachers who want to work with performers.

The interview explores the rich territory around mindfulness and performance. As many practitioners know, mindfulness can enhance focus, clarity, and purpose. And yet it is not obvious how to integrate the practice into the goal-oriented context of performance. After all, mindfulness is typically associated with acceptance of present-moment experience and a detachment from outcome, whereas performance is all about outcome. Joe and Pete take a deep dive into these issues, exploring:

If you or your organization are interested in this approach, Numinus has an experienced team of Mindfulness Coaches in Montreal, including Joe, who can guide you through mindfulness training and its integration into peak performance. Please reach out at numinus.com or info@numinus.com.

You can stay in touch with Joe on
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And Numinus:
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Here are some highlights of my conversation with Pete:

On Flow

Part of what creates this apparent paradox is thinking of mindfulness and performance as opposites or two ends of a continuum whereas they’re actually important complementary factors. Right?

One area I’ve come across some of this work is this whole notion of the mindful athlete, soGeorge Mumford’s famous book. He spends a lot of time talking about how mindfulness helps set the conditions for flow. Are you working with flow as well? How do you see flow fitting into the mix? And maybe for people not familiar with flow, can you talk about what it is and how it might be similar or different to mindfulness?

So flow is one of the modules that is explored in mPEAK. And for those who are not familiar with it, it is the state of ultra high performance often referred to as the zone. It is usually characterized by a sense of time distortion, either slowing down or speeding up, a loss of self, which basically means an absence of thoughts. And it usually it’s quite pleasant. It’s an absorption state.

Usually the outcome–although it’s not outcome focused–is one’s best performance.

How mindfulness can help prime us for flow–I guess I can say a little bit about priming–is that there is not an on-switch to flow. I like quote, “Enlightenment is an accident, and meditation makes you accident prone.” I think it’s very similar for flow.

Flow just kind of happens with enough grace and the right conditions. And meditation and mindfulness help make us accident prone to flow.

So I already mentioned this correlation to the selflessness or thoughlessness. So of course, there is the work that many of your listeners will be familiar with around mindfulness decreasing default network mode activity. And being able to let go or allow thoughts so thoughts don’t control your experience. So this is one doorway into the state of flow.

There’s also the part that is this immersion with the activity, which requires a deep focus. We also know that mindfulness trains the ability to have deep focus. One of the flow conditions is also what I would refer to as balanced effort. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the researcher who has done most of the work on flow, he says that it is this place that occurs when your skill is directly proportionate to your challenge or maybe your challenge is just a little bit greater than your skill and ability. And these conditions pull you into flow.

Having the ability to tune in and really pause and access one’s energy and resources in any moment, and then give the appropriate amount or just having a little bit more, having that wisdom of ‘Can I actually go for two more hours? Can I push a little bit harder? Or is that going to be too much?’

So really balanced effort is another flow condition.

 

On the Growth Mindset

I have to say I’ve used that sort of approach or that little module quite a bit when I’m working sort of higher performing clients. And what really stuck with me is this notion that actually high performing athletes because they’ve always been pushing limits and trying to get better and competing against people better than them in their development, they’ve had to become experts in failure.

And they have to develop the psychological tools to just extract all the possible value from failure and then keep going. I remember very well you guys showed us that amazing Nike ad with Michael Jordan, where he lists all of his failures and I think the punchline is ‘I’ve failed and that’s why I succeed.’

Have I sort of captured the essence of that wisdom?

Yeah. I love that you always added extracting value from failure. So with this growth mindset, one can really evaluate what the lessons were and use failure as on of the greatest growing opportunities. When you have a success, you can use mindfulness savour it and really enjoy it. Maybe you can reflect on what you did well that caused the success.

But I would say that failure has a such an intensity to it that the lessons are often far more transformative. So just having the intention to use failure as a learning experience is really valuable.

Episode 15: Meaningful Work with Entrepreneur Adrian Schauer

 

“I think the most successful people understand what a good investment is, and I think

investing in alignment between values and action is one of the best investments one

can make.”

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Dr. Joe welcomes Adrian Schauer, CEO of Alayacare, serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and philanthropist.

Alayacare is Adrian’s third startup. It provides software for home health care agencies with the mission “to enable the type of care we would want our loved ones to receive at home.” They now have 130 employees and their software enables hundreds of thousands home healthcare visits every month around the world. Last year, they raised over $13 million.

Adrian is also active as an angel investor and sits on the board of several companies. He is also the co-founder of the Madiro Fund, a non-profit that seeks “to invest in sustainable local projects promoting the health of communities in sub-Saharan Africa.”

In this conversation, Joe and Adrian explore the theme of creating and sustaining meaning at work, both for individuals and leaders in organizations. They cover:

One final note: Numinus has an increasingly robust offering to organizations interested in improving engagement, culture, and well-being. Our team brings expertise in mindfulness and 30+ years experience in management consulting to the table. So if this is something your organization is considering, please visit numinus.com or reach out at info@numinus.com.

You can stay in touch with Dr. Joe on

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Numinus:
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Here are some highlights of Dr. Joe’s conversation with Adrian:

 

Achieving alignment in organizations

“Our purpose is to enable the type of care we would want our loved ones to receive at

home.”

You have to make this vision really come alive for the stakeholders that you mentioned. I’d like you to talk about, if you can, how you keep the stakeholders aligned with that vision?

Let’s start with what’s on top of a lot of business owners’ minds. A lot of ink has been spilled over the challenge of keeping millennials engaged. I don’t mean that in an insulting way to millennials. It’s just a way to identify a demographic that is taking up more and more space in the labour force.

So how do you approach the problem of keeping people motivated to work hard towards this vision?

That’s the classic question. The why. And until we were 40 to 50 people, I didn’t need to be that explicit about it. That’s because at that size, everybody was in fairly direct contact with the why. Even a developer writing code would get out to a client. They would meet the nurse delivering care in the home. They would be at most one jump away from the end result of their work.

As we get bigger, that becomes harder. And so for the last couple of years, I’ve been very explicit about it. Our purpose as an organization is to enable the type of care we would want our loved ones to receive at home.

I have a slide on that. I have a picture of my father in law which helps me maintain that personal connection to the why. And I put that up at every town hall followed by the vision, the mission, and our values.

I put up the why explicitly and ask anyone to think about what their personal connection is to the why.

Any other tactics?

I’m a bit resistant to the term tactic. I said it’s more explicit now than it used to be. But I don’t consider it a tactic. I think I know at the front end of my career when I was working a job for somebody else, what made it meaningful was understanding the big picture. And seeing how my efforts contributed to the whole.

So I consider this not a tactic, but a core part of what I do. It’s also a precondition for success in a startup… I think.

One point I want to make about millennials is that they get a lot of credit for forcing employers to bring meaning and purpose into their job. But they didn’t invent that concept. Great companies always had purpose. Great leaders always connected people to meaning. Millennials, for reasons we could discuss, just have that as an expectation. They didn’t invent the concept.

So I’m guessing the word ‘tactic’ invokes manipulation or some kind of opaque intention. And you’re resisting that because in your case it is authentic and aligned. Right?

And yet there are tons of engagement enhancing tactics out there. So why not the word tactic? It is something that you’re doing–okay, it’s not something manipulative–but let’s say you’re an HR person or a learning development person in a large organization, they have to figure out strategies and tactics to keep people engaged.

I think you nailed it. It’s the sense that it’s not authentic. If that association isn’t there, I have no problem with the word.

But I think there is nothing worse than an explicit attempt to create engagement that is inauthentic. If it’s inauthentic, you’re better off not doing it or going back and searching it into what you can authentically put forward as a purpose.

And if I can use that statement as a lead in to how I would have had to answer this question earlier in my career, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. So being in the health tech industry, this is very easy because the result of our work, if we do it right, is better care. It’s pretty easy.

The first business I was involved with was a mobile marketing company. When we did well, Pepsi sold more sodas or Nike sold more shoes. What was meaningful work in that context was much harder. We were younger. This wasn’t topical. But we had the same challenge as to why are people going to pour an exorbitant amount of their mental and emotional energy into this project that we had together.

And at the time, it was very much about the community we had within the startup. There was the classic growth, success, so on and so forth. But at the end of the day, the meaning for people came from the fact that they were in a project together with people they cared about, who cared about them, and we were all trying to realize something together.

But if you just start in quality assurance at Alayacare, you are now six hops from the impact of the work you do. If you’re a QA on the team of developers, and that team of developers reports to an engineering manager, who reports up to a VP of engineering, who build what product management specs for you, who have people who work for our client success team who are out there talking to the people that are using the software.

So how tight can that connection really be whether I put up a slide at the beginning of every town hall or not?

I’m preoccupied by this. And I think more tactics are needed to go beyond the slide, and even to go beyond the authenticity of the message behind the slide.

So we’ve done initiatives over the years trying to get developers out to clients and meet the caregivers. For our Christmas party this year, before we got into the party, party event, we picked our 30 favourite clients and we broke into teams. Many of the teams had people new to Alayacare. And we tried to either build a little feature, deliver a dashboard, something that was going to be meaningful to our clients. And on every team was someone who spent a lot of time with that client. So I think initiatives like that are required.

 

Mindfulness at Alayacare

So that’s really about connecting people—your people—to the end result of what they’re doing. But I know you take other initiatives that are more about creating community or even creating wellness in the organization.

I know, for example, that you’ve been dabbling in the mindfulness space a little bit. Can you tell us how you see mindfulness fitting into this overall strategy? And again, I hesitate to use the word strategy because it implies manipulation, but again in this case, assuming it’s authentic.

I think that’s another thing you have to be explicit about whether you call it strategy or tactics or not. The nature of our work is as if it were written for the need for mindfulness, particularly on the product side of the business.

It’s deep concentrated work, done in an environment of continuous distraction. And the difference in productivity between being able to stay engaged with a problem you’re trying to solve for half an hour at a time, an hour at a time, rather than in the 12 seconds in between the instant messages coming in on Slack. It’s probably a 10x multiple on productivity one state of being versus the other.

So we are very aware of what increased mindfulness can do for our people. I don’t think we’ve yet fully figured out how to bring that into the workplace. But we recognize its importance.

And one of the really interesting things that happened after our last engagement with Numinus was how the vocabulary of mindfulness entered into how people talked about what they were doing. ‘I’m being mindful’ became a substitute for, ‘I’m not multitasking during this meeting.’

And I think often just establishing the right way to think about attention has a huge impact in and of itself.

I feel we’re back into this kind of tactic question because there’s been so much criticism from more let’s say the meditation community that are more preoccupied with ethics. I’m sure people are shuttering hearing you say that. It’s like, ‘Oh my God. You want to deploy a practice that was developed and refined in Buddhism among other traditions to help people become more compassionate, more insightful about suffering in the world, and to make the world a better place, and achieve a deep state of well-being. And you’re talking about improving productivity by a factor of 10?’

And yet, this has to be potential to be helpful, not only for your organization, but for the individuals because they’re going to feel better and feel healthier, if they’re practicing mindfulness.

One of the concerns is that you care about mindfulness to the extent that it helps productivity, not to the extent that it helps people reduce suffering. And it might even help pacify them to just sort of accept and deal with inequities or conditions in the workplace that are fundamentally unhealthy.

I think it’s an alignment question, and an easy one because the goals of the company are not misaligned with the goals of the individual at the company.

I’m going to focus on the software developer role. We have lots of other roles, but generally people who have chosen this as a profession like solving problems. They like losing themselves in the problem that they’re trying to solve.

When you try and promote a great developer into a management position, it is not always a reward. We face that constantly. So if we are going to create an environment for people to spend their days the way they want to spend their days, often this mindfulness tactic is more about removing the obstacles to them being able to direct attention and spend their time in a way that makes them most fulfilled.

So I don’t really see an opposition here, even though it is a tactic and the goals of the company, although they aren’t totally selfish, could be largely selfish.

What do you mean, ‘they could be largely selfish’?

So if all we cared about was maximizing productivity per dollar spent in salary, we could still deploy mindfulness as a tactic. The fact that we also care about the well being of our people is important, but it’s incidental to the fact that we think mindfulness is worthwhile focusing on within our company.

What is Success?

“These ‘I love you man’ moments are really how I measure my impact, and what gives

me the most pride in what I do.”

We’ve talked a lot about Alayacare and what it would mean for the organization to be successful.

What about for you personally? What does success look like for you?

It’s interesting. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately. I used to get a much better dopamine rush from the material milestones.

In my first startup it was my first million of revenue, closing a hundred thousand dollar deal. Those things really worked. It really got me going. And I was still in a phase of my life where to the extent that it represented personal wealth, I thought I could somehow translate that into some kind of incremental happiness. That’s not so true anymore.

So the things that give me the most pride, the things I’m most connected to emotionally are very tilted towards the people at Alayacare having great experiences.

We had our holiday party a couple of weeks ago. It always comes with a few drinks, but these ‘I love you man’ moments are really how I measure my impact, and what gives me the most pride in what I do. There were a lot of them, and they were all mutual.

That’s the other thing: people who expressed their appreciation for Alayacare creating an environment where they can grow and be successful, in every single case, I was able to say, ‘Why are you thanking me? We should be thanking you.’ And that was a great feeling.

Achieving alignment within oneself

Is there anything else that you want to say that we haven’t covered?

I think one of the ways you get alignment in your life is to try and telescope between the long range, the short range, the medium range, and all of the various contexts you’re in, and try to see if you can tell yourself the same story through all of those.

And as soon as you can’t go to work figuring out how you can, either by changing the story or by changing what your goals are in any of those contexts.

I said at the outset that the only things that have to happen for Alayacare to be successful is that old people have to receive great care at home and people have to find Alayacare as a place to build a meaningful career. That’s the longest term, and it’s also a perspective in decisions I make every day of my life.

So I think consistency, spending the mental energy to get consistency will bring you alignment. That’s something I recommend to everyone.

What do you tell yourself? What’s the same story in different contexts?

It’s a way of saying world view. It’s a way of making sense of what you’re doing and where you’re directing your energies. An example of an inconsistency would be to say, ‘Today I’m going to deploy the tactic of making people feel connected to their work, so that 5 years from now I can fly a private jet after having sold the business.’ That would be an example of dissonance. That would be a lack of alignment. And I wouldn’t want to exist in that state.

Because?

Because then you’re inauthentic. You have to maintain different ways of thinking. You have to figure out where those rub up against themselves. You have to make hard decisions all of the time. Where if you have a consistent view, even hard decisions are not about the battle of your values. They’re about how to realize them in the world.

And my mind stays happily in that state, whereas it stays very unhappily in a state where I’m trying to pick priorities and make one perspective overlap with another perspective that are fundamentally not overlapping.

So, mechanically, how do you develop that consistency? 

I think everyone all of the time, myself included, has the experience of two incoherent perspectives rubbing up against themselves.

Example?

Let’s say I need to get to the office now, and I have a call to sort through an acquisition that we want to make where there are people who are going to come into the Alayacare family. And the right business idea is to figure out how quickly we can not need those people.

So I can go into that trying to maximize the profitability in this negotiation. I could focus on that, and then I’m going to be taken a sip of water and have to tell myself why those people are less deserving of my care than people we hired, rather than acquired.

Everyone has those experiences. It’s very tempting to just dismiss those thoughts. But I find it very rewarding to not move past those thoughts. But to force myself to make sense of it.

Why are those who I didn’t choose, but who we’ve acquired into the team—are those people fundamentally different in terms of how I should care about them because of how they came into the family? Yes or no.

If the answer is yes, that’s okay. But I need to keep that perspective. I need to understand what it is. And why it’s different, and act on that consistently. If it’s not, if the answer is no, I need to figure out—I need to spend the energy to figure out how these people who are joining Alayacare, under a different circumstance, are going be a part of the family.

This sounds like being very aware of what thoughts and emotions are motivating your decisions. And always checking in with, I guess there’s that word alignment.

How does this decision fit in with the bigger picture and the bigger model of what I’m doing? And if it doesn’t, how do I correct that misalignment?

So self-awareness is key. And it’s harder work than just moving past it. It sounds like that requires a high level of discipline.

Yeah. I guess so.

What about people who either don’t care or don’t have the discipline or who are too tired? This is a pretty high standard you are appealing to.

There is an alternative: Don’t do it.

But it’s an investment. Spend energy now to save energy later. And not everybody makes good investments. But I think the most successful people understand what a good investment is. And in terms of how to live one’s life, investing in alignment is one of the best investments one can make.

Episode 13: Lawyer Well-being with Yan Besner and Bree Buchanan

 

“Across the board, we noticed that we have a moment here. The data is in. It’s

undeniable. We cannot just sit here and fail to take action and let these studies go on

a shelf somewhere because we know that lawyers, law students, and judges are

suffering.” – Bree Buchanan, co-chair of the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Dr. Joe focuses on well-being in the legal profession. Working in law is one of the most demanding and stressful jobs in the world: tight deadlines, long hours, a hyper-competitive culture, and the weight of supporting demanding clients. In 2016, a study showed that lawyers and law students suffer from substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and stress in far greater numbers than the general population.

In the first half the podcast, Joe speaks with Yan Besner, a partner at Osler, a national law firm. Yan is recognized as one of the best real estate lawyers in Canada.

Joe and Yan discussed:

You can reach Yan on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.

In the second half of the podcast, Joe speaks with Bree Buchanan, co-chair of the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing. Bree is leading a cultural transformation that will help promote mental health in the legal profession.

Joe and Bree discussed:

If you would like to find out more about Bree and the work she is doing, check out the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing’s site here.

You can stay in touch with Dr. Joe on
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Here are some highlights of the conversation with Yan:

3:16 Can you tell us what you do? And how did you into this line of work?

 

3:44 You’re a champion of mental health at Osler. How did your interest in lawyers’ well-being develop for you?

[…]

Well-being, mental health, balance is something that is near and dear to me simply because, like many, when I started out in private practice, I struggled with it. A lot of hours, a lot of pressure. You may have been someone, at least me, who may have excelled in school, but then you’re in a high performing, high achieving work environment with everyone who finished first, second, third in their class, and with leading minds in their respective fields who excel at speeds and rhythms and who juggle schedules and who are satisfying demands both external and internal, both with family.

That can be both motivating and awe-inspiring and you want to emulate that and you want to be like them. But can, at times, be quite overwhelming. Anyone who comes in even keeled in terms of their mood will see and recognize that.

I’m programmed a little bit differently, having done quite a bit of self-awareness and soul searching over my time. I’m someone who traditionally, whether I was programmed by this or whether this was my environment or I was born this way, but I do know I’m someone who has traditionally suffered from irrational guilt and excessive anxiety. So facing a challenge as daunting as private practice and the demands that come with it, my reaction would be to feel a little bit of anxiety and the levels can depend.

It’s only later on in life–I’m approaching 40–that you realize that’s just how I react. It doesn’t mean that I’m scared of the challenge or I’m not willing to deal with. But when you’re in your early twenties and all you want to do to please, satisfy, and accomplish, both for yourself and for those you are working for, it’s hard to kind of filter it through and stay focused.

Through the last 15 years of my practice, yes, you become a little bit more seasoned and you know what to expect when something huge comes in, you react differently. But being more aware of triggers of why you feel what you feel and what you can do to make yourself feel better is something that over the course of my career, I’ve become a lot more aware of. I’ve become a lot more proactive in responding to those triggers that would either be negative in terms of my reaction to big work projects, tough deadlines, a testy client.

[…]

I just don’t want people to go through the same stressors that I went through because I now have the benefit of the information and benefit of hindsight and perspective that maybe someone who has just finished school doesn’t necessarily have.

 

7:30 Do you feel comfortable talking about what you actually went through?

 

9:33 How did you get back on track?

Part of it was the demands of the profession and part of it is my programming. And that’s not something that you know how you’ll going to react until you’re faced with it. And in going to therapy weekly and having proper inward reflection and discussions about why I react, how I react, why I feel what I feel, what are triggers to certain of my feelings, that helped me become a lot more aware. Then with the therapist, you get tools. I’m sure this is something that you assist your clients with as well is how to cope.

[…]

The awareness lessens the blow.

[…]

What I really appreciated about therapy was the objectivity of it and the perspective. Going into it, I thought, ‘Well, this person is not going to care about me. So how are they going to be able to give me the proper advice?’ But it was quite the opposite.

I think they are very invested and coming at it from a place without bias. I was able to see things a lot clearer when it came my personal relationships, my family, and, quite frankly, my job and how to attack those challenges and how to deal with different people within my workplace and how to deal with my work tasks.

 

14:14 For many people there is this fear that these kinds of feelings are irreversible. ‘I’ll never be able to handle the emotional demands of my job.’ Yet you came out the other side and are now an award winning lawyer.

17:41 I do appreciate the nuance. Anxiety or depression is not a moment that you triumph over and that you never have to think about again. We need to maintain a certain amount of mental fitness. So it is possible to be in that dark place and then come out of it. Your story is very inspiring.

 

20:09 You mentioned that it is not always obvious for lawyers to be vulnerable. It is part of the culture of the profession to not come forward.

Can you tell us about the culture and why it is a part of the culture? And what do you think we can do about it?

[…]

We have to talk about this stuff more. It has to become more of a way of being as much as, ‘Did you get this done on time?’ Because no one is going to get it done on time if they’re not in the proper state to do it.

[…]

25:09 I have a lot of respect for the leadership you’re taking in this space. How can people keep in touch with you?

* * *

 

Here are some highlights of the conversation with Bree:

26:35 Tell us what you do.

 

28:00 What exactly is the National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing?

We’re a rogue band of individuals who really care passionately about lawyer wellbeing.

[…]

Helping lawyers who are already experiencing depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and helping them overcome and deal with them and go into recovery for those impairments. And it’s also looking to support lawyers who are really not thriving in their profession and just have a sort of general malaise in their life and are not happy. We have something to offer everybody in the profession.

Those of us who work on this on a national level came together a couple of years ago, commandeered an empty conference room at the American Bar Association because we were all already there wearing the chair of this or the commissioner of that. We were already in one location.

And the reason we got together on that day in August of 2016 is two big reports had just been published that made it so clear and undeniable that the state of lawyer well-being was dire. Prior to this we didn’t really have good studies or statistics. We certainly had anecdotal evidence of what had gone on.

[…]

One study showed incredibly rates of alcohol abuse, substance abuse, high, high rates of depression and anxiety disproportionate to the general population. The same year a study was done and published of law students across the United States.

[…]

What we saw very clearly was that these issues are starting in law school. If you compare these rates of impairments in law students with people in the general population, you can start to see that there’s something about the experience of entering into the legal profession that has almost a pathologising effect.

Anxiety goes up, substance abuse goes up, depression goes up. One of the most of concerning things out of these two studies that we saw that really turned things on its head is that the younger the lawyer, the greater the rate of impairment, regardless of what type it was. We used to think that the people who did the work the longest would have the higher rate of problems.

[…]

All of those of us who are coming from different parts of the law, the lawyer assistance programs, the people who regulate the profession, the bar counsel, the disciplinary folks. Across the board, we noticed that we have a moment here. We have an opportunity because the data is in. It’s undeniable. We cannot just sit here and fail to take action and let these studies go on a shelf somewhere because we know that lawyers, law students, and judges are suffering.

How does that impact society in general? When you have people attending to the judicial system and our system of laws and our access to justice who are not doing well in their work, it affects all members of society.

[…]

We decided that we were going to use this opportunity to nothing short of create a movement to change the legal culture and how it takes care of its own, how it treats the lawyers and law students who come into this profession. To institute a culture change and a real shift in how that work is done.

We knew would not be easy.

So the first thing that we did is started bringing in the other leaders of their profession, other stakeholders who have an interest in this and bring them to the table. So we started having conference calls every couple of weeks and broke into work groups. And started looking at each of the stakeholders within the profession. What do they need to do to bring about a culture change within their area?

And we all got together to find out, what are some recommendations for the entire legal profession and recommendations for each stakeholder–judges, legal educators, law schools, the people who regulate and manage the profession, the legal employers?

[…]

At this point in time, it really is a movement.

 

36:35 Why do you think this work has been so well received?

39:53 You mention that the doors are being opened. Are there any other signs that you’re having an impact?

 

41:40 What impression did you get from Yan Besner’s story?

It sounds par for the course for what lawyers are experiencing. There is an uncertainty. It’s part of the profession. High stress is part of the profession. That’s never going to change. High stakes. We’re dealing with people with the most urgent issues, sometimes of their entire life that has landed in our laps and we’re being look to to fix that. That’s not going to change about the law profession.

[…]

How do we build up the lawyers so that they can endure this inevitable chronic stress, uncertainty, and difficulties that are part of the profession?

[…]

It’s around resilience. Thinking of it through that lens. How do we improve the resilience of lawyers to be able to deal with the inherent adversities and setbacks of practice and life? Giving them tools to be able to do this like meditation, mindfulness is an automatic go to out of my toolkit for my personal life, but also something that I try to teach lawyers as well. There are practices around gratitude, positivity, a variety of skill sets that can lift one up to be able to better endure what is thrown at us on a daily basis.

 

45:08 Yan spoke about when he was younger he was reluctant to go to talk to somebody about what he’s going through. That was an important finding in one of the 2016 studies that young lawyers don’t make themselves vulnerable in that way.

I was wondering if you heard of that kind of story as well.

49:53 I’m curious to hear how lawyers of the legal profession respond when you expose yourself like that.

 

51:56 Are there still people who think that you’re just weak and it’s not necessarily mental illness?

I believe that there are. And people engage in defence mechanisms. Play old tapes and are not comfortable with that self revelatory experience and don’t think there’s a place in a CLE program.

And I’ve gotten beyond that. I know that when I am saying my story that there are people who are going to be uncomfortable. And I’m okay with that. I get up there knowing that I’m not going to please everybody in the room. But my mission is that if I can get up there and reduce the suffering of someone in the room and maybe even save a life down the road somewhere, my discomfort and the passing discomfort of someone in the room because they had to listen to my story, is well worth it.

 

53:26 If you’re up for it, how did you get into your difficulties with substances and how did you get yourself out?

I’ll give the short version because we don’t have all that much time [laughs]. To sum all of it up, I had a very uncomfortable and painful childhood. And I, like so many people do when they experience that, found pretty quickly that substances medicated that pain and discomfort.

So in high school, it was alcohol. And undergraduate, it was marijuana. I went to law school, and I said, ‘I better leave aside the illegal drugs.’ So I turned to what is so sanctioned in law schools and the legal profession which is alcohol in copious amounts. I had an anxiety disorder by the time I finished my first year of law school. The go to to deal with that was to drink, and drink a lot.

Fast forward through my profession, I got to do a lot of really cool things. I got to work and represent victims of domestic violence and really threw myself into some tough, tough areas of the law that brought up stuff for myself. I didn’t take care of myself in the best ways. And I continued with that quick easy fix, go-to of alcohol. They say it works, until it doesn’t. And a lot of times it made me feel better.

But it is insidious and over time, you pour enough alcohol onto somebody who is genetically predisposed because of family history to develop an alcohol use disorder, that starts to change the brain, the actual brain chemistry. That’s what happened with me.

It goes from something you choose to something you don’t really have a choice over. It took me a long time to get there, but I definitely got to that point. Through all of that, I’m self-medicating anxiety, I’m self-medicating depression and covering all of that up.

And at one point, in my 40’s, it all started–it was like a game of Jenga–it all just came crumbling down. I lost my marriage. I lost my job. And boy, when a lawyer loses their job, it really gets their attention. It’s terrible, but it’s the truth.

At that juncture, which was my low point. Some other people need to get to the point where they also lose their house. Losing a marriage and losing my job was my bottom. And then I started looking for a way to find my way out.

I did that through getting into really regular therapy, getting on also the right medication, getting into a mutual support group that supported my recovery, and also getting into a community of meditators. That really helped save my life as much as anything else, developing a meditation practice. So I could get real with myself and stabilize my mind. I spent some time out of work, putting myself back together again. Then I was truly blessed to get a job here at the Lawyers Assistance Program. So for the past 8 years I live and breathe recovery. It’s an amazingly blessed life and one I could never have imagined with those dark days in 2009 and 2010.

 

57:36 Thank you for sharing. Could you tell us about some of the specific changes that you’re trying to create on the ground for the profession?

1:01:40 Is there anything else you want to speak about?

Five Mindfulness Practices to Use Throughout your Workday

While many of us value the focus, peace-of-mind, and resilience that mindfulness cultivates, it can be challenging to fit practice into a busy workday.

In this post, we review five impactful practices and the five key moments into which they can be integrated.

The morning mindset

Before turning on your computer, try a 3 Minute Breathing Space. This helps you take stock of what’s on your mind that morning, settle the mind into the present, and then create a clear and focused mindset for the rest of the workday. Capitalize on this state of mind to decide on 2-3 priorities for the day.

How to

Coming to your senses

Lunch can be a great time to restore your mental energy after a busy and depleting morning. Shift your brain from thinking mode to feeling mode by connecting with your senses.

How to

One act of kindness

Get a virtuous cycle of positive interactions going by helping make your colleague’s life a little easier. Not only will you feel good about contributing to their workflow, but a colleague might step up to support you when you really need it.

How to

Taking a purposeful pause

Meetings can be a drag on productivity, especially when attendees are distracted or uninterested. If everyone at the meeting took a couple of minutes to focus their minds and set the intention to communicate mindfully, meetings progress more efficiently and decision-making will be much more reliable.

How to

Body Scan in Bed

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for feeling well and being effective at work. Ruminating on unresolved issues can really eat into those precious hours of sleep. To let go of a stressful day and allow your body to relax, spend a few minutes doing a body scan.

How to

Episode 3: Mindfulness Teacher Development with Patricia Rockman

It was a tremendous privilege to have Dr. Patricia Rockman on the podcast. Pat is probably the Canadian authority on mindfulness teacher training and has a strong international reputation in this field.

She has taught close to 150 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) groups, trained dozens of mindfulness teachers through the certification programs at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto, and brought mindfulness to many organizations.

As my own mentor, she has had an enormous impact on my teaching and professional development. Pat is one of the most authentic, creative, and generous people I’ve ever met. She also holds some strong convictions about the mindfulness training and made some controversial statements about the politics in the mindfulness community. You’ll definitely want to stay tuned for that…

A little on her background: Pat is physician with a focused practice in mental health, particularly in mindfulness. She’s an associate professor with the University of Toronto and the Director of Education and Clinical Services at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies. She used to be a psychotherapist but now focuses on teaching mindfulness. Throughout her career she was involved in training other healthcare professionals and in recent years has become a widely respected trainer of mindfulness teachers. She helped create CMS’ MBCT teaching certificate and is also the lead trainer in the MBSR certification.

She’ll be coming to Montreal later this year for an MBCT training which is not to be missed. All info available at mindfulnessstudies.com and numinuswellbeing.com.

I also post updates about CMS’s MBSR/MBCT teacher certification (hosted at Numinus) at Dr Joe Flanders on:

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And Numinus
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Here are some highlights from our conversation:

5:25 What is your background? How did you get involved in mindfulness?What about your training in clowning and how does it fit with your mindfulness practice? Tell us about CMS and what you do there.

10:35 How would you compare and contrast MBCT and MBSR? Pat offers some interesting reflections on the origins of the 2 programs and how that shapes their similarities and differences.

16:15 CMS offers teacher certifications in MBSR and MBCT. How did those programs come about? What is their relationship to the UMass Centre for Mindfulness (CfM) and the founders of MBCT?

19:08 Define “Inquiry”

“Inquiry is a process, what we’re now calling a contemplative dialogue – a conversation, a reflection – questions that come immediately following a meditative practice, in which we are inquiring into the mindfulness practice or the cognitive exercise that a participant has engaged in, in order to help them to notice, recognize their experience for what it is, learn how to track it, and to describe it and also begin to consider how they could integrate what they are learning into their daily lives to reduce their suffering.”

20:20 Tell us about the history of your MBSR certification program, the response from CfM, and your relationship with Susan Woods.

22:05 Who has the authority to offer teaching certifications in MBSR and MBCT? Pat points out that the field is not regulated and likely never will be. But all of the people she trains in MBCT are health professionals, who are covered by their professional governing bodies. But MBSR has no such requirement, which may be problematic:

 

“A lot of people that come to our MBSR groups have a lot of pathology – they have a lot of mental health and other problems that wouldn’t be picked up if you didn’t do a fairly in depth intake or assessment and I don’t know what’s going on in a field that’s unregulated and people are often practicing in isolation.”

“What makes the arbiters of who should be certified and how do we know that they are even good enough to practice. Well really, on one level you could argue we’re self appointed. On another, you could argue that we have the trust of the community because they hire us to do this and we have a lot of experience in the field.”

“We don’t really know. But, we’re in a field that has taken western culture by storm and meditation is not a panacea and it’s not risk free and to the best of our ability as clinicians and professionals in the various fields we are in, we have a duty to serve our clients to not do harm.”

“By developing a protocol that we evaluate and test with our participants and trainees, at this particular point in time without additional research. We’re doing the best we can.”

28:10 How has the UMass Centre for Mindfulness has received the emergence of MBCT and the need for teacher training.

“Where there are people, there will be issues related to power… The cfm has had quite a tight hold on MBSR but the horse is out of the barn because there are people teaching MBSR all over the world. The practice was around long before MBSR or MBCT. They haven’t responded to us teaching MBSR or MBCT teachers.”

“We have Zindel Segal here in Toronto and he is an adviser to us and he’s connected with the centre he supports what we’re doing so that’s another reason I guess we are able to run a certification program because we have his blessing is one of the developers.”

“It’s kind of the wild west actually. But people want to be trained well if they’re interested in this work. Because I think for them it needs a number of needs  and one of those is a need for meaning and personal transcendence. That’s my view. And I think it’s really congruent in a culture that is privileging science but is also finding itself with declining interest in religion and other things that provide meaning to human beings and this fits the bill.”

31:18 How do you feel about having regulating body in the field and her take on the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA)

“The interest in regulation is actually a sign of a desire for professionalisation and an interest in increased status and credibility and power.”

“There was a big backlash when they came out with their announcement. They made a mistake in that they didn’t consult with the whole community… The reaction really was ‘who are you?! What makes you think you can just say you’re doing this?!’ “

“If you want to do something like this, you have to be very inclusive because it’s going to be political and territorial. So really what do I think? Not much. I don’t care about them. I’m not sure we need them. I have enough police! I have the college of physicians and surgeons on top of me.”

36:05 What makes a good mindfulness teacher?

“We are asking our teachers to be present for whatever is a rising in the group and both guide the group but allow themselves to be led by their participants. This is a dance.”

40:16 Why is inquiry so important and how do you train it?

49:30 How has all of this training has and teaching shaped your own practice? Pat talks about the participants in her groups and teachers she trains:

“I’m continually learning from them. How to show up. How to be vulnerable… The repeated exposure to this kind of practice has enabled me when I’m in the process of running a group inquiring dealing with trainees and participants to be present and in practice most of the time and I think this is because I no longer have to carry a lot of that cognitive load around the form you know the structure of the protocol but rather can really be with those people that I’m training and able to really listen for the key themes and points as they arise through our interactions and when they’re teaching.”