For over 20 years I have been practicing Ortho-Bionomy – helping people with injuries, acute, chronic and persistent pain and physical and emotional trauma.
My fascination with the body began following a motorbike accident in my early 20’s. Despite the serious injuries and intense pain there was a sense of things being right with the world. It was clear this was mainly due to the environment of the Royal Darwin Hospital at the time as well as the nurses and other patients I was surrounded by. The relationship between how I responded after the accident both emotionally and physically and the circumstances played a big part in my rapid recovery. This intrigued me at the time but I didn’t really think about it for some years.
This intrigue was reignited during my nursing studies while living in the UK. I was fortunate to be on a course with a strong emphasis on the humanities in which the relationship between one’s social situation/history, psychology and health (or illness) formed the nursing framework. During a placement on the oncology ward, which was situated away from the main hospital overlooking the Pewley Downs in Surrey, I was reminded of something I’d forgotten. Despite a rundown ward and the difficult nature of the work there was a sense that things would ‘be ok’. Again it was clear that the wider environment and the approach of the nurses were big contributors. This affected me profoundly and guided how I worked with my patients for many years.
It was when I started training in Somatic Psychotherapy in the mid 1990’s that the pieces really came together. Under the guidance of some of the pioneers of somatic psychotherapy in Australia -including Robyn Speyer, Kathy Kain, Julie Henderson and Tony Richardson – I realised that how we are in ourselves influences how we experience the world and how we respond to it. That somatic reality – the experience of being aware of ourselves as an embodied being with all of that richness – has a profound effect on how we are with others and our surrounds. I also became aware that how I was in myself affected how my clients responded and contributed to the dynamic between us – an insight I have carried into my therapeutic work since that time.
During this training I was introduced to the principles and techniques of Ortho-Bionomy by Kathy Kain who I was fortunate enough to study with for several years. Not only were old injuries resolving but she introduced me to the direct experience of feeling myself as someone embodied – as opposed to a disembodied psychology. The insight that our psychology is not separate from – but an extension and expression of – how we are in our bodies continues to guide me and the interventions I might make when working with clients. In effect, what it means is that when we work with the body we are having a meaningful influence on what we experience, what we notice and how we think.
So during this 5 year training I learnt how to engage with the body and the mind in a way that not only resolved long term pain but facilitates the resolution of developmental and more recent trauma and the re-emergence of a stronger, more coherent sense of self.
As I have continued to deepen my understanding of the principles of Ortho-Bionomy – and its understanding of the nature of proprioception and interoception and working through these sensory ‘mechanisms’ – I have been able to bring those insights into my work with athletes, dancers and other clients even while working with injuries, rehabilitation and acute or chronic pain. What happens in the body matters – it affects how we move, how we feel and this understanding enhances our recovery by including those quiet reflexive reactions, our preferences for movement and ultimately our capacity to respond.
The research of Stephen Porges, Bessel van der Kolk and Howard Schrubiner – as well as the insights of being ‘in’ one’s body and what this feels like (and how this changes what we perceive and how we move) as explored by Iain McGilchrist and Eric Franklin – continue to influence my work with clients – be they athletes, dancers or……..anyone. I am now bringing that accumulated knowledge and experience into my teaching as an Associate Instructor of Ortho-Bionomy and as a presenter at conferences and professional development forums.