Interview with Mandy Wannarka about her holistic approach to trauma conscious care and perinatal mental health.
Mandy Wannarka is a clinical social worker and Certified Perinatal Mental Health specialist (PMH-C) practicing as a psychotherapist in Coon Rapids, MN. She is certified in EMDR, a trauma informed treatment modality that leverages the brain’s inherent capacity for healing with empirically validated studies to resolve trauma. She specializes in perinatal mental health with a focus on reproductive health traumas including birth trauma, complex health conditions, NICU stays and perinatal loss.
She volunteers with Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota (PPSM), a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the emotional wellbeing of families during the perinatal period.
Prior to private practice Mandy spent five years practicing hospital social work with an emphasis on supporting families experiencing expected and unexpected hospitalizations. Her group practice, Mindful Wellbeing, focuses on providing individual and family outpatient mental health therapy and is continuing to expand into the holistic health and wellness arena by partnering with holistic health professionals to offer a multitude of services directly from their clinic.
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Ep 103 Why Talk Therapy Isn’t Enough to Heal Trauma with Mandy Wannarka
[00:00:00] Cynthia: You are listening to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. I’m your host, Cynthia Shockley, and I’m here to learn alongside you through meaningful conversations with health and wellness practitioners. This is your time to experience some mindset shifts, learn practical tips, and get excited about what is possible.
[00:00:22] Cynthia: We want you to own the power of choice in your personal wellbeing journey. Let’s discover what’s possible right here in our Twin Cities community.
[00:00:33] Cynthia: Hello and welcome back to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. Today we are still focusing in on the topic of trauma informed care, and I actually should say trauma sensitive care for today. This is a phrase that is new to me, but makes so much sense, and so I’m excited to dive into this conversation with Mandy Wannarka.
[00:00:59] Cynthia: She is a clinical social worker and certified perinatal mental health specialist practicing as a psychotherapist in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. She is certified in E M D R a trauma informed treatment modality that leverages the brain’s inherent capacity for healing with empirically validated studies to resolve trauma.
[00:01:19] Cynthia: She specializes in perinatal mental health with a focus on reproductive health trauma, including birth trauma, complex health conditions, NICU stays, and perinatal loss. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of St.
[00:01:35] Cynthia: Thomas, St. Catherine University. She volunteers with pregnancy and postpartum support, Minnesota P S M, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the emotional wellbeing of families during the perinatal period. Prior to private practice, Mandy spent five years practicing hospital social work with an emphasis on supporting families, experiencing expected and unexpected hospitalizations.
[00:02:00] Cynthia: Her group practice Mindful Wellbeing focuses on providing individual and family outpatient mental health therapy, and is continuing to expand into the holistic health and wellness arena by partnering with holistic health professionals to offer a multitude of services directly from their clinic.
[00:02:20] Cynthia: And
[00:02:20] Cynthia: here we are with
[00:02:21] Cynthia: Mandy Winka.
[00:02:22] Cynthia: Hi, so glad
[00:02:23] Cynthia: you’re here, Mandy.
[00:02:24] Mandy: Hi. Thanks for having
[00:02:25] Mandy: me.
[00:02:26] Cynthia: Yeah, of course. Earlier Mandy and I were just talking about our little Buddha little images and statues that we have and just recognizing there’s a lot of alignment. We’re both yogis and I’m just so glad to have you here cause I know you’re doing a lot of wonderful work in your community.
[00:02:48] Cynthia: First, tell our audience, tell us about you and what is it about your work that really lights you up.
[00:02:55] Mandy: Yeah my journey to get to the point I’m at now of owning a practice and working on adding some holistic pieces really started with my own trauma healing journey. First and foremost, as far as how I identify these days, I’m a mom and a business owner.
[00:03:09] Mandy: I am trained as a social worker, and that’s a really big part of my identity. But if you dial back, I had some experiences growing up in childhood that were traumatic and difficult, and I spent a lot of my young adult years trying to unpack that trauma in a variety of ways that are really traditional, especially in the United States to tackle them.
[00:03:28] Mandy: So medications. Traditional type talk, talk therapy pieces. And then some of the, I started dabbling in some of the trauma informed therapy aspects of things. So I did some aspects of trauma informed healing as I was growing up and coming into adulthood. But it’s really only been the past few years that I’ve revisited some of that work I’ve done.
[00:03:48] Mandy: And as I’ve done that, I’ve realized that the talk therapy stuff is super great and has its place for everybody who’s struggling. But there are other pieces that were running within me that were really unresolved. So I started looking at other paths, other pieces I might need to complete my own puzzle.
[00:04:05] Mandy: And that’s where I started landing on leaning into yoga and some other holistic health pieces to just try to feel whole. And as I’ve done that, I’ve realized how important it is for the work that I do with folks to include that or at least Get people curious about it, get people wondering what else might I need to be fully healed and to move forward in my life.
[00:04:29] Mandy: So that’s where all of this started for me.
[00:04:32] Cynthia: And that’s the beauty of the integrative approach to wellness, right? That there isn’t just one straight answer, but it’s an exploration. It’s figuring out what fills in the gaps. And so for you, it sounds this is now what you offer your clients is a variety of options.
[00:04:51] Cynthia: And so you’ve got the psychotherapy aspect, but then also you’re offering trauma informed yoga as well to your clients. Tell us a little more about how that evolved over time.
[00:05:03] Mandy: Yeah. So I decided to do my own yoga teaching just before the pandemic started. So we actually ended up finishing my 200 hour yoga teaching just after the pandemic had kicked off.
[00:05:16] Mandy: So we wrapped up our last few months together on Zoom and things like that. But before that it was. This opportunity for me to get curious about what yoga was and to understand a little bit more, and I 100% went into it with this mentality of okay, this is about learning these poses and figuring out how to move your body through space.
[00:05:34] Mandy: And, of course left with 200 hours, you learn so much more than that because it’s not just about that. In fact, there’s asana or poses. There’s only just one fraction of what yoga actually is. I was really grateful for that experience and that opportunity that it just lined up in my own life to prioritize and, leaving that I knew that there was going to be a path that would lead me to incorporating that with my clients.
[00:05:57] Mandy: So for the first few years I did that almost exclusively, just individually. So I would meet with, clients individually and we would incorporate aspects of yoga into our individual work. Which was sometimes poses, but with some of the other pieces as well in particular the meditative components, different breathing techniques.
[00:06:17] Mandy: Mantra has been huge for my own healing. It’s like the door that opens up all the rest for me personally. So I would bring that into folks who were interested and with all of that I decided that it was nearing time for us to try to do something a little bit more structured or formal instead of just these individual pieces.
[00:06:35] Mandy: One of our. Values at our clinic for our staff is an ask about considering to multiply impact and to enhance connectedness to others. And so we work on that through all kinds of ways, but my. Desire is to have trauma informed, or I’ve actually been changing my language a little bit and I can explain a little bit more to trauma conscious yoga.
[00:06:56] Mandy: And with that, we are just, this year we launched a pilot and we’re about to relaunch again with some adjustments to our existing clients or people who are actively participating in individual psychotherapy. We are giving them an opportunity to participate in free trauma conscious yoga.
[00:07:12] Mandy: So we’ll be offering it once a week for six or eight weeks at a time, and then repeating the series. It folks will be allowed to repeat it more than once, that sort of thing. But it’s meant to be an adjunct or a addition to their psychotherapy experience. And so that’s where kind of the, how that’s grown over time, I guess I’d say.
[00:07:31] Cynthia: Yeah. And it’s really wonderful that it’s something that’s just included, right? With services. So if you are already receiving therapy at the clinic, then this is something that’s a bonus. It’s added on. It’s free. Why free? What made you guys your clinic decide like, this is important to us.
[00:07:52] Mandy: We have really been focused on accessibility overall. We don’t have all of the things figured out, but we do know it’s important. Part of my code of ethics is anchored into the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and with that, to me, comes a certain level of responsibility to try to problem solve some of the things that can jam people up.
[00:08:14] Mandy: Of course financial constraints can be one of them. Scheduling is another, although I’m one person doing one class right now, so I know that sometimes we jam up people with just that. you know, Our hope is that we can potentially grow this in some different ways. And it’s important that it just be accessible and part of the care.
[00:08:30] Mandy: And we also wanna normalize that this is what we’re hoping people will say yes to. We know it’s not for everybody, but we know that there are just inherent benefits to doing it. We just wanna, at this point provide that there’ll be other, I think, iterations coming where there might be some opportunities for folks outside of our clinic to participate as well.
[00:08:50] Mandy: But for now, we really just wanted to support our folks that we have, that we’re supporting and really enhance what they’re doing and promote that full holistic healing.
[00:09:00] Cynthia: Yeah, exactly that holistic healing, right? It’s mind, body, and spirit, all of it together. And so for you, because I know there is a lot of information out there, but I’d love to hear from you directly too.
[00:09:13] Cynthia: What do we know about how trauma lives in the body? And why would you say talk therapy isn’t enough for full healing?
[00:09:23] Mandy: Talk therapy is really great at engaging the front of our brains, our prefrontal cortex, the part that does all the problem solving, all the things that are great at getting through our day-to-day and keeping us connected to the ever consistent demands of our very high energy lifestyles that are over-committed.
[00:09:43] Mandy: But it doesn’t always check the box of what, I guess I would call embodiment. Really being checked in from your neck down. So it’s really great about engaging your brain, but it really talk therapy can really accidentally ignore the rest of our experience and prioritize, or even like hyper prioritize really keep us only focused on what we’re thinking about.
[00:10:04] Mandy: And so much more of being a human is about that full body experience. So any sort of integration, whether it’s a trauma informed psychotherapy, which we do a lot of at our practice, as well as things like the somatic, anything somatics, anything about your body, whether it’s moving it in space, bringing attention to different areas, and viewing yourself to stay present with that can be Really important.
[00:10:31] Mandy: There’s a lot of research that’s continuing to come out. I think it’s more of a newer, it’s like new and old, right? We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but there’s still more to learn about how the body stores lived experiences. So it’s not just what our brains remember, but our bodies do actually tangibly remember things.
[00:10:49] Mandy: And that’s been proven with a lot of different scientific studies. And we talk about, Intergenerational trauma. There’s trauma that gets passed on through our D n A and that’s a humongous component as well as just like memories can be stored in different parts of our bodies. So if we are only engaging the brain to talk about the memory, we are really accidentally invalidating whole parts of ourselves that also experienced something.
[00:11:14] Mandy: So when we can bring some awareness to that, we can see some really beautiful shifts for people and they can really feel like. Not forget what has happened to them because that’s never the goal or the ask, but they can honor that experience, but they can change their relationship to the traumatic material.
[00:11:31] Mandy: And that’s a really big pivot because it takes up a lot of real estate in our brains all the time. To either be holding back that proverbial door that’s busting at the seams and there’s tons of energy we’re putting towards that. Or it’s like putting on a pair of really faulty glasses. If you ever tried on great grandma’s glasses with the thick coke glass, and you can’t even walk around.
[00:11:50] Mandy: That’s what trauma can do to people. So they can, you can alter their lens of all of their present day things. Every time we do more trauma informed or trauma conscious pieces. We are chipping away at that and improving your site to be closer to that 2020 vision where you can have an authentic experience and you can be connected in ways that are really good.
[00:12:13] Cynthia: I love that analogy. Just not being able to see clearly because of the lens that you have. And so taking that mind body approach, being able to do some talk therapy, but also having that somatic element, that physical element of moving energy through the body. Gosh, I can’t even. I can’t even count how many times teaching yoga classes, people would have these like deep emotional releases from holding pigeon pose, right?
[00:12:41] Cynthia: Opening your hips where so much of that trauma can be stored. Just cuz of our physiological responses when we’re stressed, when we’re anxious, when we’re in fear, like our hips block up and yeah it’s incredible that your clinic offers this and knows this, that it is about that whole person approach.
[00:12:57] Cynthia: So for you, trauma informed versus trauma conscious, what has made you decide to shift the language to trauma conscious?
[00:13:07] Mandy: So I think in at least the mental health bubble of things trauma informed has become a bit of a buzzword and not, that’s not all bad.
[00:13:14] Mandy: It means that there’s a lot more people talking about trauma and its impact. And increasingly talk therapy isn’t just straight talk therapy, right? People are having these conversations and in and enveloping trauma informed pieces into assessments and care. But for me, trauma conscious is one step beyond that.
[00:13:32] Mandy: So it’s acknowledging all the pieces of trauma informed, but it’s a commitment to like authentically showing up and honoring with constant or near constant attention that we know that trauma might be in the room. So instead of, just doing it and checking the box for an assessment or parts of care, it’s woven into everything.
[00:13:54] Mandy: And so when we’re talking about trauma conscious yoga, to me this is about making sure that from the moment people enter the space, we’re trying to promote a sense of safety. Again, I’m not gonna force that word on anyone or anything, but that’s what I’m trying to cultivate, not only from our physical space, but from the invitations for moving your body.
[00:14:11] Mandy: So it’s always choice based. It’s never, you must put your body in this position. There’s not the pressure of some of the big yoga studios to run through an asana or a flow at like this certain pace where you have to hit it at the instructor’s pace and all these pieces. And it’s really constant like invitations to bring your system back to awareness of what’s going on internally for me, not just the chatter in my brain.
[00:14:39] Mandy: What is, what are my feet trying to tell me in this moment? What are my hips trying to tell me? What are, and so it’s this, that’s the idea of interception, understanding like our body in space and what our body is doing internally and then sharing that in community with others. Is all really to me important for that embodied trauma healing.
[00:14:57] Mandy: And so to me, trauma informed is like the minimum standard I hope for everyone is doing these days. And trauma conscious to me is one step up of just saying I am committed to doing this in a way that I am going to continue to invite you to be curious, but I’m never gonna push, I’m never gonna push beyond that, those pieces.
[00:15:16] Mandy: And so I’m hopeful that more and more people will. Take that invitation to take that trauma informed learning and integrate it and embody it.
[00:15:26] Cynthia: I love it. So it’s, yeah, taking it and truly integrating it into the process. And that’s trauma conscious all embodying.
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[00:16:33] Cynthia: And I know something else that you offer that is trauma informed. Trauma conscious. I love that phrase. Is E M D R. So can you describe in your own words what E M D R is and what about it makes it more trauma conscious.
[00:16:51] Mandy: Absolutely. Emdr Similar to my yoga journey was a personal to professional trajectory.
[00:16:56] Mandy: So I experienced EMDR as part of my trauma healing. And once I had done that, I knew somewhere in my brain that would be something I would wanna give to other people. It took me a few years to get there because I first started out in hospital social work, which was my first kind of love. And once I transitioned into outpatient practice, this was the spot where I thought, okay, this is, it’s now the time.
[00:17:17] Mandy: So I got trained in it. EMDR stands for eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. So big old mouthful. It was established in the 1980s by Dr. Francine Shapiro, and the premise was that like the origin story is cool if I might share that with you all, just because I think it’s really important to know.
[00:17:36] Mandy: Dr. Shapiro was a researcher, and so she was about to go defend a dissertation. This is like the story that’s in the book. This is the story that she’s told, right? She passed during the pandemic, but we’ve all carried forward her legacy here. So she was going, she was really stressed about this dissertation she was about to do.
[00:17:51] Mandy: It’s a big deal when you’re in school and doing these things and you have to go defend this thing. You have spent, hours of your life creating. And so she decided to go for a walk, and she noticed that after she had been on the walk, that she felt a lot better. So she thought back about was it just the fact that I got outside?
[00:18:07] Mandy: What was the thing? And what she remembered was that she was on a path where she allowed her eyes to go back and forth, look, by looking up at the trees. And so she got real curious because she was a researcher. I wonder if it was more than just the walk. And so she started experimenting with friends and family, which is, the thing that a lot of curious researchers do.
[00:18:27] Mandy: And also then they firm it up later, which is 100% what she did. And so she would have them think of something that was distressing, upsetting, and then she would ask them to follow her fingers. And as she did that they noticed that they felt better. So she would, she was drawing their eyes to go back and forth across their bridge of their nose and.
[00:18:45] Mandy: They would report that, Hey, that doesn’t bug me as much. That sort of thing. So she actually decided to lean into that. And so she established this whole protocol, which we have as what’s called the standard protocol. It’s the one we go back to again and again. There’s 1,000,001 iterations at this point.
[00:19:01] Mandy: And along with it then started to work on what’s the theory behind this? Why does this work the way it works? So she leaned into some old theories that existed, including the Human information processing model, which is about how we learn. And that’s relevant not only for E M D R, but also for anything trauma conscious or trauma informed.
[00:19:18] Mandy: Because to be a learner means that you just have a sense of safety somewhere, right? You cannot learn new things. Our brain is. Incapable of learning new material if it’s in that fight or flight that like, that component of I don’t feel safe. And so she used that theory to, as part of the basis and as she used that, she created something called the Adaptive Information Processing Model, which is basically a tenant that has now started have neuroscience to back it up.
[00:19:48] Mandy: That when given a chance, our brains will. CLE off negative information. Information that just doesn’t serve us anymore in lieu of something that’s more neutral or even positive. And that’s the basic 10 of emdr. We as clinicians don’t change people’s narratives. We don’t change what happened to them. Of course, we help them change the relationship to that traumatic material through either eye movements, which is what traditionally was done, and now there’s lots of other.
[00:20:18] Mandy: Different ways to do what we call dual attention stimulus. It can be tapping bilaterally, it can be walking, it can be running as is why runners report. Like I can go on a run and I can fix my problems. So there’s a lot of different ways to do it. I don’t think that Dr. Shapiro did anything that I think what she did was she put together a bunch of things that had already been in ex in existence, but we know through.
[00:20:42] Mandy: About history, people have healed through music, through drumming, through all these pieces, right? So she picked up on something and formalized something that was inherent to, I think, natural holistic healing for humans. So it’s been a pretty cool thing. We do a lot of it at our practice, and we see very good results with it.
[00:21:02] Mandy: The variation on how long does it take to heal trauma and all of that is wildly different depending on every single person we get. In our offices, we, that’s one of the first questions people often have for us. Like, how long is this gonna take? And it’s oh man, that’s really hard to answer cuz your brain is your brain and I can’t, I’m not in there.
[00:21:20] Mandy: I can’t do it, but let’s do it together. So it’s been a really great journey. It’s really great to refer our EMDR clients to something like Trauma Conscious yoga, because they’re doing the hard work in sessions of unpacking a lot of trauma and the yoga lets them. Have a space that’s also dedicated to slow down, bring some attention to the body and make sure that we’re fully listening in to our internal experiences.
[00:21:46] Cynthia: Yeah. I feel like I can relate personally to, it’s almost like this softer approach to trauma healing, where you don’t have to consciously think about. Your trauma when you’re t because when you’re talking you have to like actually actively remember, actively relive the experience. Which can be healing, but can also be really scary and painful, especially early on.
[00:22:12] Cynthia: And so I know for me, I couldn’t handle therapy like in the early days of my own personal trauma and I gravitated towards dance, towards yoga, towards spaces where, I can move my body and feel safe and learn something and start building some of that energy and capacity.
[00:22:30] Cynthia: And then years down the line it was like, okay, like now I can talk about it without bursting into tears and falling apart.
[00:22:36] Mandy: Yeah, absolutely. And EMDR is great for that too because you don’t have to verbalize anything if you don’t want to. Clinicians who are trained in e MDR are able to still.
[00:22:46] Mandy: Help people with the healing. As long as you have just a few anchors. People don’t explicitly say that first this happened, then this, and then this. We just have to develop a shared language of anchors. So we know like whether it’s just it was these times of day or these days or whatever.
[00:22:59] Mandy: But as long as we have something to way find, we’re happy to do that with people where you don’t really know of the exact details. People don’t have to put words to really difficult experiences, and that’s powerful as well. And I think the yoga piece can enhance that as well because they can continue that process.
[00:23:18] Cynthia: Can you explain a little more about the concept of finding anchors in people’s stories?
[00:23:24] Mandy: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So when we’re doing a trauma when we’re doing an intake or an assessment, we’re meeting people for the first time. And that’s not just the one point in time. It’s anywhere from the first se, like one to six sessions, depending on who you are, how big your story or stories are.
[00:23:38] Mandy: We were listening for things that sounded really pivotal to you. So not like putting a judgment of the therapist thinking, okay, this is something I would label as traumatic, but listening for the client’s own language being client led and listening for, okay, this sounds like this was really important.
[00:23:55] Mandy: If there’s Just different pivot points, I guess I’d almost call them, or even points of like deep energy, even if it’s negative or positive, we’re listening for that throughout their whole kind of history. It’s not uncommon to say, tell me the top five, the top 10 biggest moments in your life, both positive, negative, or neutral.
[00:24:13] Mandy: And those help us understand where we’re going. It’s like being in a cave and we have a very narrow flashlight. Our job is to try to find all like the sparkles we can in the cave, right? So we’re doing that together and with a lot of intentionality. So not everybody jumps into their full trauma stories right away.
[00:24:31] Mandy: We try to do that at a pace that the client feels comfortable with. A lot of times we’re teaching other skills along the way to to help them with tolerating things that are difficult and working on making sure that they have enough. Bandwidth to just go to dark and twisty little gray anatomy reference we can do that, but we also want you to be able to come back.
[00:24:53] Mandy: And so sometimes we’re working first and foremost just on the skill of doing, because as you said, sometimes thinking about a big thing or even being asked to verbalize it can put people like in a puddle on the floor and we’re never. Trying to push people to that spot. We’re trying to keep it at a level where they can feel like they are in control.
[00:25:12] Cynthia: Yeah. Yeah. A phrase that has come up a couple of times during this season of focusing on trauma is titration. And it’s a phrase I hadn’t heard on since I took, biology class and was in lab, in college. But. It’s such an amazing concept of just take it little by little and just start to titrate, start to build up the tolerance, build up the resilience, and not just dive headfirst into the trauma story.
[00:25:42] Cynthia: And I think that makes so much sense so that our nervous system, our just whole sense of safety and you build that trust with your clients.
[00:25:50] Mandy: Absolutely. It’s really important that when we’re doing client client led approaches, we aren’t initiating some sort of agenda that the therapist has.
[00:25:59] Mandy: We all, as therapists, are gonna see somebody and their story and want to be helpful and we have to really mind in the room. We really have to mind that this isn’t gonna happen on my pace. This has to happen at my client’s pace. So some folks are there for. Short periods of time because they had something very acute happen to them that’s contained I just need to write out this one thing.
[00:26:20] Mandy: And some client stories are really big and long and pervasive. Childhood traumas in particular, especially if they’re in the area of abuse or neglect, can be some of the most difficult things to treat because they were, it’s like that death by a thousand paper cuts piece. It’s not just one moment, it’s thousands of moments, right?
[00:26:37] Mandy: And those folks tend to need different levels of intensity or durations to, to focus on healing.
[00:26:45] Cynthia: Yeah. And I know that like just looking at the, your clinic’s website, mindful Wellbeing, I noticed that. The kind of client base that you focus on are people who are building families.
[00:27:01] Cynthia: And so that really stood out to me, especially knowing that you are taking the trauma informed, trauma sensitive approach. So why, for you, is it specifically building families that kind of you wanted to focus your attention on?
[00:27:16] Mandy: Yeah. So when I started my. Journey as a social worker. One of my internships, my second internship, which is considered your clinical focus was at a hospital in the metro.
[00:27:28] Mandy: And I was placed almost primarily, or exclusively on the, what we called like the women and children’s unit, which included labor delivery and nicu. And during my time there, I was left astonished and. A little bit dismayed, I guess I’d say about how the healthcare system often treats families who are in that season of trying to welcome a child.
[00:27:53] Mandy: And of course a lot of the things that go wrong. As a social worker in the hospital setting, I was asked to support folks who were potentially there for anything from like a termination, for medical reasons. So while a hot button topic, there are some times where babies. In mom’s bellies are assessed and deemed like, this isn’t a pregnancy that can continue where it’s unsafe for your body.
[00:28:17] Mandy: So there were people there, those very difficult, heartbreaking decisions. There were people who had to say goodbye to their babies who had just been born. There were people there who had been in the NICU for over a year. There were these really big stories. There were people who just had straight up deliveries that were so intense.
[00:28:34] Mandy: That they didn’t have time to process what was going on or happening to them. People who didn’t know they were pregnant. If you name it, I was asked to respond to a wide variety of things that 100% would be labeled by most people as traumatic. We have a nurse midwife Cheryl Beck in in the perinatal world who famously said that trauma is in the eye of the beholder.
[00:28:55] Mandy: And that’s where I was really like introduced to this concept that. I am not entitled to, to label somebody else’s experience But it’s really important to honor how intense, especially during labor and delivery, the experience can be, and that intensity can absolutely translate to trauma.
[00:29:13] Mandy: So that was my introduction to it. I then went to a hospital just focused on NICU care. And similarly, same thing, right? Like very high intensity of services and families there for long and short durations with very big stories. And I kept saying goodbye to them and saying please go see a therapist cuz that was intense and just not.
[00:29:36] Mandy: Being able to hear or help them heal from it because it wasn’t the timing in the nicu. Your life is too busy, you’re in your trauma. You can’t do anything about it and not do anything about it. You can’t work on healing something that’s actively happening to you. So I. Once that happened and once I was realizing I think I wanna be part of the solution to healing, I decided to go out and do that work and a few years later decided to grow my practice beyond just me.
[00:30:03] Mandy: So the perinatal mental health piece is just so crucial because there’s a lot of trauma happening. our country is. So far behind in where we need to be for maternal health. Not even maternal mental health, which is like this other caveat, right? But maternal health is just atrocious.
[00:30:21] Mandy: Folks of color dying at the rate that they are during childbirth and in postpartum is absolutely abhorrent. And we have so much more work to do because it should not be happening the way it is. So there’s, this is my. Call right to do something about it in the way that I can or I feel most equipped to do.
[00:30:42] Mandy: And my hope is that families who are struggling with, and I didn’t mention cuz I didn’t, it’s not part of my origins very, it’s still part of what we do now. It’s supporting people who are trying to build their family and having difficulty. Like infertility is a big piece of what we do too. And if you’re on that journey, You are deserving of support.
[00:31:03] Mandy: That is not only the stuff to help you get through the hospital stuff and the bills and navigating the doctors and the systems that’s taking care of your whole wellness. Because when we know that you are focused on that, you will be more successful at whatever it is you’re trying to do, whether it’s parenting or grieving or trying to have a baby.
[00:31:22] Mandy: You, you have to be mentally in a decent space for those things to keep moving through you and to keep moving forward with.
[00:31:30] Cynthia: Yeah. Being able to have that strong foundation so that, the rest of child rearing and being pregnant and giving birth, all of that it’s a lot. And so to be able to have a good starting point or like a foundation before or during that process, I think is huge.
[00:31:50] Cynthia: And I think it’s also really important in that. Parents and people who are raising children model so much for the next generation. And so to be able to have had this journey to be taken care of, mental wellbeing Throughout parenting. I think just can be so healing not just to the parents, but to like the next generation of human beings
[00:32:16] Mandy: So if I speak just to mothers for a second, even though I know not everyone who births a human identifies as a mother, but like this is where the primary research is. The apologies for the gendered language, but if you look at some of the research that is out there about women whose brains have been studied during pregnancy and postpartum.
[00:32:33] Mandy: The changes in our brains are secondary only to adolescents in their complexity and intensity. The task of becoming a mother inherently makes you more anxious because you’re wired to protect your kid and it is really the season where all of your stuff from before having being a mother will come back.
[00:32:52] Mandy: All of your childhood experiences, all of these other pieces, some kind of roaring back to the surface. So there’s this integration then, or an opportunity for integration between trauma things as well as parenting that often comes up and we find. A lot of our people. Who have been coping with what I would call maladaptive, like not yet adaptive anymore.
[00:33:14] Mandy: Things come to us and say what I was doing before isn’t working now. And usually it’s a sign like, I’m ready to do something different. Our bodies, our brains are giving us an opportunity to make a change. So we first have to acknowledge where did those adaptations come from? And they’re usually from some sort of trauma or difficult experience.
[00:33:32] Mandy: Before that worked really well, and now we’re faced with, okay. But that coping, that way you were coping isn’t helping you now. So let’s figure out, let’s acknowledge and think the parts of self that were so gracious in really like MacGyvering something together for you to keep you safe, to protect you honestly, to just get you through.
[00:33:53] Mandy: Cuz sometimes it’s not about any of those things is just literal survival. But now let’s turn our attention to changing our relationship to what has happened to us, and then we can start to forward think, because people who have trauma have a hard time with that forward planning, and therefore, parenting in particular, which constantly pulls you to the present moment with your child’s needs can be a humongous task.
[00:34:15] Cynthia: That’s. Such a clear picture in my mind too, of just MacGyvering, right? Just like putting together some way to survive the trauma and then getting to a point where you’re like, okay, let’s take the evidence-based approach. Let’s see what actual, support I have the tools we can use.
[00:34:34] Cynthia: And to have that support with a therapist can be huge to be able to, have that that guide throughout the process. And I know you also mentioned earlier in our pre-conversation that your clinic is planning to create a trauma informed group for partners who are supporting those in trauma.
[00:34:55] Cynthia: And it just makes you think about, it takes a village not only to raise children, but to. Parents and, tell me a little bit about what attendees might be able to gain from that kind of group.
[00:35:07] Mandy: Our clinic is very focused on, a lot of our clients are the folks who have experienced trauma.
[00:35:15] Mandy: And one of the things that consistently comes up with working with those individuals is. A lot of conflict with their partners because their partners might not understand their inner experience. They don’t often have, shared trauma stories, although that can happen. They often are just coming from very different viewpoints so they can feel not only the client can feel very isolated, which we work with them on, but really often we’re finding that partners.
[00:35:41] Mandy: Don’t have the information they need in order to feel, to be able to fully show up and support their person that is in trauma and in trauma healing. So our goal with what we’re hopeful to launch is a program where we can pull those partners in to build some commonality because we also know that’s really hard.
[00:35:58] Mandy: It’s hard to support somebody with trauma who’s going through trauma healing because they’re going to get activated despite our best efforts. And so they’re gonna have days that are lousy and. The partners on the other side have a really tall order ahead of them to try to hold steady.
[00:36:14] Mandy: They’re gonna have their own stuff kicked up, whether it’s just irritability, and like, how much longer is this gonna be to actual real conflicts that are coming up with for them, again, because there’s some disruption that happens when you’re doing trauma healing. So our goal is to facilitate some community, some sense of community for the people who are the partners supporting those in trauma.
[00:36:33] Mandy: Because it could be really isolating and just feel like, oh my gosh, what is going on? I don’t know. Have anyone to talk to you about this. And to also just learn have some psychoeducation about trauma and it’s impact on the brain. This is what it can look like. This is what you might be seeing at home.
[00:36:48] Mandy: Here’s how you can be supportive. And so that’s the goal of those kinds of groups is to. Primarily build communities so people don’t feel so isolated. And secondly, to also inherit some of that, cuz we do a lot of that psychoeducation with our client who’s experienced the trauma and then say go home and teach your partner.
[00:37:06] Mandy: It’s also a difficult thing cuz they’re in their own stuff. So having some dedicated places for people to go to learn that where the person in trauma can just focus on their healing is another way to holistically hold them as well. You don’t have to, like you are in charge of you and your system and working on that, and how can we help support you with the other ripples that are often created because of our trauma.
[00:37:29] Cynthia: And I don’t know if this is just within my sphere or if it’s something bigger you can maybe tell me if you’ve experienced this, but I feel like a lot of the men in my life have been coming to terms with. their own need for healing that maybe they’ve been able to be that rock, that support for their partners. And then something about the pandemic, something about just that triggering or opening up space for feeling things that maybe. Were able to be ignored before. There seems to be this like wave of the masculine needing healing. Is that something you’ve noticed?
[00:38:07] Mandy: Yeah. We see a lot more women than men generally in our clinic, but we do have some men who reach out to us, especially if they’re in that kind of building family pieces. that do also want to do some of that. A lot of times it’s focused on making meaning or organizing the story. So if there’s a traumatic birth or things like that, it can be a little bit focused more on, on the logistics rather than some of the emotional upheaval.
[00:38:32] Mandy: But I do think that we are seeing that just as a general trend. The other thing that comes up as you say that is that really often what we will also see with our clients is who, again, are primarily women. they’re usually. Hitting our offices at a lower spot so they’re not functioning as well as they could be.
[00:38:49] Mandy: And as that improves, very often, if they’re in partnership, especially in a heterosexual partnership, what we’ll actually see is that the partner starts to dip in their level of functioning. And so they create like one of those little like helixes where. As one partner starts to, heal or recover the other starts to decompensate a little bit.
[00:39:07] Mandy: So it can be really common to see that as part of a whole journey. So if you’re looking at an individual, you wouldn’t see that pattern, but it’s, you start to look at systems, you start to see how trauma has been impacting the whole system. And that as somebody who is the primary holder of the trauma, does their own healing.
[00:39:25] Mandy: The impact can, like the reverberation is felt across the entire system and then will absolutely promote other people to say, I need to do something about what I have stored, whether it’s related to you or not. And that’s really cool to see when we see people leaning in because other people have done some trauma healing.
[00:39:44] Mandy: It’s really amazing. it’s one of the reasons why I think like stories matter so much. People sharing personal stories, Is so much more impactful than we did this research study of whatever. Both are really important, but I’ve always leaned towards the qualitative studies. Yeah.
[00:39:58] Mandy: Because I think that the stories are what create change in so many people. The quantitative is still super important for all kinds of reasons, but qualitative is like my jam because it’s the humanity, the part that you can see about people’s lived experiences.
[00:40:12] Cynthia: Yeah. And. How powerful to even acknowledge that.
[00:40:18] Cynthia: like I said, with children too, like the healing doesn’t just stop with the one person who is doing the healing work. It models for the next generation, but it also then creates a possibility for the other people in their lives, like what else is possible? How do I also.
[00:40:38] Cynthia: Know myself deeper and grow, so I It’s just doesn’t stop with you. There’s a ripple effect.
[00:40:45] Mandy: Yeah. Absolutely. And I really firmly believe that every parenting generation is really, truly doing their best with the information they have. And so just every subsequent generation either chooses to parent from a spot of, that was awesome.
[00:40:58] Mandy: I wanna be a parent Just like that. Or more reactive where they’re like, no, I wanna, I want to make some changes. There’s never really no right or wrong, but it, every generation seems to like course correct just a little bit more as we learn different things.
[00:41:09] Cynthia: Yeah. And how wonderful to do it in community, do it with support and not have to feel like you’re doing it alone.
[00:41:15] Cynthia: Perfect. Thank you so much Mandy, for your time. In the show notes we’ve got Mandy’s, Instagram, Facebook, the website for mindful wellbeing.com and just there’s a lot of great resources and different clinicians available. And then I know you have other group support as well.
[00:41:36] Cynthia: What are some other group offerings currently going on?
[00:41:40] Mandy: Most of our group offerings are currently on hold. We’ve got a few transitions happening right now with some new folks coming on, but in the past, and I’m hopeful in short order, we may pick up a few pieces. So we have someone joining us for the summer who may be focusing on, or who will be focusing, I just dunno exactly what it looks like.
[00:41:56] Mandy: Yet this occupational therapist and she’ll be focusing on something related to perinatal mental health and probably focused on moms. So it’ll probably be something like a combination of. Maybe like a prenatal yoga and some postpartum, so working on supporting people through that transition.
[00:42:13] Mandy: Yeah, so stay tuned on the website for some opportunities with that. We’ve also historically done our Mama be Support group, which has been a drop in group, and so we’re gonna probably retool that a little bit, and I would say maybe later this summer we’ll probably have something like that going again.
[00:42:29] Mandy: What’s nice about that is it was very popular during the Pandemic because it was virtual and everybody was home. And we were offering it for free. We’re gonna tweak it a little bit just so that we can know how, who to expect and that sort of thing. So it’ll be probably low cost, but still a lot of value add to building community and allowing people to just share what’s going on for them without having to feel like they have to run through insurance and deal with copays or those kinds of things, And also, again, build that kind of community piece where you’re in. You’re sharing the part of the heavy with multiple people who are also there.
[00:43:05] Cynthia: Yeah. And Mindful Wellbeing is located in Coon Rapids, but I know you also offer virtual appointments so you can serve people and you’ve got that accessibility piece that I know is important to you and your clinic.
[00:43:19] Mandy: Yeah.
[00:43:21] Cynthia: And if there was one takeaway that people listening could walk away with, what would you hope that would be?
[00:43:31] Mandy: I would say that there’s not. One right or wrong way to do trauma healing for you. What you want to above all else pay attention to is what lights you up, what feels really hard, and how can you work on integrating those pieces together, through changing that relationship to what has what you’ve gone through.
[00:43:54] Mandy: And that sometimes that’s therapy. Sometimes that’s medication. Sometimes it’s holistic pieces, or sometimes it’s all of it. And in different seasons it might be something different. My trauma healing in like the first season looked very different than seasons like two through 10, and it’s, to me, reorienting that you aren’t, your trauma is so important.
[00:44:16] Mandy: We live in a society who sometimes uses all of these kinds of labels to describe who we are, and we can acknowledge that that doesn’t define who I am at my core. So that work is hard and there’s probably nothing more important, but it can be lifelong journey and not orienting to just, okay, I’m going to lean into this for six months and I’m gonna be all good.
[00:44:41] Mandy: Is a good philosophy because it’s probably something that you’re gonna carry with you on some level for the rest of your life, but we can make it a little bit easier and we can make it something that isn’t, doesn’t define exclusively who you are is really important for people to know.
[00:44:54] Mandy: Yeah.
[00:44:55] Cynthia: Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you again Mandy, and thank you for all you’re doing. It’s just, it’s beautiful and much needed.
[00:45:03] Mandy: Yeah.
[00:45:03] Mandy: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:45:05] Cynthia: Thank you so much for listening to the Well Connected Twin Cities podcast. Did you learn something new? Did you feel that spark of hope and excitement for what is possible? Because so much is possible. Tell us about it. In a review on Apple Podcast, not only would we absolutely love hearing from you, but these reviews help our ratings and help other curious minds like you find this resource.
[00:45:30] Cynthia: We are always better together. Thank you again and see you next time.