The Trauma Therapist
The Trauma Therapist

Episode · 5 months ago

Episode 600: Healing Women in Recovery with Dr. Alice Kerby

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr Alice Kerby specializes in Somatic Experiencing Trauma Therapy and Recovery Coaching. She holds a Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy and is an expert in movement and working with the nervous system and body to unwind past patterns of trauma and chronic stress. Dr Alice helps her clients and students to gently touch into past trauma patterns that are stored in the body. This leads to restored resiliency in the nervous system, offering a greater ability to make choices from a place of one’s essential self. As a sober woman, she is passionate about bringing these tools to women in recovery to facilitate an engaged life that is hallmarked by ease.

She is an avid outdoors woman and adventurer, and is the creator and founder of The Sober Girls Hiking and Adventure Club. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Somatic Experiencing International, She Recovers, the annual Women for Sobriety Conference, The Amazon Corporation and The Holistic Immunity Summit. She is a teacher, clinician, freelance writer, lover of nature, and adventurer living in San Diego, California.

In This Episode

All right, welcome back to the trauma thepps podcast. My name is Gavick. Person My mission is to raise awareness of trauma and to support and inspire new trauma therapist just starting out on the trauma informative journey. I do that with my members, a community trauma therapist to point, Oh, and unlike courses and workshops and the trauma therapist newsletter, your therapist of any kind and you work with individuals who've been impacted by trauma, and invite you to head on over to my website at the trauma theorist projectcom. That's the trauma therapist projectcom. All right, let's get starts. Here we go, recording right. Five, four, three, two and one, our folks, welcome back to the trauma theppist podcast. Very excited to have as my guess it, a Dr Alice Kirby. Alice, welcome. Thanks so much for having me. All right. So Dr Kirby specializes in somatic experiencing trauma therapy and recovery coaching. She holds its clinical doctor and physical therapy and is an expert in movement and working with the nervous system and body to unwind past patterns of trauma. And chronic stress. Dr Ellis helps her clients and students to gently touch into past trauma patterns that are stored in the body. This leads to restored resiliency and the nervous system, offering greater ability to make choices from a place of one's essential self. As a sober woman, she's passionate but bring these tools to women in recovery to facilitate an engage life that is hallmarked by ease. Awesome. I was before we go in here. Share where the listeners, where you're from originally and where you are currently. We're so I grew up in northern Virginia, in a suburb of DC. That's Times raised and I moved. I've moved around a lot. I left home for the first time when I was about twenty, did a bunch of traveling and now and I'm in San Diego, California. I've been here for the past five years. Like I said, five or six, but I think it's I think this is the start of year six here in San Diego. Awesome, awesome, all right. So, five, three, two, what? Okay, awesome, all right, let's let's get go in here. So I'm really excited drawn you know, going reading for your bio. You're obviously passionate about what you do. How did you get into this field? How were you pulled into it? Sure it's such a good question and, like many folks, my path to to the work that I do has been very nonlinear, even with going back to get my my doctorate and PT. I didn't go to college until I was thirty, so that was a just a later in life decision. I was really ready to focus. I knew I wanted to. I was a massage therapist at the time. I wanted to expand my scope of practice. So I went through that whole Rigam role, spent most of my s in school and, you know, came out with this doctor it which is great. And you know I love movement. I'm really I'm super passionate about getting people moving. But I've always been so interested in the nervous system and in the brain, and I actually have this on my website. There is a segment in school where we got to dissect brains in our lab. We had an amazing neuroscience teacher and so we got to go in and look at these cross sections of the brain and see the Corpus Coloso and it was this very spiritual experience for me really to be that close. It's like this this microcosm of the universe. Is What it felt like. And so you know, when I when I first went back to school to study medicine, I I had the thought that I wanted to be able to combine it with working with some of these neurological patterns and working with the subconscious. And I know I didn't quite know what that would look like. Certainly wasn't a focus in, you know, my western medical education through PT School, but I knew that's really where my passion was. And it's so fast forward a few years later, getting my doctor and I went through some...

...some belts of pretty bad anxiety, which compounded an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. So I was really drinking and excess trying to like deal with the stress and you know, I think, as most of us know who go down that route, it's just not an effective methodology. So you know, around the time I decided that I really was seeing this as a problem, I really was was very ready to change my life and get back to feeling good. I got into Recovery Program for alcohol, but I also started seen a therapist at that time and just very magical woman. She lived up the in my neighborhood, up the street for me here in San Diego, and turns out she was a SOMADIC experiencing practitioner. And so, as I you know, stopped drinking, began getting sober, I had more awareness of my own body and we started doing this somatic experiencing, or se for short, and this work was amazing to me because I could really I started feeling really good and my body. And I think a lot of times when we think about recovery, or what we talk about recovery, it comes with this sort of heaviness and this sense of like, Oh, we've got to do this work and it's hard, and you know it is. It's really difficult to to get through it addiction with anything, you know, food, alcohol, over work, whatever it is, because those patterns do get very ingrained. But what happened for me, and I think really helped me to be quite successful in my recovery early on, was I had the experience of feeling really good in my body. I had the experience of being able to touch in, you know, to my inner world and my inner realms and feel good and feel pleasure and feel delighted and feel connected and I didn't want to lose that because the whole time I was drinking. And I think a lot of US experience this. They go through alcohol addiction or some kind of separation from the self. It's that disconnect and when we're able to come back and connect and find that home within ourselves, it's such a gift. So I you know, I worked with this therapist for a few more years. My sprite was going well and she said, you know, you should go take this training. You really love this work, I think you're really good at it. So I went and I did just that and I went through the three year training through somatic experiencing international. It's just the institute where you can get certified for this work. And Yeah, and I just got certified to be an assistant, so I'll be hopefully assisting some of the trainings and and May I just reached out to the teacher yesterday. So gratulations thy exact. It's excited. When you first started working with that therapist and started working with the body, what was that like for you? Was that like initially? was what was your experience was like now or what's a body like? Some of us? Yeah, you know, and I experienced this with with some of my clients now where it is, it's like that we bumped into this edge of I don't know, I don't know if I'm doing this work right and I don't know why I'm doing it and I don't really like it. We're so cognitively focused in our society and certainly after, you know, seven years in the Western medical indoctrination, you know, machine of Advanced Education, I was pretty analytical, but honestly I loved it. It feels really good for me to be in my body. It feels really good for me still to have a guide. I still see the same therapist and I'll just go in there sometimes to do it. Let's just help me be in my body and it, because it's lovely to have someone help with that. So I don't remember it being too strange or weird. I most remember having those experiences of of connection and of feeling good. That's really the highlight for me, as I can almost sense it now, this just kind of a sense of like a golden light and warmth in my body, which is so pleasant. It's wonderful to have that experience of I feel good in myself. What was it, Alice, initially, that inspired you to, you know, study physical therapy?...

Sure, so I've always been really interested in medicine. I studied Chinese medicine and alternative medicine as a part of the massage program that I was in back in my s and I've loved the body. I'm a mover. I love moving and I love different types of movement. I'm a dancer, or I was a dancer. I don't dance so much anymore and it just made sense to me. When I was first going back to school, I wanted to be an osteopathic physician. I thought that was my track and then as I got into it, I took the mcat, I was applying to med schools and I just really got a very strong sense that that wasn't for me. And you know, if you're going down a path like that, I can you've really got to be a hundred percent committed. So I did a little more digging and actually looked into some neuroscience PhD programs, but pt made the most sense to me because as a clinician I'm able to move interact with my patients, but I'm not stuck like doing just straight research seemed very stagnant of the body for me, which wasn't appealing. Okay, so you had this therapist and sounds like an incredible experience. It continues to be an in kind of books, incredible experience for you. How do things unfold such that you developed your own practice and working with is a primarily women or exclusively women? You work with primarily women. I do have some male clients, but my more my niche is more more women. So yeah, yeah, go ahead, sure. I mean, I think from the time I first ever started working, I've been an entrepreneur and I've always had my own practice of some kind, whether it was as a massage therapist or as a physical therapist. So I knew, like looking at my priorities, of my values in life. I love to travel, I want to have a certain amount of freedom in the world. I'm not married, I don't have kids, and this is by design because I like to be able to move freely in the world. And so I wanted to have work that I was passionate about or I felt like I could make a difference, but where I could adapt it to my lifestyle. And so from the get go I really wanted to be able to do this work online, which is primarily how I work. I see clients via zoom it. Do see a few people in person when I'm in San Diego, but the bulk of my practice is online and it really it just started with knowing that that was my end game and I worked with a variety of business coaches to kind of helped me with nuts and bolts of navigating, you know, start creating an online business and things like social media and advertising and marketing and all of those things. But I really had a clear and I still do. I hold a really clear vision of like my end game and how that ties to my purpose and, you know, I just take steps every day towards that. What would you say is your kind of where your ability love were, your focus, your passion lies, or what mean, re phrase that, what makes you allows you to do this work? You talked about being a dancer and loving movement. How would you articulate that? I think because I've done the work myself, I continue to do the work myself and like I see the benefit and I feel the benefit and to be able to help, I'm going to say, other women here but I'm certainly not excluding men just to balk my clients as I set our women, but to help other women to be able to come back to a place where they're able to like, actually truly deeply relax. It's such a huge thing and it sounds so simple and one of my biggest things, which doesn't always translate or makes sense to people's to help people get back in their bodies. And so you know what I mean by that is to really be present where we're moving through life, aware of how we feel inside, not just emotionally but also on that sensation level, with a good idea of interoception, that ability to know what we're feeling as we're feeling it, and to be, you know, connected with themselves and connected in the world and connected to others and connected with nature in the planet, something I'm so passionate about to so I don't know if that answers your question, but I think the reason...

...that I can do this or because because I do this work, you know, and so for me, getting to work with clients means I'm in the field and I have to be in my own body and I love that about doing see work, because I can't be checked out right right. And Yeah, as a lot of us know, people, especially who've experience into personal trauma, the body can be a mine field. You know. How do you approach that? How do you approach working when that is the case with someone? It's a great question because it's the case with a lot of people, you know, even if there hasn't been major trauma, but a lot of times there has been, or there's been some sexual trauma or just inappropriate type relationship with the body or eating disorders. With a body has not been a safe place for people. And so I think first it's acknowledging that and understanding that. And just because I had a really wonderful experience early on of my own body, I know that's not everyone's experience. And one of the reasons I love see so much just because one of the foundational principles of this work is the concept of titration and of moving slowly and of trying, you know, one small thing and seeing how it affects the whole in just staying there, and also this idea of really building resources for people. And so that's that's where I like to start with anyone. You know, if it's too much to be fully in your body. It's completely understandable. But maybe we can start with just noticing, you know, what it's like for your hands to touch or to put a hand on your shoulder or on your chest, and it's not okay to stay with that, maybe just for a couple seconds in the beginning. And so we work really slowly. When it's when the body hasn't been safe, that's not going to change overnight. So we start establishing, you know, where is there some security or sense of safety for the person and and building those resources so that when we go to the part that's harder or more scarier, there's some terror there, we've got kind of a foundational backbone of resources that they can they can rely on, so we don't just plunge head first into the difficult, the difficult parts as soon as you said, you know, I would like to help people just become like really relaxed. I felt that. Yeah, I felt like wow, that would that sounds great. I'd love you experience that. And you said, well, it sounds kind of silly with but it it does. But it's obviously not right. I mean the ability to do that is is vital. Yeah, it's initial. It is, especially in the world we live in where, you know, over work is seen as a badge of honor. Almost definitely. I think that's been the bulk of my own work really is learning how to relax, because I was some such high alert, high strung, high achieving for so long and for a lot of people, myself included, your worth becomes very side to that, and so it's like when you start to relax, your nervous system actually can kind of go into these high alerts of like wait, I'm not safe, this isn't okay. If I relax, something bad will happen. was there an event or series of events that made you realize that, because you kind of talked about, you know, those two different speeds in a sense, you know, being the highlert and Western, the m cats, and if there comes some traumas, yeah, how did you? How wouldn't? What made you kind of shift your focus? I mean, I had to or I was going to die, like I could you know, I was bait. I was medicating with alcohol because I was so in you know, I couldn't sleep, I was taking sleeping pills, I was just it wasn't working and it got to a point where my life. You know, as a lot of alcoholics can relate to kind of crashed and burned and watching people I love walk away, and it became very clear like I'm I'm going to die if I keep living like...

...this. So I didn't know at that time what I needed was this like total nervous system reset around being able to be fully relaxed and to be okay with that. But working with my therapist was very instrumental to start recognizing when I would come up against that pattern, and I came up a lot, and building a business. I'd like to work more with entrepreneurs actually, because I think this comes up for a lot of us. Of you know, you feel like you've got to do things all the time because there's all these things to do. When you're you're doing every part of the business, and you know, when you're coming at it from that mindset of like I have to, you know, I have to do all this, and this is the speed with which I go, you burn out really quickly and you're miserable and you know you can't really do work like this when you're miserable. It just doesn't it doesn't work. Can you share an early clinical error might you. It sound like you came to this kind of later, right, you went to graduate school at Thirty, had some experience, but what was it like when you when you started as a therapist yourself working within this context? What was it like early on for you with doing some odic experiencing work? I mean, yeah, definitely it's a little nerve racking, you know, because I it's it is trauma therapy and a one of my first clients had had some pretty you know, she experienced the death of a child. She was in early recoveries. It's big time life stuff and I'm a very compassionate person and we had a good rapport so that certainly helps a lot. And I don't know that you know, I'm just thinking back to our early sessions. I actually was just in contact with her yesterday. I don't know that I made clinical errors, but I didn't trust as much as I do now after practicing for a few more years, and I'm I'm sure five or ten more years from now it'll be even, you know, a whole different ball game because we're certain clients. I trust, trust my own experience of the field and of what I'm feeling when I'm working with the person and trust that even if things are kind of difficult, like if we're sort of bumping into stuff and I'm, you know, maybe trying something that's not quite working and the persons to cut off or not perceptive. Now I'm able to really kind of lean back, check out what's going on in my own body, make sure I'm here, and then we try something else and I just meet people where they are and I'll say like, you know, let's try this, if it doesn't work, we'll try something else. Right. Yeah, that trust is crucial. I know when I first got out of graduate school I didn't do that at all. You know. You know I think, I mean, I don't want to say like a lot of people, but for certainly for myself that, you know, I felt like I had to prove something. I had all the answers. You've got this, yeah, free, you're you're studying and this tech I'm going to try this technique and intervention is got to work. And Yeah, we know where that goes. Sometimes it does work and you feel really great, but I think so much to doing, you know, any of this work, even with pt on a different level. That clinical experience is just priceless and the only way to get it's by making some mistakes and, you know, doing, doing some more work. I love what you're saying, alice, about just it sounds like you're really bringing your own experience, your own life experience, into the work you're doing and that that's there's something so beautiful about that. Yeah, I'd agree. I don't know how to practice any other way, and I think that's also not to say that I kind of bleed all over things or have four boundaries, because I you know, I'm very professional and my clinical work and all my work. But yeah, I mean my life and influences and informs my work. And I just went through a pretty difficult six month period myself and like I'm kind of coming out and I've talked to just a little bit about it, but it's been going through things like that and having these tools and and knowing how beneficial they are for me to move through those hard experiences. It helps me to be able to bring some of that to my...

...clients as well. So talk about the sober girls. Do you want to pause there for a second? Yeah, okay, possible. Yeah, hike. Can I help you marks in the front office? It's okay, I'm in the middle of an interview, almost like wait, it's when just squawk in my office. It was what it was like. That's the first time that's ever happened. That's funny. It's no worries, we could just cut that out. Okay, what if? Okay, we'll start here. So five, four, three two one. One of the things that really interests me about you is, I mean you said you started off the bat that you wanted to create an online business. So whereas during the pandemic, obviously a lot of people were shifting to online, was that not the case for you? Just business as usual pretty much? It actually worked out. I mean that's a silver lining for me personally. With the pandemic is more people got used to working online, but I'd already been building my practice for really two, two years, a year and a half prior to the pandemic, and because I work with women all over the world, it just it makes more sense for the for me to do the online model right, right, right. And in terms of creating your business, you said you wanted to maybe work with entrepreneurs, and we talking about like coaching other people, because I know I'm kind of focusing on this because I know a lot of people who are listening are interested in this. How do I do this? And you seem to be doing it. I do seem to be doing it. Huh, it's yeah, it's pretty great. Sure, I think you know, I would I would like to work with entrepreneurs around stress and around business, and I'm you know, I'm still in a building phase. My business certainly isn't, you know, where I would love it to be with the end game. I'd like to have a bigger support team and do more public speaking and things like that, but I've certainly made a good bit of progress and I like the practice I've established. But I think really it does come down the mindset, and I remember hearing that so much as a, you know, doing these different coaching programs, as an early entrepreneur and trying to find the answers. I was like my mind set's fine, like tell me all the secrets of business, and even recently I've come back around to like know I've got to spend that, you know, ten minutes of meditation in the morning and I spent three minutes just kind of visualizing. But I'd like my business to be like and feeling abundance in my body and it was a great I got a good reminder from my coach because I needed it, and I'm like, Oh yeah, that actually really helps and really works and it's such a again, a simple thing. And of course there's strategies and tools and I think it's always great to have a business coach. But when you when you're in those patterns where you're so torn apart by trying to build your business, because I really was for the first couple of years, I think it was really difficult. So, if you're in that kind of place, working with some of these like patterns that are stuck in your nervous system and identifying them as such can be really helpful and I think that's work I'd like to pursue. This is kind of branch out and work with entrepreneurs as a subset, because I've been through that experience and I know what it feels like to get through it and come out on the other side and to not have so much ankst around trying to build your business. Would you say, Alice is, you were your mission, your your passion. Who who do you want to work with? Who Do you want to help? Yeah, some of my favorite people to work with our like high performing women, and I it is nice when they've been in recovery for a while, just because we have that in common. But that's certainly not only who I work with, but it's these women who are on Super High Alert, High Stress Paradigm and...

...they don't think that there's another way to live and they are. They've tried a bunch of stuff. They go to yoga, they listen to podcast they read the spiritual books and they're just not at home and their bodies and there's so much like stress undercurrent. When I work with those clients we see such profound changes and it's it's awesome. So I really like doing that because it's empowering of women, but in kind of a subtle way, where we empower women to just be themselves, to be in their bodies, to have strength and power and relaxation and calm. What is it that you're able to share with them that turns the light on for them, do you think? I think it's tools. Over time, I think it's just beginning to come into the body more, to have more experiences when you do have that sense, like you were saying you felt earlier, of of being relaxed and to be able to stay with it and to recognize more and more when that happens and to be able to stay with it more and more so that that becomes more than normal versus the other, you know, the high stress thing. And so it's work over time. It's not like I have a magic wand. I mean I would be really eat I just reread all that Harry Potter. Yeah, but it's work over time. But I think anytime, and I'm giving US talk on Tuesday to be much you know, it'll be a long time ago in this comes out, but that's one of the things in any of the talks I do that I always try to walk people through, even if it's just very brief experience, of what is it feel like in your body when you can actually like relax or settle or half a moment where you just like look out at a tree or something pleasant and give yourself that time and space and let your system take it in to the point where it's okay for you to be in that state. Right, right, awesome, awesome. What is the best way for people to get in touch with you? Alice? Sure, so people can reach out to me via my website, Kirby method consultingcom I'm active on facebook getting some tick tock stuff together. I'm also on instagram and Linkedin, but I think for the next couple months I'm going to be focusing more on facebook and and building this stick tock because, okay, and you have a podcast. I do have a podcast. It's called beyond the pink cloud. We've been in on hiatus but I'm going to pick that back up in February. We'll be the fourth year of the PODCAST. So we've got a lot of great interviews on there. Awesome, awesome. All right, we'll have this linked up here. Okay, let's page at the tramp of theirs podcastcom that was Aweso awesome and I love you just you just have this presence and you can really feel that you were living what you're doing and it's really it's just inspiring. Thanks so much. Yeah, thanks for having me on to talk about it. All right, take care. You to. Thank you so much for listening and supporting this podcast and if you'd like to join the hundreds of other therapists who are each month keeping up to date and informed and inspired about what's going on in the world of trauma I'd love to invite you to head on over to the trauma therapist news letter. That's the trauma therapist news lettercom.

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