• TSimon

Here's why I'm heading to graduate school and my intentions going forward.

I’d like to begin with a literal statement of intent:

“I plan to use my time at Adler University to discover my unknown bias, create a network of collaborators, and build a deep understanding of combined mental and physical health practices.”

I have been pursuing a Master’s level education in one form or another since 2009 when I decided to change careers just before I changed geographical locations. My original plan was to return to my roots in physical health by pursuing the path to become a physical therapist. I had been a high-performance athlete for the majority of my life and had abandoned that identity following the intolerable chronic pain that ended my sports career by originally pursuing an undergraduate degree in architecture. This degree was demanding enough and different enough that I thought I could build a new identity around it.

Unfortunately, architecture, in practice, is really long hours isolated in front of a computer producing construction drawings. A career with very little human interaction. Learning that wasn’t for me was the first step in understanding what I need to feel fulfilled in my career.

In the ensuing years between deciding to change careers by again pursuing higher education and the present, I have: completed an international move back to Canada, supported my husband through his own Master’s program, worked full-time in corporate offices while taking continuing education at the university level, applied and been rejected three times to physical therapy Masters programs, gotten fully certified and insured to teach Pilates, volunteered at G.F. Strong, UBC hospital transitional care unit, and the BC Crisis center, and lost my mother to cancer and underwent my own surgical intervention during a pandemic.

I have lived a full life in my 30+ years. I value all my experiences as the groundwork in commonality I find with all the people I teach movement. I have been teaching for the better part of 5 years now and I remember being shocked at how little the average person seemed to be connected with their body when I first began teaching. The awareness of things I, as a past athlete, had taken for granted as being obviously known, simply put: weren’t.

I have been working with people one to one for years now and I have found, repeatedly, that learning is often limited, or bounded, by personal beliefs and identity. I have all the skills and knowledge necessary to take any human being through an hour of safely moving their bodies in new or challenging ways that will progress any goal they may have in mind for themselves. What I am restricted by in my offerings to them is their own mindset.

I am absolutely fascinated

by the intersection between how

we think and how we move.

I’d love to complete some grounded theory research on this topic. I need guidance to get going and if I can find that guidance at Adler University, that would be the gravy over my goals.

My goals are to create a community offering of mental health-focused movement classes. A gym for the mind through the grounding effects of using the body. A body psychotherapy approach to cognitive behavioral therapy, perhaps. This is where my unknown unknowns are evident.

I could continue on as I am and offer what I can with the knowledge and experience I have. The reason I do not wish to simply continue on as I am is that I do not believe wonderful, helpful things are built in silos or by a single person. It takes a community collaborating together to bring forth the solution to their own needs. I am looking for that community at Adler. I have the focus and the drive to create something but I need the knowledge and network to make it useful.

At present, I am participating in a mentorship program for working with people who have Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, post-stroke, and post-concussion symptoms. In working with this population of people seeking to connect to their bodies through movement, I have learned empathy for the frustration, identity challenges, exhaustion, and gratitude that comes with living with a degenerative disease, chronic pain, and invisible impairments.

The benefits of exercise have been supported through research for all sorts of challenges to the human condition. What there seems to be less of are people interested in supporting both the body and the mind simultaneously. We tend to specialize in either understanding the body or the mind extremely well and then support the other like one might a hobby. I would like to be part of the integration in healthcare options. I have 37 years of learning the body’s capacity in depth through my own personal experience training to the Olympic level and teaching movement to a breadth of humanity these past 5 years. I would like to attend Adler University to learn the various ways one can support the mind, cognitive development, and returning to health from trauma.

As a future licensed mental health practitioner, I plan to offer small group, therapy-based movement classes, to the communities that need options to bridge the gaps between medically supported care and group fitness, like those living with neurodegenerative disease diagnoses. A model for what I envision is already in practice with Body-Centered Psychotherapy. I believe one might use body security to provide mental security, body resilience to support mental resilience, and set the stage for body comfort as an achievable health outcome.

I have the hope that the collective grief, isolation, and challenges that Covid-19 caused have opened the doors to introducing another way of practicing community health in a more integrative way, but failing that, at least with a better lens for how our mental health can be supported and coping skills achieved through basic body care practices.

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