Veronique Mead - Background
Training and Theoretical Foundations
I am a somatic psychotherapist whose area of special interest involves offering new perspectives and options to individuals with chronic illness (such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel disease) and chronic physical symptoms (migraines, etc) more... I help individuals work with and understand how to address factors that influence their symptoms, such as triggers in everyday life, by facilitating dialogue between mind and body.
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I left my practice as a family physician in search of new perspectives for understanding and working with chronic illness. I wanted an approach that could see the intelligence of symptoms and that invited me to become curious about their role and their origins.
Why do chronic illness symptoms exist, I wondered? Do symptoms have a purpose? Why does one person with type 1 diabetes have labile blood sugars and frequent lows despite careful management, while another has good control with much less effort? Why do some people get high blood pressure and others asthma? Can people with a strong family history of Alzheimer's, breast cancer, or migraines do anything to reduce their risk?
Medicine does not yet have good answers to these types of questions. Somatic psychology, on the other hand, provides a whole new way of thinking and appears capable of beginning to address such questions. The theories, perspectives, and therapeutic approach of somatic psychology feed my soul, and it has become my life's work.
My education in psychotherapy includes a Master's degree in Somatic Psychology from Naropa University and specialized training in trauma recovery, drawing specifically from the body-oriented perspectives of Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing (SE), and Pat Ogden's Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (formerly known as Hakomi). I also continue to deepen my skills and understanding through ongoing professional development.
The field of somatic psychology has introduced me to the work of Peter Levine, who describes trauma as an event that truncates a survival instinct (such as fight or flight), and that it is this truncation that leads to symptoms. Naropa faculty member and department chair Christine Caldwell has a similar perspective. Both of these individuals are among an increasing number of professionals who demonstrate that healing from any number of symptoms occurs when movements, actions, and impulses in the body are allowed to "complete" what has been truncated. Indeed, it is the body that holds the memories of incomplete actions, and that senses and knows how to find its way back to wholeness. As I learned about these concepts, which were primarily used to address emotional and mental health symptoms, I realized that they very likely applied to chronic illness such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well. Further work by Peter Levine as well as by neurologist Bob Scaer, among others, supported these concepts, and I began independent research to pursue this line of thinking.
Based on ground work laid by others who have informed my work and research and (see below), I have obtained additional training and have:
Certification as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) , a somatically based approach for understanding and working with the impact of trauma developed by traumatologist Peter Levine PhD. Peter is the author of "Waking the Tiger", an excellent introduction to trauma that describes its long-term effects and explains why the somatic psychotherapies are so helpful in working with PTSD.
Certification in Prenatal, Birth, and Attachment Work, a somatically based approach for working with bonding disruptions in early life and early trauma. I was trained by Myrna Martin RN, MN, RCC, RCST, a public health nurse, family therapist and craniosacral therapist who teaches in the lineage of Ray Castellino , another experienced clinician in this field. This work explores and works with the role of preconception, pregnancy and birth events on long-term patterns of behavior, physiology, emotions and relationship.
My perspectives and clinical approach have been influenced by research in psychophysiology, attachment and development, and neurobiology, among others. Epidemiology and the physiology of chronic illnesses have contribued much to the perspectives I use, as does my clinical experience in working with individuals with chronic illness and a broad variety of physical as well as emotional symptoms.
- Boulder neurologist and traumatologist Robert Scaer MD, the author of The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency (2005) and The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease (2001) (article). Scaer has been working with our growing scientific understanding of the physiological consequences of trauma, and applies this knowledge to a different understanding of the origins of chronic pain and disease.
- Psychophysiologist Stephen Porges PhD, who has introduced the polyvagal theory of the nervous system to explain variability in social behavior, such as may be associated with the "freeze" or "immobility" state. He is the director of The Brain-Body Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago and studies ways of working with the vagus nerve as a means of fostering social engagement in individuals with autism.
- Attachment Guru, Alan Schore PhD, a psychoanalyst who devoted close to 10 years to writing a book that integrates research from over 2000 studies. This book, "Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development", identifies the role of the attachment bond in shaping the nervous system in the first three years of life. Schore links structure and function, experience, psychology, and physiology to describe how early experiences influence our long-term ability to cope with everyday stressors. Such life events consequently affect our risk for disease.
- The Bonding Experts, Marshall Klaus, MD (article) and John Kennell, MD, pediatricians who co-authored "The Maternal Infant Bond: the impact of early separation or loss on family development" (1976i). Their research has demonstrated the enormously underestimated importance of early bonding, particularly during the "sensitive period" which occurs during the first few hour(s) and days after birth.
- Somatic therapist, movement educator, and Rolfer Kevin Frank, a friend, mentor and role model who brings together many of the perspectives presented on this web site. His curiosity and his respect for the organization of experience have been and continue to serve as a deep inspiration for my work.
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In my career as a physician, I specialized in family medicine, which enabled me to care for people from infancy through adulthood, and for women and their families through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I attended medical school at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and completed my family practice residency in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico.
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Prior to working as a somatic psychotherapist I served as an assistant professor at the Dartmouth Family Practice Residency program in Concord, NH where I taught residents and medical students and provided full spectrum outpatient as well as inpatient care in a community hospital.
I spent my early life in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the rest of my childhood growing up in Quebec, Canada. Perhaps due in part to growing up in such different environments, I had an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures.
At 17 I took part in a 6-month cross-cultural exchange program between Canada and Sri Lanka. I discovered a deep love of learning from people in other cultures, and gained inspiration in their tremendous ability to find joy in each other and in the smallest things regardless of their (often challenging) life circumstances. Among other things, this experience helped me to value the ability to live in and appreciate the present moment.
In college, I went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and to develop my first skills in conducting field research. I had been interested in working abroad as a physician, and learned about the importance of respecting and empowering the very capable people who already work and live in local communities. I realized that I was naive and mistaken in thinking that we have all the answers in the West.
This awareness helped me to look more closely at the value of the person or community "receiving" care, and to place great importance on what can be learned from others. I suspect this experience also played an important role in my interest in practicing health care from a paradigm that prioritizes the wisdom of the person with symptoms over the "knowledge" of the provider. Healing requires the participation of both, and I have come to see my task as being one who learns to follow the lead of the other, whose innate intelligence will guide the process in the most efficient and appropriate way possible.
I moved to Boulder in order to attend Naropa University, which brought a respect for mind and body together in an atmosphere of mindfulness and curiosity. I was also drawn to Boulder because of its relatively small size and the creativity of the community. I have stayed because of my relationships with like-minded colleagues and friends who explore life from this place of curiosity and who hold broad perspectives on health and life. Here, I have had the opportunity to recover from the stress I associated with my life as a physician, and have refined my capacity to live in the present....and in greater simplicity.
Mindfulness plays an important role in my day-to-day life and continues to teach me how to be more fully engaged and present in the world. I have come to appreciate the inner journey as much as I used to enjoy travel to different cultures. The new discoveries continue to surprise me. My philosophy of life is supported by the strong interest in presence and the mind/body connection that imbues life in Boulder, and by the beauty of the front range and the wide open spaces.
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