Introducing Holistic Healing Arts at the National Sexual Assault Conference 2013 – Part 3


Introducing Holistic Healing Arts at the National Sexual Assault Conference 2013 – Part 3

Introducing Holistic Healing Arts at the National Sexual Assault Conference 2013 - Part 4

This is Part 3 in our series Introducing Holistic Healing Arts at the National Sexual Assault Conference 2013 and we have included the full introduction to the conference and interview series below. If you have read the introduction you can skip down to this week’s interview with our featured presenter at NSAC 2013, Dr. Eugenie Pabst!

Introduction by Molly Boeder Harris

The Breathe Network recently shared its vision for empowering survivors of sexual violence through the holistic healing arts as co-sponsors of the “Wellness & Self Care” track at the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Los Angeles. NSAC 2013 offered 3 days of training opportunities for advocates, activists, educators and survivors, as well as many other professionals working to prevent, intervene and support the healing journey after sexual violence. This year’s conference theme Inspire a Movement, Invest in Change, Imagine… was “focused on providing cutting-edge information, effective and relevant practices, content that incorporates culturally appropriate outreach and services to historically under-served communities and those with limited access – all aimed at demonstrating how we can build the world we want to live in.” (NSAC 2013)

Our practitioners facilitated 4 workshops at the conference, each with a unique focus on embodied approaches to healing that integrate the body, mind and spirit. As an organization, we are invested in increasing accessibility for healing by ensuring sliding-scale and trauma-sensitive services for survivors. We also believe integrating the holistic healing arts into our standard care for survivors represents a change in that we are intentionally attending to healing the whole person. With this holistic care, we can not only imagine, but can also feel a future, a movement, where healing is accessible, possible, and likely more sustainable for all survivors of sexual violence.

Given this year’s themes, we thought this opportunity to co-sponsor was a natural match. Yet, we still did not know how attendees would respond to the way we approach our work with survivors. Would people attend our workshops? Does the phrase “embodied healing” resonate? Can we make a discussion on the chakras accessible in this context? How do you introduce yoga when powerpoint is often the main teaching tool? Can we create a space where we not only offer our perspectives on the specific benefits of the holistic healing arts for sexual violence survivors, but more importantly, allows for folks to experientially discover their own breath, sensation and embodiment within the context of our workshops?

I am so grateful to have been able to answer all of these questions with an enthusiastic YES! In fact, our workshops were standing room only. Participants reported that being guided inwards via tuning into their breath, lead physical movement and sensing inside, allowed them to fully “land” in the space and in their bodies. Others described a sense of relief that we could talk about the flow of energy, about our spirits and our spiritual lives as it relates to surviving sexual violence – that we could finally be open about things not necessarily seen, but very deeply felt!

I was excited to watch the lines form after each presenter concluded as participants wanted to go deeper with their questions and curiosity one-on-one with the presenter. Any doubt about the level of interest was erased by the reality before our eyes. Our colleagues in this movement, our fellow survivors – we are craving innovative insights into embodied healing, we want to reclaim our identities as both activists and survivors, and be able to embrace the interconnected relationship of our roles as both healers and as individuals who are very much still exploring their healing journey. We desire the space to give voice to both the wounds of our spirits as well as to celebrate our resilience. Ready and resourced, we want to pull the conversation – or rather, the exploration – back down into the lived experiences we hold in our bodies, our hearts and our spirits. We recognize the need to bring this movement, the roots of our activism, back into the core of our experience – to uncover the site of the trauma(s), and from there, to begin to discover the infinite space inside, our innate capacity for healing, and the breathtaking possibilities that can begin to unfold when our body, mind and spirit are aligned.

Our presenters took risks, and shared themselves and their experiences so honestly and so humbly with their audience, and I am forever grateful for the energy they gave to the conference participants. I was fortunate to be present for each one (and managed to stay “present” for my own – due to a special combination of lavender oil, deep breathing, smiling faces and mostly, the effortlessness that comes with being invited to tell the truth of your own experience!) but, I wanted you all to also have a sense of what we discovered at these unique workshops.

While the ideas and impacts are still fresh in our practitioner’s minds, I touched base with each of them to reflect on their experience presenting and learning in that space. The presentations offered included: Meditation and Energy Healing Support for Assault and Abuse Survivors and Their Care Providers with Lisa Erickson, A Practical Guide to Healing Sexual Trauma through Yoga with Zabie Khorakiwala, Biofeedback: More Than Just Deep Breathing with Dr. Eugenie Pabst, and Embody to Empower: Building Resilience through Embodied Approaches To Healing with Molly Boeder Harris.

This week’s interview is with Dr. Eugenie Pabst, who lead a workshop entitled, “Biofeedback: More Than Just Deep Breathing” and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


The Breathe Network: The themes for this year’s National Sexual Assault Conference, were – Inspire a Movement, Invest in Change and Imagine – can you describe how your modality and/or your presentation related to any or all of those topics? 

Eugenie Pabst: “Biofeedback: More Than Just Deep Breathing” relates to change. When a person engages in Biofeedback training, they are investing time and energy into learning how to change their physiological responses to stress and to strengthen the mind/body connection.

TBN: I was delighted, and not totally surprised having known the way you all include the whole person into your approach to healing, that each of you integrated an experiential practice of embodiment into your session, including breath, guided meditation, and movement – can you talk about your decision to make this a part of your workshop?

EP: I included the practice of a focused breathing technique into my session because I believe it is important for the clinician to understand the experience of their client. It gives the audience an opportunity to experience the quieting of the mind and greater connection to sound and sensation of the breath. The breath practice also brings the audience to a more clear and focused state of being for listening and processing the presented material. Furthermore, it is my hope that clinicians will use these techniques themselves as a tool to ground and balance their own energy when working with their clients.

TBN: It was so lovely to see how all of you intentionally showed up for each other’s workshops, and I know you also attended a few on your own, can you tell us what workshop/s stood out for you, or perhaps, share an insight from something you learned or were reminded of during a workshop you attended?

EP: A Long Walk Home, Girl/Friends workshop stood out to me for I was reminded of just how resilient the human spirit is in the wake of trauma. I was inspired by the stories of survival that were shared and I appreciated the group activity that emphasized the power of community, togetherness, healing and respect of individuality.

TBN: Has having attended and presented at NSAC, along with fielding many questions from those working in various capacities within the sexual violence movement changed, influenced, or impacted how you see your specific modality serving this population?

EP: It emphasized the importance of educating the public about how Biofeedback can be utilized as a healing modality for this population, how to access local providers and also, when to make a referral. The questions asked also demonstrated the importance of individualizing treatment and a need for heightened mindfulness of secondary symptoms that may be related to or rooted in trauma.

TBN: Having introduced what were largely new topics within the format of this annual conference, there was a lot of new information for folks to digest and consider. It may have also been challenging for you as a presenter to have limited time around how to orient people to your modality, however you all did such a fantastic job! Yet, if you could add one last take away piece of information to your presentation, one more insight you want people to consider, what might that be?

EP: Biofeedback is a tool for healing – plain and simple.

TBN: Thank you Dr. Pabst for sharing your insights on the usefulness of Biofeedback as an empowering modality for facilitating healing, enhancing self-regulation skills and developing a greater mind-body-spirit connection for survivors of sexual violence. To learn more about Dr. Eugenie Pabst visit her practitioner page here, or explore her website. If you want to learn more about how Biofeedback functions and helps facilitate healing, check out this video with Dr. Pabst.

To continue reading our 3 other installments of reflections on NSAC 2013 from this 4 part series, please see Part 1 with Lisa Erickson (energy healing and meditation) Part 2 with Zabie Khorakiwala (trauma-sensitive yoga) and Part 4 with Molly Boeder Harris (holistic healing and trauma resilience)