“Jennifer Patterson is an herbalist, grief worker, Breathworker and writer who uses words, threads and plants to explore survivorhood, the body and healing while centering queer and trans trauma and grief in her practice Corpus Ritual.”
Website: ofthebody.net | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Corpus Ritual Facebook | QSV Anthology Facebook | My General Twitter: https://twitter.com/yesthisjennifer | QSV Anthology Twitter: https://twitter.com/QSVanthology | Practice Location: Brooklyn, NY
About Jennifer Patterson
In addition to her work as an herbalist and Breathworker, Jennifer Patterson is the editor of the anthology Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement (Riverdale Ave Books, 2016), facilitates writing and embroidery workshops and has had her writing published in OCHO: A Journal of Queer Arts, HandJob Zine, the Outrider Review, on The Establishment and The Feminist Wire. She is also the creative nonfiction editor of Hematopoiesis Press with the first issue available online. Jennifer wrote a thesis for a Master’s Program at Goddard College which focused on translating embodied traumatic experience through somatic practices and critical and creative nonfiction which is now in the process of becoming a book.
For the last 8 years most of my work has been directly in service to and with survivors of sexual violence, in particular queer, transgender and gender non-conforming survivors. I began this work raising money for organizations, transitioned into being a rape crisis counselor in an emergency room and worked for a short time as a facilitator for a community organizing project before I left to focus on putting together an anthology highlighting LGBTQ survivors experiences which is now available.
For the last 5 years I’ve also been making and offering herbal remedies through my apothecary Corpus Ritual and offering writing and embroidery workshops in LGBTQ centers, at colleges and universities, with veterans, anti-violence organizations and people moving through (and sometimes staying in) addiction at a harm reduction clinic. In 2016 I received a Certificate of Completion in Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy with Andrew Tatarsky and in early 2017, I also completed Breathwork Healer Training with Erin Telford. I’ve since begun working with clients through Breathwork as well as herbs and writing workshops.
I am tuned in to hearing and translating the stories of our bodies, tuned into somatic and embodied expression in order to move through the places that are stuck, hurting and grieving.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
I am deeply invested in community healing and draw from years of experience in trauma and anti-sexual violence work, queer organizing, advocacy and activism.
Queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people, experience high rates of violence, yet find ourselves outside the dominant narratives about violence and, for a variety of reasons, also lacking institutional and medical resources in which to access care and healing. Compounded with further intersections of race, class, disability, immigration status, sex worker status, and more, violence is rarely a one-time rupture, but so frequent that we are unable to put our attention on healing because we are too busy just trying to survive.
The first survivor I ever began work with was myself, as I began to realize I hadn’t addressed years on years of trauma resulting in complex-PTSD. For me, working with survivors is a reciprocal process. I am fed as much as I feed. I love being in community with other survivors; it’s where I feel most at home and seen. I feel a kindred kind of love and respect for survivors of sexual violence. I admire our willingness to sit with what is profoundly complicated and difficult. I admire our tenacity and resilience, our searching for healing, our willingness to settle into the life-long process of healing. I admire our desires to shift and grow into aliveness. I believe moving through trauma and healing is sacred work.
I like to think about how things that show up in the body (depression, anxiety, fear, panic, exhaustion etc.) are clues to the ways trauma has impacted us. I think working with and listening to those traumatized places is so important. Having a witness is so important. I look to those who have been engaged in Disability Justice, Healing Justice and Harm Reduction as lenses through which to do this work. You can read more about how I engage in the work here.
I offer care in the following three ways:
I offer herbal remedies (including teas, tinctures, salves, bath salts and more) and do a comprehensive intake to find out what’s best for each person. I’m excited about crafting something unique, for each individual survivor, that meets our vast and creative needs. I also have an apothecary with a number of remedies if you don’t want to do a consultation just yet. As a queer person who is dedicated to working with queer & trans people, my practice does not engage in the biological essentialism often found in other herbal spaces, healing modalities and therapeutic spaces and works to offer support that is accessible on a number of levels. I also honor where people are at with their own experiences and work through a lens of harm reduction so if you are struggling with substance misuse and are looking for support, I would love to help. I am committed to doing this work with a commitment to healing justice meaning that I believe we all deserve access to affordable, dynamic and high quality care. I see herbs as powerful tools in supporting us as we work to shift and heal within ourselves so that we can feel more resourced to show up in our communities.
I work one-on-one with clients using Breathwork. It’s a powerful active meditation (with roots in Pranayamic & Holotropic traditions) using a 2-part fast-paced breath. It’s so helpful for connecting to your body (because we all know how hard that can be but how powerful when we can or do), moving stuck energy, opening your heart and connecting to your intuition and embodied wisdom & memory. It’s an incredible tool for moving through embodied traumatic experience, anxiety, depression, blocked emotional and energetic energy and so much more. It’s also for everyone, even if you have panic attacks, even if you have asthma, even if you experience chronic pain. (And maybe most especially.) You’ll feel a sense of clarity, focus, creativity, some calm, connection to your inner wisdom and more. Part of why I love Breathwork so much is that it reminds us we all, each of us, hold the power within ourselves to shift and heal parts of ourselves and our past experiences even when the world is a mess. It’s the little shifts that I’m hoping can ease the pain and grief we carry around. These shifts are literally rooted in our own breath coupled with the radical witnessing and presence of another person. It is for sure BreathWORK but in a non-capitalist sense because you get all the benefits turned right back to you and you can take the tool with you to work with at any point. It’s not easy: it’s a very active and disciplined meditation but it’s worth it. I guide the session with sacred plants, essential oil blends, and a playlist but at its core, it’s you and the breath; the breath is the medicine. It is a psychedelic and transcendent experience.
Somatic Writing Workshops:
I offer somatic writing workshops that are trauma-focused. In small groups we explore texts, utilize body-focused writing prompts and share our work with each other as we engage in conversation about writing as a tool for healing and connecting to our wise bodies. Some of the workshops also include an embroidery element in which we translate our writing into embroidery pieces. Embroidery is an incredible active meditation and offers a soothing closing to the workshop.
This practice of going into our bodies and translating our experience through words and threads is really beautiful and transformative work.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
I’m dedicating the work to queer, trans and gender non-conforming people largely because I know how difficult it is to find safe(r), accessible spaces to move towards a bit of healing and because I know in this fractured world, if we don’t do it for each other, who else will!? And I work hard to do this through trauma-informed and harm reduction lenses. Of course I also welcome everyone who wants to get their self- healing on.
I know that it takes a lot to reach out for care, especially when our histories with trauma, or the ways our experience is dismissed and minimized, might have us believe that we are undeserving of care, attention and support.
Providing trauma informed care means that our trauma(s) don’t just get a seat at the table; they are the table. Centering trauma in this way allows us to interrogate what our trauma is made of, how it shaped our experiences and how we are still, often, responding from the wounded places. Trauma informed care honors these wounded places, sees them as our greatest teachers and creates room to bloom.
It also means that when we work together, I am very open to hearing about what makes you feel safe and what support looks like for you.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Violence
I’ve been reconsidering pathology narratives around survivorhood; that one of the symptoms of PTSD – dissociation – means that we are disconnected from parts of ourselves and our worlds or that we are disembodied. That there’s something wrong with it or that it’s a negative effect of trauma. Sure, sometimes we are enacting a coping method to make environments more tolerable but even in these moments we are also always in our bodies, are always able to connect to our bodies. And even when we are dissociated, we are still very wise.
As survivors of intimate violence inflicted on our bodies, it can feel incredibly hard to focus on the body in order to access healing. It makes total sense to distance ourselves from our bodies. But I believe that our bodies are profoundly wise and moving back into them in an intentional way supports radical growth and healing.
I connect to practices that I can feel in my body and I want to offer them to other people; like taking herbs to ground ourselves or writing to move through and process difficult experiences that come up. Allowing (and desiring) the body to be a part of the healing process can be so incredibly transformative and I also know it is not easy.
I like thinking about how I can provide “safe” spaces but am also very aware that what might be safe for one person could feel very unsafe for another, especially when working in group settings like writing workshops. I think sometimes there is an illusion of safety in some spaces, like I think about how there is often this promise of safety in women-centered healing spaces but frequently these spaces are more accessible and safe for cisgender women and are often hostile and unsafe spaces for transgender women or people who identify as more gender-fluid or non-binary. I want to be in and create spaces that honor the myriad ways our survivorhood can look, spaces that honor all genders, identities and experiences and I want to be open to growing and shifting the spaces I create to meet the needs of the individual people I work with.
Additional Areas of Expertise/Interest
As I’ve mentioned, I have been primarily focused on queer, transgender and gender non-conforming survivors of sexual violence and trauma. I am queer and survivor of multiple forms of violence and I became acutely aware that the larger mainstream anti-sexual violence was not equipped (and sometimes even willing) to meet the needs of LGBTQ populations. I am engaged with and connected to larger political and social movements and my participation in these movements is deeply connected to how I want to offer care and create space for people to access care.
Healing is not disconnected from justice and it is imperative that we consider access and privilege when doing healing work. I work towards providing care that is in line with and accountable to healing justice & disability justice spaces (and want to recognize the legacy of activists, writers and healers who have been creating a language and framework for these spaces for a long time as they ground them in queer and trans communities, poor and working class communities and communities of color – people like Mia Mingus, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Reina Gossett, Stacey Milburn, billie rain, Ejeris Dixon, Dori Midnight, Sean Donahue, emi koyama and so many other people). I want to provide care that is accessible in multiple ways; through interrogating how ableism impacts survivors and how we are able to access care, through recognizing the impacts of racism, transphobia & transmisogyny, homophobia, fatphobia, slut-shaming and classism and and and…
Healing requires persistence and patience. I think of dandelion that extracts toxins from wherever it grows, mugwort that grows through cracks in cement and through fences, ghost pipe that grows in the darkest part of the forest as it holds us at the edges, the datura, henbane and belladonna that remind us of the wisdom in places that others call poisonous, and Iboga that lets us feel the depth of pain and grief in ourselves and in the world. These, too, are some of my teachers and my guides in healing justice work.
I offer Breathwork and Herbal Consultations on a sliding-scale. I’m open to conversation about what affordability and accessibility looks like for each individual person. I’m also thankful to the people who have economic privilege who want to “pay-it-forward” by paying for services at the slightly higher end of the scale. You can read more about my sliding scale here.