A Healing Space: Things To Look for In A Therapist + More With Amanda Vasquez

Updated: Nov 15


Three Things We Dive Into In This Episode:

  1. What it means to "hold space" and why it's critical to find a therapist or provider who can do that

  2. What is energy healing and somatic healing and why is it useful in conjunction with psychotherapy

  3. What "the body keeps the score" means

📘Resources

📌Episode Highlights

[06:56] What Makes Amanda

  • Amanda is analytical and observant. For her, the world is infused with meaning that she enjoys exploring.

  • She loves psychology and her role as a witness and observer of the world around her and its people.

  • Amanda describes herself as creative and heart-centered. Her core principles include being service-oriented and a person of integrity.

  • Simply being around her encourages you to empower yourself.

  • Amanda maintains positive energy by being grounded in her body and knowing she is safe. She doesn't let herself be swept away by negative thoughts.

[11:10] What Does Amanda Do?

  • Amanda has a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University. There, she combined spirituality and psychology.

  • She is also a yoga teacher and a Reiki master teacher.

  • She wants to help women reconnect with their womb space and in turn, reconnect with their bodies and feminine energy as well.

  • The womb space is an energetic space located beneath the belly button, and is connected to a person's sexuality and sensuality.

  • Amanda found her spiritual awakening in yoga and meditation. She thought of integrating spirituality with Western theory to bridge the mind-body connection.

[15:14] Understanding a New Perspective

  • Understand that you are an energetic being more than your physical body. Everyone is interconnected in the universe.

Amanda: “We are beyond just our physical body. We are energetic beings. Everything in the universe from the scientific perspective is made up of particles of atoms and cells. And so in that same way, we are interconnected with everything that exists in the universe.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • Within your energy body are your chakra systems, also known as energy centers.

  • The Sacral Chakra and the Root Chakra are under the belly button. These chakras are how you experience pleasure, joy, and different emotions.

  • The Root Chakra is where we develop energetically from. The Sacral Chakra is associated with creation and life force energy.

  • When shame builds up inside us, it can block the chakras and prevent us from fully enjoying life.

[20:00] Healing From an Energetic New Perspective

  • Humans can create different defense mechanisms from pain. Unfortunately, this can also make it challenging to find and tackle the root cause of their pain.

  • The unconscious realm is a space full of the unknown. In this realm, you might find the root causes of what troubles you.

  • The chakra system and Reiki practice help you dive into the unconscious.

  • Diving into your body energetically discovers your body's record of experiences. You can honor and validate what you've gone through to feel wholeness.

  • Energy and somatic work can help you clear out the stagnation that’s blocking your system.

[26:55] Learning to Hold Space

  • Amanda met many amazing facilitators from different healing circles. They had a beautiful way of holding a space where others feel safe and share their voice.

  • Her naturally analytical, curious, and observant nature gave Amanda what she needed to hold space.

  • Holding space means recognizing each individual’s reality and human experience. This space is where they are allowed and encouraged to share that.

Amanda: “I think that that's also what holding space is all about. It’s recognizing that there are infinite realities, which means that each person is living in their own world and has their own experiences. And when we hold space, we give them the opportunity to share what their human experience is like.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • Amanda met someone who held space for others in their position of power. They were judgmental, dominated by their emotions, and failed to make others feel safe.

  • It's from that person that she learned what to avoid. Amanda continuously strives to be aware and ensure she holds a safe space for people to heal.

[33:22] The Experience of Holding Space

  • A person who’s holding space should be non-judgmental and empathic. They shouldn’t try to interject and bring in their own experiences and emotions.

  • People need a space to be witnessed and share their experiences and emotions, not someone to instruct them.

Amanda: “Sometimes I think what people really need is that space to be witnessed, to really be witnessed in their process of feeling whatever it is that they need to feel without being given advice or judged or criticized.”- Click Here To Tweet This
  • Holding space means letting others have their emotional release and let go of the blocks in their bodies.

  • Unfortunately, most therapists and professionals aren't trained to hold space.

  • One such experience was in a master's program that tackled trauma. Despite being a class for therapists, the class felt unsafe for Amanda.

[42:18] Advice and Agenda

  • Advice can be good and beautiful. However, projecting an agenda dictates how others should act and feel.

  • When you hold space, be mindful of the line between giving advice and projecting an agenda.

  • You don't necessarily know what's best for others. Allow them to go through their process, trust themselves, and make their own decisions.

  • You can better hold space for others when you're grounded in your body and have done your healing work. Be sure you're able to regulate your own emotions.

  • People who hold space for others to emotionally melt and open up can leave a positive mark on others.

[50:00] Amanda’s Rituals

  • One of the first things Amanda does in the morning is greet her dog.

  • She makes sure to be present and focused while enjoying her breakfast.

  • Her morning ritual includes walking her dogs. She takes the time to be mindful of her environment and connects with the sun's warmth on these walks.

  • At night, Amanda’s rituals focus on winding down. She sometimes lights a candle and takes the time to reflect on her day.

  • After going through the seriousness of her profession, she unwinds by watching a funny show and having a laugh.

About Amanda

Amanda Vazquez is the founder of The Psychospiritual Coach. She has a master's degree in Psychology from Columbia University, and is a yoga teacher, reiki master, and a student of indigenous medicine. She combines what she learned from western theory with ancient healing traditions to help others heal and reconnect with their bodies.


Connect with Amanda and learn more about her on her website and Instagram.


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Transcript

Amanda Vasquez: I take account of whether or not my thoughts are coming from a place of rooting myself in the past, rooting myself in the future. One thing is to be observant and witness what's happening in my body, and another thing is to let myself get taken away by the anxious thoughts or by the fear based thoughts. So if that is happening to me, I do my best to ground down and really come back into my body and let myself know that I'm safe, that I'm safe here now where I am.


Caitie Corradino: Welcome to Whole, Full and Alive, a podcast exploring the art and science of falling in love with your life, with your story and with who you truly are underneath your titles, your resume, your relationship status, and your bank account. I'm Caitie Corradino, a registered dietician, nutritionist, certified fitness and yoga instructor, eating disorder recovery coach, Reiki healer, and founder of Full Soul Nutrition, but underneath my titles and resume, a big fan of kitchen dance breaks, early mornings, all things chocolate truffles, world traveling and serendipity.


I'm here to share no bullshit stories and actionable tools to help you feel unshakably worthy. You have everything you need within you to feel whole, full and alive right here, right now. Let's get into it. Hey, welcome back to another episode of Whole, Full and Alive. Whether it is the first episode that you are tuning into, the third episode that you're tuning into, or the 10th episode that you are tuning into, I am so grateful that you're here.


I'm so grateful that we are connected in some way and you get to be part of this podcast community, and that you get to hear today's episode because it is a very special one. On today's episode, I have an amazing guest. Her name is Amanda Vasquez. Amanda is a multi-passionate, multi-talented human being. She has a Master's of Psychology in Education from the Spirituality Mind Body Institute within the clinical psychology program at Columbia University, fancy way of saying she has a Master's in Psychology from Columbia.


She also has thousands of hours of yoga teacher training. She is a Reiki master teacher and has been practicing and giving Reiki for over five years, and she's also a student of the indigenous medicine path. Amanda combines all of the wisdom and the knowledge that she's gained from being fully immersed in ancient healing traditions alongside her Western education and clinical psychology education to help women heal at the soul level through one on one sessions and group programs.


Amanda has worked with hundreds of women over the years in the form of yoga classes, Reiki sessions, group circles, and psychospiritual coaching sessions. Today, Amanda is going to wow you with her wisdom and her very grounded and practical way of explaining a lot of concepts that I personally have had a hard time wrapping my head around for a while.


So by integrating her, as I said before, her Western clinical psychology education, with her knowledge of ancient healing traditions, Amanda so beautifully explains energy healing and the energetic body for the first half of this episode. Then in the second half of the episode, Amanda and I talk about what constitutes a supportive therapeutic environment. So Amanda and I initially connected a couple of months ago, and we realized that we both kind of do something similar, right?


Amanda combines clinical psychology, with spiritual healing kind of modalities, and I combined clinical nutrition with spiritual healing modalities. So we connected and bonded over that a few months ago, and while we were talking, we ended up getting into a really in depth and pretty fiery conversation about how there are a lot of providers out there. A lot of therapists, a lot of counselors, a lot of coaches that don't really know how to hold healing space for people, or perhaps don't really understand what it means to hold healing space for people.


Simultaneously, there are a lot of people who are looking for a counselor, a therapist, a coach to work with and can't quite find one that is a good fit for them because they don't really know what they're looking for. They don't really know what it feels like when someone's holding really supportive and healing space for them. They don't know what to look for. So Amanda and I decided to take that conversation onto the microphone today.


So again, in the first half of this episode, Amanda really is going to talk about energetic healing and what that means and kind of really explain it in such a grounded, practical, and well-spoken way that I'm so excited for you to hear. In the second half of the episode, we're going to talk about what it means to have a healing space created for you, how do you know when you've connected with a good counselor, a good coach, a good therapist who is actually holding a truly effective healing environment for you.


I'm so excited for you to hear this conversation today. I'm so excited for you to meet Amanda. Please don't hesitate to send me follow up questions, follow up thoughts after you hear this conversation today, because I think Amanda is going to be a repeat guest on this podcast, if you couldn't tell already. Alright. Without any further ado, let's get into our conversation.


Thank you so much for being here today. Amanda, I am so happy to have you. I'm so happy to be rounding out my Wednesday with you.


Amanda: Yes, thank you so much for having me here. I'm super excited.


Caitie: I feel like the work that we do is so similar. You take sort of like psychospirituality, and you combine spirituality with clinical psychology in a meaningful way. I combined spirituality with Nutrition Dietetics. So I'm really jazzed about this connection that I have with you, and I'm so excited for this conversation we're gonna have today.


Amanda: Yes, so am I. It's not every day that I find people that are doing similar things to what I'm doing, so I love when I do find people that are aligned in that way, because I know we get to have amazing conversations.


Caitie: Yey. So tell everyone who are you beyond what you do, that beautiful description I just gave, a little spoiler alert. I told you what she does. But who are you? What makes you who you are? How do people know when they're in your energy?


Amanda: Yes. I love this question. It's a challenging question. I really had to get very introspective with this one. Because for me, when I think of myself, I definitely see myself as being very analytical. I'm always observing everything that's going on around me. I think that I'm somebody that's constantly inferring and taking in information, digesting it, and then creating different ideas or making meaning of everything that's going on around me.


So I definitely see myself as a very symbolic thinker. For me, the world is just full of meaning, and it's infused with meaning. So I do see myself as being really analytical in that way, which makes sense, because I love psychology, and I love meditation, so I love being in that space of witnessing and observing. I also see myself as being somebody who is very creative, heart-centered. I love to have profound conversations, not a small talk kind of person at all.


But I am definitely very capable of sharing space with somebody and being in the same room as a friend or something without necessarily having to talk all the time, which I love that too. I think I'm super intuitive. I think, for me, my core principles are integrity, being service-oriented, and really, really always working to empower myself. You'll know when you're around me because I really do not hold a lot of space for letting you disempower yourself.


I'm always gonna hold that energetic current to make sure that you're always tapping into the most empowered version of you, so there's no room for self deprecation. There's just no room for it. We're all here to shine. We’re all here to grow and glow. So that's really I think some key points to what makes me me.


Caitie: I also feel like those are some key points to why you and I jive so much. We have so much in common. I can't even tell you how many times someone has told me that I'm analytical and they said this about to me while they were breaking up with me. I was like, alright, something to note. I gotta jive with analytical people moving forward. It's so refreshing to hear that it's something that you take pride in and something that you've landed in.


I think some people struggle with analytical tendencies because it can spiral into anxiety so quickly. So I have obviously my other basic question to ask you after this, but I want to pull over there for a second, because it's something I think about a lot for myself. How do you say that stay curious and analytical and not take things at face value without spiraling into anxiety? What's your answer to that question?


Amanda: That is quite the question. I would definitely say that I turned to the breath. I'm going to give you the most honest straightforward answer on the planet is that I turned to the breath and I take account of whether or not my thoughts are coming from a place of rooting myself in the past, rooting myself in the future.


One thing is to be observant and witness what's happening in my body, and another thing is to let myself get taken away by the anxious thoughts or by the fear based thoughts. So if that is happening to me, I do my best to ground down and really come back into my body and let myself know that I'm safe, that I'm safe here now where I am.


Caitie: That's such a good answer. I mean, I constantly find myself coming back to that response to a lot of my clients' questions. The answer is typically: slow down. The answer is typically come back to your internal experience. Can you slow down your breath? Can you lengthen your exhale? You notice that gives you the space to not try to rush around fixing everything, and let yourself sit, and recognize, yeah, where's this thought coming from?


Is this coming from a passionately curious place, or is this coming from a desire to try to fix or wipe away the situation that's happening in front of you and try to put out a million fires at the same time, which we could never do, right? So cool, love that. Thank you for answering that question that I just kind of threw in there. So what do you do, Amanda?


Amanda: What do I do? Oh, my goodness, I feel like I were so many different hats, but I would definitely say my main intentions when doing any of the work that I do is to help women reconnect with the womb space more than anything. The womb space, just to give a broad overview, it's the energetic space located just beneath the belly button, and it also refers to the actual physical organs and organic material that's there within our reproductive system, too.


So I think that's the core of my work right now is how can I help women reconnect with the womb space, how can I help women reconnect with the sexuality, the sensuality, the pleasure principles that we've been so disconnected from due to all things that have occurred in the past 500, 600, 700 years that have really separated us from the feminine energy more than anything.


So helping women reconnect with the feminine energy, reconnecting with the body doing somatic work, meditation, Reiki, and then combine that with the basics that come into play when doing coaching work, which is getting curious with clients, asking really great reflective questions, the validation, the empathy, and really holding space for people to go through their process to learn why it is that they have such a hard time loving themselves unconditionally.


Caitie: That was a pretty profound last sentence. Let’s sit with that for a second, why do we have a hard time loving ourselves unconditionally? Why can't we just sit with ourselves with the same love when we've made a mistake? So good. But anyway, you have a Master's in Clinical Psychology from Columbia, and you also have a lot of certifications in a lot of holistic modalities and a lot of experience in education in holistic modality.


So I have two questions for you. One, why both? What inspired you to pursue both? Why did you go get a traditional clinical master's degree or this semi-traditional? It has a little bit of a spiritual component, your program. Also number two, I want to take it back to this idea of the womb space because I feel my clients listening to this podcast and freaking out when you say that, because I know so many people are unfamiliar with that concept.


It can sound very, like just totally out there. Like what the heck do you mean the energetic space below my belly button? So with your practical and spiritual lens, can you ground us in what that means and why it's important for us to not run away when we hear that?


Amanda: Yeah, those are some awesome questions. So first things first, how did I arrive at combining psychology and spirituality. So I actually went to school for undergrad and I actually got a degree in marketing. I attempted really hard to make that my thing, to make it work for me, and the universe was real quick to give me a good old slap in the face and tell me, like this is so not the path for you.


Don't you see, it's not that you're not cut out for this path. It's that this isn't the path for you. So in having a lot of those doors essentially never opened for me, I got led deep into the world of yoga and meditation initially, and that's when I started reconnecting with the body, started reconnecting with the breath. I started having my spiritual awakening, basically. Eventually with time, I started thinking, okay, I'm tapping into the body.


I'm connecting to my body in a way that I never had before, and I could definitely see myself integrating this with some kind of Western theory to help people bridge the gap between the mind, body connection. Initially, I was looking into mental health programs that were more so just from the Western lens and rooted in Western theory, and then I eventually found the program that I ended up getting accepted into which was in psychology and spirituality that's at Columbia.


That program felt more aligned for me because it was a combination of two topics and two modalities that I was so, so, so, so passionate about. So that's how I ended up working my way in that direction, ultimately. When it comes to the second question, how do we not run away? How do we not run away from hearing what that even mean? So I think we have to have a basic understanding, first things first, of knowing that we are beyond just our physical body.


We are energetic beings, everything in the universe. Right from the scientific perspective is made up of particles of atoms and cells, right? So in that same way, we are interconnected with everything that exists in the universe. That's why you hear people say, we are the universe. We are. We literally are stardust. So what that means is that not only do we have our mind and our body, but we also have this this energy body.


When we connect with the energy body, we’ll find that there are different energetic centers in the body, and this is something that comes from ancient wisdom. You might have heard it from yogic practices or Eastern traditions where they're talking about the chakra system. Well, in a lot of other traditions that aren't originally from the East, they also have a name for this system that we know best is the chakra system.


So when we talk about wound healing, we're talking about working with the energy centers that live beneath the belly button, which could be considered the sacral chakra and the root chakra. These chakras are two really, really important chakras that we have, because the root chakra, for example, is the one that they say begins to develop energetically from the time that we're children, so that's when we are rooting into the earth.


We have our foundations. We have our basic needs met, food, shelter, water, money, safety, security, parents, a loving home, and then the other chakras continue to develop over time. Then the chakra that's right above that is the sacral chakra, and this is the energy center that is associated with our creativity, with our life force energy. Basically, it's also connected to our sexuality and our sensuality.


So when we bridge that into the actual physical component of what that space does for us in terms of reproducing and keeping the human race alive, that's where a mother, right, would grow life, and that's where a father is tearing all the sperm necessary to create life as well. So that area right there literally, because of its reproductive components, is also energetically the place where we're able to create.


It doesn't mean that we just have to create a human being. It's how we create abundance. It's how we create a new reality for ourselves. It's where basically our vitality lives. So it's what can define a lot of how we're feeling in the world, our ability to feel joy, our ability to experience pleasure. The more shame that we have locked into that area, the more blockages we actually experience that keep us from really enjoying life ultimately,


Caitie: You do such a good job of explaining so many things like so concisely. I was like, wow, I could not explain just even the concept of energetics. I think you did a really beautiful job of just concisely explaining that. Scientifically, everything is made of energy, of atoms, of particles, and so we kind of are the universe. We are stardust. Some people say that and they forget to kind of qualify it with some stuff.


People just hear we are stardust, and they run away. Similarly to people hear, hear your womb space, and they run away, right? Because people, clients typically find me as a dietician. They find me and they want to work with me to recover from their eating disorder. They are expecting that it's all going to be hyper clinical and hyper scientific. but a lot of it also ends up being spiritual and energetic.


Why do you think it's important to focus on healing from an energetic perspective? So people talk about your root chakra, right? The part that the energy center that develops when you're younger, and it's influenced by whether or not you have a stable home environment, whether or not you feel safe as a child and all of those things. Why not just say, oh, you had an unstable childhood as a kid?


Let's resolve that on a psychoanalytical level and process that and use that to figure out why you are the way you are. Why do you feel it's important to also focus on healing that center on a somatic level and also talk about it from like the perspective of energy centers, versus just saying, oh, you had this happen to you in childhood or you had a trauma related to your sexuality or sensuality? Let's process that psychoanalytically. Why should we also use energetic healing?


Amanda: Yeah, I think that's an amazing question, and I've sat with this question too in my own process, when I work with clients, too. So first things first, humans have this beautiful gift of creating so many different defense mechanisms to protect us from actually feeling the pain of the root cause of whatever disorder or whatever ailments we're experiencing, right? So when we're talking to somebody, when I'm working with somebody, I can ask them all the questions in the world.


But if their system has created all these different defenses to block them from actually getting to the root of their problem, it can get really, really challenging to ever uncover the root of their problem. What I've noticed is that, so there's that component, and I'll dive a little bit deeper into the concept of the unconscious realms. The unconscious realms are defined is defined as that space where there's a whole lot of things living.


It's almost like a swamp, right? There's this swamp, and there's all these things in the swamp. Maybe there's some beautiful treasures in there. Maybe there's some terrifying things that we never want to touch, right? That space is called unconscious for a reason. We don't know what's living and swimming in that swamp. So when we're having conversations, when I'm talking to a client, they don't know what's leading the way for them.


They don't know that perhaps there's something in the unconscious that's causing them to live and breathe in the ways that they're living and breathing in the world, or they don't know why it's causing them to have a certain addiction, for example, and they don't want to know. They don't want to know, to a certain degree, which is why their system has created all these defenses. So I'll sit with a client and they're like, I don't know. I don't know.


They tell me, I don't know. I don't know. That in itself is the defense that's coming up, because it's so painful to explore what's actually living beneath the surface or so uncomfortable. So when we go into the energetic component by working with the chakra system, through Reiki, through cymatics, we're diving into that unconscious space without actually even having to really have a conversation because the body keeps score.


I'm sure people have read this book, if you haven't, it's a great book, but it's called, I think, it's called The Body Keeps the Score. It talks about how the body is a record keeper of everything that we've ever experienced in our lives.


So when we actually begin to dive into the body in this way, energetically, somatically, we get to uncover layers and layers and layers of things that are sitting beneath the surface, just waiting for us to discover them to, so that then we can bring it into our awareness, honor it, validate it and integrate it, so that we actually experience a greater sense of wholeness.


Caitie: Hmm, that's such a good answer. Thank you so much. That really describes my experience with somatic work, too. I did a lot of work in therapy when I was younger to recover from my eating disorder, but I got into my 20s, and there were just still these layers of anxiety, and really limiting thoughts about myself that I couldn't kick. This thought that I was a bad person was really sticking with me for a long time.


My therapist would say, logically, you're not a bad person, like ABCDEFG, here's why. I'd be like, well, I don't know. This limiting belief, it just always blocks me. It wasn't until I did somatic breathwork and cleared so much stuck stuff out of my body that I was able to walk through the world and be like, wait, I'm not a bad person. It was just a limiting belief that was living literally in my body that I had to clear out, and there's science behind that.


There's science behind how that happens on a nervous system level, and there's also this understanding of the energy centers and how you can balance different energy centers of your body to kind of clear these things out that you just can't kick through intellectualizing it, through thinking your way out of it. Psychotherapy, so beautiful and important, and also, cymatics are so beautiful and important.


My favorite quote, I don't know who I heard this from one of my teachers, one of my mentors at one point was like, you don't have to know what you're clearing out to clear it out. You just gotta clear it out. So it's like, you don't even need to have a conversation about it, but just doing some sort of energy work or somatic breathwork, or any other type of somatic work, which somatic means body work, so something you're doing with your physical body or your energetic body, right?


So you can do any type of energy work or somatic work, and clear things out that you have been stuck for decades.


Amanda: Absolutely, and that's what a lot of people don't know is that all of this information from experiences that we've had, emotions that we felt is being stored in the body. If we're not moving, if we're not breathing, if we're not connecting with the body in this way, that energy does becomes stagnant. From the Eastern perspective or from the indigenous perspective, it will eventually manifest into some kind of symptom or ailment, and it might not have an actual Western medical treatment for it, right?


It might take something deeper, like somatic work and all these other things that I don't know if you've dived into it or not, but like working with plant medicines, breathwork, yoga, all these different practices that are arising right now in this country, I think, particularly for this reason, because they're not doing all the work for us. We need more, and we're getting more right now. There are practitioners who are coming in, and they're bringing us what the people need.


Caitie: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for being one of those people. So I always ask my guests, what is a challenge that you've overcome in your life that has brought you to the point in your career that you're at today. So you and I plan to talk about a specific challenge, because this is the thing that we originally connected over on Zoom a few weeks ago in a fancy networking call inspired by my friend, Diana.


We talked about this challenge of learning to hold space for people and learning what that means. So the work that you and I do is very personal. We both were client facing jobs, where we all day are holding space for people to heal, and people talk about holding space all the time. I think anyone who's listening to this podcast has heard that term in some way, shape, or form this concept of holding space, but we don't learn what that means in school.


You and I really bonded over this idea of the most important part of being any type of coach, any type of therapists, any type of counselor is knowing how to hold space for people. There are, unfortunately, a lot of counselors, a lot of coaches, a lot of therapists that don't know how to hold space for people. So can you speak to this a little bit more just to kick us off? How did you learn how to do that?


What bumps in the road did you hit around that? Yeah, a lot of the stuff that we talked about in our zoom call few weeks ago. Go off, Amanda.


Amanda: Yes, yes, I love this topic. So for me, I think when I first started to dive into the world of yoga and meditation, I was introduced to different circles, right, like different healing circles, and there would be a facilitator. This facilitator wasn't necessarily a licensed therapist. Maybe they were a meditator, or yoga teacher, but they had a really beautiful way of creating space.


When I reflected on that more, what I was witnessing was that they were so grounded in their being. They were like an anchor in the room, and they weren't there to process what people were saying and judge it. They weren't there to interject with whatever their two cents was on the topic. They were there to simply allow people to have the time and the space to share their voice, to share what they were moving through in their process, whether we were in a meditation training or a yoga training.


So the way I saw it was that they were creating the conditions for people to feel safe, for people to feel like they could share their voice without being judged or attacked or told that they needed to change something about the way that they were thinking or acting or behaving. That, for me, was the beginnings of what holding space look like, and I didn't really consciously ever say like, oh, I want to hold space for people.


I do feel like it was something that came pretty naturally to me, because I was so curious, and analytical and observant. I am fascinated by people's emotions and their feelings. I'm fascinated by hearing people share what it is that they're going through. For me, it's always been so interesting to witness people, and how each and every person has their own reality.


I think that that's also what holding space is all about is recognizing that there are infinite realities, which means that each person is living in their own world having their own experiences. When we hold space, we give them the opportunity to share what their human experience is like, and a lot of times, even as a practitioner or space holder, receiving their wisdom is beautiful for me. Just because I'm the person who they're paying doesn't mean that I'm not learning from their human experience.


So I think that for me is really what holding space is. In terms of mishaps and bumps in the road, I have had so many. Some have been a little dramatic, not gonna lie, and they've been in a lot of different contexts. So I would say that the most, the most, the most intense one that I had actually wasn't with somebody who was in the Western world appealing. They were somebody who it was somebody who was serving plant medicine, and they had like a 9, 10 day intensive.


They had not gone through any kind of coaching, trainings or anything like that. They worked specifically with the plant medicine, and they had apparently received validation from their community to be in this position of power, to be in this position of facilitating and holding space for people to heal. Ultimately, this person that was holding space, I would describe them as the wounded healer.


Yes, every person, we all have our wounds, but when we're holding space, we want to be able to check ourselves constantly to make sure that whatever is being triggered within us when other people are sharing doesn't get leaked out into the space, because it's not about me. It's about the people. I'm here to support the people, and I'm putting myself in that position to hold space.


I am the anchor, the energetic anchor in that room for these people. It's not my moment to go through my process and become erratic or fall off the train tracks and let my emotions get the best of me. I'm supposed to be coming from a space of non-judgmental awareness, and this person was not, was not capable of having that non-judgmental awareness.


When they were offended by something somebody would be sharing about their personal experience, they would interject and tell them that what they were saying was wrong or offensive. So even though that person was being told it was a safe and sacred space, every time people would share and that kind of criticism or commentary would come through, then those people, all of a sudden, wouldn't feel like it was safe for them to be themselves, which is the complete opposite of what a safe space is supposed to be.


I know there's a lot of controversy on safe spaces versus brave spaces, but at the end of the day, as a facilitator, I am not here to be interjecting and criticizing or attacking anybody just because they're making me feel uncomfortable. I'm supposed to witness that this discomfort is arising in my body. I take a deep breath, and I let it go. That person wasn't capable of being curious with what was coming up for them in any way, shape, or form.


They were completely dominated by their emotions, and it was really sad. It was really sad to witness the impact that that had. There were people who were even dissociating from the way that they were being treated by this person who was holding space. So for me, what that did on my journey was, oh, my goodness, it blew up everything I ever knew about holding space.


Yeah, it made me so, so, so, so, so, so- I became hyper aware of, okay, am I doing what this person just did in any way, shape, or form. I was looking for any and every blind spot you could ever think of. With my therapist, I was like, I need so much help. I need to make sure that I'm never this person. So that experience made me really, really, really anchor into how can I hold space in a way that is rooted in integrity, that is rooted in really, truly embodying being that vessel to allow people to heal, like really heal.


Caitie: So much to speak on there. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I think of holding space as kind of what you're saying like holding space for non-judgmental awareness.


When someone comes to a therapeutic space, whether that's a group or a one-on-one session, or whatever it is, when someone comes to that space to heal, the healing is going to happen in the presence of a witness who's non judgmental and empathic, not in the presence of someone who's trying to fix them, not in the presence of someone who's trying to interject, and in the presence of someone who's constantly bringing in their own experiences in a way that isn't valuable, right?


Disclosure can be very, very valuable part of holding a feeling space, but there's also ways in which disclosure is incredibly harmful. There isn't enough dialogue about this, just in general, like training spaces, the training ground for clinical psychologists, the training ground for therapists, the training ground for yoga teachers and for dietitians. Everyone, I think, I really had to learn this on my own too.


I appreciate that you shared your experience of the first time you witnessed someone holding space. Because for me, the first time I witnessed someone holding space was like my first interactions with people who were Reiki healers, very random, but I was a fitness instructor and because I was a fitness instructor, I sort of just slid into teaching yoga. It kind of just happened.


I was like comped for training, and then all of a sudden, I was teaching at Mom and Pop yoga studios where all these people who had Reiki certifications and things like that would be popping up. I remember everytime I met someone who was a Reiki healer, I was like, I love them. I feel like love is washing over me every time this person walks into the room, or is holding space in the room or is teaching a class. Like, what the heck is going on.


So then, one of the studios I was teaching at offered a scholarship for me to do my Reiki attunement. I was like, yeah, I'm totally doing this because every single time I meet someone who is a Reiki practitioner, I like just want to be in their presence all the time, and I have no idea what it is. For a while, I literally thought it was the magic of Reiki, and yes, Reiki is a beautiful thing. I love being a Reiki practitioner. I'm a Reiki Master.


I love energy healing, and also, it was not the magic of Reiki. That wasn't making these people magical. It wasn't that they had their Reiki powers, and then all of a sudden, they were capable of having this loving energy wash over every person they interact with. It was that they were all so good, a holding space, and they're all so good at letting every person have their own experience without trying to project an agenda on them.


I remember I was having a conversation with the person at the check-in desk at the yoga studio I worked at and she was a Reiki practitioner. I came in and I was so stressed out. I was 20 years old. I was working six jobs and finishing my undergrad. I just got into a fight with my boyfriend. I like walked in, and I was just so, so, so upset. She did nothing, but put her hand on my shoulder and say, “Tell me about your day.”


I didn't do anything but tell her about my day, and I felt like all my problems were resolved by the time I was done talking. She didn't say, “Here's how to fix your day.” Like, let me tell you what to do so that you can fix your day, or let me try to eliminate your problems. That is the essence of healing and the therapeutic experience.


Amanda: Yes, yes, I would totally agree with you. That is the essence of it, and it's something that we're not used to seeing, because typically the people around us, friends, family, they do it with the best intentions, but they tend to give advice. They tend to want to help us fix our problems. They want to see us happy. They might want us to ditch the boyfriend.


So automatically, they're sharing all this information with us, and sometimes, I think what people really need is that space to be witnessed, to really be witnessed in their process of feeling whatever it is that they need to feel without being given advice or judged or criticized. I think you put it beautifully. It's not about being a Reiki practitioner or whatever titles or credentials you have, I think it's an art.


It's an art that gets developed over time, and it is rooted in certain skills, but it's also, I think, an energetic process too. Because when I think of space, I think of expansion. I think that's why I saw this Instagram thing the other day. This girl making fun of how people use the word like, come into my healing container, right, but it's like this energetic container that we are creating.


We're all sitting in this container, even if it's one-on-one, and we're being held by that energetic container, so that we can move through our process.


Caitie: Yeah, I mean, of course, like womb space container holding space, these are all terms that people are thrown around like fairy dust, and it's, of course, losing its meaning a little bit when we say it too often. Also, I can't think of a better term than container. I really can't. When I'm sitting there with a client, and especially when they're having an emotional moment, I literally imagine myself energetically creating a bubble around them.


Even through zoom, I just kind of imagined myself just sitting there with them in that space and creating a soft place for them to land. That's all I want to do for a client, especially when they're having a really profound emotional release, which happens so much during nutrition counseling, you'd be surprised, but we're talking about body image and stuff, too, so so much comes up, right?


Yeah, it's like, let's just create this safe container for us to feel complete without an agenda, just trying to release as coming back to what we talked about in the beginning of our conversation, just allowing yourself to feel, slow down and feel it more so that you can release whatever is stuck in your body. You don't have to know what it is. You don't have to know what the tears are releasing.


You have to trust and let them flow, and I need to provide a space that's going to be safe for you to let those tears flow, because we can't say that anyone should just be having an emotional release anywhere. That's what this idea of holding space is, it's having a space for someone to have the emotional release that they need to have and release the blocks that they need to release in their body.


Amanda: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. I think you put it so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so beautifully. As you mentioned, there are a lot of therapists and people under these licensures and certifications that they're not receiving appropriate support and holding space, and I also witnessed that too. I was enrolled in a master's program for marriage and family therapy, and some of those classes, specifically this class that was for learning about trauma.


The woman was a therapist, and she specialized in somatic work. She specialized in therapy, and I felt so unsafe in her class all of the time. I just didn't feel like I could share and be myself. She didn't really set the space, or set agreements or create that container ultimately to have as feel held enough in it, and there were moments where I wanted to speak up about something and somebody else in the class would just interject and speak to me back, like right away about what I had just said.


They were all emotionally charged, and I was like, whoa, we're talking about really heavy topics. The container has not been said agreements have not been made. I do not feel safe in here, unfortunately, and it was sad, because this was supposed to be a class about trauma. I walked out of it with some more trauma in my body, because if you don't realize it, too, but in that class in particular, it was two guys and the rest of the class were women.


So anytime a woman would speak up, this one guy always had something to say, and we have that imprint within us as women of sharing our voices, and then being told that something that we're saying isn't right, or that we have to change or edit or keep ourselves small. So every time this guy would do that it was just triggering, like this really ancestral response in my being of like, whoa, this is not the place for me to use my voice.


Caitie: Yeah, I would say the, I think, number one thing that kind of makes the space unsafe, right, the number one thing that makes someone a bad holder of space is the projection of an agenda, like the projection of how you're supposed to feel and what you're supposed to be doing. It isn't even like advice, as much as it's just the agenda. I see those as two different things, and you can let me know if you disagree.


I feel like sometimes advice is beautiful and pure and exactly what the person needs to hear, and it's open ended enough that the person can take kind of their own interpretation of it, right? Then as a nutritionist, I would be completely hypocritical if I said that I don't give people advice. I counsel people on how to eat. I tell them how to listen to their bodies and how to heal their metabolism and what a balanced plate looks like.


I give advice all the time. What I really try to be mindful of though is not projecting an agenda as to what people should want for themselves.


Amanda: Yes.


Caitie: That's something that I have a little bit of religious trauma. I grew up in the Catholic Church, and I was Catholic and part of the Catholic Church throughout most of college. Frankly, I think people would be really surprised to learn that about me. The moment I walked away from the Catholic Church, it was like an actual moment wherein a priest was telling me what he thought I should confess.


Confession, which is a whole fucked up concept to begin to think about it like, here are all the things that are wrong with me, dear God. He was like, are you sure you don't have anything else to confess, such as the following sins. He named a bunch of sins and was like, here's what you should be confessing. I was like, whoa. Looking back, that was the moment I walked away. I never went back.


I like turned around, walked out the door, and like that was it. Looking back at it now, I realized that was the worst holding of space that ever happened. The reason I felt safe in a lot of Catholic communities was because there were many beautiful groups of women that I met there that I didn't feel held by. For a long time, I felt held by the peacefulness of church and going in there and smelling palo santo and praying and feeling just like held by that safe container.


As soon as an agenda was projected on me, as soon as it was like, this is how you're supposed to feel, what you're supposed to confess, broken. So I realized that now, and I try to and I recognize in early moments when I was a counselor in my early days of nutrition counseling, I was projecting an agenda on to some of my clients in a way that really wasn't valuable.


You know I've always been an adamant proponent of the intuitive eating framework, and I think it's beautiful. I think it's amazing, and I love using that framework to council. Also, some people don't want to use that framework, so you adamantly reject that idea. Some people will feel really unsafe in their bodies, and they want to set different goals besides becoming an intuitive eater, and that's fine. I can hold space for that.


I can't hold space for someone to do active harm to themselves. I’m not gonna hold space for someone to go on a 500 calorie diet, but I can hold space for someone to have different desires for themselves and just give them the space to explore and be like, well, where's that desire coming from a little bit? Yeah, that was a tangent, but go off.


Amanda: No, no, I think it has a lot of insight, and I think really what stands out to me the most is advice versus projecting an agenda onto somebody. That, to me, is also what makes a really good space holder is somebody who is able to check themselves enough, and we're human. We're gonna have some missteps here and there, but ultimately check ourselves enough to realize when it is that we are projecting our own agenda onto somebody else.


That is actually one of the hardest things to do is to let the ego take a step aside and really realize that we don't necessarily know what's best for the person that's in front of them. I think, a space holder lets the person in front of them go through their process, and eventually become empowered enough to make empowered decisions for themselves and trust themselves in that process.


Caitie: Yeah, I feel that that is what is missing. Like I said, in these traditional training grounds for coaches and therapists and counselors of any kind is this sort of intangible ability to hold space for someone in making sure you were fine that over time, and I think the most tangible way to learn how to hold space is to let go of the agenda. Everything else, almost, I think, is energetic.


Everything else, I think, is kind of related to, as you were saying, just making sure that you're grounded enough in your own body to not have to rush around and fix other people's problems. Because if you're not grounded in your own body and someone in front of you is having an emotional release, then of course, you're going to be like, whoa, I gotta put out that fire.


Like, I feel already so uncomfortable in my own body that this person now in front of me having this emotional release is making me uncomfortable, and so I have to put that out. But if you're grounded in your body and if you're coming from a healed place yourself, you have the capacity to hold space for someone having that emotional release.


So I think that another piece of learning to hold space for someone is making sure that you're going through the healing work yourself, and that might be one of the biggest challenges when finding a good therapist, a good coach, a good mentor is knowing that they've done the work themselves to make sure that they have the capacity to hold space for you to melt.


Amanda: Yes, yes. Then that is really the truth. That is the truth. Somebody who has done the inner work and no, there is never a finish line. However, there is a place where we can arrive in our journey where we can be grounded enough in our being, be able to regulate our emotions enough to be able to be the person holding space for somebody else to melt. I love the way you said it, because that's what people need to write. It's that safe space to let go.


Caitie: Yeah, that safe space to just crack open and trust that you're gonna be okay, and you're going to be held. That is what it is and that all the the greatest mentors and healers that I've worked with in my life have created a cozy place for me to just crack open. One mentor in particular that I worked with this summer was the one who inspired me to get trained in somatic breathwork, and she was just like, the most, I mean, I think of her every time I enter a client session now and it's such an amazing gift to have had someone create such an amazing container for me.


Amanda: That is so beautiful and it's amazing, right? Because these people who are holding space, they can really leave a mark on us and those placeholders I know we can really leave a mark on people and hopefully, everyone is always doing their best to make that mark a really positive and beautiful one like the one that you just shared.


Caitie: So Amanda, it's such a gift to talk to you. I feel like you're coming back on this podcast again because there's so many more things that you and I can dive into. As we're wrapping up here, I'm so curious to know if you have morning rituals that energize you, an evening rituals that ground you with the caveat that these things don't happen every day. Not every day is perfect.


No one has rituals they do every single day. How do you wake up? How do you wind down? As we're wrapping up, my rapid fire questions.


Amanda: How do I wake up? Woof. So back in the day, I had like really, really extensive rituals, lists of rituals, and now, I'm definitely more in a place where I think I'm in the middle ground. Generally speaking, I greet my dog. I greet my dog. My dog sleeps with me. So that's one of the most beautiful things I can ever do is just wake up and like, say hi to my precious little dog. The other thing that I do, for sure, I'm going to be super honest with you. Breakfast is like the ritual of ritual rituals for me.


Caitie: Feel free to be super honest.


Amanda: Breakfast is the ritual of ritual rituals for me. I will sit there. I will be present with my food as much as I can. I will actually put my phone in a drawer and just totally focus on what I am eating, enjoy the food that I'm eating. I also walk my dogs. So another ritual that I have when I'm walking my other dog is that I just start naming different things that I'm grateful for. I will start paying attention to the trees and the birds.


It's very much like a mindfulness practice while I'm walking my dog if she's not dragging me down the block to chase a bird because she's like 100 pounds. So definitely, also connecting with the sun, since I'm walking my dog and the sun is rising. I will actually connect with the rays of the sun. I don't necessarily look directly into the sun.


Caitie: I’m not recommending it in this podcast.


Amanda: Yeah, no, I've heard about that, and I'm like, well, maybe it's a thing, but not for me. So I just allow the warmth of the sun to be soaked into my body and really allow that to light the fire within me for the rest of my day. So those are some morning things. I might turn off from time to time orsaying I have a drum and I'll play my drum and sing. Then at night, I definitely do more of a winding down practice.