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

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

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


📌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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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.