Workshops at Presentation Sisters Learning Center in Watts, California
Presentation Sisters Learning Center in Watts, California was blessed to have Pat share two workshops with us on March 9th. Approximately 100 people attended the morning and night sessions where along with reviewing the standard modalities, they also learned new ways to help reduce stress in this time of anxiety for immigrants. The adult students at the Learning Center participate in the Capacitar practices and modalities every morning before their classes begin. Tai-chi, Pal Dan Gum, tapping and fingerholds, along with acupressure and meditation are some of their favorites.Back to top
Capacitar Practices in the Work Environment
Theresa Heeg, Speaker, Coach and Consultant
I entered the CAPACITAR training program ready to bring body and spirit techniques to my clients. The people I work with are dealing with the everyday stresses of life and work. Some are unemployed, some are looking for more meaning in their life and work. Others look for inspiration to keep moving forward despite the pressure to do more with less at work. Often there can be fear in the workplace and wellness techniques can be useful tool to help people let go of fear.
I have integrated breathing and movement, as well as emotional freedom technique and finger holds into one of my most popular talks-Taking Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of Business. My audiences have included Human Resource professionals, women business owners, Kiwanis members, the Wisconsin Association of Equal Opportunity and several other statewide conferences. I also use CAPACITAR practices when coaching clients, it works for a wide for people of all ages. They consistently give positive feedback and are very responsive to getting out of their heads and into their bodies. Clients seem hungry for these techniques and by offering them along with my other material, I feel I am serving people more completely, especially during times of crisis, like job loss.
Denise Triessman, Practitioner
Capacitar Wellness Programme – its Application and Efficacy with Multicultural Torture/Trauma Survivors – an Irish experience
Monica Chambers SRN, SCM
The Centre for the Care of Survivors of Torture /Spirasi is based in north inner city Dublin (Ireland) and has a total of 50 staff and 31 active volunteers. In 2010 Spirasi provided services to almost 1000 clients of whom 300 were new referrals. Since its inception in 2001 this Centre has provided multidisciplinary rehabilitation to survivors of torture. The Capacitar Wellness Programme became part of the multidisciplinary holistic approach to the care of survivors of torture adopted by this Centre, as part of an internationally recognised form of best practice, in 2005. The programme continues to be offered as a self-care and empowerment intervention to individual clients as part of ‘stage one’ trauma work – stabilizing and resourcing – and in combination with Psycho Education to short-term and support – single and mixed gender – groups. It is offered in combination with Psychotherapy and Art Psychotherapy for individual clients. It forms part of our Interpreter Training Programme, our Therapists’ and Staff Training Days.
Before working with this group I had prepared myself through lengthy interviews with two Guatemalans about Mayan spiritual beliefs and healing practices. I convened the group through a letter of invitation mailed to them by the staff of the center. This I followed up with a phone call to introduce myself and to remind them of the first gathering. My intention had been to have a monthly gathering with them.
Referral is through Multidisciplinary Initial Assessment.
It has been our experience that this non-invasive, non-intrusive approach is particularly beneficial for
- Stage one trauma care – stabilizing and resourcing of clients
- Individual clients for whom touch would be culturally inappropriate, or are still too traumatised to tolerate touch, as in Reflexology, Chinese Massage or Acupuncture, also offered at this Centre
- For those on Humanitarian Leave to Remain, who are in the asylum process for many years. These practices help contain these clients while they live in a state of prolonged uncertainty and instability
- For those ‘alienated form themselves, their general well-being and their bodies’ (Courtois, ‘Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions’ p 420)
- For those who need a culturally appropriate intervention
- For those who cannot ‘feel’ their bodies
- Client commitment to regular self care empowers, builds, strengthens and adds to their own resources and capabilities
- This programme can be used in the absence of an interpreter
- It is experiential and engages client’s attention and participation
- It offers choice to clients whose decision making ability has been deliberately thwarted and provides
- ‘Safety, affect regulation, skill-building, self-care, education and support’ which according to Courtois (2004) (p 418) are essential in the ‘stabilization’ stage of recovery
In this Centre, the Capacitar Wellness Programme is viewed as an appropriate intervention in the holistic model of care offered to our client group. Since there are many factors influencing our client’s general well-being and lifestyle (such as the asylum/legal process), there is a high number who will be only accessing the stabilization and resourcing interventions.
A research project conducted in 2009 by a Master’s student from Trinity College Dublin on one of the mixed gender Capacitar/Psychoeducation Resourcing groups showed very favourable results. Data revealed that group therapy, using a combined approach of Capacitar and Psychoeducation is associated with favourable outcomes in range of symptom domains for our client group.
Monica Chambers SRN, SCM,
Complementary Therapists, Capacitar Tutor
Centre for the Care of Survivors of Torture
Work with Hispanic Refugees and the Uninsured
Jayne Ader, Therapist, Wisconsin
Our Outreach Clinic provides free services for the uninsured. About eighty percent of our patient population is Latino. The majority of this population speaks only Spanish. The clinical team was finding that many patients come to us with high levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. This is demonstrated through both emotional and physical manifestations. Many people feel overwhelmed by the fast-paced North American culture. People feel isolated by the language and cultural barriers. Separation from family and cultural support systems greatly enhances this isolation. Due also to the intense manual labor that any of our patients participate in on a daily basis they come to the clinic with severe muscular tension.
Thus we are constantly seeking effective ways of helping people learn or reconnect with skills to work through both their physical and emotional issues. For this reason I chose to offer the Capacitar modalities to our patient population.
History: Three different approaches were used to share these valuable practices. The same day that the patients came for medical attention the Nurse Practitioner or other providers would refer the patient to me to teach one-on-one practices, such as acupressure, Thought Field Therapy, and visualization. The patients could immediately use the practices to address their current issues. As part of the community outreach project we offer a Neuromuscular Integrative Action (NIA) course. This allows the people to engage in a positive exercise experience. NIA combines positive imagery with dance, yoga, and movement. At the end of each NIA course we have been able to integrate Tai Chi movements. It is a way to enhance the meditative aspect of NIA. The third approach was to offer various Capacitar classes in which the community could participate. In these classes I used the Tai Chi movements, Fingerholds, Deep Breathing exercises, Acupressure, Visualization techniques and hand-foot massage.
Outcomes: Most participants experienced a change in their physical or emotional state. The following comments give indications of these changes:
I come with a sore neck and I would like to avoid taking Ibuprofen.
I feel depressed and suffer from low energy.
I feel the need for connection. I felt isolated.
I have had a headache for three days.
My neck feels much better. I do not need a pill now.
I feel energized.
I feel hopeful.
This is the first time my head has felt so clear in a while.
Evaluation: In the courses offered to the community there were 20 participants in total. Five of these participated in more than one course. Six Capacitar courses were offered. Twenty Tai Chi segments were added to the NIA course. Over 100 people were taught practices one-on-one.
I continue to seek ways in which the modalities that I have learned can best meet the needs and schedules of our patients and the south-side community. The variety of ways in which Capacitar can be adapted allows more people to utilize these wellness techniques. The participants have enjoyed the courses and have used them as a forum to share their own healing knowledge. It is fascinating to hear practices from places such as Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.
Comments of the Participants:
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“Cuando primer llegamos a este pais pasamos encerradas. No conocemos el idioma, no tenernos familia, no sabemos como funciona la vida diaria, y todo anda muy rapido aqui. Y empecemos a estar deprimida. Tener la oportunidad participar en un curso asi ayuda quitar la depresion y uno no se siente tan aislada.”
“When we first arrive in this country we close ourselves in our homes. We do not know the language, we do not have family here, we do not know how daily life functions here and everything in the US runs at such a fast pace. We begin to get depressed. Having the opportunity to participate in a course like this allows us to get rid of some of the depression and to feel less isolated.”
“Cuando vine este noche y me sentía descaida no quisiera participar. No séntia que me pasú pero ahora, despues de los ejercicios, me siento muy muy bien increible.”
“I came tonight feeling down, I didn’t want to participate. I don’t know what happened but now, after the exercises (Tai Chi and Massage), I feel very very good. Incredible!”
Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice
Capacitar has led two retreats for the Office of Restorative Justice of the Diocese of Los Angeles, California. Co-Director Fr. George Horan saw the importance of self-care for the 26 men and women who are part of the Restorative Justice staff. Many of the chaplains have also incorporated practices such as Tai Chi, Fingerholds and tapping in their ministry and outreach to the jails of Southern California, as well as outreach to survivors, families and victims of violent crimes.
Restorative Justice and Capacitar
Co-Director Fr. George Horan
The US criminal justice system is based on the assumption that, when a law has been broken, the offender must be apprehended, tried, convicted, and punished. Restorative Justice (RJ) is a different way of looking at what has happened and what should be done to correct the wrong. RJ sees the offense as a harm done to an individual and not just a law being broken. RJ is about healing – not just punishment. We have found that almost all people who do violence to others were victims themselves before becoming victimizers and also need healing to break that cycle.
In the Los Angeles area, we started a non-profit – Healing Hearts Restoring Hope – with the specific goal of offering healing opportunities to all those affected by homicide. The victims/survivors of such a crime are many: the family and friends of the person killed, the family and friends of the offender, the offender him/herself, the community where the crime happened, the first responders, the hospital trauma team, the court personnel, the trial jurors and the list goes on. All become direct or vicarious victims of the crime and most are in need of some kind of healing.
Capacitar is the best of the tools that we have to assist others – and ourselves – in the healing process. We use it with the victim/survivor support groups, with the Victim Offender Education Groups (VOEG) in the prisons, with the First Steps to Healing groups in the jails, with County Hospital social workers, and with all of our volunteers. It is amazing to see the complete change in a VOEG group in prison from the anxiety and stress of just getting to the group to the peace and centeredness after doing some Tai Chi or Switching. Healing Ourselves – Healing Our World is exactly what the criminal justice system needs.
Capacitar at a Women’s Correctional Facility
Pat Cane, California
Visiting women in jail is not new to Capacitar. In the early years of our organization we spent time with women in Managua prison in Nicaragua with Sister Mary Hartman. We offered workshops in acupressure and massage to the prison staff. On the last two Women’s Journeys to Central America we again returned to the Managua jail bringing badly needed medicines and supplies. Journey Director Joan Lohman led a healing workshop with women inmates.
When Chaplain Marilu Eder, Director of Detention Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, California, invited us to offer local workshops for women at the Elmwood Correctional Center, we felt immediately called to do so. 95% of these women are victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence and many have turned to prostitution to earn their livelihood. 95% have drug and alcohol problems and need rehabilitation programs to heal their addictions. We were moved by the desire expressed by several of the workshop participants to share what they had learned to help other inmates and their families. In a recent note, Marilu shared: “Lucy came and spoke with me yesterday and brought another inmate with her. She told me how she wants to help her friend not only with the Tai Chi they are practicing as a group each day, but with the acupressure points. She wants to learn as much as she can to help others. ,
Capacitar at Elmwood Correctional Facility
Mary Litell, OSF, California
“Listen, these things can really help you!” Women in the detention center (jail) programs were talking to newcomers during a Capacitar session in the jail. One of them described how she and two others in the program who had just learned an exercise for releasing traumatic memories were able to help a woman in their cell block who was suffering flashbacks. “We just took out our paper and I called out the steps of the exercise, while the others showed our friend what to do with her hands and eyes and all. She calmed down right away.”
Chaplain Mary Lou Eder tells how many women have done well in their court hearings because of practices they learned in Capacitar trainings. They use finger holds to focus and calm themselves during the hearings. While other classes they receive emphasize a positive lifestyle that can nourish and support the women when they return to their homes and jobs, Capacitar trainings focus on the release of blocked traumatic energy and balancing the energy system. In this way the women can connect with their own source of well being and experience life-giving energy which can empower them to begin creating a positive lifestyle, even while still serving their sentences. As I leave the center each month, I always share a conversation with Mary Lou Eder about new ways that more women in the jail could be empowered through Capacitar. And we always affirm the value of a training program to help more women develop their abilities to share the healing processes of Capacitar.
Capacitar Practices in a Mexican Prison
Dora Montoya-Casa Romero Renewal Center, Milwaukee
When I started in the CAPACITAR training I shared the practices with my aunt when she visited our family from Durango, Mexico. She was very enthused. As part of her work for La Secretaria de Educacion, Gobierno del Estado de Durango, she implements self- esteem workshops for a prison population. She asked me to go to Durango and present a workshop.
In November, 2005, I went into the Durango state prison with my aunt. Forty-three in- mates, 39 men and 4 women, were anxiously waiting. I shared the abdominal breathing exercise, Tai Chi Meditations, Finger Holds, Energy Holds, Tapping and Pal Dan Gum. A lot of healing happened. Several people cried during the energy holds. One man said it brought back memories of his deceased mother and he felt that she was the one holding him. A father of one of the inmates was visiting and also participated in the workshop. He told us that when he had his hands on his son he felt his son trembling and knew that his son was healing and so was he. Another young man said it was hard for him to fall asleep. I taught him to put the fingers of his right hand on top of his head and the fingers of his left hand on his heart. The following day he came back so de- lighted because he had slept very well. He looked rested and more energized.
Before leaving that afternoon, I showed a picture of the labyrinth to an inmate who was an engineer. When I came back the next day I was surprised to see a detailed labyrinth chalked on the floor of the room. It was beautiful! The inmates walked this labyrinth in groups of five. One young man cried as he walked and later told us that his parents had given him away to his grandparents when he was a boy. He stated that he felt as though somebody was touching him as he walked. The labyrinth was a very powerful healing tool.
We concluded with a healing circle and circle massage. They did not want the session to end. Finally, they asked me to stand in the middle of the circle, close my eyes and put my hands on my heart. Then they played the John Lennon song, Imagine. They all gave me their blessings and huddled for a group hug. I felt much honored to have shared those two days with them.
Capacitar Practices in Honduran Prisons
The River of Life
Some of the groups who have benefited most from The River of Life exercises are at the men’s and women’s prisons in Honduras. In the women’s prison all 210 prisoners received some training in body-mind-spirit practices. The River of Life has helped many women who feel like failures and victims of tragic circumstances, to look at the good they have done and what they have learned along the way. In the men’s prison at Tamara, psychologist Clara Nuñez, sociologist Georgina Ponce, and outreach staff Adela Zuniga trained staff and some prisoners to begin to make changes in the violent atmosphere. The majority (over 3,000 men in this prison) are poor men caught in drug sales, robbery, or violence, most victims of desperate circumstances. Most never had considered the meaning of their lives, so the exercise provided an opportunity to look at the past and to recognize what learning they may have gained. Prisoners in the above photo are being trained to be facilitators so that many more prisoners may be helped by the process.
Breathwork for Emotions and Violence
Breathwork was a very helpful exercise for Hondurans who suffered the trauma of Hurricane Mitch. Some of the people most affected by the hurricane were men in the prisons. The prisoners not only suffered the terror of the hurricane and the distress of not knowing what had happened to their families, but also they survived without water, food, and aid for a number of days after the disaster. The prisoners revolted over these inhuman conditions, took control of the prison, and a number of men were killed in the ensuing violence. Alba de Mejia, founder of Centro Visitación Padilla, a center for peace and human rights, was one of the first persons to enter the prison to bring aid and to help negotiate the disarming of the prisoners. Breathwork was one of the practices she taught some of the men to help them to regain control and to release the trauma. In the poverty and desperation of the prison the men had nothing except their own bodies. With breath they could do something for themselves to release the rage and pent up emotions, to regain control of their lives, and to focus their energy in the difficult situation.
Salute to the Sun
This movement meditation has been used by a number of Central Americans to empower people who went through the trauma of Hurricane Mitch. The movement opens us to the forces of nature and to the natural cycles of life, death, and resurrection. Staff from the women’s prison in Tegucigalpa found this to be a wonderful exercise for the women prisoners, whom they respectfully refer to as women “deprived of their liberty”. Brenda Argueta, Cenaida Andrade and Marysabel Matute shared how many of these women felt helpless in the face of the hurricane, overwhelmed by worry for their families outside the prison. The elements of nature to them became terrifying. With the Salute to the Sun the women were able to reconnect with the elements of nature, to let go of their emotional pain and fear, and to experience the healing of themselves as part of the cycles of the earth and the sun.Back to top
Use of Practices in a Recovery Program
Mary Ann Steffes, RN
The first group I worked with was made up of residents at a halfway house for recovering alcoholic/drug dependent women ages 18 years to 50 plus. We held four one-hour sessions with them. We began with a little grief work because two weeks prior to starting classes, a resident’s four month-old daughter died of SIDS. This baby was loved and “mothered” by all the women in the house. We felt it was imperative to address grief and then incorporate this in our healing practices.
We did breathwork, Tai Chi, finger holds, mandalas and a closing ritual with an “altar’ of our gifts. In the Tai Chi I used words and phrases associated with recovery and also used words to describe the guilt and shame alcoholic women carry. Seventy to ninety percent of alcoholic/drug dependent women have been victims of sexual, emotional and/or physical abuse since childhood.
Our group was diverse in that some had only been at the house for days and therefore were new to recovery. Others were nearing the end of their 90-day stays. Staff also joined us. Residents and staff were very vocal about the relaxation and focusing that occurred. One resident had experienced breast cancer and its treatment. She felt strongly that the Tai Chi and breathing would be very beneficial to her continued physical healing and her recovery in addiction.
It was interesting to note the changes in appearances and attitudes as we progressed throughout the classes. Emotional barriers dissolved and gentleness and acceptance became evident.
Work with a Residential Treatment Program
Rosann Geiser, R. N., M. A., Wisconsin
A series of free classes were offered to women recovering from substance abuse, many of whom have suffered trauma and abuse. The flier advertising the classes was titled Stress Management – Body, Mind and Spirit. A paragraph describing the classes stated: A series of classes is being offered for women in using natural personal power for body, mind and spirit healing based on the Capacitar Training Program, which teaches simple yet profound techniques of accessing the universal energy available to everyone for natural healing and stress reduction. Using these practices, the participants can create healing and unity within and among themselves and experience a transforming, nourishing and healing environment.
The objectives for the classes were that the women would develop an understanding of body, mind and spirit integration and a basic proficiency in and commitment to the practices. Another objective was to see a faster response rate in the treatment program and reduction in relapse rates for substance abuse. This was difficult to measure because of turnover in the group and inconsistent participation in the classes. In addition statistical information about the women was not accessible either because it was not tracked or because it was confidential and not available to an outside person.
Another challenge for the classes was that attendance was optional and not made part of the program. In order to have sufficient space to perform the practices, the classes were held at a neighboring church classroom. Therefore, motivation to attend had to be high in order for the women to go out at night and participate in yet another “program”. Initial interest was piqued but waned quickly. One of the counselors who experienced and understood the benefit of these practices encouraged the women to participate when she was on duty. Follow-up discussion of these challenges took place with the Program Director. She now recognizes the benefit of these practices and has requested this series of classes be offered one to two times a month during their daily group sessions at the residential facility. Planning for this is underway.
Group Work: Six classes were held with attendance ranging from 1 to 6 people per class. A total of 10 women participated in the series of classes. The setting was a church classroom with carpeting and moveable chairs so that a comfortable environment could be created. We sat in a circle with a centerpiece of a plant and a candle. Each class started with Tai Chi. Many of the participants came because of the Tai Chi. Then a new practice was taught and previous subjects reviewed because there were new attendees. Class work included: Protection, boundaries and finger holds; Breathwork; Loving Kindness Meditation and Affirmations; Acupressure point ; Emotional Freedom Technique; Pal Dan Gum; Visualization.
Evaluation: Response during class was positive with many “ah ha” moments. The women shared moving stories of successful use of the practices between classes. “I used the boundaries during a conversation with my brother that in the past would have turned into an argument.” “This program is an integral part of my sobriety.” “The breathing techniques help me at work to remain calm during stressful moments.” After the classes were completed a counselor from the program who attended the classes, provided exciting anecdotal information about results in the participants and her clients: “In working with a client, I found it a quick way to help her release energy, reconnect with the self and thus able to better problem solve during our session.” “A client who had difficulty with staffing sessions would have someone page her out. She now visualizes her egg of light and feels safe and enclosed. This helps her stay in the situation so she doesn’t have to take herself out.” “S. uses the finger holds at night to get to sleep. It helps her focus on different emotions she needs to let go of.” “An incarcerated woman struggles with obsessive thinking. By using the EFT, she is calmer and more tolerant of the prison experience.”
Feedback from this counselor on my teaching techniques included: The information was simplified. The center elements added a warm touch. My style was relaxed, laid back and not aggressive which was especially important for the women in the program. I was patient with those who had difficulty understanding and had an effective way of reinforcing the lessons.
Work at a Substance Abuse Services Center
Judy Sinnwell, OSF, Educator, Massage Therapist, Dubuque, Iowa
I worked with a women’s group which meets each Monday at a substance abuse services center in Dubuque, IA. The second Monday of each month I met with the participants and a counselor, teaching and practicing selected techniques of Capacitar. The number of participants ranged in number from 3 to 17 at any given session. Participants reflected: varied socioeconomic, educational levels, and ages; single women, single mothers with children, married with/without children, divorced; probation, court ordered participation, and other legal identifications; varied histories of substance abuse, other addictions and the self-empowerment issues associated with many of those dependencies.
One outcome of Capacitar training, as I understood it, was to stretch personal boundaries by moving into a population one does not at present interact with. This women’s group seemed to provide that possibility. I saw the opportunity to bring skills in self-care and wellness to a population which does not, in most cases, have the financial resources to access these health resources. Also, my religious congregation has a continued four-year focus to address the issues of women and children. This again was a match: my professional skills and a population in need of such self-help skills.
In an initial meeting with the program director/counselors, we identified and agreed that the scope of the sessions would be stress reduction and wellness practices. It was also decided that my membership in a religious community would not be stated to the participants in order to keep the atmosphere clear of unnecessary psychological baggage/expectations/stereotyping that could occur around that.
The biggest challenge for me was the turn over in participants. As women moved through the program, their commitment to attend changed. Numbers varied each session, and there was no way for me to know ahead of time how many would attend, who would be first time, who would be repeats.
Format: Following from the challenge identified above, the format of the class evolved into a repetition of basically the same practices each session. Providing a time/space for women to reduce stress and experience simple techniques for self-care became the priority of the session for me. Repetition would also increase the possibility of participants becoming familiar enough with one or more practices that she could integrate this into her day/week to some degree.
Class lasted an hour. Usually included were: tai chi or pal dan gum; jin shin finger holds; guided relaxation, safe space/mentor guide visualization; thought field therapy; self-talk/affirmations, breath work, acupressure points. Some input on mind-body-spirit-emotions connections and health was included. At the beginning of a session, participants were asked to name the feelings they had then; later they were asked to identify how they felt at the end of the session. Participants could ask questions, add information or personal experience that was relevant; there was not a lot of self-disclosure done.
Outcomes: I would identify the following as necessary components for a program: Regular commitment of time/space/staff; whether or not this is viewed as an important on-going component of their treatment program is yet to be seen, and may be missed.
The importance of regular time, consistent structure for participants to learn and practice stress reduction and wellness techniques; repetition is significant; integration of wellness practices into various aspects of a total program, so that participants experience the possibility of practicing these as part of one’s day/week. For the facilitator, a deepened personal awareness of and sensitivity to the issues women face daily who are attempting to manage family, financial, social, work, legal responsibilities and overcome addictive/other dysfunctional behaviors.
Feedback: Though informally assessed at the end of each session, participants usually gave positive feedback, noticing that they felt more relaxed and energized. During the first seven months, participants told others in the program to come to the session, they reported missing class when it was not possible to have class one month; a substitute staff counselor at an early session reported that participants had told her about the class. More formally, a feedback instrument designed specifically for this group and what had been taught in the first five sessions was used in October and gathered the following comments: Guided relaxation…’helps sleep’, ‘helps thinking positively’ Self-talk/affirmations…’built self-esteem’ Finger holds…’keeps me calm’, ‘helps at work with fellow employees’ Breath work…’self control at home with kids’, ‘keeps me calm’ Pal dan gum…’wasn’t as angry with people’ Tai chi…’helped me relax’.
Capacitar Practices with Women in Recovery
Lynn Connolly and Bonnie Steindorf
My name is Lynn Connolly and I am a former parish nurse. I attended the CAPACITAR Training to learn more about alternative wellness practices to nurture my body, mind and spirit. I also work as a volunteer with women at the Cathedral Center, a downtown Milwaukee shelter for women and families. The women who seek services are dealing with many issues that include: physical and/or mental health problems, economic concerns, and problems with drug addiction. Therefore, many of these women have significant stress in their lives and I thought they might also benefit from these practices.
My name is Bonnie Steindorf. One year ago, after a rewarding career in the financial services industry, I retired early to “listen to my heart and follow the Spirit”. I have been spending more time in volunteer services, with extended family and friends and in experiencing new opportunities for learning, including CAPACITAR Training. I joined Lynn in working with the women at the Cathedral Center.
We taught a one-hour weekly class called Exercises & Tools for Self-Care and Stress Reduction from October through December. We taught Pal Dan Gum, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, guided imagery and other stretching exercises. The women have been grateful for this opportunity to focus on self-care. Some of their comments: “I feel relaxed, energized. I had a lot of tension coming in but feel great now.” “It eases a lot of the anxiety in your head.” “I feel less tightness across my shoulders.”
In addition a few of the staff members expressed an interest in learning these practices and we have taught two sessions for them so far. We feel fortunate to have participated in the CAPACITAR Training and to share these practices with others.Back to top
Capacitar and Mental Health Service David Saavedra, LCSW, McAllen, Texas
During the year of training in CAPACITAR practices through The Center to BE, I applied the techniques I learned with several groups at the health clinic in McAllen, Texas where I am Director of Family Counseling Services. In addition to stress management groups and clinical staff groups, I have used CAPACITAR practices with my individual clients in therapy, in particular the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT; tapping acupressure points) and Tai Chi. I have used them with clients who have suffered trauma and who may also suffer from panic/phobias.
Using the EFT has been an especially powerful tool. There are two clients in particular who made changes that I consider dramatic. One is a woman in her mid-thirties who was tortured by her husband and had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. It was incredible to see how she even had trouble with eye-hand coordination when doing the EFT. After spending an hour walking her through the exercise she was able to do it and with significant results. I met with her for a follow-up appointment and her affect, ability to talk and her level of hope were dramatically changed. She experienced for the first time in her life some relief of her pain from the damaging results of her torture and abuse.
The second case is an immigrant family with an 11-year-old boy who was traumatized by a home invasion when he was 6. He and his father were beaten up and an elderly neighbor was killed in their home. This occurred two weeks after the family had moved from Mexico to the United States. This little boy had not been able to play outside of their home at night because of severe anxiety and also wet his bed on a nightly basis because of his fear of the dark. He had also become aggressive with his brothers and sisters. Since the parents were primarily concerned about their son, I discussed the EFT and the roots of energy work and asked him if he was open to trying the technique. I also had the parents participate, which they were very open to doing.
Right away, all three experienced symptom relief for each of them and the young boy appeared to be very eager and fascinated by the idea that he could get better. He also suffered a great deal of shame and low self-esteem about wetting the bed and not being able to play outside at night like most children. By the second session, my client was able to play outside in the dark and was staying dry at night. If he needed to go to the bathroom at night, he was able to get up and go without the terrifying fear. After four sessions, he continues to do well and is basically symptom free.
Capacitar Practices for Mental Health Kay Middlebrook OTR Austin, Minnesota
In March, 2007 I began a wonderful journey. I had been working as an Occupational Therapist in Minnesota for over fifteen years when several of our hospital administrators met Pat Cane at a Leadership Workshop and learned about CAPACITAR. They made a commitment to transformation and healing in our medical center that led to the creation of a “Wellness Practitioner” position on the acute psychiatric unit. With my 30 years of experience working in behavioral health I was excited by the prospect of exploring wellness and healing using the skills of Training in Healing and Transformation. The goal of this pilot project was to develop a wellness program using CAPACITAR as a model for both patient and staff self care.
I began CAPACITAR Training with Pat Cane at The Center to BE in Milwaukee. For the required practicum, I worked with a variety of adults on the inpatient psych unit including nursing staff, social workers and patients with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses. Three mornings each week I gather all of the patients for a 30-45 minute Wellness Group. I teach a variety of self-care practices based upon patient needs, numbers, space requirements and group energy each day.
Discussion, demonstration and practice are a part of each session as is a closing ritual, which allows group members to share feelings and thoughts about the experience as well as offer feedback. The goal of the group is to provide patients with a “tool box” of simple mind/body practices that they know well enough upon discharge to practice on their own. We focus on repetition and provide handouts to support individual practice. The techniques that are most often requested include deep breathing, imagery, the finger holds, head holds (especially for those who experience chronic headaches), and Tai Chi movements with music.
Acutely ill patients are sometimes too disorganized or unable to function effectively in the group. I provide individual sessions with them and use a variety of techniques specific to their needs that may include head holds, hand massage, spinal rocking, imagery and acupressure for pain/headache management. Individual staff members ask for assistance with their own headaches, shoulder tightness, etc. and increasingly, for assistance with calming patients that they feel are escalating and demonstrating intense emotion.
I have no doubt that acutely ill psychiatric patients benefit from practice of these simple and direct self-care techniques. They calm, focus and smile more often. Patients have gathered in small groups in the evening on the unit to practice Tai Chi without staff. I have heard patients naming the Tai Chi moves, i.e., “Spirit Fingers” for the Shower of Light. Staff ask for assistance and information about self care practices. Nursing students attend and participate in the Wellness Group learning new ways to practice healing. The skeptics tease and use humor as they look for purpose and proof that these self-care strategies are effective. The questions posed regarding the use of complementary healing practices are gifts that will feed the discussion and expand our thinking about how to more effectively engage each patient in their own healing. I am happy to be a part of the process.
Capacitar in Group Homes Judy Jones—House Manager at Robert Berry House, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
I work with the residents and staff in a Transitional Group Home for the mentally ill. One of the biggest challenges the residents face is managing the symptoms of their illness. It has been exciting to introduce Capacitar techniques as another modality to help them deal with their illnesses.
One young resident has extremely low self-esteem and suffers from a Disassociative Disorder. When stressed her mind separates from her body and she cannot feel anything physically or emotionally. Consequently she engages in self-injury practices to break the cycle, to feel something and to punish herself for her thoughts and inadequacies. I decided to try the head and heart holds we learned in the training to try to calm and center her. She immediately reported that the pressure allowed her to feel her head and helped to reconnect her. We started using simple polarity moves when she would become stressed and would seek out staff to help stop it before she got worse. We then added the joint moves and she would become extremely relaxed and you could just feel the tension leave her body. She was instructed just to concentrate on the music and pulses. At one point she suggested I perform this protocol on a staff member who was having a particularly stressful day while she observed. The staff member had an extremely positive reaction to this and the resident stated she felt better knowing that these practices could be for anyone not just someone “sick” like her.
I also taught her family some of these moves one night when they returned her to the group home. She was disassociated, hands clenched, breathing rapidly. By doing the head hold she started to relax, and eventually her breathing slowed. Her parents felt comfortable in doing this. Then her mom and I massaged her hands while talking about how she was dealing with her illness. She eventually was able to join the conversation and tell her parents how else they could help her.
All the staff have been exposed to practices like the finger holds, hand massage, head and heart holds. They are able to help this resident and others use the practices during difficult times and seem grateful for them as alternatives.
Hospital Work with Behavioral Health and Therapy Groups Lucy Christopoulos, R. N., Psychotherapist, Wisconsin
My Capacitar group has been meeting at our hospital weekly for one hour over the past ten months. Group members are patients in the behavioral health partial hospitalization program and attend various therapy groups daily. The group is entitled “Holistic Health Promotion”, is co-ed with members ranging in age from 16 to 85 years. They are being treated for a wide variety of problems, but generally include symptoms of anxiety and\or depression. I chose this group because of the accessibility for me to be able to continue on an on-going basis initially; however, with the good reception that I have experienced by providing this group, I feel mental illness cannot be treated solely with cognitive therapy and medication to be completely successful. The Capacitar practices offer individuals increased control and comfort with their “disease”.
My greatest challenge faced is the continual turnover in group members with fluctuating lengths of stays. Members participate in our group anywhere from one to six times, so I like to expand with more practices with returning members as well as introduce to new members the basic concepts.
The practices used vary according to member needs and capabilities. Breathwork and guided imagery I use with new members, connecting it to the medical model with some discussion of mind-body-spirit premises. With repeat members I add acupressure and energy tapping. Sometimes I get special requests to repeat previous topics or the group naturally heads toward where it needs to go, so I keep the format flexible.
I receive my feedback informally from about one quarter of the group either directly from the members following the group or by report from other staff. Comments have been quite positive, generally focused on how members like an alternative choice to pills that are readily within their grasp. Following breathwork and relaxation techniques, it is typical for members to start sharing how simple and effective this works immediately. I have received several follow-up calls weeks later from members in gratitude for adding this new comfort to their lives that they have continued to practice and expand on their own.
The most recent anecdote of this is from a woman who left me a voice message over the weekend saying how she needed additional medication to control her “new manic feelings”-this woman adds new symptoms on a regular basis and has made it the primary focus in her life, so it was a very typical message that I have heard for ten years from her. The amazing part was hearing another voicemail from her left three hours later saying that she did not need more pills after all. While waiting for a response she decided to use some of the practices from group and decided that she must have “just been anxious, because I was able to feel better on my own”! Yessss!!!!!
As a behavioral health nurse for 25 years, I feel much satisfaction in being able to offer people an additional way to help themselves and others, improve the quality of their lives, decrease their suffering and feel a new sense of control in their future.Back to top
Hearing Loss Management
Karen Lindberg, M. A., Wisconsin
The old saying, “You teach best what you want to learn,” explains why I give workshops in hearing loss management. I began learning how to live with hearing loss when I was first diagnosed at the age of thirty, twenty-five years ago, and I continue to learn every day. I realized living well with hearing loss was mostly about taking the time to care for and heal one’s body-mind-spirit from the stress and demands of ordinary life, as well as the traumas; and for hard of hearing people, the potentially debilitating effects of frequent communication breakdown. Both as a student and a teacher, I’ve found the Capacitar practices to be invaluable tools for self-care. I decided to develop a training in their use which would be accessible to hard of hearing people.
The pilot project for this training consisted of five programs, each approximately two and a half hours in length, spread over a ten month period; The first group consisted of an average of five women, but the participants varied from session to session, with some new and some former participants in each session, and included several people with normal hearing as well. The practices included beginning Tai Chi, breath work, visualization, active listening, mindful eating, finger holds, hand massage, drum massage, and acupressure.
Accessibility was provided through the use of an FM assisted listening system and visuals in the form of a participant guide and diagrams and text displayed on a flip chart. The FM system was essential for some of the hard of hearing participants and helpful for others, especially when they were invited to close their eyes during the visualization and breathing exercises. (Often relaxation exercises with eyes closed make hard of hearing people anxious rather than relaxed.)
The participant guide with step by step instructions for the practices was useful. It could be referred to as a read-along during the workshop; it could be used as a guide when practicing with a partner; and it could be taken and used as a manual for doing the practices at home. The flipchart was useful as a teaching guide for me and helped visually reinforce the auditory delivery of information to the participants.
Judging from written feedback as well as discussion following the sessions, the immediate outcome of the individual sessions was a sense of well-being, relaxation, and in some instances, relief from minor aches and pains. I felt the same results as a facilitator. This is remarkable in itself, but doubly so given the fact that most hard of hearing people typically experience significant stress in any kind of a group setting due to the effort of trying to hear. I credit this opposite and positive outcome to the efficacy of the practices, the provision of accommodations for easy accessibility, and the genuine and open sharing of the participants.
It has been a privilege for me to be with these women and to learn from them, about how to better live a life of deep feeling and compassion. It has been an extraordinarily enriching experience.
This has been a new experience that enables people to connect with one another in different ways.
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I think it helped me to gain a little self-confidence.
This program makes one aware of one’s own body, mind, and spirit and what one can do to enhance (one’s) being.
The sharing and caring of each participant stays with me for a while.
I appreciate learning new techniques that help us appreciate the beauty of life.
My neck and hands feel great. When I came my neck felt stiff and my hands hurt. It has also improved my self-concept by feeling better overall.
I felt relaxed rather than stressed, which is always not the case when I attend meetings, and workshops.
Capacitar Research: Downloadable PDFs
- Healing Trauma, Empowering Wellness
- Research & Reflection Project
- Dissertation Abstract and Research Findings
- Participant Life Change Survey
Dissertations—Applications of Capacitar: Downloadable PDFs
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Carol Chambers from North Carolina
Volunteering and learning energy practices have been recurring themes throughout my life. I have a Masters Degree in Counseling and worked as a trainer and organization development specialist in the federal government for almost 20 years. I was also a school counselor and teacher for 18 years, and facilitated a group for men living with AIDS in Washington, DC for 5 years.
CAPACITAR offered me an opportunity to learn many new techniques, and pass them on to others. Since my parents both received care in a Hospice before they died; and Hospice helped my brother’s partner care for him before he died, when I retired I wanted give back to the staff and help the patients.
I started by volunteering in an in-patient Hospice Center near where I live. The nurse/director in charge of the in-patient centers gathered a group of energy practitioners to share their techniques with the nursing staff and with patients. The center used several CAPACITAR techniques including Tai Chi, Finger Holds, and the Tapping. The burnout rate for Hospice nurses is one of the highest in the nursing profession. CAPACITAR techniques gave them resources they could use at any time to ease their stress levels. The average stay for patients at our local Hospice Centers is just seven days. For the nurses dealing daily with death and pain management with little down time is emotionally and physically wearing. Capacitar improved the way nurses handled the stress of such demanding work.
Capacitar was a life changing experience for me. Meeting Pat Cane and the women in my introduction to Capacitar teachings was extraordinary. It gave me a deeper perspective of what’s going on in the world and how sharing Capacitar techniques can help people who have been impacted by horrific experiences or are dealing with life’s stresses and need some help.
Pat Cane’s work gives back hope, empowerment, and compassion to people who often have no advocate or see no future. I’m proud I had the privilege to have her as my teacher.Back to top
Work with Seniors and with Persons with Disabilities
Many of the Capacitar practices can be adapted and used with seniors and with persons with different kinds of disabilities. Tai Chi is excellent for problems with balance. It can be done with a person in a wheelchair or using a walker. The person receives all of the benefits of improved circulation, lowering of blood pressure, etc. The acupressure points in particular are excellent for everyone. Fingerholds help with anxiety or grief. Hand massage can be done on oneself. For the person with arthritic hands this can be of great help to improve circulation and flexibility. Just suggest that they go lightly in doing the massage. With amputees and phantom limbs, the massage can be very helpful to relieve pain and tension around the tissues. Always use the principle that if pain or discomfort develops, stop. You can then do the practice lightly or you visualize doing it and still receive the benefits.
Use of Practices at a Care Facility with Alzheimer Patients
Barbara Brown, RN, Wisconsin
I am the mother of four, and work as an RN Unit Manager at a long term care and rehab facility.
We care for Alzheimer’s patients at the wandering stage of the disease. At this stage patients can become agitated and difficult as the confusion progresses. The cost of medications to manage this and the amount of work related to treating the many side effects, made me wonder what else could be done.
As a healthcare team, we feel we always have to be doing something to the residents to be doing our job. Through Capacitar, I learned self-help healing practices, and informally began sharing some of the techniques with my direct care staff. It was a gradual process, but eventually the staff began to realize that being with a resident was just as important as doing something to a resident.
I tried out hand massage for residents, or standing with them and gently rubbing their shoulders or back. By slowing down and being present with the people, the staff and I were learning what was making a certain person combative, and helping them work with that need, rather than imposing our wants on that person.
We understood the importance of stress reduction techniques, and as medical workers, we could see the physiological outcome that occurs when biochemical reactions take place from blocked energy.
There are 11 units at the county facility where I work, and word spread quickly. My unit had a significant reduction in psychiatric drug use, and staff turnover rates significantly reduced.
Administration encouraged me to in service the rest of the facility. To date, I have had over 400 nurses, therapists, aides, kitchen staff, and maintenance workers attend the workshops. Many people are inquiring about continuing programs, and a few of us are practicing Tai Chi at break time. Three coworkers so far have commented about the great anxiety reducer, thought field therapy, helping them to quit smoking, finally. “I was amazed the other night, while out with old friends who smoke, I consciously paid attention to my feelings, and noted that I didn’t really want a cigarette.” This comment was from a woman who had been addicted to smoking for over 20 years.Back to top
Pregnancy and Post Natal
Capacitar for Pregnancy and Post Natal Care downloadable PDF
Brónagh Heaney—Capacitar England
Brónagh Heaney of Capacitar England used different practices throughout her first pregnancy, and at the time of labor and delivery. Brónagh and her husband John found that Capacitar practices were helpful for managing stress as new parents.Back to top
Capacitar’s practices can be easily used and effectively adapted for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. The following examples, testimonies and reflections are given to inspire your creativity as you use the practices with different groups. Capacitar invites you to share your own comments, stories and experiences.
Capacitar for Children, offered in the US and in other countries, is a multicultural wellness education program for schools and families. The program teaches simple practices to students, parents, teachers, and school administrative and support staff for use in the classroom, schoolyard and at home. Practices, such as fingerholds for managing emotions, Emotional Freedom tapping and Tai Chi, can help the school community, including parents, deal with stress-related problems and promote positive values and relationships.
The Capacitar for Kids Manual includes the practices and suggestions on how to use them. It is available from our website (English and Spanish editions).
In 2003-2005, the pilot Capacitar for Kids program was funded by a grant from Catholic Health Initiatives to Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation and TriHealth Parish Nurse Program in collaboration with Capacitar. It was implemented in two Catholic elementary schools in Cincinnati, Ohio located in neighborhoods affected by violence and trauma. Under the direction of Mary Duennes, materials and a manual were developed and in-service workshops were offered for teachers and staffs.
For information on Ohio trainings for schools and teachers, contact Mary Duennes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Capacitar for Children trainings are offered in Northern and Southern California for public and private school districts and for elementary and secondary teachers. For more information on trainings in California and the Western states contact: [click here]
International Workshops:Back to top
In 2005, we responded to Hurricane Katrina by putting together this kit of simple basic practices for immediate use to help people deal with challenging situations, such as natural disasters, violence or chronic stress. Since then it has been translated into more than 20 languages and used in countries after tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and areas of ongoing conflict.