We virtually sat down to chat with Amy DeFilippi from Find Your Path to Peace. Amy has more than 20 years’ experience as a psychotherapist and yoga teacher– she helps people manage their anxiety and depressive symptoms by building a greater understanding of the mind-body connection. You can work with Amy on Sunday, April 26th, through our Virtual Learning Center. Amy will be teaching a class called Anxiety Management and Self Care in Quarantine, where you can learn yoga and psychotherapeutic techniques to improve our ability to manage stress!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I began my study of yoga and meditation when I moved to Hawaii after I graduated college. I spent 9 years living there and left to travel. I traveled around India studying yoga for six months and spent a year living in China teaching yoga. When I moved back to the East Coast, I settled in New York and worked as the clinical director of a homeless shelter, then as a therapist at a community mental health clinic, and finally opening my private practice.
On weekends I can be found throwing a flashlight dance party for my nieces and nephew, watching animal videos on the internet, or seeing some stand up comedy. I have been in a committed relationship with my Netflix account and my library card for several years.
How did you come to create your practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to combine yoga, psychology, and mindfulness?
I created my practice so I could fuse yoga and mindfulness with my psychotherapy practice. Working for myself gives me the freedom to fuse these modalities as much or as little as my clients like.
When I came to yoga at 21, I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I found that the tools that I was learning in my asana classes and from reading yoga philosophy were providing me many self-care techniques that I could use to manage my symptoms. As my symptoms began to abate I learned how to work on controlling the negative thought patterns in my mind. Training as a therapist, I saw that many of the western philosophies in psychotherapy were quite similar to things I had learned studying Eastern philology. By combining these schools of thought I began to see how my mind and body were interconnected and should not be treated as separate.
Anxiety, fear, stress, poor body image, lack of confidence and low self-esteem manifest themselves physically as well as emotionally. They leave us with physical symptoms like tension in our shoulders, neck and back, or issues with our digestive system. Unresolved this tension manifests itself with symptoms of poor health and as “dis-ease” in the body.
My belief is that often working with the somatic physical symptoms, we can release deeply painful emotional patterns and limiting beliefs.
My belief in the mind/body connection has lead me to use yoga and practices of meditation and breathing work in conjunction with psychotherapy to help people understand the connection and dynamics between their physical, emotional, and interpersonal health.
Living with hopelessness takes a heavy toll on our relationships with our partners, families, and friends. Understanding the body’s response to stress is a helpful step in combating anxiety and depression. Recognizing the body’s response to stress and learning how to control it is a key to breaking negative cycles of thinking and behaving.
What are some common problems you’re helping people to work through now?
As people have been living in quarantine for several weeks I have noted an increase in people’s symptoms of anxiety and depression and their feelings of loneliness and frustration. The root of trauma has been defined as a timeless helplessness marked by unpredictability leading people to feel frozen and dissociated. Humans have evolved to feel safer in groups and our bodies recognize being without our friends, families, and co-workers as being dangerous. This feeling of danger registers with our nervous systems and moves us into a fight/flight response. So all of us are struggling with this biological response to quarantine.
I have seen many clients struggling to communicate well with their families and partners during this stressful time. People are finding it difficult to stay in such close quarters without finding any time alone. Kids are lonely and frustrated and feel robbed of time with their friends and canceled summer plans. There has definitely been a resounding feeling of loss with most of the kids that I work with.
Adults are concerned about their economic security, their job security, and their health and safety. Many who experience feelings of claustrophobia or who suffered any trauma that involved breath restriction find wearing a mask to be very terrifying.
What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started your practice?
When I first started my practice I was worried that I would not have enough clients to survive and this led me to overbook myself. I think people did tell me to have faith that things would work out but I am not sure I listened to them as I was burning myself out for the first few years of private practice. After several years I know that I don’t need to overbook sessions and that it will only exhaust me.
What do you hope your clients receive from working together?
I joke that my goal as a therapist is to put myself out of business, for my clients to feel that they have developed new adaptive cognitive patterns and self-care techniques where they no longer need to come to therapy.
I believe that the brain has the capacity to be re-patterned and literally rewire itself if provided the tools to do so. I hope that by working with me they feel empowered to let go of limiting beliefs, and to live in a way that allows them to meet their career, relationship, and spiritual goals.
My goal is to teach my clients skills to gain control of negative thought cycles, process emotions, and equip clients with useful and practical stress management techniques.
My work is designed to support clients in their quest to heal and sustain a more healthy, balanced and peaceful life.
Most of all I hope that my clients connect with their strengths and their core of compassion after working with me.
Thanks, Amy! You can sign up for her class here!