Arbor Counseling

Erin Flynn

It’s so good to have you on campus and I know it’s your first time here at Harmony, so we want to learn a little more about you and understand more about your background. But also kind of hear what your thoughts are about Harmony as well. So let’s kind of kick off first this idea of the work that you do. So you’re in private practice, and the area of focus that you work on is somatic body based work. So can you describe how this is different from what other therapies are?

Yeah, I’d love to. I really love to emphasize that our bodies are helpful in the healing process, or recovery. And that if we have, no matter what our relationship is currently, developing a relationship with our bodies can be insightful, offer tons of wisdom, and kind of lead us in the direction we want to go. I think that there’s a ton of wisdom in our bodies, and I think often times, in therapy when it’s focused a lot on talk and thinking, that can sometimes get in the way. It’s, our brains are meant to get in our way, it seems like, so if we can connect between the mind and the body, allow for a little bit more resonance between the two, I think that it helps the healing journey.

You talk a lot about this idea of trauma-based work that happens and how we hold a lot of trauma in our body, and within our DNA, and what are some of the modalities that you’re using when you do somatic work?

I am trained in EMDR. I also use loosely, a technique based on focusing which is, it was developed by Eugene Gendlin and I think it’s a lot of the basis for somatic work. And I use yoga as well and mindfulness. So all ways to kind of allow our attention to rest gently in our body, and allow what comes up from that attention, yeah.

Makes sense. I mean, it’s funny. I started doing mindfulness and meditation-based work recently, in the last couple of years, and I was not one of those people that thought they could meditate. In fact, I remember somebody telling me I needed to learn how to touch the raisin and smell the raisin, and I was like, “This is such a waste of time.” But as I’ve started learning about how to sit and be present, it really does have a direct impact on the mind body connection, and recognizing, there’s a lot of stuff going on in there. And often times, when you have monkey brain, and you’re all over the place, having that ability to kind of get focused and centered and really be present, the answers come much easier.

They do. They really do. So I think too, a little what you’re speaking to, and a lot of what I like to notice is that from the top down, it’s hard to process change. But from the bottom up, it feels a little bit easier sometimes. And it’s not a one or the other, but incorporating the bottom up processing, which is just through the body to the brain. We’re really oriented towards that top down.

Which actually, I’m curious about how your clients respond to your style, because most people are very mindful of the brain-based processing, you know, CBT-based work. How have your clients been responsive to this approach?

I think overall, really well. And what I also notice is that if there’s a need for the topped based approach, starting with CBT, getting skills, getting safety in place. That’s stuff I do as well. But when you, when my clients have kind of gotten to the place where their body has become something they rely on and have a trust and build a relationship with, then that ease that you’re talking about, that understanding, it seems more accessible. And it’s not just the… You know, it’s the combination of the two. What you’re saying, yeah.

Do you do any work with intuitive eating? And working around, because it feels like there’s some parallels there, around this idea of being focused on the body and recognizing how the body responds to food and craving and those types of things?

Yeah, well, I don’t focus on that specifically, but I do think that eating well and sleep, you know, the basics, right? The eating and sleeping have such an impact on how we experience ourselves throughout the day.

Your focus in your practice is really around trauma-informed care. So would you say that you’re a specialist in working with trauma?

I would. Yeah. Yeah.

So what does that look like, if somebody were listening today and they were seeking out your services, what kind of approach would you be taking in response to the trauma that they’re dealing with?

A lot of education around what trauma is first. And a lot of kind of taking a big picture view of what their experience was, and maybe kind of drawing the parallels between the experience of trauma and what they might be experiencing in their lives, if they’re using substances to cope with anxiety, or using substances to cope with depression, and kind of seeing if there’s a way that that connection can be made and really getting a base level understanding first. And then diving in a little bit deeper to the work as people are ready to, like you mentioned earlier, trauma often is living in our body as a maladaptive memory, so the idea is that we don’t take away the memory, or we don’t do anything with that, but we, a lot of that memory to become adaptive. And that’s where the resilience in trauma comes in. It’s like, yes, this experience happened. But, when I remember it or something similar to it happens, I don’t relive that experience. I’m aware of the feelings that it brought up, and I can have those feelings and be in the present moment.

So there’s no, I know that there’s a lot of talk about this idea of reliving the trauma and talking about it, and how that can be very re-traumatizing. You don’t focus on that at all?

Not at all.

You’re more forward thinking in your approach?

Yeah, absolutely.

That’s great. And then applying these coping skills and these resiliency skills around how to, I like this idea of adapting with the trauma versus it, you know, trying to ignore it and pretend like it doesn’t exist anymore.

Right, because it so, it exists and it’s in everything. And when we kind of pause and look at the way that it shows up in the light, and kind of re-get curious about how we’re working with that, then it seems to become adaptive, right? And then it becomes an experience that you grow from, which that big field of post-traumatic growth is something that I’m really interested in, and feel that that’s possible for people.

I’m hearing more and more about this, the idea of post-traumatic growth. That’s interesting. Are you seeing that a lot with clients who are struggling with addiction issues?

I do. And I think it’s in the recovery community, because, and I think one of the big ways that I see it, and it’s been in the recovery community forever, is that once you find recovery, all you want to do is share that with people. Right? And that is, that’s that post-traumatic growth. It’s like, “I have something to offer,” that’s a sign of healing, is to say, “I want to give that back.” And so I feel like it’s been in this community, and it just has different names and different faces, so.

Yeah, I really like that, and it’s probably so married to it, people are working the 12 step and this idea of paying it forward and giving back also probably plays a part in that as well. What, this is going to shift gears. I like to ask a couple of personal questions with folks, just to get to know the person behind the practice. And so I guess the two questions I’m going to ask, the first is, what inspires you to wake daily and seize the day?

Erin Flynn:           Coffee. Good coffee. It has to be very good coffee. And there is some good coffee in Colorado, so yes. I also, I feel really blessed to be living in Colorado, and living where I can see the mountains out my windows and be reminded of the majesty of nature. That’s my big inspiration. And I’m inspired to also give back and do the work I do, so that’s part of it.

Do you do volunteer work as well?

I don’t do volunteer work.

But you’re giving of your time in a way that’s really making a difference for people, and that’s empowering. So if I had a billboard and you could put any saying on it, what would you want the world to know?

I think to trust the inherent wisdom of your body. Yeah, I’m so, I’m also really passionate about changing the education system in this country. I think that if we taught our students and the kiddos more about what their body was capable of doing, even the names of all the bones and all the different organs, it just feels like we would have so much more resilience, I think. I just feel like it’s a big missing piece in our education, our bodies.

Yeah, it’s funny. My son was a Montessori student for a long time and they really immersed themselves in having them move. They were constantly in movement during the day, versus being in a desk and sitting the entire day. So I definitely feel like there is something to that idea of integration between body and education. Yeah, that’s great. Well, so if I were to offer up the word Harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

I think of the words balance, I think of… thinking about being on a boat, and you know, maybe a sailboat and if the wind comes up that you use that, you harness the wind and you get to your destination, and if the wind isn’t blowing, that you can kind of just relax, you know, just be with what arises, feels harmonious, and that allows you to take all of it, the good and the bad. Whatever that is, but finding that space within yourself, that you know you have the things that you need, yeah.

That’s a great metaphor. I have not heard of that metaphor, and I really like that. So, you know, we’re wrapping up and people who are hearing more about you and learning about your practice, if they wanted to identify you and get to connect with you on your services, how can they connect with Arbor counseling?

Great. I would love to hear from anyone who’s interested, you can contact me through my website, or you could call me, and that phone number is 720-334-8867. And I would be happy to answer any questions you have, offer consultation, and just be in touch.

Outstanding. Well, Erin, it’s been a real pleasure hosting you here at Harmony, thank you so much.