B. Bartja Wachtel, MSW, LICSW, MHP, CMHS
I am a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, with a Master of Social Work degree from Eastern Washington University. My focus and experience are in partnering with adolescents (13+), adults, and elders in their relationship to chronic emotional and physical conditions. My primary areas of focus include: neurological conditions (ALS, MS, Parkinson's, early on-set Dementias); terminal illness and end of life; experiences of trauma, abuse, neglect, grief, and loss; challenges in spirituality and meaning; non-dominant gender, racial, cultural and romantic orientations; veterans and maternal mental health; family-friend and professional caregivers; as well as conditions of depression and anxiety.
I practice primarily from the approaches of mindfulness based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), self-compassion and positive psychology, which are all grounded in contemplative neuroscience and psychological evidence based research. I also have training in other approaches that provide flexibility in addressing your concerns, keeping what might work for you at the center of our work together.
In the well-established neuroscience research on the human mind, there are a few things we know about the ways we react to the stress and pain of life: We often get stuck in resistance to the very normal experience of human suffering. We become stressed by things over which we have no control; aging, disease and death—as though something has gone terribly wrong. This same research also offers some solutions: In awareness we can acknowledge suffering, that we are disconnected from the fullness of our human experience and ourselves. We can transform the usual reaction of moving away and disconnecting from pain in the mind, body and relationships. Instead we can respond, purposefully, by moving toward and internally inclining toward your experience and yourself; cultivating tenderness, interconnectedness, and wise attention--because you are suffering. There are these tremendous resources within yourself that hold space for a sense of wholeness, especially during emotionally painful experiences and feelings of imperfection. In the research, these ways of responding to suffering are closely correlated with improvements in mental health, physical health and an overall sense of well-being.
Process of Therapy
I honor your experience by compassionately and non-judgmentally listening, being present and fully aware of your experiences of the mind, and how this impacts your physical health and relationships. We engage various ways of being—by bringing a measure of acceptance to suffering, which may show up in any given moment of your life. Initially we are just being curious and noticing the ways in which you may have become disconnected from any aspect of yourself or overwhelmed by emotions. When possible, we cultivate compassionate awareness toward your experience and say in a tender way, “What are you resisting?” By beginning to internally incline in this way toward the pain of life, without feeling the need to condone anything; we allow transformation to naturally come out of a measure of acceptance of what is.
My intention in these interventions is to provide as much structure and predictability as possible. We will often spend our time together in a brief mindfulness practice—centering ourselves in awareness of what is rising to the surface in emotions, thoughts, body sensations and the core values that hold the most meaning in your life. In this we are bringing the possibility of reconnection and expanded connection with the greater suffering and joy of your full humanity.
This foundation can be a resource to you when things become challenging or devastating in the present or future. In more ways than one, this is not about continuing a cycle of wishing that things be different than what they are or striving to keep some pleasurable experience. Once we can accept our experience and ourselves just as we are, then change, connection and a measure of contentment often come. I would be honored to join with you in our common humanity on this adventure.
I was born and raised in Eastern Washington State by my mother, a medical secretary, and my father, a high school teacher, who were also licensed foster parents through the state system. My very early years were shaped by violence, trauma and grief. I had this deep sense of the suffering of those young people who came in and out of my life that joined with my own early childhood experiences of trauma. I was also contending with my romantic (sexual) orientation. My first forays into therapy at age 15 involved reparative therapy programs that were less than helpful in addressing issues of abuse and trauma. This only perpetuated my experiences of isolation and disconnection. My early school and middle school experiences were riddled with self-judgment and being bullied. All of these experiences greatly shaped my awareness and relationship to my own suffering, but also a sensitivity to the suffering of others and a desire to be a force for compassion in the world. Our social structures often devalue the voices of those who are not the dominant identity, which creates injustice through silencing, judgment and exclusion from access. In the mid to late 1990’s I began practicing mindfulness, and self-compassion personally and professionally, along with more gentle forms of yoga, all of which have allowed me to respond to injustice, judgment and disconnection in the powerfully peaceful ways of kindness. This way of being informs how I live my life personally and work with people who struggle with the pain of life.
For more information about my practice, please visit my website: www.emfm.net