I bring 20 years experience and an ongoing passion for supporting people through the tough passages of life. Facilitating restorative justice cases at Partners in Restorative Initiatives, in Rochester, NY in the courts, schools and community, fuelled my desire for a deep grounding in trauma. I delved into trauma courses and trainings during my Masters in Conflict Transformation over a twelve year period. As I learned the power of body based tools—especially EFT—to release trauma from the body and help people restore their natural resilience, my focus has shifted to trauma healing.
My Journey to Conflict Transformation
I grew up avoiding conflict. When conflict arose, I would accommodate until I risked compromising my values, and then withdraw. I backed out of friendships and romantic interests for lack of tools and voice.
My first week of University, I met Victor on the way to an orientation retreat. Friendship blossomed from that initial spark. I felt myself drawing close, and simultaneously backing away over small irritations and hurts. At Christmas, his mother gave the two of us Augsberger’s Caring Enough to Confront. I’d never had the skills to confront–it wasn’t in my emotional vocabulary. Several months later, when a black pit of hurts had accumulated in my stomach over words Victor had said, I was ready to break up. I thought, Maybe I’ll try this—maybe I care enough to risk confronting Victor. I dared to share with him how his words affected me. His eyes filled with tears. He said he had no idea they had hurt—he had only been trying to be helpful. I felt heard. We both saw anew. In the blackness, flowers blossomed. Learning to confront—to find voice—has been a key factor in our vibrant relationship over the decades.
Back to University. Restorative Justice was “in the water” of the small college where I was living while studying mathematics at University of Waterloo. The Elmira Case—incident of widespread vandalism that sparked the modern Restorative Justice movement—had happened just 5 years earlier and 15 miles away from my College. Conrad Grebel University College was then, and continues to be, a leader in peace, justice and conflict transformation. Periodically, at Grebel’s weekly Community Suppers, a restorative justice speaker would share about the power of this growing field. I joke that I became a carrier of Restorative Justice there, even though I hadn’t developed full blown symptoms. Simultaneously, at Stirling Avenue Mennonite church, I was among those that started and led the Peace and Justice Working Group.
Peace and justice activism was a thread that continued through finishing my B.Math and B.Ed degrees, through teaching math and computer science at St. John’s Kilmarnock high school, through homebirthing, moving to New York for Victor’s post doctoral placement, running a family daycare, and homeschooling/unschooling our two children.
In 1999, when I heard Will Bontrager was introducing restorative justice to the region as a project of his Conflict Transformation Masters, I felt an electric shock go through my body. I knew I needed to be involved. I began meeting with the fledgling restorative justice group, refusing to take on any role since I was overcommitted in other areas already. Within a few months, however, I was submitting the incorporation papers, applying for the organization’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status, and accepting the role of Secretary as a founding board member of the organization that became PiRI (Partners in Restorative Initiatives).
I recall the first Community Conference I witnessed through the Rochester Police Department’s Juvenile Accountability Conferencing (JAC) program, which partnered with PiRI. One boy had jumped another. The first retaliated later that day by splitting open the scalp of the other with a wrench. Both families came together in a facilitated process. Then tension and mistrust were palpable. As they discussed what had happened, who was affected and how they were affected, and who needed to do what to make things as right as possible, the energy shifted dramatically. By the end, apologies flowed, the boys signed written agreements and made commitments to their school counselor, and the parents exchanged phone numbers, wanting a call if there was any problem in the future. I was so moved by the transformation in this restorative process that I felt I could leap over tall buildings as I left. I soon became a JAC facilitator, and facilitated over 100 cases in the schools and community.
With this same passion, I helped build up the Community Conferencing program in Rochester and in surrounding counties court system. I trained Community Conferencing facilitators, facilitated community conferences from intake to follow-up, and tracked program statistics. Getting cases referred from the courts required endless advocacy—we would get key players (District Attorneys and Public Defenders) on board with the program, they would be transferred, and we’d need to start over. Even so, by the time we returned to Ontario, Canada, in 2011, the program was doing Felony level cases (equivalent to Federal cases) through the courts.
I loved every aspect of the work, from facilitation, to advocacy, to education to administration. Over these eleven years, I organized and emceed annual conferences; launched the Western New York Restorative Justice Coalition; served on the Crime Victims Coalition; oversaw program development; supervised internships and practicums; recruited and retained high quality volunteers; conducted staff check-ins and annual performance reviews; wrote grants; and ran the annual appeal. All fueled by my passion for Restorative Justice.
Since moving back home to Ontario, Canada in 2011, my focus has been more on trauma work, but I’ve still kept an active volunteer role in Restorative Justice. As a Practicum Student for my Masters in Conflict Transformation, I researched cost of Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) compared to court alternatives. I facilitate a weekly Restorative Justice Discussion Group at our local women’s prison, GVI (Grand Valley Institution for Women). This group seeded the idea for a powerful Restorative Justice Retreat Day at GVI during Restorative Justice Week in 2018, with speakers from the UK, Ohio, Toronto and Kitchener.
My EFT Journey
I first heard of EFT in my first STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) training in 2010. Introduced as one of the somatic techniques that can address trauma effectively and be used in community settings, EFT clearly passed the bar to be included in this research-based training. But it was too strange for me. It made no intuitive sense that tapping on these points would work. And in 2010, the research was less robust. I conveniently ignored it.
In 2012, when I accessed medical care at my local hospital, EFT was taught to patients in some departments to deal with the related stressors of their medical conditions. This time, I was receptive. I’d felt discouraged when my illness had laid me up, and had almost given up completing my Masters. EFT quickly helped me work through my blocks and return to school. I found myself turning to EFT to work through doubts, relationship struggles, fears and pain. In 2014, I started introducing EFT in my STAR-based trauma trainings for social workers.
Like all good tools, even though I was introducing EFT in trainings, I would sometimes remember to use it for myself and sometimes not. Each time I’d come back to tapping, I would experience its strength. It’s a simple tool to learn and helpful from the start, but more powerful when mastered at deeper levels. In 2018, I participated in The Tapping Solution’s annual ten-day Tapping World Summit, a free, online series of talks and guided tapping opportunities meant to make tapping accessible to everyone. I started tapping more regularly, and found it my most effective self-care tool. I longed to go deeper, and incorporate tapping into my other trauma and resilience work. I signed up for the May 2019 four-day Level 1 and Level 2 EFT International trainings with Susan Bushell in Guelph, Ontario.
Driving has been my greatest conscious fear in my life—I was a white-knuckled learner, and even as an adult, I frequently gasped both as passenger and driver. A month before the training, I was driving home in the dark after caring for a family member in hospital. I had just exited the highway, and was tapping while driving—it helped me feel more alert. I didn’t enjoy driving, but I particularly disliked driving at night. I normally have excellent night vision, but struggled more when driving. I saw tight curves approaching. I could feel my tension rise. I kept tapping the side of my hand on the steering wheel to address my age-old fear. No need to bring to mind the fear in order to clear it—I was feeling it! As I tapped, the fear dissolved, and my field of vision widened—the white lines on both sides shone bright. Driving was so easy! Later, I realized why this happened. The fight-flight response sends cortisol and adrenaline to the limbs to allow escape or defense. It stops digestion, diverts blood from the cerebral cortex to the limbs, and narrows and sharpens vision—tunnel vision. Tapping released my fight-flight response, widened my field of vision, and helped me see better. I actually enjoyed driving around those curves, with better vision and a brain fully online. Why didn’t someone tell me decades ago that fear—even paralyzing fear—was treatable?
I found the four-day EFT training transformational. Over the course of the training itself, I noticed several shifts. Driving home after first day, I noticed I was not afraid to drive beside the concrete construction barriers at the edge of the highway, nor did I feel fear when driving between large trucks. These were further shifts in my life-long fear of driving. That night, my rotator cuff tendonitis injury spontaneously released, allowing a substantially greater range of motion than I’d had for the past two years in spite of physical therapy. I also experienced a dramatic drop in my fear of heights during the phobias section of the training.
Personal Peace Process: Following the training, I’ve worked through my Personal Peace Process (PPP), a required element of the accreditation process. I listed over 150 incidents in my past that still had emotional charge, starting from my earliest memories until the present. As I’ve tapped on each of these to bring the charge to 0, I’ve seen large shifts. Each of us has core issues—false, negative beliefs we’ve developed—such as “I am unlovable”, “I am a failure”, or “I am worthless.” We develop these negative beliefs from our life experiences. Typically, many separate incidents (e.g. put downs, failures) led us to these core beliefs. As we tap through all the incidents in our PPP, removing the emotional charge, these negative belief dissolve. If dozens of incidents underpin a core belief, it is not necessary to tap on all of these. After a handful, the belief may start to shift, and after another five or ten, the core issue may disappear, replaced by well-grounded, positive beliefs. In my case, while I had a loving, reasonably functional family of origin, and I always felt cherished, I early learned that I could calm my father’s tension if I was perfect, and I learned from my mother to shame myself when I perceived I’d failed. I’ve been able to identify those issues in my life for decades, and make some progress. But tapping through my PPP has brought dramatic shifts, integrating these insights into my whole being. I experienced a cognitive shift from needing to be perfect/not failto “being safe in my body is better than being perfect.” I no longer feel waves of shamewhen I make mistakes. I take responsibility for my mistakes and clean up, but I don’t have large or small shots of shame flooding my body. I’ve also experienced a 90% reduction in tension in my shoulders and neck—tension I’ve held in my efforts to do everything right. It’s taken many months to unlearn the patterns of my childhood—curiosity, loving myself, and lots of tapping through my PPP—to shift my somatic patterns rooted in my core beliefs. Myrotator cuff tendonitiscontinued to heal rapidly since the training as I continued to tap and do my exercises, and is essentially gone. I have had fewer headachessince the training, and the ones I’ve had have responded much better to tapping than they ever did to medication. Meditation. I’ve always wanted to be a person who meditates regularly, but in the past, I’ve needed to force myself to sit down and meditate. I could do that for a period, but forcing oneself isn’t sustainable and I could never sustain my practice over time. Now, my mind (and whole being) is quieter—meditation is natural. One of the fruits of meditation for me has always been increased intuition and answers to prayer. More serendipitous encounters happen. Things work out. I’m grateful to be able to meditate deeply, regularly with such greater ease. Sleep has been another area positively affected by tapping for me. In consultation with my doctor, I was able to discontinue the prescribed sleep aid. According to my sleep tracker and my personal experience, my quality of sleep is now better without the prescribed medication. I particularly am grateful for the longer blocks of deep sleep I now experience. I feel well rested with less time in bed, with the sleep tracker stats to back up why. Tapping has allowed me to release hurt, judgement, frustration, anger and fear as they arise from the challenges of the day, allowing me to move through my day with more peace and productively. The first 90 days post training has been the most transformational 90 days of my life, and the journey continues.
Degrees and Certifications
EFT Practitioner (January 2020)
Certified by Susan Bushell, Accredited by EFT International
Conflict Transformation MA, with concentrations in Restorative Justice and Trauma Healing (2014)
Academic Advisor: Howard Zehr, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
STAR Practitioner: Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (2014) Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential (1996)
Rochester, New York
Bachelor of Education (1984)
University of Western Ontario, Althouse College, London, ON
Bachelor of Mathematics, Teaching Option, Computer Science minor, Music minor, Dean’s Honour List (1984)
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON
EFT International Emotional Freedom Techniques Level 1 & Level 2 (2019), Guelph, ON
New Ways for Families: Managing High Conflict Cases in Separation & Divorce (2017), Kitchener, ON
Certificate in Conflict Management trainings:
- Transformative Mediation (2012)
Community Justice Initiatives, Kitchener, ON
- Culture, Diversity and Conflict Management (2012)
Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, ON
Reentry and Transition Planning training by Lorenn Walker (2011)
Restorative Circles training by Dominic Barter (2010)
Community Conferencing training, Partners in Restorative Initiatives (2003)
Peacemaking Circle training by Kay Pranis & Gwen Chandler Rivers (2002)