Why More and More Talk Therapists are Becoming Yoga Therapists
Meet Monya Cohen: an accomplished Clinical Psychologist on her way to becoming a certified Yoga Therapist.
This may seem like a complete 180° career move, but it’s a move made by more and more licensed therapists every day. And they don’t plan to quit their therapy practice.
It’s because they’ve discovered, as Monya says, that “yoga is the perfect antidote for depression, anxiety, trauma, and many other barriers to achieving a fulfilling life.”
Monya began her own yoga journey more than 15 years ago. Personally experiencing the healing transformation of yoga and mindfulness brought her to integrate these practices into the other healing work she was doing clients. We chatted with Monya about her current path in Yoga Therapy and how it relates to the work she’s already doing.
YTL Interview with Monya
Sarah: Was there a specific moment that served as a turning point for you in your decision to become a Yoga Therapist? Maybe there were multiple moments, but was there one marble that made the jar overflow? (This is my attempt to say something nicer than, "The straw that broke the camel's back.")
Monya: I was getting together with friends who were both therapists (psychologists or social workers) and yoga teachers. We were talking about this thing – yoga therapy. We thought we were already yoga therapists, as we were therapists and yoga teachers.
As a clinical psychologist and yoga teacher, I realized that yoga movement and breath work were life changing for me. For years, I have wanted to bring these tools to my students who have difficulty managing emotions. Why take all of this psychiatric medication for depression and anxiety when we have the tools, we need already inside of us? I was in the process of attempting to incorporate yoga into my therapy with teens and it was not very successful. My students were very averse to breathing and mindfulness and anything that looked like yoga.
I explored Somatic Experiencing - the work of Peter Levine and Bessel van der Kolk truly resonated with me. I believed in their theories that explained that memories and emotions were stored in the body. I tried taking some online classes and discovered I needed something more experiential. My husband, who is also a yoga teacher, came home from the yoga studio one day and said, “You need to train as a yoga therapist.” He said that other yoga teachers were discussing it and seemed to fit really well with the therapy and yoga experience I already had. He was right!
Sarah: Why did you decide to go with Phoenix Rising as your program of choice?
Monya: I went online and explored all of the yoga therapy programs that were accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. The one closest to me is Maryland University of Integrated Health that offers a Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy. I went to an open house, [and felt] it was more focused on the medical model rather than psychology. In addition, I would have to take time off from work every week to attend classes. I already have a Master degree as well as a doctorate, and it was not necessary for me to have another masters degree.
In the midst of my contemplating, I ran into a yoga teacher who I had contracted to present her work on Yoga Therapy for Early Intervention Following Assault or Trauma at my work place. I asked her about schools for yoga therapy and she was a graduate of both Maryland University of Integrated Health and Phoenix Rising. She said Phoenix Rising has been around for 30 years and it is highly underrated. She encouraged me to look into it.
The following Saturday I decided to phone Phoenix Rising and Carolyn, the registrar, just happened to answer. She talked to me for an hour even though she is not typically in the office on Saturdays. My conversation with Carolyn and the description of the program (I could fit the training into my life rather than trying to fit my life into their schedule) sold me and I decided I would give it a try. It has been two years since that day I spoke Carolyn and I am so glad I went with Phoenix Rising. It has been life changing both personally and professionally.
Sarah: Do you plan to integrate Yoga Therapy into your Psychology practice?
Monya: Yes, in fact it has already begun to fall into place. I have been aware of numerous opportunities where yoga therapy is useful in working with the mental health concerns of my students. I am using many of the listening skills and am reminded of the Rogerian approach of unconditional positive regard in my psychology practice. I am not sure I will work with children and teens. My recent focus has been with adults ages 55 and over who are dealing with life transitions and the associated grief and loss. I am close to retirement age and hope to keep my psychology license and incorporate yoga therapy with contemporary psychology in private practice in a couple of years.
Monya teaches yoga to adults of all ages and mobility levels, as well as pre-teens. She is nearing completion of her certification as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, and is heading toward the full IAYT certification. Monya currently practices as a licensed psychologist in Maryland where she incorporates yoga and mindfulness in her work with adolescents with emotional disabilities.
Have a question for Monya or want to try a session with her? Search Monya Cohen in the YTL Directory and get in touch!
Are you a Psychologist and a Yoga Therapist? Get in touch with us. We’d love to hear your story!