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Meet Trailblazer Stephanie Carlsen, MA, LPC, RYT

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Carlsen, MA, LPC, RYT.

Stephanie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher, my work is devoted to holistic healing. I’ve arrived at where I am now by equal parts intention and hard work, accident and error, and divine intervention. I believe it’s our most painful, devastating experiences that lead us to embody the truest version of ourselves. At least
this has been the case for me.

By early adulthood, my life lacked joy, meaning, and purpose. From the outside looking in, everything was perfect. From the inside looking out, I was depressed, burnt out, and had little hope for my future. I was in need of a radical shift, a wakeup call if you will. And the universe delivered.

By fall of 2007, I could no longer avoid my own depression. I continued to see toxic cycles in my own life, be it jobs, relationships, or everyday experiences, that I wanted to break. Understanding that pain was a necessary ingredient to the change that came with therapy. Things became more painful before they began to heal, but that’s the nature of this process. Therapy isn’t always pretty, but it holds much beauty.

My own healing process taught me to befriend my pain and hold my experiences with compassion. After a lifelong practice of perfectionism and self-criticism, I slowly began to make peace with imperfection. So, what looked like a break down was actually my greatest breakthrough. This required surrendering my plans, opening my heart to the
unknown, and listening to my intuition.

A brief stint working for the Colorado Legislature confirmed I wanted to be part of positive change, just not at the macro-level. I went back to school for my MA in Counseling in 2010. Counseling is a powerful way to empower positive change at the micro-level. When I went back to school, I told myself, “if I can just help one person breathe easier then this will be worth it.” I’ve been devoted to helping clients on their own healing journeys ever since: rewiring neural pathways and transforming one nervous system at a time.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
If your road is smooth, you’re probably on someone else’s road. The most profound and defining moments in my career were the bumpiest. At times of struggle, I was selective in whose opinions and advice I was open to considering. My intention was to keep my gaze inward, tune out the noise, and stay focused on my vision. I clung deeply to my belief that if I can create an authentic offering, I will attract clients who resonate with my approach.

My advice for other women is to fiercely embrace your own authenticity, even if others don’t understand it or “approve” of it. Your authentic timeline may not mimic the socially constructed linear timeline. And that’s ok. Be willing to inhabit your body and make peace with your body. Yes, this requires unearthing dark, painful chapters buried deep within, but that’s unavoidable in the process of becoming whole. Don’t let fear hijack your vision. If you’re aiming to manifest big dreams into reality, you have to not only be open to but welcome risk. There’s always a risk. It’s up to you to discern reckless risk from soul-aligned risk. Surround yourself with those who believe in you and inspire you. You can’t get directions from someone who hasn’t been where you’re going. As women, we’re socialized to be polite and not inconvenience others, but the problem with that is you cannot create change without rocking the boat. So, rock the boat and trust in your skills and capacity to navigate whatever unfolds.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I’m passionate about helping people reconnect with their inner compass through realigning mind, body, and soul. I help people access and utilize their heart-brain and gut-brain wisdom in addition to the intelligence of their rational mind. I do this through a compassionate exploration of experiences and adaptations from a trauma-informed, attachment-based lens. We inherit more than just DNA from our ancestors so it’s crucial to examine the intergenerational weight we
carry.

We can only heal so much without incorporating the physical body. Emotions carry wisdom. Our bodies store emotions. So, to access the wisdom, we must be present with and attuned to our bodies. I marry my yoga and reiki training with my clinical knowledge to guide clients to their own internal guidance system. Embodiment is key in any healing process.

I tend to work with people who have conditioned themselves to over-function, who habitually care for others while ignoring their own needs, and who struggle to set healthy boundaries. Our energy is a finite resource and boundaries help us contain our energy so we can choose where to invest it with conscious awareness and intention. Clients usually find me when the way they’ve been managing their energy is no longer sustainable. They’re unfulfilled and experiencing burn out.

My clinical experience centers on healing trauma, eating disorder recovery, body image and embodiment work, and career counseling. The career counseling bit may sound like an outlier, but it’s highly relevant when supporting clients restructure work-life balance. My approach guides clients in releasing trauma and other energetic blocks stored in the body while teaching new skills to regulate their own nervous system.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
As a sensitive and intuitive child, I was highly empathic and attuned to others’ experiences. I was always curious and wanted to know about the internal worlds of others. I could often sense so much more than what was being explained to me, which was frustrating. I felt emotions deeply and wasn’t taught how to manage emotions in healthy ways. Swimming was my way to move emotions through my body.

I began swimming competitively at age 5. The water was my medium of exploration. Through swimming, I learned I could be in my body or not in my body. I experimented with my limits. I could feel into sensation or completely dissociate from sensation. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t consciously aware of how I was using my body to discharge emotions and stress. I credit swimming with giving me my first understanding of self-regulation.

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Image Credit:
Rob Scaffidi

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