I show my patients and course participants how to incorporate more natural approaches into their health, and how to eliminate or decrease pharmaceuticals by introducing nutritional therapies, herbal medicine, supplements, scientific detoxification, somatics, yoga, and cutting edge therapies into do-able daily routines to reach optimal health and happiness.
So, whether you’re looking to further your training as a clinician or you’ve lost your joi de vivre and want to become vibrant, calm, energetic, and enthusiastic about life, my proven "Brainbow Blueprint" protocol will put you on the path. How do I know? I follow my own guidelines and have also watched them change the life of thousands of clients and students. I’d love to share them with you too.
PhD, Behavioral Medicine (Psychophysiology), Union Institute and University
Clinical Fellow, Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Clinical Instructor, Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Clinical Supervisor, Psychology Harvard Medical School
MPH, Harvard School of Public Health
MA, Cross Cultural Psychology and Education, Lesley University
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (MA)
Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
National Approved Clinical Supervisor
National Board-Certified Polarity Therapy Practitioner
National Board-Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
My life and career has taken me to both Harvard and the jungle of Mexico with many stops in between. I am a passionate advocate for and believer in culturally traditional medicines used by people around the world. How did I come to know so much about this and make it my life’s work? Read on…
Big Girl Rising
I came into this world at 10 ½ pounds and 2 feet long. By 7 years old I was 5 feet tall and was already dreaming of running a medical clinic in the rainforest. In 1963, I became the first girl in New England to play Little League baseball, and began playing competitive tennis at age 8. That lasted until I was 14 when I became a hippie and gave up round pins and hair ironing for a Jewfro, war protests, and feminism.
I have been practicing and teaching meditation, yoga, and chanting since I was 17 years old.
At age 18 I penned a letter to my idol Simone de Beauvoir. She wrote me back encouraging me to write. I still have her letter framed on my wall. I’ve since written 6 books with more on the way.
My fresh-woman year at college I met a Chinese master and studied the I Ching and acupuncture with him. That same year, I put on a feminist film festival at school and was visited by an FBI agent. Rather than be intimidated, we invited him to watch Queen Christiana with us.
I dropped out of school at age 20 after scaling federal military facilities to protest the Vietnam war and scraping lead off inner city dwellings. I then traveled to Mexico to discover myself.
I arrive in the jungle of Mexico
My time in Mexico began in small Indian fishing village where there was no doctor, roads, or electricity. I started a small elementary school for the expat children who should have been reading but could not. We studied biology at the lagoon and math meant measuring ingredients for cooking. We wrote poetry and danced while listening to Ravel.
I got sick with all kinds of odd ailments and the village women taught me their medicine to help me heal and I taught them about reproductive rights and birth control even as the village priest paid me visits to tell me to stop. Thus began my career.
I learned all kinds of natural medicine and indigenous healing rituals. These experiences and studies led to my innovative methods of helping clients recover from trauma and addiction by understanding the mind body and spirit in context of the great quest. In 2013 and again in 2016 I published two books on these topics: Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature, and the Body to educate clinicians about natural medicine to heal traumatic stress and drug and alcohol addiction and Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health to help people find alternatives to medication through nutritional therapies.
Clinic in the Jungle
In 1977, I became certified in polarity therapy, therapeutic massage, and yoga, and opened a natural medicine, free public health clinic in the jungle, which I ran for more than 25 years in collaboration with local healers. The indigenous population traveled by mountain path and canoe to obtain treatment. People who had cactus spines stuck in their knee, fell out of hammocks, were beaten by their husband, had insomnia or asthma, sliced their foot open in the lagoon, or got burned when a stove blew up --- they all came to me. Thousands of health professionals from around the world attended my trainings in bodywork, culinary techniques, and yoga, all of which supported our pro bono work at my Center for Traditional Medicine.
The City Jungle or The Psych Ward
I returned to the jungle of Boston after 10 years with enough experience from my time in Mexico to be awarded an undergraduate degree and began working on my first master’s degree in cross cultural health psychology. In a public hospital locked psychiatric ward, I did gentle bodywork and rocked schizophrenic women to sleep lieu of their daily sedative. I still teach rocking to clinicians and clients as an important treatment for people of all ages.
I left the jungle again to enter the Harvard School of Public Health where I was one of only 3 non physicians out of 100 accepted into the program. I studied and promoted nutrition, midwifery, and herbal medicine amidst molecular biologists. When I received my degree, I returned once again to the jungle to share my new knowledge and continue to learn from healers.
Training the People Who Treat the Mind + Body
I always returned to Boston to treat clients and my clinical practice was filled with dozens of psychiatrists who in turn referred their patients who were cutting, burning, purging, and generally traumatized, to receive bodywork and body-centered psychotherapy, nutrition, and to learn yoga to alleviate their distress. I have written up these many case stories in my published books.
Harvard Medical School
I accepted a clinical fellowship at Harvard Medical School in 1985. While there, I brought bodywork therapies into outpatient psychiatry and further developed my theories and practice of somatic psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD. The nurses were pleased with the results, but the psychoanalysts were apoplectic, suggesting heresy, for asserting what I know; that suicidal and traumatized people benefit from, and need to be touched, therapeutically. I prevailed and was appointed as a clinical supervisor, but I longed for Mexico and left Harvard.
Thirty years ago, I began working with the first of several of my therapy dogs and I continue to present workshops on how therapy dogs help to restore touch and sensation with children and adults who have been traumatized. My golden retriever, Bodhi, worked with me as a therapy dog to help crime victims relax while testifying to the police and district attorneys.
Consulting to the Feds and the State
For 10 years, I ran a consulting agency that was funded by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. My team of 15 instructors and I delivered team building and stress management workshops for stressed-out housing managers and multicultural, wellness, arts, and esteem programs for children, adults, and elders in 8 different languages.
I also served as the clinical director of the New England School of Acupuncture, and was one of the founders of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork in 1990 where I helped to write the code of ethics.
Trauma + Tourism Harming Women’s Health
In 1997, I returned to the jungle where I reopened my clinic and the Center for Traditional Medicine was given a 6-figure multiyear grant to do research into the effects of trauma and tourism on women’s health and their indigenous practices. I conducted scholarly research (published) and produced a community wide bilingual arts book (with feminist messages that the women added.) (Hard copy and iTunes book)
Cancer + Dementia
I again returned to the US, now to the Pacific Northwest area to care for my parents for 9 years while they were transitioning; one with cancer and the other with dementia. This personal experience led to a 3-year research project in which I was the principal scientist and the Center for Traditional Medicine was funded by the National Institutes of Health to explore the benefits of touch therapies (polarity therapy) for native family dementia caregivers (published and presentations) and to further explore the science and art of detoxification for health.
Cuisine for Health
During this time, I worked with my husband Dr. Rudolph Ryser and staff at the CTM to deliver seminars and 3 day trainings with Native communities to prevent and treat addictions, diabetes, and mental illness by restoring and revitalizing traditional healing, botanical, and culinary practices. My work in this area yielded our book Preventing and Treating Diabetes Naturally: The Native Way and my contributions to the Salish Country Cookbook, about indigenous cuisines of the Pacific Northwest. (iTunes digital book).
Plant Medicine and Women’s stories
I received a Fulbright Research Scholarship to continue my research on indigenous health practices among indigenous women in Mexico in 2009. With this scholarship, I spent time collecting hundreds of hours of oral stories from women and local healers who shared their beliefs and methods of treatment using herbal medicines.
During my clinical career, I have provided more than 50,000 hours of consulting and clinical care; rubbing the dung-covered feet of old Indian women who have trudged through fields to reach my clinic, as well as the coiffed and manicured residents of urban Boston. I love the diversity of all people whose paths cross with mine.
In the jungle, I am currently working with our pro bono Medical Massage Project through the CTM. Along with a crew of bodyworkers, I venture out to treat poor people who are often confined to wheelchairs or are in pain and rarely, if ever, receive this kind of care.
Additionally, I consult in-person to clinicians and clients, advising on mental health, nutrition, and getting and staying off pharmaceuticals. I have helped thousands of people get off drugs (prescribed and otherwise), and to eliminate pain, find peace after traumatic events, learn to eat healthfully, and find happiness in their work and lives.
I also provide consultations and approve people in need of emotional support animals. I write, and teach in an MS and PhD program online. Another large part of my work is giving keynotes and talks to clinical colleagues, academics, public health administrators, and tribal officials about specific ways to provide compassionate, integrative methods that will lead to real health changes among the people they serve.
I work out 5 days a week with my trainer Irma doing pilates, yoga, weights, aerobics, Bosu, and kickboxing. I can do a 300-pound leg press and place my palms flat on the floor while standing (Though not both at the same time!) I also work and play with my therapy dog Xoco (pronounced sho-ko - it means chocolate!)
I have already realized so many of my dreams. I have traveled the world, worked at my passion my whole career, and have a loving family and great friends (both 2- and 4-footed.)
So what’s next?
My dream is to share my knowledge and creatively demonstrate to the largest possible audience about the innovative ways to stay healthy naturally, and restore mental and physical health by combining the ancient healing arts with the best of modern science.