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045 - Stormy Hill

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

Stormy Hill joins us to talk about using sensory rooms and sensory-based skills programs to assist those with autism, attention disorders, and mental health challenges. She talks about her work in substance abuse treatment and in creating sensory room design and training modules available to professionals and the public alike. Enjoy.

The Illuminate Recovery Podcast is about Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction Recovery. Shining light on ways to cope, manage, and inspire. Beyond the self care we discuss, you may need the help of a licensed professional. Curt Neider and Shelley Mangum are a part of Illuminate Billing Advocates ( They are committed to helping better the industry and adding value to the lives of listeners by sharing tools, insights, and success stories of those who are working on their mental health.

Transcript (No grammar): stormy hill joins us to talk about using sensory rooms and sensory-based skills programs to assist those with autism attention disorders and mental health challenges she talks about her work in substance abuse treatment and in creating sensory room design and training modules available for professionals in the public alike enjoy welcome to the illuminate recovery podcast we shed light on mental health issues mental illness and addiction recovery ways to cope manage and inspire beyond the self-care we will discuss you may need the help of a licensed professional my name's kurt neider i'm a husband father entrepreneur a handyman and a student of life i avoid conflict i deflect with humor and i'm fascinated by the human experience and i'm shelley mangum i am a clinical mental health counselor and my favorite role of all times is grandma i am a seeker of truth and i feel like life should be approached with tremendous curiosity i ask the dumb questions i fill in the gaps the illuminate recovery podcast is brought to you by illuminate billing advocates make billing and collections simple with leader in substance abuse and mental health billing services verification and analysis of benefits pre-authorizations utilization management accurate claim submission and management denial and appeal management and industry leading reporting improve your practices cash flow and your ability to help your clients with eliminate billing advocates today is is a great day it's a beautiful it's monday i mean you guys won't probably hear this on monday but it is a beautiful monday and today we are privileged to be able to talk with stormy hill um stormy is the founder at sensory works that's out of salt lake city although she you know she um is active throughout the nation she's a trainer a writer and a public speaker stormy is an occupational therapist with a mental health background she creates sensory rooms and sensory based life skill programs to assist those with mental health challenges substance abuse disorders autism and attention disorders so that they can discover greater life satisfaction stormy thanks so much for joining kurt and i today yeah thanks so much for having me so blessed to share some time this monday morning recording that's right um so stormy we've you know we've had a little bit of a of a past history together and i know that the work that you've you know been doing over the last few years has grown and its effectiveness has grown maybe give us a little bit of history as to how you got started and how you ended up where you're at now yeah i mean i think like all of us i have like a circuitous path to like finding your kind of north star and one of your passions and definitely for me my passion is is mental health and mental health wellness um like my team i would say i want you talking about more than just sobriety i want you talking about wellness because you can be sober and not well and it's much more challenging to stay sober so really like getting into wellness um but the brain is really my like total my jam like i'm so fascinated with the brain the thing that rests between our ears and that we actually have much more ability to work with change it than we than we as clinicians initially thought and for all you out there listening you know we that we it's really empowering to know that this thing that rests between our ears does not drive our life that we can actually influence and change and and practice the art of self-regulation and so uh my interest in the brain began uh you know when i was younger and then all the way through medical school i was focusing on psychiatry and adolescent psychiatry really fell in love with neurodivergence and autism spectrum and then ended up deciding not to practice medicine my son was really sick at the time and so i decided to be home with him thought oh i'll go back to my residency and i fell in love with occupational therapy his occupational therapist changed our life she was the first to notice that uh he had autism spectrum disorder and so in sensory processing which at the time i was like what sensory what you know what sensory processing disorder and so i went back to school and became an ot and i practiced as a mental health ot for the uh last 12 years and it's been amazing and so and i still get to very much so for me uh focus on the brain focus on wellness focus on sensory modulation and sensory processing which is one of my passions and to help people really find a way to be more alive and well and vibrant in this life that we have and so i've worked as the life skills program director at an amazing facility in salt lake city called recovery waves i am their life skills program director and their and their ot and we have a team there we have you know two sensory rooms and a life skills room i went to them 12 years ago and i said hey i really want to build a sensor room there's some super cool research coming out of the east coast will you build me a sensory room and we can do a pilot study and they did and you know 11 years later we have a really robust life skills program over there and i'm really focused on outcomes because in the ot world there's just not a ton of outcomes in particular mental health and particularly in sensory mental health and so looking at the outcomes and then also as part of evidence-based practice looking at how are how are our patients doing do they like this work are they growing from this work obviously it for me as a clinician that's my main drive and passion and you know we get we get incredible outcomes from from this work and as we know there's no magic bullet to wellness but it's a really under utilized piece in my opinion to use our eight senses and the fact that our brains literally wrapped in our sensory organs and to be able to use them consciously thoughtfully and intentionally to move towards greater self-regulation to move towards wellness right in the dbt world they call it unwavering centeredness and i always tell my patients and my clients and myself like we're probably never going to arrive at unwavering centeredness but it's a beautiful practice to begin to take steps to be to learn to be able to regulate well and it's beautiful ideas that that center-ness right we've got this pendulum that's swinging and the idea is that we want to kind of maybe get less out here on the very end of the pendulum swinging and and more in the center but actually ever being centered seems to be a a target we miss a lot kind of part of life right yeah absolutely like just like you just mentioned like lessen the swings and then become but we still have a range like thank goodness because we're not automatons and robots thank goodness but having the range be well we just feel like we have additional tools to handle no matter what life throws our direction because i you know i say that one of the only things that's for sure in life is change and like another bump in the road right maybe it's different than the last 10 years of bumps in the road but to be able to have some skills and to be able to have like a lived experience in your body of let's say being angry and coming back to baseline coming back to non-angry states coming back to grounded states or being stressed out and then coming back to a grounded place without using right or without other maladaptive behaviors and so really to have our clients and our patients have a lived experience of self-regulation is tremendously powerful in the healing journey so i'm really curious you've got a pretty big spectrum starting with your own son that's that's on the autism spectrum of where you found that these sensory um skills are really super beneficial and making a huge difference and then it moved in because you started in mental health and then again in substance abuse there's a lot you know there's a lot an attention deficit is another one right these are major pieces of mental mental wellness that affect people and keep them from finding their center maybe talk about each one like how do you see it affecting people on the spectrum how do you know in benefits betting fit fitting them and i love that you're using you know best practice and you're researching it and those outcome measures because without that it's just you know your word against mine yeah you are or no you're not but when you have the numbers and you can really support that then it means something and then we have something to go on and something to replicate so talk about it in the autistic spectrum because we're having more and more kids born in that spectrum than ever before and a lot of it is that sensory stuff right they may be lower on the intensity level but but this the sensory stuff is really curious to me um and then maybe bring it into mental health and substance abuse yeah i mean it's great so if you google sensory rooms or snozzle and rooms um you'll see them mostly used in this country in the autism spectrum world that's where i was introduced to them i'm dating myself but like 20 some years ago now and uh and that's you know a lot of the research and a lot of the use um especially in the public comes through using these rooms with autism spectrum and and one of the and we're sort of moving out of that now europe has been using them for many decades in other areas and now we also the united states are catching up on using them in memory care and with cognitive impairment with um with substance use disorders with mental health challenges and so we're kind of we're seeing it broaden the use of these of the sensory rooms but you know one of the reasons why they i believe initiated in the autism spectrum in this country is because just like you mentioned shelley those those pretty um can be pretty intense sensory challenges in the autism spectrum world and so it and so neurodivergent right so autism spectrum and adhd and attention deficits uh intention challenges so um sensory overwhelm sensory sensitivity sensory shutdown so you know you see a lot of these you know sensory seeking and so you see these kind of four quadrants and so the sensor room gives you a place with with persons on the spectrum to work on that modulation being able to turn up or turn down the sensory input being able to be aware of what is if i'm the client what is my brain what what is the effect of the sensory stimulus do does it up regulate me does it down regulate me and starting to kind of also practice felt sense what does it feel like to be in my body what's the feelings and sensations in my body and often with autism spectrum that body schema piece is a challenge and so there's this really beautiful lovely playful non-judgmental kind of space that you create a sensory room to explore that and and you know it's really incredible um to see um a child let's say or a young adult that let's say i'm working with a young adult with autism spectrum disorder to be able to start to use his senses or her senses thoughtfully and consciously as a tool to stay regulated rather than i'm sort of simply bombarded by sensory input and it can send me into overwhelm or shut down and then you mentioned um in the mental health space like like i said a lot of times we'll see them in this country used in memory care units using for chronic pain management um and now since about the 2000s on the east coast we've been seeing them in the acute setting so acute psychiatric settings so we saw a decrease in the use of seclusion and restraints out of a study that came out in 2003 i believe and that's kind of what said i said hey let's look at this because at recovery ways we're not we don't do seclusion restraints but we have that level of dysregulated patience at times and so how can we provide them an environment where they can learn to de-escalate they can learn to return to that baseline to centeredness and groundedness because that is a key skill for long-term wellness and recovery right to be able to up regulate and down regulate right to be able to move my nervous system from parasympathetic to sympathetic and back to parasympathetic fluidly and easily right this is the practice we don't do this naturally and so the sensory room gives you a place again the input's not subtle you couldn't miss it if you tried and you know and what i would say is you don't have to have a sensory room to use these tools i'm sitting in my meditation room right now i don't have a sensor room in my home but i use a lot of sensory aspects in my home the things i know work for my brain and my body and so you get to have like it's also this really beautiful space that cultivates um playfulness and and levity and i think it's fabulous because healing is deep brave powerful sometimes really hard work well always really hard work and so it gives you this kind of levity and playfulness that i think clients and patients really appreciate and i'm like can we please add some levity and play into the healing process because it's so powerful when you do and if you're when i work with kids you have to have play as part of the healing process and then somehow we like suck at doing that as adults and so it's a really great space to kind of cultivate that playfulness oh that's fantastic i know that um i've been in at least you know one or two of the sensory rooms that i know that you've inspired if not even created and and the feel in those rooms is is so different than than you know any other room that i would go into because it's got colors it's got sounds it's got textures it's got spaces it's you know it's just all of these sensory pieces and so just to walk in the room goes oh i can relax right so i'm curious in using these sensory skills what are the results that you're finding in in the autism spectrum what are you seeing people you know really successfully being able to do so like success stories and then let's move kind of into the substance abuse or mental health realm yeah i mean it's great question so in so you know when i work with in the rooms with with adults or young adults or children with autism spectrum disorder what we'll see is um let's say they're sensory sensitive to a certain stimulus let's say tactile input for example so touch as you ground their nervous system maybe with some other sensory inputs like vestibular proprioception we get the brain more grounded and then we're able to attenuate and accommodate more sensory input so you're kind of it's a it's sort of a desensitization so that we can work on not being so um hypersensitive to let's say like the feeling of the tag in the back of my shirt you know and again you look at what's what's dis-regulating to the to the young adult or to the child and and what's socially maybe causing a challenge or relationally causing a challenge and then you can intervene at those spaces um and and they also i think also i have found that persons with with neurodivergence also feel empowered to explore their senses in this space where they may feel life is is overwhelming and bombarding their sensory and their sensory systems because we're literally being bombarded by sensory input constantly and some of us have better more more adept filters um than others that turning up or down the relevant stimuli um and so and then to your question shelly about the in mental health so substance use and mental health challenges um either or or both um and we do at recovery ways we have a mental health primary and then we have a dual diagnosis of substance use and mental health and we see this similar outcomes in either setting and we what i measure there is we have on every patient that comes into the sensory rooms which is a lot because we have a big team we have uh we measure their their starting they rate their anxiety their agitation their pain scale rating and their hopefulness and then at the end of the session 45 or 50 minutes later they re-rate that and so they get to see wow i came in at a 10 out of 10 super agitated today i'm leaving at a 2 out of 10 let's say that's a pretty common change and you get and then they get to say wow i did that i didn't use i didn't yell i didn't punch anything whatever other maladaptive strategies i may have been using before i did that in a healthy thoughtful conscious way and now i have more tools available to me the next time i'm feeling let's say agitated um and so you know so and then we get to so we help them see their change which is really empowering for them to say again this thing that rests between my ears can stay and re-regulate um because often they're using i find our patients are using their drug of choice to regulate their brain just in a less healthy way or to let's say feel more or feel less and so if they can start to have a lived experience in a healthy way and that resilience and that safety in the body then i have more more tools available to me the next time i'm triggered the next time i'm in deep encraving or or you know really angry or really stressed out or really sad or whatever it might be and so we see you know amazingly we see about a 58 to 62 reduction in each of those anxiety agitation about a 50 reduction in pain and about a 25 increase in hopefulness and that's pretty incredible i mean it's not the most uh robust for research because it's client report but as a clinician it's what i care about um what is the lived experience of my client or patient to be able to be able to stay regulated to stay grounded to re-regulate with with healthier strategies and so that's a really cool and then they also work on well what helped you today so let's say i went from a 10 out of 10 agitation to a 2 out of 10. and i leave the room and i don't have any idea what i did that worked that's less potent less transformative less impactful than if i can say oh you know today it was the blue lighting and this guided imagery or this cross-lateral exercise or a breath work or whatever it was you start to build a conscious toolkit of we call sensory motor strategies that work for your brain because like shelley and curt you guys would have two totally different sensory profiles if you have 10 people in the room you have 10 definitions of wellness and you have 10 sensory profiles and so really helping people get feel empowered to figure out what it is that works for their brain and their body and then to use those tools thoughtfully which is perfect because like what you said everybody is a little bit different everybody has a specific you know way that they see life or or their value systems or the things that are important to them all of that so being able to individualize that is super important and i do love i do love that you know that you're talking to the clients and yeah it's not as it's not as scientific that way but you know you're getting these results and they feel like it's a big deal and that's really what matters is what they believe and what they see and as you're talking about it i'm i'm thinking about the way the brain works and i know we're talking about how we can manage the brain but you know most people don't spend a lot of time talking about how that works in the brain but you're actually creating these new neural pathways of instead of using a drug to self-regulate you're creating a neural pathway that says and in that belief system of i can do this differently and now i have tools to do it and the more they practice that the more they engage in that then it just becomes a habit right it becomes a pattern in the brain and the other piece is that window of tolerance right where they would be out of that window of tolerance it would feel like they were going to die or they have to shut down and and stop completely now they've got this larger window of tolerance where they go no wait wait i got a tool for that i can bring it back in and not get out of control right and so it's really cool the way that brain works and understanding the functioning of the brain and how it reacts and how it's protective and how it's so incredibly adaptive um i think it helps take the shame out of it from my perspective of look this is the way a natural normal brain works and here's what you fed it now let's shift that a little bit so that it reacts a little bit you know it reacts in more more healthy ways and you're happier totally yeah and i think that's so beautifully said there's this kind of if we think of and i'm a total brainy so i'm like i'm gonna geek out with my clients but they i think they i find they really appreciate it because there's well knowledge is power in my opinion but also um we start like i said they start to learn that like oh i have these skills that this isn't this isn't hippy dippy whatever all the things i've heard this is actually based in neuroscience i mean i laughed my 17 year old was like mom this stuff actually works and i'm like yeah but it's called neuroscience you know but if you think about like just back to like if you just think about where the sensory inputs processed in the brain it's an incredibly powerful tool to it which is in the front part the thinking part of the brain if we're going to split the brain into conscious and unconscious um obviously it's more complicated than that but it's a it's a really powerful tool just by where the sensory input is processed in our brain to get us up into the thinking part of the brain and you know nobody likes to be eliminately oriented nobody says i made the best decision when i was super angry or you know gosh i was so thoughtful when i was really stressed out right and so any strategies we can have to get us back into the thinking part of the brain where we can use rational thought and weigh decisions and you know impulse control and all these things is really powerful uh you know like you mentioned in growing that window tolerance and finding ways to return uh to our baseline knowing that our baseline is in flux it's not like a set point it's like some days i'm higher energy than others and that's okay and you know and some days i'm lower energy and i can do things to increase my energy from like a neurologic arousal level or to calm my brain back to a more grounded state depending on what's needed so can i back up just a little bit for those of us who are non-therapists what's what's the sensory room include right what are the important elements there what does that session look like yeah great question so sensor is just a space that's designed intentionally our rooms are you know let's say 20 by 18 something like that um 20 feet by 18 feet but it can be any space so but the sensory rooms or snozzle rooms are designed so that um that you're working with all eight senses or you have the capacity to work with all 8 senses so you have sight sound smell taste and touch plus you have vestibular proprioceptive and then to receptive uh inputs so you have all these things available to you so it's designed with that in mind um it's also neurologically calming there's a lot of like rounded corners and in my sensor room the corners the carpet's black the walls are white so that when you use chromotherapy the lights you don't have the rooms the the floor sort of disappears kind of gives you this floating feeling and the light doesn't diffuse we have things in there like swings like therapeutic swings so you can get some vestibular and put some rocking input we use aromatherapy we use fidgets we use thera you know mermaid pillows and kinetic sand we have different oral inputs like hot really sour really spicy really minty we use a lot of hot cold ways to stimulate the vagus nerve um and so you're just basically taking all eight sensor all eight sensory systems and providing the ability to to alert or calm within each of those eight senses and people get to start to say hey yeah that really like i feel more calm with this input or actually i feel more uh more energized but that's a good thing right right there's a difference between energized and dysregulated and so and so and i would also say create the other thing is it gives you a a space to practice to say yeah this actually made me feel more grounded and calm or this actually like made me feel more energized and alerted and i'm starting to build these this tool kit thoughtfully and consciously because like i mentioned if you leave the room and you feel better and you have no idea why that's not actually an effective tool for you the next time maybe you're not in the sensory room and you're feeling x y or z so you've got kind of you've got to rope the cognitive part in right yeah so it kind of sounds like a big play room yeah the sound that sounds kind of like where you'd hold nursery or whatever but for adults um and i recognize five of those senses what are the other three yeah so that just they feel like everyone we only learn five in school sight sound smell taste and touch and then we have uh vestibular which is uh it happens in our inner ear but basically it's our equilibrium so our gaze relative to the horizon it's a very important to my sense of well-being like think about like after you get off a roller coaster for an extreme example of a lot of vestibular input you kind of feel like for most of it that's too much i mean that's a high dose of vestibular input so we kind of have this like whoa feeling afterwards right versus let's say like a rocking chair you know or a porch swing that has a really slow linear input tends to be grounding and organizing for most brains so there's vestibular and then there's proprioception which is the input into our joints so every joint in your body has proprioceptors but we have a higher density in our jaw in our hands and our neck and so we have these these stretch receptors that tell me where my body is in space with or without visual input it also tells me how hard like let's say for this t mug that i have here how hard do i have to pick it up without throwing the tee over my shoulder but also hard enough that i can get it off the table and i don't have to think about that this is mostly processed in unconscious parts of the brain um so the investigator and proprioception are almost always in tandem just how they're processed in the brain um and then enteroception is our our eighth sense and that's our my sense of like my body sense am i hungry am i full do i need to use the bathroom grooming and hygiene sense of time all of those are our interoception and so we work in all eight um all eight sensory systems and like you said kurt i love that because i it should look like and be playful like again back to that levity piece and yet there is there is thought and science behind why we're using what we're using um but it's a really common question i get from a lot of the parents like if i'm working with younger students they'll say it looks like you're just playing and i'm like perfect and definitely feel free to ask me why i'm doing why i'm choosing that um input what i'm going for what we're moving towards what sort of functional independence um and skill that we're moving towards but yeah there is an absolutely an element of play that's interesting and and and most of the people that we talk to and a lot of things that we're dealing with you know we hear a lot about emotions like it's just emotion emotion emotional motion and this is kind of a different level right that's instead of just learning to have emotional intelligence or balance your emotions these are other inputs that you're kind of constantly dealing with everybody's constantly dealing with them all day long and you don't necessarily notice it right like sometimes you might eventually feel that in your neck when it's tight or sore or whatever but this is kind of teaching an individual to recognize some of those senses early on is that accurate yeah absolutely like i love what you said like i think another reason why our clients really like this work is it's a bit of a cognitive break from all the other work i mean and don't get me wrong i mean i'm a therapist like the the we know we need the cognitive strategies for wellness for sobriety um you know just for for joy for life living a full quality life and if you look at the trend in let's say trauma-informed care um and and just the mental health trends in the last 10 years there's a huge uh growth and impetus to somatic strategy so of the body the soma of our body so getting out of this head and getting into my body building safety and resourcing resilience in the body um and and it and then so i like to think of it as a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach and we need both to me to me the like the the greatest healing and transformation the most sustained transformation happens when we have top down healing and bottom-up healing but the bottom-up feeling for a lot of clients feels like a little bit of a cognitive break so i find that they love that too they're like thank goodness for a break from you know look at my thinking errors or whatever it might be and just starting to build that feeling of safety and resourcing in the body and again for higher levels of trauma the body might not feel um like a safe place and so you get to really start to build but it's an important skill to rebuild that safety and resourcing resilience in the body and so we get we get a little bit of a non-cognitive space to work on building that back up yeah and these probably seem like super basic things to you right or or to therapists or whoever and i think to patients or clients or whoever whatever that term is that you might use these could easily be really groundbreaking things right because they're not things that are taught in school they're not things that are actually taught in the playroom where you might be able to earn learn some of this stuff early on um you know so like for me i didn't notice i got to the point in the last like year where i was getting pain in my back right had no idea where this was coming from and as i kind of went different directions whether it was chiropractics or talking to different individuals learned that really the pain in my back was stress right so i get stressed then my shoulders get tight and then that holds my back kind of quirky and so if i can just be aware of stress and then massage a shoulder the back pain goes away so it's kind of this weird connection right and so the things that you're talking to me kind of sound like that same type of chain of events um it always is interesting to me when i see somebody who's an md somebody who makes it all the way through medical school and then does this pivot right because to me it's because to me it's like that was a lot of work there hadn't there had to have been you know this major catalyst to say there's something more important right or there's something more interesting and so that's that that's fascinating to hear as part of your story how do you feel as an occupational therapist that that background changes the way that you approach what you do compared to you know other therapists yeah it's a great question i mean i don't know very many md turned ods so i think i'm pretty rare i think i'm very rare um but i think it's um i believe so much that i mean i love education i love to learn i mean i you should see maybe my bookshelves and like still i hope i'm learning and growing and building new skills for myself and therapeutically for my clients to till my last breath and so i've always just been really driven to learn and i love school i mean i think i'm a perpetual student um and so i you know my medical degree i love the science it makes me more sound in the science it makes me more deeply rooted in the science i had six years of um training you know in the body and in the brain in western medicine and then for me occupational therapy and it's not a better or worse thing like i know tons of i mean most of my friends are from i mean are md's they practicing physicians i have the md hanging on my wall and have never been a practicing physician um but i think for me occupational therapy was a more holistic way to work with the brain and the body and the person it allowed me to bring in more creativity often western medicine can be pretty prescriptive and and i love western medicine i have nothing but like joy and honor and admiration for western medicine and i love for me that ot allowed it to be like let's get into the nuances of the nitty-gritty and then just logistically and you all know in the billing space i get longer with my clients because of an ot versus an md um i you know i mean they don't they say they don't dictate it but let's be honest like right there is like that like so i can have as long as i believe is clinically medically necessary um and so for me that gave me a greater depth um a great ability to build that rapport with my clients um and so it just was a better a better fit for me um but i definitely believe it made me a better occupational therapist you know i mean i use it in all of my spaces and then i also love that in the mental health and substance use and mental health space the dual diagnosis space that my team because we're all occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants also get to do all the other things that ots do that maybe md wouldn't let's say trigger point release or pain management k taping tens units all you know looking at the ergonomics the biomechanics being able to touch like therapeutically in a healthy way to touch the client to figure out is there a trigger point here going on here how are you lifting sleeping bending twisting we get to look at all those other areas that for me again really deep in that we're talking about wellness and you're talking let's say we're talking about chronic pain how do you sleep ben twist what do you how do you bend down and wash your like foot in the shower like all these things that sound very simple but actually can show us these entry points to where we can help make a difference let's say with pain management so many aspects of people's lives that you touch and so i can see why you would have made a shift like that and then but your background in mental health and and you know biology and all of those things you you learned in medical school totally translate into what you're doing here and make you you know even have a better perspective of what's going on and how to help somebody yeah i think so and i think i think it's also a cool a cool story like it's like find your north star like i had wanted to be a doctor since i was five if you had told me what i i'm 44 if you told me when you're 44 you're not going to be a practicing physician you will actually have never practiced medicine and you know all the other things i would be divorced and have one child i mean all and i wanted to be married and four children all these things and yet i my life is so incredibly amazing um with its joys and its challenges both uh and so i think you just never like i just believe in finding like what's in integrity for you if it doesn't make anything right or wrong i don't really like operate like that it's more like what's what's your north star what feels aligned for you and then go do that you know which is sometimes it's not as tangible right it's a journey and it's being able to enjoy the journey of how you're getting there and honoring you know what what brings you joy and and thank goodness we have this amazing journey we all get to be on totally i mean that i have control like they'll say like i'm too old to do this now and i'm like no no no no like i do you know i i think that for me like i said i'm 44 you know the last from 30s on for me and i hope from 50s on for me i like i said of learning and growing who knows maybe i'll change careers again you know but it's just like i love that you said it's a journey and then finding and then never feeling like you're too old for something i mean that that's a social construct that like really needs to go it's really outdated it's like you know how it's what what lights you up from the inside out i mean that's that's really what we're talking about and i believe that wellness is a piece of that right we we can't when we're not if we're using a substance or just let's just say like it hanging out our limbic system we can't i think it's rene brown says we're not evolved enough to just like blunt the like negative emotions like we can't just blunt and not feel grief or pain or sadness or anger when we blunt our emotional experience we're blunting the whole thing we're blunting joy and bliss and vibrancy and all and love and all the things that we label as good just as much as we're blunting the things that we label as bad and so really starting to be able to feel like this body and this brain and like connect head and and body like so many of us are walking around like literally like disconnected at our neck right and whether that's trauma or substance use or just like pandemic collective stress or whatever it might be particularly in the last 15 months with the pandemic we have literally been in isolation yet we are absolutely hardwired to be in community and connection and so whatever it might be we really walk around like head separated from bodies so any of these practices that can more deeply connect you to your body are incredibly life transformative well mindset's interesting um this is a super divergence but it's kind of i'm going to take it there because of what you're talking about right now there if you learn about ted kaczynski he lived in an 8x8 box intentionally for like 25 years right he thrived he wrote his like manifesto or whatever as soon as he was arrested he gets put in an 8x8 box and he's just miserable right and there's this mindset of like choosing to be there versus being forced to be there and and and one of the things that i saw on the website that i think is really cool because you're talking about you know this sensory room where where there's all this experimenting and learning and you know grasping kind of a new concepts thing but the intent is really to be able to create this sanctuary within right where you're testing those little things and then being able to take those out cognitively into your regular life and when you're having an overload or one of those pendulum swings um being able to kind of simplify and ground back to square one that's really cool right um and then just to kind of clarify maybe for listeners you've got it sounds like you're still working are you full-time at recovery ways and have this kind of full plate there or no no so i've always been an independent contractor there i've been there from the beginning for 11 years uh that you know i have a huge soft spot for microwaves it's an incredible facility i have an amazing team and i believe they do phenomenal work in the mental health and in substance use disorder space but i also do this in other areas and i lecture and teach on this and i also um because of 12 years of clients of college therapists saying in the mental health bay hey we want to learn about this like how do we learn about this and and really not having just a big need that i saw we finally about a year and a half ago now created an online training program so that clinicians as well as public like our clients when they let's say when they discharge for aftercare et cetera can access these teaching modules um online evergreen um that they can then and then for the clinicians they can um earn ceus for social work or occupational therapy um but that was kind of really creative because it was like i want to keep doing this and so that and then i so that's also what led to me lecturing um and doing ceu events on this topic because it's something that is really near and dear to my heart and i believe incredibly certainly not a magic bullet there is no such thing in the world of wellness but a very underutilized easy to access because we're always in touch with our senses tool to practice self-regulation and that's through sensory work yeah so that's a sensory works recovery on the website there's an online learning uh and we do we partner with c4 for our online learning management system that's awesome to be in a position though where you have kind of like a um facility or a clinical kind of place to be able to test some of those ideas also the ability to be able to teach you know take some of that tracking and and statistical stuff that you're getting from patients to say okay here's what we're learning you know now everybody else can try this go out into your individual facilities bring that input back and and kind of push the push the limit there or push the push kind of the status quo i guess yeah totally and sensory isn't new in the mental health world right it's a big part of dbt somatic experiencing emdr brain spotting i mean it's so it's not a new concept what i think the um i think my perspective as an ot ads is like the sensory processing sensory modulation aspect like how do we um take our senses and use them thoughtfully consciously to to practice what i call the art of self-regulation again it's not a set point we don't arrive that would be awesome if we did but we know we don't but we start to think of it as a practice and then you know a big part of that is that we start to think of self-care as absolutely essential critical mandatory not optional not at the bottom of my to-do list not i'll do that when i'm done with x y and z because that list can be really long but that wow taking care of myself and taking care of my brain and body actually allows me to give and love and support others my clients my family my partner or whatever from a place of fullness rather than from a place of exhaustion i think that's a really key piece for everyone listening to is that how do you practice self-care and how do you put self-care as not luxury as essential and that that changes that's a really transformative principle when it's a difficult one too because it's like you said it's essential that yet when we're taking care of us we usually put it at the bottom of our list of i'll get to that and if i don't get to that it's just me that gets affected but you get affected right and and i think it's a struggle we all have of figuring out what is a what does a balance look like because you know it's it and it's like you said when you find that that north star that thing that just drives you then you're getting self-care at the same time as you're helping other people and it becomes this becomes this much better balance as opposed to what you talked about when we're cut off from all of our emotions right spent the last i don't know 50 somewhat years trying to numb ourselves from the pain of death and the pain of you know the pain of hurt and and all of the hard things that come along in life not realizing that those are the very things that make us grow that help us be better and and more resilient and like you have to have that contrast right and so now it's this big movement of no pain is important and it's a matter of learning how to manage that and and emotional pain and feeling those hard things and experiencing death right experiencing somebody's death and doing that with them and moving through that and not just saying put them in a room and let them die but somebody else take care of them i can't feel that in it right there's there's growth in that and there's comfort in that and there's for some it's a very sacred experience and so getting back to a place where you have to be able to feel those heart emotions like it's part of the growth process so anyway i love hearing that i mean our whole body say you'll die if you have to experience that but the the reality is you're probably going to die if you don't ever allow yourself to go through it not just to you know feel it and feel those heart emotions and then figure out how i'm going to make this go away but to feel it and move through it which is a lot of what you're talking about totally i mean i love that because i like one of my favorite things to say is like we don't grow in our comfort zone we literally grow at our edges of comfort but there's being thoughtful and and tender with our edges versus like blowing through our edges which is just more trauma to our nervous system so like but but knowing that our edges are literally like our brain says unfamiliar danger right but actually unfamiliar is uh some of the time and a lot of time for being thoughtful about it unfamiliar is a sweet spot to be unfamiliar it's just because you can have familiar dysfunctional and the brains like oh it's familiar it's familiar it's familiar right so knowing that unfamiliar i call it like fun comfortable is going to feel a little uncomfortable but just maybe those are your edges and that's where we grow we grow we don't grow in our comfort zone um and i also love what you said too shelly that like pain is a powerful amazing potent teacher and so is joy and so how do we like experience and and bring in place in space for both of them um and not get stuck in pain or hyper focused on joy where we're just like ignoring the pain right because it's the flip side of the same coin and so how do we build this resiliency to be in middle ground with our emotions to feel our emotions all the way through and not get stuck or drown in any of them right so to know that like it's pema children who's one of my favorite teachers um in in the buddhist world but she says that it's literally like the weather our emotions are like the weather they're gonna come and go and so we get to start to practice that yeah that's fantastic i love it um okay so as we're talking about this and and kind of you know getting a grasp on the the power of being able to learn to regulate and learn to accept and embrace and and do that self-care i imagine that there's a ton of people that are going to want to go no i want to do sensory work i want to do it right now how do we get how do we get that and and i you know as i'm listening to you someone who's you know maybe on the autism spectrum needs a very different experience than someone who's doing you know adhd or substance abuse recovery how how do people not only find you because i want to know how they can find you but how do they also get connected with a sensory space that's going to work for them um what i would say you can definitely find me at there's also like mention information if you click on online learning there there's the online learning program that does offer ceus for national and for the state of utah a certificate of completion as well for occupational therapists and social workers and then also for other mental health professionals they would just get the nesw ceus um and it was important to me to be able to add the ces we went through the rigorous let's get these approved and things like that um application process so we can offer ceus um so that's one way um and that's also for public so for any of you listening like we created a professional track and a public a lay person track so that you can say hey what did she say something about vestibular i have no idea what that is and so you can go and for those are really short courses for the public what is vestibular how can i use it thoughtfully and consciously and then we do eight all the eight senses and then we do a sensory diet a sensory kit and then alerting strategies and calming strategies so that's all on there definitely my website since three works recovery has a lot more information about it and please email me this is my passion it's like you can store me at o s-t-o-r-m-y um any questions if you're like oh this came up you know i want to ask this or how do i apply this to my life like i am happy to answer any and all questions that you have and i'm on linkedin as well very amazing and then to your question shelly about how do they if you know because i'm not the only one doing this and i want you to find what's of support to you i would say like if it works keep it if it doesn't like let it go if it works what i'm saying works for you use it if it doesn't like let it go find your own like journey towards wellness um you can like there's a lot of sensory you could google sensory kit for adults um amazon has them you can find different aspects but what i would say is if you take nothing else from this podcast today is start to be like thoughtful how do i use my senses both healthy ways and unhealthy ways um how do i use my senses am i even thoughtful about have i ever even thought about that did i know i have eight senses so just starting to bring a curiosity um and a lens a sensory lens to you know because our our senses are an incredible way to build pleasure to feel pleasure like to wait so you could be like deeply in pleasure whatever kind of pleasure and not even know it so there's two things there's the sensory perspective of it and then there's the mindfulness the the realizing you know taking a sip of tea and actually really being present with your sip of tea is pleasure and so the more we start to like exercise this pleasure muscle in life the more joy and vibrancy we feel and this is at any stage of our healing process so that's what i would say is just be pay attention to your senses how you use them in thoughtful and maybe less thoughtful ways and to just take set up timer for five minutes and pay attention to what you see what you hear what you smell what you touch and start to notice does that feel good to you does that not feel good to you either it's fine you're just trying to build that kind of awareness oh it's beautiful and and it seems so simple right it's like that so simple thing that that can't be enough that it has to be harder than that to get healing from it right but really it's very simple it's as simple as taking a breath and noticing right so i love the way you kind of spell that out because you know self-care doesn't have to be long and drawn out it can be a minute it can be 30 seconds i mean i've heard military people say we didn't have any time we just had 30 seconds so we would do that frequently through the day so i i love the simplicity of it and um such a powerful work i'm so appreciative to your efforts and your work and how many lives it's changed because i've i mean i've run into people that have talked about the benefits of it i had one one owner um just take me through the sensory room so proud and so incredibly honored to have this room and their in their treatment and and how helpful it is to people you know and so it's really cool to see that happen with your years of work and and getting it out there so thanks stormy

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