Meet Gloria Bernard. (she/they)
Gloria Bernard doesn’t look at mental health and physical health as two separate entities– but rather as one unified system.
In that way she has a holistic approach to therapy. Gloria has an impressive therapeutic education background: She’s a board certified, registered art therapist and a licensed professional counselor. Her master’s degree is from New York University, and she’s a level 1 certified Kundalini yoga practitioner. This multi-faceted background brings a fresh approach to helping people heal, both mentally and physically.
A Whole Body Approach to Therapy
“Mental and physical health have always been interconnected. When we practice things like breath control, meditation, and making art, these things have a direct and immediate effect on our nervous system.
One of the most powerful tools you have is your own breath. Breath work activates the parasympathetic nervous system. With consistent practice it can reduce anxiety, improve immune response, sleep, and gut health.
Our bodies also speak to us through symbols that come out through simple drawings or doodles, different creative processes, and in our dreams. These gifts of emotional awareness give us clues about what the psyche is trying to bring to our consciousness.”
For example, a simple and fun art therapy exercise to try is scribbling, doodling, and drawing with both hands at the same time. Using your non-dominant hand gives your brain a great workout—providing spontaneity in creative expression that helps people let go of judgement or fear. And it increases activity in the part of your brain that connects the two hemispheres, the corpus callosum.
The Power of Breathing
You’ve probably heard the benefits of taking a few deep breaths when you’re stressed. Regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing) reduces anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is important—many people who have experienced trauma are in constant states of hyperarousal (aka the fight, flight or freeze response) activating the sympathetic nervous system. When this happens chronically over time—hijacking our nervous system—it weakens our immune response, increases inflammation and interferes with digestion by moving blood from the gut to the larger muscles.
Even those who aren’t experiencing acute stress or PTSD may be accustomed to chest breathing. We are born with the ability the breath diaphragmatically. Over time as we age, we are told to “suck in your gut”—which looks like taking an inhale as you draw your navel in towards the spine and puff out the chest. We don’t realize how counterproductive this is! Chest breathing creates muscle tension, allowing less oxygen to enter the blood & hurting digestion. This leads to discomfort, pain and anxiety.
How to breathe diaphragmatically:
- Sit or recline in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand over your chest, and the other hand just above your belly button, below your rib cage.
- Inhale slowly through your nose. Extend your inhale 3-5 seconds. Your hand on your chest should remain still, as you feel your belly rise with your other hand. Don’t force or push your abdominal muscles outward.
- Exhale slowly through your nose. Extend your exhale 5-7 seconds. Notice your navel drift back towards your spine. The hand on your chest should remain relatively still.
If this feels awkward, you are probably accustomed to breathing to your chest. Start slow & practice regularly!
“I encourage every person who seeks therapy, who seeks healing—to face themselves completely as they are when they step foot into session.” says Gloria.
“I’ve found in my journey to becoming a therapist and being an artist—that it isn’t about being “good enough” or “ready”. I always thought that there would be this epiphany—where I would feel ready, ready enough to be a therapist, ready enough to create art, or ready enough to assist in guiding others on their healing journey. The fact is that feeling is a lie and there is no epiphany. The readiness comes in my willingness to act. I believe that every person I work with has that willingness, to create, to heal, and to act.”
Gloria approaches therapy with transparency and authenticity. “I have a desire to connect with the people I work with and actively participate in the chaos and creativity of healing. I empower people to find their voice, to write and re-write their narratives, and to find compassion for themselves through it all.”
Not Your Typical Therapy Session
This approach to therapy means that sessions may look different than what you might expect from a typical therapy session. For example, clients may be encouraged to make a mess with art supplies, move around the room, sit on the floor. Or a client may be guided through a meditation with visualizations. Gloria’s sessions are customized for each of her clients. This allows therapy to take on a more relaxed atmosphere and may feel less intimidating for some. It is also creating new experiences for the client to integrate into their self-narrative.
Caring for your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it could even be the key to improving your overall wellness. Whatever healing modality you choose, make sure it works for you.”
Gloria Bernard provides services in the Park Ridge, Oak Park, and Chicago offices. To find out more or schedule an appointment, email email@example.com or call us at 847-759-9110.