Antioch University Seattle Psychology Student Achieves Certification in Holotropic Breathwork

Antioch University Seattle Psychology Student Achieves Certification in Holotropic Breathwork

One of only 1,150 certified facilitators worldwide; to publish article in psychology journal

Seattle, Washington– Antioch University Seattle (AUS) student Laurel Watjen, a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Masters candidate, recently completed training and certification as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator through Grof Transpersonal Training. Laurel is one of only 1,150 facilitators worldwide who hold the certification.

Developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina, Holotropic Breathwork uses deeper, faster breathing and evocative music to help people access a non-ordinary state of consciousness. While in this state, an individual can explore and release deeper areas of the unconscious that may be the root cause of a conscious psychological issue.

“The idea is to make the unconscious conscious to heal what’s happening inside,” Watjen said. “Breathwork is a way to do that that bypasses the logically-thinking mind, allowing more ready experience of deeper emotional states that are harder to access through verbal therapy alone.”

Beginning in 2010, Laurel attended seven week-long residential training modules and a two-week certification intensive. With AUS Psychology alum Glenn Girlando, M.A. (1998), she co-facilitates workshops in Seattle and Bellingham, and co-manages Breathwork Northwest, a non-profit dedicated to supporting individual, community, and global healing by increasing the awareness and availability of Holotropic Breathwork in the Northwest.

It is within the context of group workshops that Watjen facilitates the breathwork experience, which involves a three-hour session where an individual goes through a series of carefully-selected music that evokes emotion. Each individual undergoing a breathwork exercise has a “sitter” nearby to attend to any needs the “breather” may have while undergoing the session.

“The idea is that we all have an inner healer that knows exactly what we need,” she said. “The breathwork itself is simple – it’s not really about the breathing, but about the effect the breathing has on your psyche: reducing cognitive defenses and allowing more ready access to unconscious material.

That effect changes some of the chemistry in the brain and puts individuals into a non-ordinary state of consciousness. The session concludes with mandala work, a form of art therapy, as a symbolic bridge back into “regular thinking” mode and to translate visually what the individual experienced while engaged in the workshop.

Holotropic Breathwork is based on five decades of practical application, research and observations, and has the potential to become mainstream because of the strong success Watjen feels her clients experience. Her research paper, Holotropic Breathwork as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy, is slated to be published in the Journal of Transpersonal Research this October.

“This is not “new age” – there is a scientific basis, which I appreciate as a future therapist,” she said. “This is what made me decide to go to graduate school.”

After graduating from Antioch University Seattle, Watjen’s goal is to work in private practice as a therapist where she can continue to facilitate breathwork workshops, but also offer more support to people outside that context. To achieve that goal, the 47 year-old mother of one from Bellingham commutes 100 miles to AUS once or twice a week, which allows her to balance her studies between her job, a family, and running the Breathwork non-profit.

“I could attend the local university in my town, but I love the way Antioch University is people-focused, she said. “It’s perfectly geared for adult learners, professors know who I am, I have relationships with them, and I’m not lost in the shuffle.”

And although the breathwork certification was not provided by AUS, Watjen applies its teachings to her coursework. For example, an assignment on post-traumatic stress disorder offered ways to tie in Watjen’s work with breathwork, making the accomplishment relevant to her coursework and her specific direction after graduation in 2016.

“I love that every class I take provides opportunities to tailor assignments to things that are personally relevant to me,” she said.

Learn more about our Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

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