Using Mindfulness in OT Intervention — my ever-evolving opinion

updated: 2/8/2019

I date this because, my goal in this life is to evolve — to always be changing, learning, growing — to always be a student of this life. So naturally, by tomorrow, this opinion I will share with you may shift, change, evolve — I hope that it does, for this will mean I am shifting as well.

I write this at the one-year anniversary of me discovering and beginning my mindfulness practice. I have been intentionally seeking myself and healing through a mindfulness practice for an entire calendar year — and oh, what a journey it has been.

I have healed things and traveled through pains that I was previously terrified to touch. I’ve touched true emotions of sadness, joy, and yes — even true anger in their purest forms for the first time in my life. I have observed patterns I was stuck in subconsciously, due to old wounds and childhood traumas. It’s been a heavy and beautiful, challenging and rewarding, work.

This is me — finding mindful space in my meditation practice on a sunny Christmas day last year in Colorado — always a student…

When I was recording an episode of The Occupied Podcast, with Brock Cook — we started talking about a brochure I received in the mail advertising a two-day mindfulness course for occupational therapists. We asked the question, “Can OTs use mindfulness with clients if they do not practice mindfulness themselves?”

I left the question open during our podcast recording, and recently I posed the question to all my followers (mostly OTs) on the Life’s Occupation’s Instagram page. The overwhelming answer I got back was, “no” — they said, “no,” “nope,” “no you can’t do that,” “no that wouldn’t be safe,” — interesting…

After a year, I’ve just begun to feel slightly comfortable using my experience and my mindfulness with those around me — family, friends, and my occupational therapy clients. Which is why this “2-Day Mindfulness Course” offering really threw me.

What are these people teaching in two days — after I have been through weekly meetings with my teacher, Kristina, and a year of dedicated, challenging daily mindfulness practice, and I am just BEGINNING to feel ready to lead others and hold safe space for their mindfulness.

I turned to my teacher, who herself has been practicing mindfulness for 20+ years. Her response sums it up for me and her words feel good to sit in when I am considering using mindfulness with my clients —- she says, “Ah — I strongly believe and the research I’ve found is that it needs to be integrated and practiced on a daily level to then guide others best. A two day course is a great start — and as we (you) know from your work, it’s a more complex system”

For me, the integration portion of her message is the most important. You see, mindfulness is a process. First, there is awareness, then there is work that is done to integrate what you learn out of your awareness.

Which leads me to more questions, big questions;

How am I to hold and guide someone through anger and grief, if I myself have not held my own anger and grief?
How am I to hold and guide someone’s pain — emotional and physical, if I myself have not held my emotional and physical pain?

If I do not know myself, how can I maintain groundedness while diving into the deep of someone else’s journey — grounded enough to end that connection when the session is over and show up for the next client as fully as I did the last? (this is my current work and practice!)

And, this is my dilemma with mindfulness in OT practice.

It’s a dilemma I am constantly ebbing and flowing through, and sometimes battling with — on a daily basis. In my OT practice and my life — there are constantly opportunities and conversations I am ready for as a mindful practitioner, and even more consistently, opportunities I am not prepared for. I find beauty both moments — as my awareness means I am showing up to my mindfulness practice with a heightened awareness of the present moment and heightened awareness of my beautiful, newly formed skills. All of this while finding and maintaining my boundaries, which protect not only myself, but those I am serving.

This is why I (currently) believe that in order to safely utilize mindfulness with our clients, we first, need to have a daily, integrated, mindfulness practice — “Healer, Heal Thyself.”

Message me if you have your own mindfulness practice that you have been able to use in your client’s sessions. Message me if you feel you are ready to find a practice, or if you just have questions. I would love to connect. My practice changes my life daily, and I feel it changing my occupational therapy practice with every new client interaction and connection.

My (personal) Beef with Chemicals

A quick tip for reading this blog: when there is a linkclick it!

Read the research/article then or bookmark it for later. My research is linked throughout this blog and I made sure to include resources you could read and use. I also encourage you to do your own research on sites like PubMed with keywords like (“phthalate“, “paraben“, “triclosan” “personal care products”). THEN, research your current products — use the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Think Dirty apps to scan your products and see what’s in them. This will help guide you if you decide to take action after reading all of this!

Let’s start with how I got here — writing a blog about the not so joyous topic that is chemical safety.

As many of you know, I have been on a dedicated mission over the past 5 years to rid my household and my beauty products of harmful chemicals and toxins. I initially started down this road because I was breaking out with contact dermatitis and dermatographia — two condition that cause welts to form on your skin — your skin itches, you itch it, and then welts start to form wherever you scratched or made “contact.” This prompted me to switch out my laundry detergent to Seventh Generation and from there it all began.

To be honest, at first, I thought it was just me and the fact that I have sensitive skin. I figured that chemicals are cool for everyone to use unless you had sensitive skin. But after going down the rabbit hole that is chemical safety research — I found the absolute opposite to be true.

Slowly but surely I began switching to safer products. I was doing pretty well and I was content with where I was at. I figured you can’t protect yourself from everything and I became complacent, to be honest.

THEN, Last year, after falling ill and spending hundreds of dollars of testing to figure out what was happening in my body, I discovered I have autoimmune issues. I struggled for months to get everything under control, I could not believe with how conscious I was with my health, that this was happening. During this time, any products that remained in my home with harmful chemicals were out — some of them literally went down the drain. I again dove into the research — I wanted facts on what was true, data-based, and proven about what was in my products and what they were doing to my body.

Here’s a summary of what my research found:

How Environmental Toxins Can Impact Our Health

Not all chemicals are bad… In fact, the human body is made up of many chemicals – it’s the toxic or harmful chemicals that we need to be educated on.

These are substances that can cause neurological, immune, and biological toxicity, altering how our body functions in a biological manner potentially causing numerous conditions from autoimmune disorders, endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances to cancer and issues with fertility.

Personal Care Products Enter our Bloodstream

through our skin + the air

Our skin is our largest organ and is accepts whatever we put on it! This includes everything you put on your skin, eyes, nails, etc.

Chemicals can also enter through the air and can be as toxic as second-hand smoke. (Don’t get me started on Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle, it gets ugly — but read more about it here — there are research articles linked throughout). Candles are a great example of airborne chemicals, so are face (makeup) and baby powders — when you apply it you naturally inhale it.

This is NOT About Skin Irritation

Most products will not cause an immediate allergic reaction unless you are allergic to a specific chemical.

It’s about the chronic long-term exposure of using multiple products each with dozens of chemicals that add up and cause biological harm on our systems.

Some statistics about our current health:

Our Government and the FDA look out for these things, right?

WELL! you would think… but here are some not so fun facts;

There is Regulation

(but don’t get too excited…)

Current Regulation in the United States

  • It is currently completely legal for companies to use thousands of harmful chemicals in our personal care, cosmetics products and home cleaning products. Even if the ingredient is linked to cancer or autoimmunity or reproductive harm – there are no repercussions from the government for selling these chemicals to consumers.
  • The last time a major federal law was passed governing safety regulation was 1938 for this modern day $60 Billion industry.
  • Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into the marketplace since then, the vast majority of them have had no or very limited safety testing
    • Less than 1/3 have publicly available safety data
    • Less than 2% are verified safe for use on children
    • The current regulation is only 1 ½ pages long and only bans or restricts the use of 30 chemicals (1 ½ pages of regulation for over 80,000 chemicals… what?)
    • FDA is unable to verify safety before a product hits the market
    • FDA is unable to issue product recall for known harmful products – you read correctly — if LEAD IS FOUND in a batch of children’s lotions or in women’s lipsticks, the company is not required to recall the product and the FDA cannot call for the products to be recalled either — SO who is in charge here?

What to Look For in Products

  • Supplier screening and consistent quality audits – the supplier needs to be screening their own final products because if they are not, no one else is. 
  • Heavy metal testing
  • EWG Skin Deep Database Verification (Download the App or visit their website)
  • B Corp certified companies
  • Safe Packaging – BPA (bisphenol-A) free and safer plastics, FSC certified paper, and glass

With 80,000 unregulated chemicals, where do I start?

Here are chemicals that are easy to check for on labels and are some of the most harmful:


(Most often found hiding in “Fragrance”)

Endocrine and reproductive hormone disruptors. Commonly found in personal care products like lotions, moisturizers, body wash, hair care, and nail polish. They are one of the more toxic ingredients in PVC plastics which you find in shower curtains.


Parabens are used to prevent the formation of bacteria and mold. Brands source seemingly innocuous ingredients such as grapefruit seed extract or aloe vera that have been preserved using parabens. The ingredient label does not have to disclose this, and it can still legally state the product as preservative and paraben free


Fragrance goes by many names — Parfum, Perfume, Scent — listing “Fragrance” as an ingredient is an industry secret. This works because the industry can currently legally list thousands of undisclosed and untested chemicals under the term “fragrance”. It’s best to source products that contain natural fruit or plant extracts as the scent and have them clearly disclosed on the label.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are most prominent in makeup, face paint, and children’s toys. They are often found in cosmetics like mineral makeup which is likely to pick up heavy metals during the sourcing process.

WHOA – so much.

If you just need to process all of that for now, I get it. It took me weeks to process and it made it hard to use anything in my home or on my body for a long time — I was truly paranoid checking labels and just felt so overwhelmed. It took a while before I could act.

If you would like to make some safer switches, head over the Clean + Conscious Products blog to start the process. It was a slow process for me at first because of the cost. But I’ve got some great ideas on where to start and some amazing product recommendations to make it easy for you.



Human infertility: are endocrine disruptors to blame?

Endocrine and Hormone Disruptors

BPA + Endocrine/Hormone Disruption

EU’s Ban on Phthalates

Little Ones

Exposure to Environmental Endocrine Disruptors and Child Development

Childhood Cancer – More Evidence Points to Chemical Exposure


Breast cancer + Personal Care Products

Chemical Safety in the Mainstream Press

CBS: Phthalates: Are They Safe?

TIME Magazine: The Hidden Dangers of Makeup and Shampoo

TIME Magazine: How the Government Can Help Prevent Your Makeup From Harming You

COSMO: 10 American Beauty Ingredients That Are Banned in Other Countries

Sante Fe Birthday

This birthday was one for the books. Okay, maybe not The Books, but in my book it was the best one yet. I promise you, I do not say this every year.

My birthday is very close to Thanksgiving, sometimes falling on the actual holiday, and typically it gets kind of shmushed in with family time and celebrating Thanksgiving. None of which I mind — having pumpkin pie for your birthday cake with all of your favorite loved ones is a win win for me.

But this year was different. We again, chose not to travel home for the holiday so celebrated my birthday just the two of us this year. Don’t let me fool you — there was a big November birthday celebration earlier this month that involved wigs and breweries and bikes that I wont go into here (Brendan’s 30th was celebrated there as well! — so fun).

So this year I decided to plan my own birthday weekend with exactly what I wanted to do and my husband helped make it happen. We ended up doing what we do best — roadtripping — and headed from Denver down to Sante Fe.

Our first stop was Meow Wolf which I have wanted to visit for a couple years — it was beyond expectations. If you don’t know, Meow Wolf is an immersive art experience/installation. It is so big and so cool. I am almost speechless, big and cool are the only words I can use. It was just beyond words. It was 10,000% worth the the 2 hours we waited in line (holiday weekends, it just is what it is).

As soon as we thought we had seen the entire thing, we stumbled upon a new room. There is a story/mystery that goes along with it that you can find clues to solve — we were there for almost 4 hours and barely made a dent. I had read online prior to our visit that some spend 2-3 days in Sante Fe, going each day to Meow Wolf and I thought this was a bit much, but now I can see why. I wish we had more time to explore and we will absolutely go back a second, maybe even a third time. I chose not to post too many photos of the exhibit so you can go support the artists and see for yourselves!

That evening we stayed in Madrid, about 30 minutes outside of Sante Fe in the most amazing Earthship. If you don’t know what an Earthship is (I didn’t until a few years ago) — it is a house that uses passive solar for energy and does not have plumbing or any reliance on fossil fuels. It is “off the grid” living at it’s finest.

Typically they are built from resources from the surrounding earth. The one we stayed in was built from earth and straw with upcycled pieces used for cooking and access to water. The water source was rain water they collected and filtered and all of the lights we used throughout the night were solar charged battery powered which had been charging all day for us.

The house was rented to us through AirBnb and one of many structures on a 38-acre plot of land. The owners run a sustainable living school — Ampersand — where they host students and volunteers to share how to live sustainably. It was hard leaving and going back to our normal routines — it truly made our level of consumption evident after leaving such a simple way of living. And when I say simple — there wasn’t anything that was simple, really, everything was rigged in a creative way that created as little waste aspossible. Even the bar that you held onto to climb up into the lofted bed was an upcycled old road bike handle bar! It was obvous the work it would take to sustain a property like this, but it seemed to run flawlessly.

You can proabably imagine the stellar desert views from their property — but they were truly awe inspiring, the photos do none of it justice. The best view however were the stars at night. I have never experienced such a vast, glowing sky. We had fun with a healthy balance of quiet meditation and using our skymapper app to guess and check which constellations and planets were which — so much fun.

The next morning we hiked around their property to take it all in before we headed out. We stopped to have breakfast and shop in Taos. SO MANY BASKETS. Thankfully I only ended up buying two, but I could have bought eight — easily. I also found a beautiful piece smokey quartz that I cannot wait to add to my set-up in my reading room at home.

This trip was as much as a birthday trip as it was a getaway retreat for my husband and I. We are both learning more about ourselves and about our relationship together. Having the semi-unplugged time together was really beautiful. We had beautiful conversations about what we are learning about ourselves and about how we show up in the world. I think this these conversations were by far my favorite part.




big sur backpacking

this trip was, by far, one of the coolest things we’ve done to date. we road tripped the central coast of california stopping in monterey, san luis obisbo, and santa barbara. we kicked off the week with a 2-day backpacking trip in big sur. Continue reading “big sur backpacking”

borrego springs

after one of the most relaxing, perfectly unproductive holiday seaons we’ve ever had, i needed to get out of the house! this short day trip to Borrego Springs from San Diego was the perfect little day trip and an amazing hike.

i cannot describe how beautiful the desert colors are and my photos truly do not do this park justice.

the trail is called Borrego Palm Canyon and was easily accessible with the trailhead off of a campground — vehicle entry and $5.

a family we spoke too said it is their tradition to do the hike yearly around the holidays and usually they see wildlife including big horn sheep. the hike is centered around an oasis and when there is water, it attracts a ton of wildlife. unfortunately, the hike was dry when we went but we plan to return during the spring to hopefully see some blooms and wildlife.