“Sensitivy will always be our greatest gift.”
Courtney believes that optimal health and wellness are a fundamental human right and mind-body medicine can provide safe, affordable access for healing mind, body, and spirit. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Montana, Courtney worked in the field of mental health as a counselor with a strong focus on social justice in Seattle, Washington. As a long-time multi-sport athlete, Courtney knew personally there was a therapeutic connection between mental health and physical movement, but psychology was only beginning to explore the benefits of the mind-body connection at the time.
In her career as a mental health counselor and affordable housing specialist, Courtney continued to explore the psychological and emotional healing aspects of the mind-body connection herself through different creative modalities such as dreamwork, expressive writing, and the movement practices of Pilates and yoga. Working at a regional trauma center that primarily used medication management for acute crises, Courtney thought healing work needed to be more compassionate, holistic, and individualized. She won awards for these efforts in the Seattle community. In 2003 she received the “Best Community Service” award for her approach. This work fostered a new type of supportive mental-health housing program, now known as the compassionate care model.
Holistic Medicine and Sensory Healing
Despite success in the field of mental health, Courtney experienced her own acute crisis in 2005. Enduring a complete paralysis of the right side of her body, she was unable to move or speak. Neurologists found no clear cause and didn’t prescribe any treatment for the lingering facial droop or paresthesia (partial numbness). Instinctively, Courtney turned to gentle movement practices through yoga and Pilates to support her neurological recovery. Over the last fifteen years, she has learned what was once inexplicable, has become abundantly clear. The short episode of physical disability was the result of undiagnosed extreme sensitivity. Through holistic healing practices such as Ayurveda, indigenous healers, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) she was identified as a highly sensitive person.
Highly sensitive people (HSP) make up roughly 1 in 5, or 20% of the population. HSP’s have a distinct type of neurological processing called, sensory processing sensitivity. Highly sensitive people perceive more sensory information from their environment with faster emotional reactivity. This combination provides sensitive people expansive perception while also leaving them vulnerable. Sensitive’s are impacted psychologically due to their intense emotional reactivity which affects mental, emotional, and physical health. For example, sensitivity can cause anxiety, exhaustion, migraine headaches, mood swings, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Sensitivity is not considered a disorder even though it can have extremely negative health effects. While well-understood in some research circles of psychology, it has found little acceptance in the medical field. While one facet of sensitivity called, hypersensitivity is well known as an allergy or “sensitivity”, it is the only clinical diagnosis.
Education, Research, and Training
Research shows a clear association between sensitivity, adverse experiences in childhood, anxiety, and visceral hypersensitivity in the gut (abdominal pain, IBS, and worry). Whether the negative effects of sensitivity are the impact of intergenerational trauma or genetics is less clear. Courtney’s integrative approach uses holistic practices that stabilize undiagnosed somatic distress with intensive self-care, sensory therapies, and mindfulness.
Since sensitivity is not clinically addressed in medical settings, Courtney’s clients are invited to step outside the traditional medical model where there are infinite possibilities for holistic healing through CAM therapies. Courtney finds fulfillment and a deep sense of commitment teaching Mind-Body Medicine practices such as guided imagery, mindfulness, sensory awareness and healing through yoga.
Wanting to fill a gap in the continuity-of-care for highly sensitive people, she furthered her education and became a certified Integrative Nutrition Heath Coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2016. Fascinated by the promising field of Integrative Health, she went further to attain a master’s degree in Mind-Body Medicine from the school of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences at Saybrook University.
Courtney is a 200-Hr Yoga teacher, herbalist, certified Alaska Flower Essence practitioner, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She has trained in Ayurvedic Health Counseling, expressive art therapies such as psychodrama, method acting, shamanism, and dream work. She is a trauma-informed health care practitioner.
Sensory Integration Services
Courtney designed sensory-awareness yoga which incorporates the ancient traditions pranayama (breathwork), sensory therapies, and expressive movement. As clients begin to identify sensitivity, she uses nutrition and herbalism to restore, strengthen, and integrate natural health benefits. If there has been deep vulnerability, or a fragile life transition, Courtney facilitates these critical healing transitions with a compassionate approach drawn from her early mental health work. The core of her health practice emphasizes how sensitivity can be a gift rather than harmful. The focus is on letting go of fear and anxiety during periods of heightened sensitivity through meditative movement.
Courtney’s Integrative Health practice emphasizes stress-reduction from sensory overload. Using the body as a barometer she helps clients identify their unique sensory processing style with mindfulness using the senses. She teaches specialized yoga classes in Anchorage, Alaska. The classes are trauma-sensitive and focus on how sensitivity impacts anxiety and sensory integration processing issues such as autism.
Unidentified sensitivity can wreak havoc on gut health due to substances that cause irritability and inflammation. Courtney teaches nutrition classes on adaptogenic herbs and tonics. During her classes, she teaches the integration and use of ancient Ayurvedic practices such as abhyanga self-massage, therapeutic essential oils, tea infusions, and nutrition.
· Adolescents: young adults transitioning from childhood into adulthood experience this critical period of development with extreme intensity. Sensitive adolescents are at risk for nutritional deficiencies, drug and alcohol abuse, and high-risk behaviors. If a young adult has undiagnosed sensitivity it will likely create difficulties later in life. Courtney’s work with homeless youth taught her that compassionate care through a supportive therapeutic relationship can help kids learn how to use self-care for balance and to achieve healthy life-style habits.
· Health care practitioners: compassion fatigue is real for practitioners who deliver health care in an overly stressed medical field. It can immobilize the sensitive health care practitioner who is challenged by systems that feel inhumane. As a former mental health care provider and social worker, Courtney believes these important service providers may need more intensive support in the workplace.
· Mom’s: most of our nation’s health care comes from mom’s who feed, clothe, support and provide for their families. Helping sensitive mom’s take care of themselves strengthens not only moms but by extension their families.
Testimonials from clients:
"I was amazed how quickly and vividly her work took place. I highly recommend a session with Courtney for anyone wishing to experience someone who is compassionate, intelligent and intuitively gifted. Thank you, Courtney!" - Sara Rossi, Film Producer and Health Coach
"She's you're own personal rainmaker. When you have Courtney in your life, she makes things happen." - Shasheen Shah, Fortune 500 Business Consultant, Pink Elephant Project Founder
"I've never met anyone like her. She's a real force of nature. I call Courtney, 'Rolling Thunder' because she comes up to the plate entirely, every time, with strength and generosity of spirit." - Gary Swanson, Actor, Teacher, & Lifetime Member of the Actor's Studio
"She is truly daring greatly, what a woman." - Sara Hospador, Functional Analyst King County
Courtney was summoned to me by the energies pushing me to grow. Instantly, she knew something big was up. I was deciding to grow my business. Courtney was my guiding light right before I was about to sign the lease to move to a larger building. Thank you Courtney. - Hilary Wheeler-Smith, Livingston Montana
In a time of turmoil and confusion, Courtney’s guidance and deep insights allowed me to see more clearly and validate what I knew on a deeper level. Her passion, energy and insights are true gifts for anyone seeking to deeply explore and understand themselves. - Karen Gonne’-Harrell
Thank you for the precious gift of sharing your time with me. Thank you for getting to that confusing inner pattern so quickly and helping me to release it. I feel so much different now and life is truly in the flow and things keep falling into place. Thank you thank you. - Katharine Mies, Switzerland
Awards and Affiliations
Hay House Writers Workshop Award Winner (2018), Four Gifts of the Highly Sensitive
King County Best Community Service Award Winner, Harborview Medical Center (2003)
Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Certified Health Coach (2017)
Master of Integrative Medicine, M.S. Awarded 2010, Saybrook University (2019)
Plant-Spirit Medicine Apprenticeship, 2-Years, Fire Rose Farms, Washington State