Episode 176 Chronic Illness & Holistic Therapy: Interview With Christina Kantzavelos

Apr 10, 2024

How does holistic therapy address the multifaceted aspects of chronic illness, including physical, emotional, and spiritual, to promote healing and well-being? How can practitioners begin to look at their patients with a more holistic view to treat chronic illness?

MEET Christina Kantzavelos

Christina P. Kantzavelos is a licensed holistic psychotherapist (LCSW) writer, artist, and citizen of the world, with a home-base in Joshua Tree, CA. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Social Welfare (MSW) from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and her Master of Library and Information Sciences from San Jose California State University (SJSU).   She’s a first-generation college student, and third culture kid (TCK) holding dual citizenship in Greece/ the EU. She has visited over 35 countries and documented most of them on social media. However, it was in completing the Camino de Santiago (500-mile pilgrimage across Spain) at the end of 2015, that she realized her strong affinity with writing. She decided to start BuenQamino, an Award-Winning, gluten-free, and health-conscious lifestyle, and travel publication.   In her 100% remote clinical practice (@BeginWithinToday), she treats and is an advocate for those with chronic illness and C-PTSD, utilizing various modalities such as EMDR, CA, neural retraining, EFT, and others. She recently published ‘Begin Within – A Daily Healing Journal’ (www.beginwithintoday.com) for those living with chronic illness or other health-related challenges.

Find out more at Begin Within Today, and connect with Christina on Instagram

Buen Quamino


  • What is chronic illness informed? 5:19
  • What does it mean to be “holistic” when dealing with chronic illness? 9:17

What Is Chronic Illness Informed?

  • Understanding the complexities of living with a chronic condition
  • Adopting a chronic illness-informed approach in your practice
  • What is Spoon Theory?

What Does It Mean To Be “Holistic” When Dealing With Chronic Illness?

  • Understanding the interconnectedness when it comes to a person’s physical, mental, emotional, social, and, spiritual well-being
  • What are the challenges when working with clients with chronic illness?
  • What is Neural Retraining?
  • Overcoming patient resistance when dealing with chronic pain or illness
  • The benefits of journaling
  • Collaborating with other healthcare providers

Connect With Me

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Self-Care for the Counselor: A Companion Workbook: An Easy to Use Workbook to Support you on Your Holistic Healing and Counselor Self-Care Journey … A Holistic Guide for Helping Professionals

Resources Mentioned And Useful Links:

Find out more at Begin Within Today, and connect with Christina on Instagram

Buen Quamino


Chris McDonald: Do you have clients who experience chronic illness? Or maybe you do. Chronic illness impacts the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. So it makes sense that treatment should also come from a holistic perspective. Discover the transformative power of treating clients, not just as patients, but as whole beings, mind, body, and spirit.

Get ready to explore innovative approaches and holistic strategies you might not have learned about in grad school. Tune in for insights that could revolutionize how we approach chronic illness treatment. On today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. This is Holistic Counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence.

I'm your host, Chris McDonald, Licensed Therapist. I am so glad you're here for the journey.

Welcome to today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. In today's episode, we explore the multifaceted approach of holistic counseling and chronic illness. Chronic illness often presents not only the physical challenges, but also the emotional, mental, and spiritual. As counselors, it's imperative that we recognize the interconnectedness of these dimensions so that we can offer the support to our clients that is comprehensive.

Joining us today is Christina Canzavelos. She's here to help us learn as we navigate the principles of holistic healing, uncovering strategies that encompass the mind, body, and spirit. She is a licensed holistic psychotherapist, writer, artist, and citizen of the world. with a home base in Joshua Tree, California.

She recently published Begin Within, a daily healing journal for those living life with chronic illness or other health related challenges. Welcome to the podcast, Christina.

Christina Kantzavelos: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Chris McDonald: So I'm curious what interested you in treating chronic illness.

Christina Kantzavelos: I've had chronic illness since a young age, but it wasn't until. It became debilitating in 2018. I was, my past life was in humanitarian work and I was in Mexico on contract with an NGO. And I ended up with like Giardia and various other things that just put me over the edge. It's a very long story, but it brought me to the right doctors who ended up diagnosing me with Lyme disease and co infections and like array of other autoimmune diseases I didn't know I had at the time.

And I was couch bound. I was really sick. I was trying to look for a therapist who specialized in chronic illness, and I could not find one. I could not find one. I ended up, well, I ended up finding a therapist, at least who specialized in EMDR because I knew about the mind, you know, the mind body connection and somatic experiencing and somatic work and how chronic illness can be tied to trauma.

So I definitely wanted to go down that path, but because she was not chronic illness informed, I would say 25 to 50 percent of our sessions And, you know, you only have 50 minutes with the therapist were spent with me literally having to Google my diagnoses or my symptoms for this woman when I was already just so exhausted.

She's like, well, what does that mean? Or I don't understand.

Chris McDonald: You had to end up teaching the therapist.

Christina Kantzavelos: I had to, yes, I had to do the, a lot of the labor in that scope as someone who is chronically ill had very little energy spoons, as we call it in the chronic illness community. We only have so many a day, even if you don't have chronic illness, you have so many spoons a day to spend on certain activities and things and, and therapy's exhausting.

So I wouldn't get what I wanted out of the session because I was providing subtitles to this person. And ultimately I found another therapist on Instagram. Someone had posted about him in London and he was willing to meet with me via zoom. And although he wasn't exactly trauma informed, Formed, there was something just so magical about talking to someone and not having to explain anything who just, yeah.

Wrote it where I was like, okay,

Chris McDonald: like a big

Christina Kantzavelos: sigh of relief, right? Me? Yes, exactly. And you know, going back to that previous therapist. She went into EMDR without first resourcing, getting my nervous system into a place where we could actually delve into class. So I actually became more symptomatic in my work with her.

I think ultimately it was helpful because of the work we did. But I'm just saying like in the immediate future, it was really harsh. So anyway. In those experiences, I realized even though this was not what I wanted to get into is that I needed to become the therapist I wish I had at that time, which did not exist.

And we were speaking a little bit prior to this about it. Like, I am not a typical therapist and I can go into that as well, but I'm just saying like, I really not because

Chris McDonald: as many of our listeners are not typical.

Christina Kantzavelos: Yeah, yeah, yeah. With chronic illness, like we're not typical. So like we need. We need someone to meet us where we are.

And that requires a lot of flexibility and open mindedness and yeah, so much more. I know you mentioned

Chris McDonald: chronic illness informed. So can you talk more about what that means?

Christina Kantzavelos: Definitely. Generally it would mean any kind of provider who understands chronic illness, like various diagnoses, various symptoms.

How do they present? How do they manifest? We have different lingo. I mentioned, um, spoon theory before. How many spoons do you have in a day? Like essentially you're not having to have the client tell you what they're moving through on a technical level during the session, because that just takes a lot of time and energy for them to do that, to be able to do that.

So I'm actually developing a course as we speak, how nice specifically for therapists to become chronic illness. literate. It's really important. Like, even if you're not specializing in chronic illness, you like, you will

Chris McDonald: have someone with chronic

Christina Kantzavelos: illness, chronic pain, or any type of chronic medical condition.

It's more common than we think or realize. Sadly, I wish that wasn't the case, but it is the. It is the truth. And to be able to be there with the client is so therapeutic. I cannot begin to tell you, like I said, my therapist before was not trauma informed, but the fact that he just knew and understood what I was going through was therapy in and of itself.

That's therapeutic,

Chris McDonald: isn't it? Exactly. Cause I know you mentioned the spoon theory. Can you just go over that real quick, just for listeners that might not have

Christina Kantzavelos: heard of it? Yeah. So the spoon theory in essence is this idea that we are In any given day, we have so many spoons that we can, we can give away to certain activities.

And of course, for me versus you, maybe a shower for you is one spoon. For me, it may take 10. Back in the day when I was couch bound due to my illness, I would have to have, my mom was caregiving for me. So she would have to get me to the shower and it felt like I literally ran a marathon after it was horrible and I have many clients who can't take showers because of this.

They'll have to go somewhere to wash their hair or have someone help with that. So we only have so many spoons a day and we have to be really mindful as to what we give them. too. And like some people say, I went to the doctors and I took all of my spoons. Now I have to rest for the remainder of the day.

That's an example. Yeah, no, I

Chris McDonald: appreciate that. And I can't emphasize the importance of having someone who understands. This has happened to me more with chronic pain as it's gotten worse for me as I get older is that people don't understand. Sometimes it's like they, like I go to like exercise class or yoga class and if they're not informed, About this stuff and they do some of these activities that I look I watch.

I stand and just stand there and just watch them and don't do it because I know it's going to bother my back. But it's like they they don't mention any variations or it feels disheartening at times because there's not the awareness. Like I had. The yoga training I went to, the teacher was, I don't know if it's because of me, but God, I told her about my back, but she would, a lot of poses be like, Oh, if you have back issues, then here's a variation.

And we called them variation, not modification. So it's not like something's wrong with us. It's just, Oh, we're doing a different. So I, I, I know what you're saying with that too. It's just, you, you feel that deep after a while. It just, it gets to you when people are more able bodied and have no clue and don't

Christina Kantzavelos: understand.

And I really love when, you know, I go to yoga or any, uh, do any kind of physical activity where they ask in advance, does anyone have anything that's bothering me that I'm aware? And then, you And then they'll mention that throughout. I've never heard the term variation. I much prefer trauma informed. Yes, exactly.

I really appreciate.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. So it's like giving options. So an option instead of I'm modifying from what I quote unquote should be able to do is it's more of here's an option. Here's one way you could do it this way or that way and there's no right way. So people feel okay in their bodies, right?

Christina Kantzavelos: Definitely. Definitely. I feel like we as therapists too, when we're, you know, suggesting some kind of any kind of activity, we could also be offering variations because there is no one size fits all approach for anything. Oh,

Chris McDonald: right. Exactly. Yeah. So I wonder how, how do you define holistic? I

Christina Kantzavelos: see holistic as we are biopsychosocial spiritual beings.

That is my definition of being, of being holistic as looking at all aspects of that. Like we aren't just, we aren't just one thing. We are multi dimensional. We are all, all of these things at once. And as far as like how I view my body and how I view others and how I treat them. I, I look at all these different parts and I have them also look at these different parts and yeah, it's just kind of one step at a time and seeing the interconnectedness.


Chris McDonald: you take a holistic approach to treating chronic illness. So what are some challenges with what you do? Is, is it difficult at times?

Christina Kantzavelos: Definitely. And what I will say is like for someone to see me as a client, I have things that they must, they must do like this, we're working together. One of those things is they must see a holistic doctor.

So they have to be under the care of someone like a root cause literate physician who really wants to understand on a biochemical level, what's going on, right? With, you know, things that are outside of my scope. I give, I give to them where I know that they're being taken care of on that level. And I could work with the doctor if need be.

So there's that like an integrative physician, right? Holistic, whatever you want to call them. So there's that. And then on the other side of it is I have them complete a neural retraining program of their choosing. And are you familiar with neural? Can you share what that is? Very sure. Essentially, if someone comes to me with chronic illness, I've yet to meet anyone, clients or anyone sitting next to me getting an IV or family or otherwise who hasn't been stuck in fight or flight, a chronic stress response, probably since a really young age.

And what happens when we've been in chronic fight or flight is that our brain thinks the tiger has been behind us. this whole time. And I always tell clients, you know, if you have a tiger behind you, is your body going to prioritize healing or surviving? Always going to prioritize surviving over healing.

So we have to basically retrain the brain to understand and realize. You know, perhaps there was a tiger at one point or various points at one's life, but there isn't one right now. They are actually safe right now. We can convince the brain. The tiger's not in the room. It's not walking behind you. Let's put healing on the phone.

front burner now. It's been on the back burner. Let's put it on the front burner. And when I, I see folks do that, their healing kind of happens at warp speed. I've witnessed this time and time and time again, they've been doing all of the right things. And yet, you know, they've been stuck in this space. How do we get them out of fight or flight?

That's when we get. Neural retraining into the picture. So neural retraining is based off of neuroplasticity. And what we're doing is we are, there's like a daily practice. Think of it like an exercise for your nervous system where you are telling your nervous system via different actions that you are indeed safe.

You are indeed safe. And, um, it's based off a little bit of cognitive behavioral therapy. A lot of visualization, gratitude. We have meditation, mindfulness in there. There's so many programs at this point, but they all essentially are the same. Could I teach a client this myself? Sure. However, it would take a very long time and if I'm only seeing someone.

And we haven't gone into this, a non typical therapist where I see someone every week. We decide at the end of session when to see each other next. It's going to take a long time. So the program I did personally, someone gave it to me for free was called DNRS, Dynamic Neural Retraining System. And it was 14 hours of instruction.

I did it like over, over a week. I couldn't work at that time. So I had the freedom, if you will, to just, and used all my spoons to just focus on that. And in this specific program, they want you doing it six months. That's what you, that's what you agreed to. It's an, a daily exercise for six months. And it was probably one of the biggest game changers in my health journey.

And I see it. Consistently be one of the biggest game changers and everyone else's journey. So getting your nervous system in a place that's not just because we can't expect a nervous system to be regulated constantly. The world would not allow for that, but to a point where for the most part it's regulated.

And if it becomes dysregulated, it's a bit more flexible. It can, it can bounce back to a regulated state. You're not stuck in that dysregulated. There's a tiger chasing me right now, state at all times. So we want you in rest and repair, rest and digest as often as possible. And before, you know, I'm sure people are listening and going like, well, I don't see myself fighting or physically fling a situation.

There's two other Fs. There's, there's a fawning response and there's a freezing response. And those are actually the two I see most often. Folks are oscillating between and that freeze response is when you physically cannot fully a situation. You may freeze. You may disassociate. You may feel indecisive.

You may be stuck staring at a wall. It's it's so many different different things. And that Fawning response is people pleasing, codependency, maybe being like a hyper perfectionist, maybe overachieving, like all of, all of these things, which you wouldn't consider like a fight or flight state are, it's, it's something that we developed in order to survive.

To survive when we were younger, whatever it was, we, we moved through and we're realizing now, well, that doesn't really help me in my current state of being. And that's what we work on in therapy, but it's a matter of feeling safe enough to explore why that happened. And why, you know, why did that happen in the 1st place?

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Yeah. Healing pushback for asking people to do those things. Oh, yeah. Sure.

Christina Kantzavelos: Sure. Uh, definitely. I, um, I have some clients who take a year plus to even start doing it and they go, wow. But you know, the resistance in and of itself is something we get to work on in therapy. Right. Like what, what is the resistance?

What's what's really at the core of that. And it's not to say we can't do other work, you know, in therapy, as you know, we're constantly co regulating with our clients. Right. Right. The moment we get, we see them or we're on screen with them, co regulation is happening. And you know, I tried to offer as safe and courageous of a space as possible for them to be where they are right now, however that presents.

But yeah, there's going to be constant encouragement on my end. to do the neural retraining work as well. But meanwhile, we still are with little things at a time. I can

Chris McDonald: imagine they'd have to be pretty motivated to, to take these steps.

Christina Kantzavelos: Yeah. Yeah. It's, and everyone's different in every, like everyone presents completely different.

And I've had folks, and this is not hyperbole who start the neural retraining program. And they're, and I can't guarantee this, of course, but like they're within months are feeling better and don't really need to, to see me as much. And amazing. Yeah. And then I have on the other side of that, like I said, it's been over a year and they haven't touched it and they don't know why.

And it's okay. Well, let's explore what that, okay. The other thing I get pushed back on is seeing a root cause position. Oh, that's what I wondered. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because I hear, well, I got this. autoimmune diagnosis and that's it. And I said, okay, however, I believe that there's something triggering it. So let's try it.

And I have yet to not see that happen in my practice. Let's find out what is triggering that with this doctor. Anyway, when it works, it's, it's, It's beautiful.

Chris McDonald: No, I bet. Cause everything kind of lines up. You know, I talked to, I see a lot of young adults and encourage them to at least get a physical from a regular doctor, you know, cause most of them are like, I'm healthy.

I'm good. I'm like, no, you need to get a physical.

Christina Kantzavelos: Cause like, for example, let's just say someone has a thyroid challenge, you know, that can mental health wise, that can present in so many different ways. I mean, I don't think a lot, a lot of therapists maybe even realize this. And it's on the right.

medication, whether it's natural or pharmaceutical. Oh my gosh, it could make such a difference in a person's mental health. You know, that's more biochemical. That's, that's outside. That's outside of our scope. So I'd rather a doctor address that. No,

Chris McDonald: I agree. Cause I feel like we have to look at that. I feel like in the beginning, it's more an investigator sometimes trying to figure out what is really going on here.

Where do we need to work on? What goals do we need to work on? And you know, and that's, and I tell clients when I start with them too, it's, it's. It's like, uh, changing, right? We can change these goals too as we notice. Oh, actually it's not, this is this. Right. As we go deeper

Christina Kantzavelos: and Oh yeah. A thousand every, every layer over, we're like, okay, yeah, I know

The more, the more right. The more I learn, the less I know that so often happens. Oh, for sure. Therapy and it's, it's beautiful. I mean, I'm honored to, and I'm sure you are too, to get to. To do

Chris McDonald: with a neural retrain. I have not heard of this, so I'm really excited to learn more about this. And, but it sounds like you really trust it if you want your clients to take this

Christina Kantzavelos: program.

I do. I trust. I mean, and like I said, there's, there's so many different ones now. And I just, what I ask is you find the one that resonates. post with you. And I have a resources section on my website that we were talking about earlier. And there's a neural retraining section there. So it's not even all the programs, but I looked at

Chris McDonald: that today.

So can you talk about your resource page? Cause I told you, I got lost on that. I was like, Ooh, look at this. Oh my gosh, there's more. And I kept scrolling and scrolling and she's got so many holistic resources. So this will be in the show notes for you listeners, but I highly recommend

Christina Kantzavelos: you check it out.

Thank you. Yeah, I have a second master's in library sciences. So I'm like the biggest resource and

Chris McDonald: I could tell I was like, wow, she's got it going on with the resource.

Christina Kantzavelos: Thank you. Thank you. And and the reason being is again, like, if someone can't access me or. The group, they have access to this at all times.

Yeah, it's, it's taken me years and years to gather all of these resources and sort of, and sort of organize them. And it is holistic again, in the sense that, you know, there's a list of various doctors and organizations. There's even, uh, I have an area for therapy, chronic illness, literate therapists, therapists for those who are low income areas on nutrition, uh, areas for like retreats.

It's an area for meditation and mindfulness and created a playlist of binaural beats. Healing hurts. I

Chris McDonald: saw that too. I was excited. I was like, Ooh, I want to try this later. Yes.

Christina Kantzavelos: Please do it. Please do it. And so, and clients will send me songs. Like I found this one. I'm like, yes. So a lot of those resources aren't just my own, like it's, it's a community effort for sure.

So yeah, if you, if you see my resource list and you're like, Whoa, she's missing. Let's just. Send it to me or no,

Chris McDonald: I think that's great for access for people that maybe don't have that availability for financially to afford therapy. And at least they have some, some options to

Christina Kantzavelos: look at. Yeah. There's even like a financial resource section if you have certain chronic illnesses that they're looking at.

You know, you've thought of

Chris McDonald: everything here, Christine. It's

Christina Kantzavelos: just, it's, you know, it's being a social, it's being a social worker and be a community social worker for so long too. It's no,

Chris McDonald: I think that's so important. Well, you were so kind to send me your journal. So it's called begin within a daily healing journal.

And I started it today. I was just wondering, how do you use this with clients? Cause it was really cool to actually sit and give myself that time to really reflect on. It's like a holistic kind of journal, isn't

Christina Kantzavelos: it? For yourself. It is. Yeah. So it's that, it's that mind, mind, body, spirit journal. I created it when I was couch bound and needed a way to track my health and my symptoms, and I swear I had no intention.

It's kind of like, I had no intention to become the therapist I am today. I had no intention to create. This journal, I didn't have the spoons to do it, but I couldn't find a mind body journal out there that tracks symptoms and ask the prompts and questions I ask in this. So I started writing them out for myself.

And what I noticed each day as I was doing it is that, you know, I saw a positive trajectory in my healing journey and I was able to. Cause of my brain fog being as horrific as it was, meaning like I, it was really difficult for me to recall information. When I go to the doctors, I had documentation of, you know, and I had to make the prompts so simple because again, the brain fog, the lack of energy, the fatigue was, was really, really intense.

Anyway, I thought this would probably be really helpful for so many people on various levels. You know, you, you go to a nutritionist, they're like, Can you track what you're eating and what your blood pressure is like for the next few months? We don't give you anything to do it. You know, you have the typical asking, you know, what you ate and what your blood pressure is, where you are on your cycle.

How many bowel movements do you have? But also there's the, the mental health piece on, you know, what, how are you feeling today? And. you know, what has your day been like? Realistically, what symptoms, what frustrations have you faced? And then it ends with more this, that spiritual, like one thing you're grateful for something you love about your body, which was, it's very hard for those of us with chronic illness.

I appreciated that. It's hard to recreate that or foster, I should say, foster that relationship with your body when you feel like your body hates you and is attacking you and is making you suffer. So that's, that's always a hard one for me. And what's something you learned today also, because it's a brain fog, but important to practice.

And really kind of push the brain to remember and then, uh, one, like one goal you have for tomorrow, which I don't know, I don't know, it was always so helpful for me. Cause yeah,

Chris McDonald: no, cause I had started a similar journal at night. I don't do it every night. You know what I tell clients to journal? at least make some kind of habit.

You don't have to do it every day because I don't do it every day. There's just times I don't and that's okay. But I do go back to it. And I like how you put in here about self care too. Cause I don't know about you, but sometimes I don't even give myself credit. I was like, Oh, wait a second. You know, I did go for a walk this morning and sometimes I forget.

It's like, I do something in the morning. It's like out of my head, but it's nice to give yourself that credit.

Christina Kantzavelos: I think people forget to self care doesn't need to look like bubble bats. It could literally to the doctor. It is self care. And. I don't have it pre pillow. Why don't you have dates written in?

And I said, no, because that doesn't work for most of us. It's like, I don't want people to feel pressured to have this out. It's when you feel like you, you're ready to fill it out. Today's the day I want to, you know, I want to journal.

Chris McDonald: I want to look at this. And yeah, in

Christina Kantzavelos: journaling, it's an amazing mind body tool.

They've done research and clinical studies on it where they noticed they did one on patients with wounds, right? Open wound. The ones who journaled, their wounds actually healed faster than the ones who journaled. When you say mind body, I mean, this is what It's truth. You know, it's truth.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Yeah. But what I like too is, and the one that I've used as well, is just really short prompt.

So you don't feel like you have to write a book. Like, what are you grateful for? You have a little box for it. So it's not like, you could just like to put two words if you want, you know, because I think it does take the pressure of like, oh, I have to come up with something for

Christina Kantzavelos: journaling. Exactly. Exactly.

It's kind of like, The difference of free form meditation, if you will, you just shut your eyes and go into meditation versus like listening to someone giving you the prompts of breathing and what to think about and what to, it's kind of similar to that.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. And I think that could be helpful for chronic pain or illness.

Cause I do have variations. The only problem I have sometimes it's like, okay, I'm doing great, but there are fluctuations right during. So sometimes giving one number can be tough, like for the day pain goes, you know, Well, it's not linear. Exactly. It's not like, I mean, there are bad days, but Yeah. Usually it's like it can just change so much.

Christina Kantzavelos: Definitely change throughout the day, and you have one week to the next. Yeah.

Chris McDonald: You never know

Christina Kantzavelos: what you're gonna get. Never know. It's always, it keeps you on your tongue, but Yeah.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. No, I hear that, but I think I could see how that could be really helpful. Do you use that with therapy sessions to talk about the journal at all or?


Christina Kantzavelos: yeah, I mean, I, I literally have clients open to different pages and they're like, cause I'll say like, well, you know, how, how's it been since the last time I saw you? And they're like, well, let me, let me grab it out. And then we have others who've never touched it. So let's, that's okay. That's what I'm saying.

There's, there's variations to everything and there isn't a one size fits all approach. So we, I mean, We have to find what works for us and what feel what, yeah, what resonates.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. But it makes a lot of sense. I'm just like going back to the neural retraining. Cause you know, I've heard this before. It's like, when you say some of the same stuff over and over to clients, we teach, I teach a lot of psycho ed and I know a lot of other therapists do.

So having somewhere where they can learn a lot of this information kind of takes that off of the therapy time when you can be looking at other issues and treatment. modalities. That makes a lot of sense.

Christina Kantzavelos: Yeah. It's been incredible. So yeah, like I'm not, I'm not for everyone with these requirements. Oh, of course.


Chris McDonald: that's okay. Yeah. So it's finding the right clients for you. Exactly. Especially listeners that are starting private practice, you know, is for you to really think about how would you like yours to be right for a holistic practice. And these are just ideas. And of course, there's no requirements on anything.

So it's really just deciding what aligns with you and your values.

Christina Kantzavelos: Exactly. And I'm the first to remove my ego from the situation. Let's find you the right therapist. It's important that that, you know, that it does. It goes both ways. It goes both ways that both of you feel safe with each other. So

Chris McDonald: how do you collaborate with other healthcare professionals?

Is that part of what you do holistically as

Christina Kantzavelos: well? Definitely. Being in Southern California, a lot of my clients, are also in Southern California and see, see a lot of doctors I see cause they accept insurance, which is, you know, hard, hard to find when it comes to like true integrative, holistic healing and health.

But anyway, like as needed, yeah, I will speak with their providers and collaborate. I think that's so powerful. Definitely. Even my doctors now are at least they're not requiring it, but they're really, really recommending and encouraging neural retraining to their. Really? Wow. Okay. It's definitely worth checking out and looking, looking into.

Chris McDonald: Yeah, I would agree for sure. So what are some of the modalities that you like to do with clients? Uh,

Christina Kantzavelos: yeah, so I do, I am an EMDR therapist and I also special, I do, um, constructed awareness, which is another sort of mind body modality. Actually, Tyler or he, he developed constructed awareness. He's in Tennessee.

Yeah. And he noticed. that it wasn't, it wasn't all encompassing. Basically he wanted to utilize all orientation types. So, you know, we're either oriented mentally, somatically or sensationally and environmentally. And so in being a trainer and EMDR, he, yeah, he noticed this and he kind of, he created his own, his own program.

And that has been my favorite to use with clients actually, because It is a much more gentle approach than EMDR, like EMDR has its time and place, but I'm just fighting that I'm, I'm utilizing this. Oh

Chris McDonald: really? So how does it work with clients?

Christina Kantzavelos: Essentially, we're able to move through their past traumas. by them focusing on different like orienting themselves in different ways.

If I have them focus on an image from the past, I will let them, I will let them sit in that discomfort, but then have them focus to something outside of themselves, something they can see, right? So it's allowing their nervous system to be with something uncomfortable, but not for too long to completely dysregulate them.

So yeah, I've really appreciated. That and to, and to be with their feelings and what that actually feels like in their bodies to on a sensational level. So if I'm like, they're like, Oh, I'm feeling anxious. Where is that in your body? What shape does it hold? It's pretty great. And before we venture that direction, we were already doing a lot of neural retraining nervous system.

Regulation work together. And I do a lot of EFT tapping as well. So there's that. And, you know, I do a little bit of, of like CBT as, as we see fit. I mean, really it's meeting them wherever they are at that moment in time, seeing where they're nervous. It's today. Is it today? It's today a day we can go within, or is today a day we just.

You want to be a little bit more gentle and talk things out. I mean, every day, every session looks completely different.

Chris McDonald: Exactly. We never know where it's going to go. That's, but I think that's what the reason a lot of us like this work too. Yeah.

Christina Kantzavelos: It's never, it's never boring. And then sometimes it's like, it's a mindfulness.

I do a lot of, um, meditations. And so, yeah, it's. It just depends on what they need. So

Chris McDonald: how do you help clients with chronic illness with the emotional part of all this too when they're really in a lot of pain or low energy and they're just not functional? How do you help them manage what happens emotionally?

Because I know that can be really difficult.

Christina Kantzavelos: Well, so I'm a big fan of the mind body connection related to pain, how pain actually starts in the brain. So what's interesting is when we bring curiosity to anything, it is bound to change. So someone comes to you with a lot of pain and we're going first, we're going to do some, we're going to do some mindfulness.

work. We're going to do some breathing techniques. We're going to be with the pain. We're not going to avoid the pain. We're going to be with the pain in the most gentle way possible. And we're going to sit with it and understand the story, the energy, where is this coming from? That's that constructed awareness piece I was discussing.

I mean, even, I don't know if you know about his work, Howard Schubiner, but. This is a fantastic workbook. Yeah. It's called unlearn your pain. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Sarno. He has a book called healing your back pain and the mind body prescription. Fantastic reads. If you have chronic pain or work with folks with chronic pain, and then he's kind of his protege, I'm sorry.

I was now passed. RIP, but yeah, he created this workbook and it has been amazing for myself and for my clients. Yeah. I imagine. So even in my work, I also, you know, do a little bit of psychedelic work as well, something separate. But I used to be in chronic pain. I have had various surgeries and my pain has gone from a nine, 10 to a zero one at this point.

Wow. Amazing. My own trauma informed work. And this has been many, many, many years. It's not just like one. One thing, but it's not

Chris McDonald: one pill. You take us all that.

Christina Kantzavelos: What, in fact, the amazing, yeah, we've learned to sit with and understand the pain.

Chris McDonald: I guess, have you found that treating chronic illness or chronic pain is, is usually not just one thing, but is it multilayered?

It is. They're all

Christina Kantzavelos: multi. That's what I thought too. It's like, even, even looking at the environment, it's like, right, food or what is your environment? Do you have mold? Do you have mold in your home? What, what are you cleaning your windows with? I know that seems like a lot, but it's, it makes sense. You need to lower the histamine bucket, the toxic load on the body and all of these things play a part.

Even, I mean, I'm even asking what makeup are you using? What clothes are you wearing? Because our clothes. Even carry different frequency levels and can affect us. What music are you listening to? What are you watching? Are the, does your nerve, you know, I'm always asking, does this feel good for your nervous system or does it upregulate you or dysregulate you?

And I mean, this is a journey for the clients to really go on and figure out. I'm just, I'm just here to light the path and ask the questions so that they can make informed decisions, looking at their relationships, looking at their jobs. I mean, everything, their spirituality and, and so forth. It's so, it's so multifaceted and multilayered, definitely.

And, and everyone, yeah, there's no, there's no specific right way to do it. It's, it's doing it the way that feels best to their nervous system. What resonates with them, not mine. And what resonates with them can look completely different than mine.

Chris McDonald: Exactly. So what's the best way for listeners to find you and learn more about

Christina Kantzavelos: you?

Sure. So you can find me at begin within today or begin within today. com. Like I said, I am creating a course, hopefully soon that'll be available to any listeners who would like to learn more about being chronic illness literate or Take the course. I also have a like gluten free holistic publication called one Camino b u e n q a m i n o one Camino dot com that you can also check out.

So that's, that's more of like the you know, begin with in today's specific to therapy. And the other one is all, all things.

Chris McDonald: Well, thanks for so much for coming on the podcast today, Christina.

Christina Kantzavelos: so much for having me. Thank

Chris McDonald: you. This was great. And thank you listeners for tuning in today. And I have a question for you.

Are you always last on your to do list? You are not alone. Many counselors find it difficult to find the time for self care practices. My book self care for the counselor was written for you. In this easy to read book, you'll find it jam packed with holistic strategies to help create those consistent practices and help you find balance in the rude energy you need.

Go ahead and grab your copy today at hcpodcast. org forward slash self care. That's hcpodcast. org forward slash self care. self care. Once again, this is Chris McDonald sending each one of you much light and love till next time. Take care. Thanks for listening. The information in this podcast is for general educational purposes only.

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