I haven’t always wanted to be a therapist...

Heather Branham, LCSW  pronouns: she/her/hers

Heather Branham, LCSW
pronouns: she/her/hers

After college, I was climbing the ladder in a career in community organizing for LGBTQ and reproductive justice issues, but the work left me drained. With no back-up plan, I made the terrifying decision to leave my stable job to piece together a living until I knew what to do next. This was a turning point in my life because I learned that the best decisions are rarely the easiest. If I wanted to find purpose and meaning in my life, I was going to have to create it myself.

I started training to be a doula and attended several births. I toyed with the idea of becoming a midwife. I fell into work as a nanny. My experiences with infants and young children unlocked reserves of nurturing and love I had no idea I was sitting on. As I opened myself to the experience of caring for children, I discovered a hidden world of play, connection, and joy. My new schedule allowed me to pursue my interest in yoga, which led to a transformative yoga teacher training. Through my training, I discovered my gift for being present with others through dark and scary emotions. I had stumbled onto my vocation as a therapist.

By choosing to leave behind comfort and familiarity, I discovered the purpose and meaning I had been searching for.

My Approach

Intersectional: The more than 20 years I’ve spent studying and working in social justice movements greatly informs the work I do as a therapist and clinical supervisor, as well as my work as a trainer and consultant. I am attuned to the ways that our intersecting identities of race, class, gender, sexuality and a host of other categories impact our sense of safety and wellbeing. If we don’t feel safe, it’s hard to connect with others. We find ways to dull or avoid those fearful feelings by working, drinking, using drugs, distancing ourselves from people, clinging to people, the list goes on.

Somatic: I was taught to distrust my body, to expect it to be weak and unpredictable and to ignore the messages it sent me in favor of thinking and doing, more “productive” modes of being. While this strategy served me in excelling in school and work, it left me feeling disconnected from so many parts of myself and made connection with others challenging. When I first began taking yoga classes at a gym, I didn’t do it as a way to care for my body but because I thought yoga would help me shape, control, and manage my body into a form that was more culturally acceptable. Gratefully, the teacher who taught the class had a different perspective, and, for the first time in my life, I was encouraged to pause and listen to what my body had to say. How did my body want to move and breathe? Where was it holding tension or emotion, and where was there space and stillness?

Nearly a decade later, my training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP), a body-focused talk therapy, expanded upon my knowledge of how to enlist the body to facilitate healing from trauma and developmental wounds. SP has revolutionized my life and my practice, giving me language and tools to help my clients bring the wisdom of the body into healing conversation with thought, emotion, and story. I use SP as a primary treatment modality and will complete advanced training in March 2018. {If you're curious to learn more, watch the video above to hear SP developer Pat Ogden explain the principles behind this powerful work.}

Relationship-Focused: Human beings are hardwired to bond and connect. Connection with others is essential to our survival as a species, which is one reason that social isolation and disconnection can be so distressing. Human brains experience the emotional pain of disconnection in the same areas of the brain as they experience physical pain. That’s why all of my work is focused on building healthy, sustainable, nourishing relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all saying that single people can’t be happy or everyone should be looking for their soulmate to complete them or love/romance is the answer to all of our problems. No way. Healthy, sustainable, nourishing relationships can take innumerable forms and don’t need to be confined to marriage, monogamy, romantic relationships or only to connections with other humans. (Pets are people too!) For many of us, the first time we experience the safety and consistency of a stable relationship, one with healthy boundaries and clear communication, is in the context of therapy. Once we learn that this type of connection is possible, it’s easier to access with others outside the therapeutic relationship.

Learn more about my work as a therapist, clinical supervisor, consultant, and training facilitator.


Education

Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Georgia
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Religion and Gender Politics from Agnes Scott College

Training

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy - Level 1: Training in Affect Dysregulation, Survival Defenses, and Traumatic Memory; Level 2 Training in Progress
Yoga for Trauma Advanced Training
500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification from Peachtree Yoga Center

Professional Associations

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (C009039) in North Carolina
Full Member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)
Member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
Member of the Perinatal Emotional Health Network of Western North Carolina