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Conversations with the Inspiring Amber Barke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber Barke, LICSW, E-RYT.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Amber. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The story of how I got started as a psychotherapist and a yoga instructor has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve always been a highly sensitive person. Being constantly vigilant of my surroundings, and hyper-attuned to the moods and behaviors of other people naturally prepared me for the helping profession. The tricky part was learning how to channel this sensitivity in healthy and productive ways. I found yoga back in 2001 while living in D.C., shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Around that same time, I started to study psychology. I’m lucky to have inherited a relentless work-ethic from my father, and a highly creative mind from my mother, because both were absolutely necessary when it came to launching my own practice and trading in the 9-to-5 clinical work for self-employment. My own yoga and meditation practices have been a constant source of nourishment, vitality, and sanity during my rigorous clinical training, bouts of burnout, and periods of uncertainty. This naturally evolved into a desire to share these practices with my clients and to integrate more mindfulness-based and body-based work into my practice.

Has it been a smooth road?
There is not much direction or support out there for people who want to build their own wellness practice.  Sometimes what is therapeutic for clients  feels so incongruent with the societal messaging and norms of our culture.  My kind of work asks clients to go inward, listen to the body, practice unconditional self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-acceptance, and ditch the rules and binaries (i.e. ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ food) of diet mentality.  It’s like trying to help someone swim upstream. This is why it’s so important to mentor and supervise younger clinicians and teachers. We need to support each other.

My advice to anyone starting out on a similar path is to take the leap and figure out the details later.  Know that you will make mistakes. Be realistic with your expectations so that you don’t wind up feeling defeated when obstacles arise or when those mistakes occur. Stand behind the work that you are doing, and make sure it’s consistent with your values. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, open-minded, and positive… and above all: ask for help. So many people are afraid to ask for help, but the road is a lot smoother with support.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a clinical psychotherapist as well as a yoga and mindfulness teacher in Cambridge, MA. In my clinical practice, I specialize in helping people who struggle with disordered eating, disordered exercise, body dissatisfaction, and other issues related to a mind/body disconnect (particularly anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders). My approach involves learning how to befriend your body, manage your mind, and develop coping skills to deal with everyday stress. This may involve learning how to manage food and exercise through holistic practices like meditation or mindful movement. My practice supports the approaches of Intuitive Eating, self-compassion, non-diet, and health at every size (HAES). I do this work in a variety of different settings including traditional one on one talk therapy, group therapy, and workshops. I also provide supervision, consultation, and support to other clinicians and I provide mentorship to yoga teachers. The type of yoga that I teach is therapeutic and inclusive: appropriate for all levels and everybody. I teach privately, as well as in the studio setting at Yogaworks Cambridge (formerly Prana Power Yoga).

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
I am constantly inspired by my clients who show up every day with a willingness to change, heal, and live a better life.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Blake Fitch Photography (headshot), Erica Mason (yoga photos)

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