IMPORTANT NOTE: I am no longer offering coaching because I have switched full-time to dog training. If you are looking for resources or information on neuroplasticity, please check out my recommended books page.
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What I bring to neuroplasticity coaching
My personal experience of recovery
After 18 years of being severely disabled by multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and multiple tick-borne diseases (TBDs), being bedridden, homebound, in constant severe pain, frequently unable to move parts of my body or speak, I threw everything I had into recovery when an avenue that made sense was presented to me — a program that was based on science and which had proven successful for other people with some of my conditions. Then I took it further by adding many other types of neuroplasticity support into my regimen.
However, when I started this journey, I didn’t know anyone else who had been as sick as I was for as long as I was who had gotten well. That was hard for me to get past. I kept thinking, “But those people only had MCS.” Or, “But those people have only been sick five years.” Or, “But those people do not have Lyme disease preventing them from walking and talking.” It was lonely and scary, but I made it. I have recovered.
Now I want to offer hope and support to other people who feel alone and daunted in this process. I know of other people who have been terribly ill for a very long time, and I want them to have more hope and guidance than I did because the journey of rewiring the brain and regaining health is a lot of hard work. The more internal and external resources someone has, the better their chance of making a fast and complete recovery. It brings me particular joy and satisfaction to support others who also don’t see anyone “like them” getting better. To help them to be the new ones to get well is a thrill!
When I started doing my neural retraining, I couldn’t say the words in the training steps or get out of bed to do the physical movements. I mouthed the words and did the training in bed. I couldn’t read books because of my reactions to paper and binding and because my cognitive function was so impaired; but I could listen to them (repeatedly, because I had trouble concentrating and remembering). Now I am reading a neuroanatomy book over breakfast most mornings!
I know better than most what it is to start a journey of recovery when almost everyone, including myself, thought it was hopeless. The word that most people have used to describe my recovery is “miraculous.” It feels like a miracle to me, too. It is a miracle in the sense of wonderful, marvelous, and a gift for which I am grateful every day. But it’s not a miracle, really; it’s the result of combining the sciences of neuroplasticity and behaviorism with a lot of hard work, creativity, and support.
I want to use my experience as a mirror for other people who want to get well. I want people who have been very sick for a very long time and who thought there was no possibility of recovery to see that there is real hope after all.
My drive to study, learn, and answer questions
I learned a lot in my process of recovery, and that personal, firsthand knowledge is priceless. But I also learned from every other source I could find, and continue to do so. I have always had a passion for learning, for understanding anatomy, physiology, and the biological and social sciences. After reading several neuroplasticity books, I have also started neuroanatomy books because I want to understand more about the brain.
When someone asks me a question, I like to have several answers because I know that everyone is unique, and what hits home for one person may not be the same as what hits home for another. But sometimes someone asks me something — or I ask myself something — and I don’t know the answer. Or the answer I have does not resonate for them. Then I think about it and do more searching to try to find an answer that does work for them.
I plan to keep learning as much as I can about neuroplasticity to understand my own experience and to help others who wish to recover to be successful. My continuing education on neuroplasticity can come in handy to help you
- Find ways to “cross train” your brain
- Put your creativity and imagination to use
- Pursue activities that you enjoy, which also support positive neuroplastic change
- Improve your brain in the ways that feel most important to you, such as memory, executive function, and other areas of cognition; muscle tone or pain; balance and reaction time, and more
My years of experience and study with the best ways to teach and train (applied behaviorism)
You may not think that my study of dog training has much to do with neuroplasticity coaching, but people and dogs have very similar brains and nervous systems. In fact, all sentient organisms learn in the same way. Not only do I have experience training dogs using operant conditioning — behaviors where the dog consciously chooses how to act, “is operating” on his environment — but I also have experience with classical conditioning, including changing a dog’s mental and emotional state through shaping its behavior. Both of these types of training are useful for neuroplasticity work.
In fact, in my own brain retraining, I often thought about what worked with dogs and applied the same principles to my own brain retraining. Sometimes I would say to myself, “If my brain was a puppy, what would I do now?” And then I would know how to proceed.
Because I’ve studied learning theory and methods of teaching/training, and applied them to learn how to get the behaviors I wanted most effectively and efficiently, I have learned how to apply these tools to training myself and other people. For example, in retraining my own brain, I knew when to raise or lower criteria, how best to set up a training schedule, and how to implement a reinforcement schedule that would keep me going in the right direction.
I can help you apply the science of learning to your own neuroplasticity training program, including
- Tips and tricks for efficient memorization
- How to add rewards (instant gratification) to tasks you don’t otherwise enjoy
- When and how to do an activity that will get your brain on a different track (training an incompatible behavior)
- How to make brain retraining into a fun game
- How to structure your brain retraining schedule so you get the most out of training time
My study and practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
I have been studying Nonviolent Communication for several years. The practice of NVC includes the understanding that everyone has basic, universal needs that we are trying to meet with a variety of behavioral strategies. Using NVC, I am more able to empathize with people I know and those I don’t because I have learned how to listen for the basic needs they are trying to meet in whatever they are saying or doing.
NVC freed me from the scary and suffocating belief that other people could “make me” feel various ways, providing me with a greater sense of choice and agency, and allowing me to take responsibility for my emotional and mental landscape. This understanding was crucial to my ability to accept that if I could change my response to emotional triggers, I might also be able to change my response to physical triggers — an idea that I would have thought impossible before. Without the objective perspective I’ve learned from NVC, I doubt I would have been able to face the possibility that several of my core beliefs about my body and illness might not be accurate. NVC helped me find ways to be kind, accepting, and nonjudgmental of myself and others as I underwent this incredible challenge and transformation.
In fact, less than a month before I started my neuroplasticity recovery program, I attended an NVC tele-summit that included several classes on the brain and NVC. There has been a great deal of interest in neuroplasticity in the NVC community — especially in the past year because they are such simpatico areas. (Several of the practitioners at Culture of Empathy refer to neuroplasticity on their pages. Here is one example.)
Because of my study of NVC, as a neuroplasticity coach I am better able to
- Hear you, empathize with you, and listen to you at a deeper level than most people are used to
- Respect and enjoy your honest, authentic self
- Listen to you nonjudgementally and supportively
- Request and receive your feedback about how my coaching strategies are working for you with clarity and equanimity
Questions? Comments? Get in touch!
NOTE: I have heard from some people that they have used my contact form on my website, and I’ve never received it. If you use this from and don’t hear back, please EMAIL ME at swachsler at gmail.com. I apologize for the inconvenience!