Margie Braunstein is senior facilitator with Quest for Life Foundation, a Clinical Psychotherapist in private practice and founder of Heartnicity, which provides transformational learning programs. Margie’s work springs from her commitment to teach with consciousness, compassion, and gratitude.
Margie has facilitated thousands of people in their quest for peace and happiness through learning programs based on contemporary neuroscience, positive psychology, and a holistic approach to health. Her book Getting to the Heart of Stress is a practical guide to a joyful, conscious life that draws on her own life experience as a woman, partner, mother, friend, psychotherapist, and educator.
Margie holds a Graduate Certificate in Adult Education (UTS); Diploma in Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy and is a Clinical Member of PACFA Australia.
Margie and I share a namesake, as she's also my aunt.
I sat down with her recently to discuss her work, and her approach to mental health.
What drew you to psychotherapy? What do you enjoy about it?
I have always been interested in personal development and engaged in my first ‘encounter group’ at 13 years old in the 1970’s and then went onto to become a volunteer counsellor with Lifeline and Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross. I did heaps of personal development in my thirties which eventually led to me studying psychotherapy. I have been a psychotherapist and teacher for nearly 30 years.
Tell me about Quest for Life and your role there. How does it work & how can people get involved?
As a senior facilitator at Quest, my job is to lead groups of people in both immersive residential programs and one day workshops in the community. Quest takes a whole-person, recovery-orientated approach to mental and physical health and wellbeing and provides evidence-based practical strategies and tools to help people heal the past, build resilience for the future, and live in the present. Assisting people to find inner peace is a very cool way to earn a living!
I’m your niece but I didn’t know you wrote a book! How did you find the process of writing?
To be honest, it was a lot like studying with the final product being a one big assignment! I loved the creative process and could easily enjoy writing as career, although I am not sure it would pay the bills.
What’s a challenge you sometimes face in your work & how do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is managing my energy. I am a very goal-oriented ‘energiser-bunny’ kind of person and tend to think I am immune to fatigue, which I am not. Holding and guiding people who are suffering with mental and physical health challenges uses way more energy than the desk-based aspects of my job, like writing or managing a project and I need to balance my time well to ensure my own self-care is considered.
What barriers do you find when people seek professional help for the first time? How can they overcome any fears they may have?
I think people feel vulnerable, embarrassed, and often lack trust (for exceptionally good reasons). When trust is betrayed in childhood or you’ve been exposed to trauma later in life, there can be a natural reticence to seek help. Finding a professional therapist that ‘gets you’ is more important than the type of therapist e.g., psychologist, counsellor, or psychotherapist. If you don’t like the first person you find, then remember you are the customer. Find someone else.
When people come to Quest for Life, they find a soft space to land to make sense of their suffering. I don’t think there are any other programs offering an approach quite like ours which is holistic, science base, non-judgemental and safe.
With lockdowns and the pandemic, we’ve all spent a lot of time at home which for some people can be tough, mentally. What are some strategies for coping with periods of isolation, as well as being away from family & friends?
Covid has been the weirdest time, hasn’t it? It has been a tough time for so many. I am fortunate that I have a partner at home and adult children nearby, so it hasn’t affected me adversely, but I understand how stressful and lonely it has been for others. I think technology has come to the fore in a positive way during this time. Many of us had to gain ‘Zoom’ skills and I am still only seeing therapy clients online or by phone rather than face to face. I think working from home will become a permanent feature of many workplaces and for other people like me. Personally, I love it.
Staying connected is the key to surviving in this new world and virtual connection is better than no connection at all.
Self-care has been a big theme in 2020 and 2021. What are some good ways to take care of yourself?
Keep it simple and doable. Even a five-minute walk can lift your spirits! I get up at 6am and walk for an hour or so and then will step it out again after 5pm to get my 10kms in. That really helps. I also refrain from blue light devices after dark to ensure I get a great night’s sleep! I love my new bathroom and will indulge in a beautiful bath periodically with a beautiful, scented candle. I stay in touch with family and friends to get my love quotient in as well as meditating most days.
What’s next for you in the coming 12 months?
I have lots on my plate! Between working for Quest delivering workshops and managing projects, I still see private clients plus we have a family wedding on the horizon for my son, Elliott and his beautiful partner, Sophie. We have two divine grandchildren already and I try to see them as often as I can, which is never enough. Then there’s my extended family which includes you Clare and your gorgeous kids, who I also never see enough of. That’s a priority too… So, it’s work, work, work, family, friends and self-care to give me the energy to keep all the balls in the air.
Let's get personal…
What else are you passionate about besides your work?
I have a secret love for fashion and all things natural in beauty products.
What is your most treasured belonging?
I really had to think about this… I guess it’s my wedding ring which also belonged to my grandmother Clare (who you are named after). It symbolises both my history and my present relationship with gorgeous husband of 29 years, David.
If you weren’t a psychotherapist, what would you be doing?
I would have a successful, thriving online fashion company selling organic cotton, linen, and other yummy clothes in natural fibres.
What’s one thing in your home you can’t live without?
My big comfy bed.
In 10 years, I'd love to...
Be retired with enough wealth to share around.
I hope you enjoyed the interview with Margie, as well as the personal photos I pulled from my archives. The 80s were a fun time. // Clare