How Mental Health First Aid introduced me to a whole new world 

By Sarah Cannata

In January 2021, I became a certified Mental Health First Aider through Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia. Back then, I was exploring healing through writing as a business pivot. From my own personal experience, I understood the power of writing to heal. However, I also identified that I could be dabbling in areas I didn’t necessarily feel professionally well equipped enough to be touching on. I wanted to ensure my clients were safe and supported at all times.

Mental Health First Aid was an important starting point

MHFA equips people with the skills to help anyone they are concerned about. I found the course to be beneficial both personally and professionally. According to MHFA Australia, each year, 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. That’s not an insignificant statistic. In my experience, people’s external world does not necessarily reflect their internal world. This contributes to the complexity of mental health.

Becoming a Mental Health First Aider gave me the confidence to put together one-on-one healing through writing sessions that could be customised to a person’s unique needs. As I facilitated more of these sessions, I realised my clients were constantly tapping on past trauma. I knew that if I could help people to process this trauma, that would take my healing through writing sessions to a whole new level.

Trauma-Informed Coaching Certificate

I’d been following The Centre for Healing for several years but never really contemplated doing a course. I’ve considered continuing my studies on multiple occasions, but I never felt like I found a good fit that encompassed everything I was seeking. The Trauma-Informed Coaching Certificate provided me with a solid understanding of what trauma is and what a trauma-informed approach really means. I finished the course on a long weekend. There was just one problem: I wanted more.

So much of the training helped me on a personal level to connect the dots; to understand how past experiences continue to impact my life on some level today. The co-creators of the course, Ryan Hassan and Matt Nettleton, speak about mental illness in a way I’ve never heard before. They also weave in their personal stories to add to the teachings. It’s not an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ approach.

Embodied processing

After much contemplation, I decided to take a leap of faith and enrol in the embodied process certification. I say a leap of faith because after completing the Trauma-Informed Coaching Certificate, I understood much healing was required on a personal level throughout the journey. And I had a heap of imposter syndrome showing up. Did I have the capacity to do this deep work?

Embodied processing is the bottom-up approach to working with trauma. By bottom-up, we’re referring to the body from the neck down. Trauma is not the event itself; it’s what happens to someone inside when something happens. Therefore, trauma is highly subjective and part of the human experience. We all have trauma on a spectrum.

A transformative experience

On a personal level

I became a certified Embodied Processing Practitioner in 2022, and it’s hard to capture this experience in words. On a personal level, I realised how disembodied I’d been for so long. I was able to connect so many dots from several life experiences. For me, the practice lies in continuing to build my capacity to remain embodied through life. During happy times, sad times, when I’m experiencing anxiety and everything in between. I have no doubt that this lifestyle has helped me to process and integrate several undigested life experiences. That said, there are always more layers to peel back, and I continue to have my challenges. 

On a professional level

I’ve been weaving in embodied processing techniques in my healing through writing sessions for several months now. The results are mind-blowing. Embodied processing techniques may include:

  • Finding and/or creating safety so that we can build a person’s capacity (this is the one constant in all of my sessions)
  • Breathing techniques
  • Belief investigation

What my clients are saying

“I’ve only had one session so far with Sarah and I chose to work on my sugar addiction with her. To say I’m blown away is an understatement. One session and a very intense body response afterwards and the need for sugar has already halved this week. I can’t wait to keep digging deep on this one.” – Kathie

“Sarah is a wonderful facilitator and helps you to activate your body to bring you messages to understand and process.” – Lisa


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