Moving through your life’s kaleidoscope

Curious about our individual inner worlds, and driven by a deep love for the natural beings we all are, Carolina made the jump out of academic life as a social scientist - into counselling therapy. She launched her own practice: Essential Walks. And if I were you, I would join in on the adventure.

What made you decide to become a counsellor?
When you are a scientist, people tend to look up to you because of your degrees in science, which of course creates a distance. I was looking for a way to connect meaningfully to others.
For my research, I interviewed all kinds of people from all parts of society, including ministries. And every time, afterwards, I felt I had made friends! That made me feel good.

As a scientist, I had a job, it was my payment… But my curiosity was more for the essential, less scientifically measurable parts of life. I wanted to try to get deeper… it became more like a personal quest for what is really essential and important for humans.
Together with a colleague, who felt similar, I decided to follow the training at the Academy for Coaching and Counselling.

Why did you choose the name ‘Essential Walks’?
Walking has a rhythm that brings us in a state of mind that makes us to perceive our environment – and our own inner world – differently. Our senses open up and along with our perception also out thinking changes. This effect is usually more profound in nature. I love nature. Nature also gives counselling a wonderful, extra, dimension. Being in nature offers the personal space we usually cannot experience when we live in the city.

Were do you walk during the sessions?
Practically, we can walk in the park, in a greenbelt or on the seaside, or the banks of a river. The place also depends on the wishes of the client: maybe someone wants to walk far outside their own neigbourhood, for example, to feel anonymous and not to be interrupted by neighbours and friends.

So, the ‘Walks’ can be in everywhere in nature. But they are, essentially, walks through the client’s inner world. Therefore, we can also ‘take walks’ indoors. Through counselling sessions, or, when we want, we can use Art therapy to discover the client’s own process of expression. And we can also use Aromancy, a therapeutic system of about 180 essential oils and scents to explore our being. I accompany the client on a journey through the different experiences, feelings, memories that are triggered in his or her personal system using the sense of smell.

The ‘Essential’ part, that is what it is all about. During all sessions, whenever we walk or journey outdoor or inside, supported by whatever method, I aim to get to the core, the essence of the issues the client brings in. It is also not a coincidence that most of the aroma’s used in Aromancy are from essential oils.

Can you tell a bit more about Aromancy?
I want to help people exploring their inner world through more intuitive ways. Smell speaks to other parts of the body-mind complex - parts we usually overlook when we use verbal, mental ways to understand ourselves and others.The aroma’s used in Aromancy are coming from plants.

Smell easily bypasses thinking, just like most body-directed activities (yoga, dance, etc.) can do. Smells are also very quickly processed by the brain. I frequently see people immediately change their posture according to the smell they are holding.

The issue, the ‘problem’ for which I was initially approached, is actually the starting point of the walk through this complex web of interrelated personal stories Aromancy helps you lay bare.

Can you tell more about the Art Therapy?
Although smell is everywhere around us, art is much more well-known as a means to reach our intuitive levels. It has, like the smells, the inherent power to bypass the mind-stuff.

We have all these stories in our head, but sometimes we store these stories in a way that could not be expressed through words. That is why it is essential to use art.

Drawing, painting, art in itself offers help one express feelings, emotions, one’s identity. It makes it also possible to become aware of the process of communicating something internal externally in itself. Art makes clear the steps.
And also in the same way it is not only about shapes, but also about colors, and textures. Also different materials, like clay, paper or fabrics, it all allows internal worlds to be perceived and known.

You work exclusively client-directed?
Working client-directed (or in professional terms client-centered) and not therapy-directed is, I think, a great thing. Working from a certain method can make one neglect areas which are in true need of attention. With Essential Walks, people are not receiving a therapy. They have to bring themselves, and connect with what needs to be confronted or worked on. There is little chance to just walk around or pass the deeper issues here, as these are the working material.

But people do come to you with specific problems or questions in their minds.
During our Essential Walks, many other things besides the initial problem come to the surface. It is often helpful not to name all your problems, label them or place them into categories. Leaving things unspecified is often doing more justice to your inner realms. Because it’s much deeper. It’s never only about these problems. It’s important to go to the core, to the essence.

Because of this, reciprocity and trust is important. Counselling is essentially a process between two people. It’s the safe interaction that brings things forward and out in the open. The key is to trust the process of connection, with the help of colors, walking, nature, smells and each other.

You also are a practicing Buddhist for almost 2 decades. How does that reflect in your work as a therapist?
When appropriate, I talk to clients about doing some form of meditation. I can ask them to be aware of the body, of the wind touching the face, the sound of the leaves, the feeling of humidity, even only for a couple of breathes.
Of course, it is all depending on the individual what – and if - I ask or advice them.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers?
Maybe the word ‘therapy’ (f.e. in Art Therapy) is misleading, it sounds like activity to repair a problem. People mostly think about relating to others, expressing verbally or in any other way or meditation when they need to deal with an obstacle in their life. But these activities are not like a dental treatment. They are life, in its essence. Being in contact with yourself and your environment is connecting you to the essence. It’s as important for you as breathing.

Carolina Ivanescu
• Carolina is a counsellor, she holds her practice in open nature and in her house in the East of Amsterdam.
• The methods she uses during her counselling sessions contain Art Therapy, Aromancy.