Academic Learning is Part of Mental Health

Some of us, both children and adults, are interested in learning, in aesthetics, in theories, in moving our bodies, in ethics and justice. For those of us who learning is a way of life, having access to new ideas IS part of mental health. Exchanging and elaborating on our experience and knowledge is a way of life for us. In other words: if we are bored, if life feels dull and repetitive, our psyche suffers. We might find ourselves feeling depressed or crazy.

For 2e kids a mental, physical, or learning disability may stand in the way of accessing new information and communicating about it. A gifted child who is too anxious about her reading skills may not be able to learn to read. A child who is too much of a perfectionist may not be able to tolerate practicing the piano and may lose access to expression through music. A child whose language skills don’t match her speed of thinking may feel she can not communicate her ideas and may lose access to discussion with others. These examples, and others, often result in 2e children and adults becoming, not only isolated, but also deprived of essential tools for learning and growth.

Social Emotional Challenges of 2e Kids

2e kids tend to rely on themselves, rather than on relationships, for learning and for managing their emotions. Sometimes that works well, sometimes they miss out on opportunities for meaningful experiences with others. Those relationships depend on having a good experience of rhythm with others and 2e kids often feel out of sync. Their thoughts seem too complicated to put into words, their sensory experiences too overwhelming to keep track of, their emotions too big or changing too fast to communicate. Trying to communicate all these to other people, who themselves are ever-changing beings, can feel like too much. 2e kids often find it more possible or attractive to rely on more stable elements. They rely on things they create themselves: their own thoughts, rhythms, and rituals. They rely on steady things outside of themselves such as computers, bland food, and well known plans. Sometimes this works very well in providing the child with enough peace of mind to think her own thoughts and develop at her own pace. Other times it turns into rigidity. It can get in the way of opportunities for the child to learn from, and be supported by, other people.

These issues are often misrepresented and misdiagnosed by some professionals, often talked about in terms of resistance, defiance, or lack of empathy.

Social Emotional Coaching at Big Minds

This is where our social emotional program can help. 2e kids can achieve the capacity to experience being in sync with others and with their environment. This experience is not only achievable, but also important for their emotional development, and is key to helping them overcome difficulties. Our three interns will each be working at Big Minds about 10 hours per week. They will be with the kids during Investigation and Project Time, at lunch and at the park, working through social dynamics, frustrating moments, and transitions. The interns will lead ongoing small groups and one-on-one social emotional coaching sessions with children whose families are interested in participating in the program. Interns receive training on both the academic and social emotional needs of 2e children in a rigorous didactic program. The interns will receive three weekly supervision hours. While it is important for me to provide a rich and dynamic learning environment for the interns, my first and most important goal is to serve the needs of the students and families at Big Minds.

Our Staff

Orit Weksler, MFT: School Counselor and MFTI Program Director

Orit was born and raised in Jerusalem. Studied history, theater, and special education before earning her MA in Expressive Arts Therapy at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Orit has been the Training Director of an intern training program in Albany, California, has lectured in conferences, and taught at Access Institute in San Francisco, California. Orit has been working in private practice in Berkeley, California since 2008, providing individual and group therapy for children, teens, adults, and parents.

BJ Henry, MFT Trainee: Social Emotional Coach

BJ is currently pursuing her MA in counseling psychology with a specialty in somatic psychology from JFK University and has a BS in Child Development from UC Davis. She comes from working at the JFKU Oakland Community Counseling Center. Believing that we all have the ability for healing she is adept at helping people identify their strengths and resources and assisting them in learning to use these inherent abilities to improve emotional regulation, sociability and sustainable resiliency.
BJ Values her own creativity, vitality and individual mind, body and spirit which allows her to value those unique aspects in others. She utilizes bodymind practices of mindfulness, meditation, yoga and swimming to facilitate full presence when being with others. She has two grown sons, 25 and 21, and lives with her partner in the East Bay. In her free time she enjoys being with family, friends, reading, poetry, camping and spending time with her Golden Retriever, Libby.

Sarah Baaijen, MFT Trainee: Social Emotional Coach

Sarah has her MS from the University of Amsterdam in Clinical Neuropsychology. She moved to the US in 2013 in order to be surrounded with pioneers in the field of neurofeedback, trauma, mindfulness, and consciousness studies. She worked as a research assistant for the Greater Good Science Center and as a neurofeedback trainer and wellness coach for a licensed clinical neuropsychologist. Currently, Sarah is pursuing her MA in Counseling Psychology at CSU East Bay, Hayward and is running her own neurofeedback practice in Berkeley. She is especially interested in understanding neuroplasticity and the effects of trauma on brain development. Sarah is committed to teaching self-regulation skills to children and helping them thrive emotionally and socially.

Heidi Aronson, MFT Intern: Social-Emotional Coach

Heidi earned her MA in Counseling Psychology from JFK University in 2016. Prior to that, she lived the life of an undiagnosed 2e multi- potentiate. This earned her many adventures and battle scars, and gained her much wisdom and courage. She is also the parent of two 2e children, and so is thoroughly acquainted with the thrills and challenges of supporting and nurturing these kids. Since 2015 Heidi has provided therapy to individuals, couples, and groups, and is launching a private practice in Berkeley under the auspices of Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center.