ep017: Practitioner Spotlight: The Real-Life Evolution From Practitioner to Leader with Galina Denzel

ep017

 

 

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What does the evolution from solo practitioner to leader of a team and a business look like? I’ve brought Galina Denzel on to share her story of this transformation.

Galina is a Business Revolution Academy graduate and member of the Leadership Cadre who has experienced tremendous growth. In our conversation she takes us back to 2017, when she was working 1:1 with 35-37 people per week and putting in more hours than she could count – yet still struggling financially. Today, she’s running a successful and powerful group program helping people with disordered eating, has quadrupled her income, travels the world regularly, and promoting her latest book, Peace with Food, Peace with Self.

In this episode, I speak with Galina about her experience evolving her identity from practitioner to leader. We talk about how she learned to separate her work life from her personal life and the internal processes involved that got her to where she is today.

About Galina Denzel:

Galina Denzel is a trauma resolution practitioner and movement specialist who works with nervous regulation and conscious movement to support people towards a greater connection to themselves, others, and the environment. She works with people struggling with chronic pain, traumatic stress, emotional eating, and restriction.

In this episode of the Business (R)Evolution Podcast:

  • The real-life evolution of a practitioner’s business
  • Her past life as a solo practitioner working 40 client hours a week (yet still struggling financially)
  • The fear Galina experienced around marketing and sales, because she “wasn’t good at it”
  • How it took her 3-4 sessions with a therapist before she felt ready to work on her business
  • The steps forward in her growth, including her visibility in the world, and hiring a team of support
  • Stepping into the role of leader, and the internal shifts required for that
  • And more!

Resources and links Joanna mentions in this episode:

Joanna Sapir is a business strategist and coach helping innovative wellness practitioners build more profitable and sustainable businesses. She's on a mission to build a movement of people creating a new vision and reality for our future as humans on earth.

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Full episode transcript

[JOANNA SAPIR]

Hello, hello. Welcome back. I’m excited to be here. I just returned from a trip to Canada, speaking at the Canadian Massage Conference, and upon my return discovered I wasn’t feeling so well. It turns out I got Covid for the first time. So you probably hear it in my voice, just for this intro. Fortunately, the conversation I’m bringing you today, I was not sick yet, so I won’t sound like this. So today I’m talking with Galina Denzel, who is one of my favorite people on earth. Galina is a trauma resolution practitioner and a movement specialist whose work with nervous system regulation and conscious movement supports people towards greater connection to themselves, to others, and to our larger environment.

She specializes in the areas of chronic pain and traumatic stress, as well as recovery from emotional eating and restriction. Her newest book, Peace with Self, Peace with Food explains the link between eating behaviors and trauma and offers a compassionate approach to healing. She is a nutritious movement, restorative exercise specialist, a somatic experiencing practitioner, somatic practice touch practitioner, and a neuro-affective relational model practitioner. Galina is also a long-time client of mine. She’s a graduate of the Business (R)Evolution Academy, and she is a member of the Leadership Cadre, which is our next level program for academy graduates ready to scale their businesses.

I wanted to bring Galina on to the show to share the real-life evolution of a wellness practitioner and her business over the last five years. She’s gone from being a solo practitioner, she was working in-person, as you’ll hear, 35 to 40 client-facing hours a week now to the leader of a team and the true leader of her business. She has quadrupled her income, she’s traveling the world as she shares, and she’s publishing books. The work she does, helping her clients find peace with food is powerful, and she’s truly a powerful person that I hope will inspire you in your business and your life. So here’s our conversation.

Welcome to the Business Revolution Podcast, where practitioners and coaches that provide services in health, wellness, and education, come to learn the business side of things like marketing, pricing, hiring, finances, all the things you need to streamline and organize your business, create steady and predictable income, serve your clients even more deeply and reach your full potential as a business owner. If you are a skilled, experienced practitioner of your craft that has or wants to have a profitable and sustainable business doing the work you love, you’re in the right place. I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s get into this episode.

[JOANNA]

Welcome to the show, Galina.

[GALINA DENZEL]

It’s so good to be here, Joanna. Thank you for inviting me.

[JOANNA]

Yes, I’m always excited to talk to you. It’s just always such a lovely experience. So thank you for agreeing to come on and share your story. I think that your story is just beautiful and inspirational and can teach a lot of people listening about the real-life evolution of a practitioner’s business. That’s what we’re going to dive into. I wanted to start five years ago, so there’s a history before then even, but let’s start five years ago, which would’ve been 2017. Tell us what you were doing then.

[GALINA]

Yes, well, in 2017, I was mostly working one-on-one, very much behind closed doors and what I discovered later doing the work of like four practitioners, and because that’s how many practitioners it took to replace me when I closed my one-on-one practice and moved away from Southern California. But I was in Orange County serving mostly people working, with complex pain and chronic pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndromes, and working both to support them in healing movement as a movement professional, and also as a somatic experiencing practitioner, helping them heal and understand their nervous systems. I was working a lot, I was working a lot, and I loved it.

I loved working one-on-one. I loved having a full schedule. I was working with 35, 37 people a week, and I was not aware of how much that was until one day in a lunch break with some of my colleagues, some of my somatic experiencing colleagues, people were asking, “Oh, so how many hours a week do you work?” They were asking each other, and I was like, “Oh, that’s an interesting thing. I’m originally from Bulgaria and nobody really counts the hours they work culturally. Like this is a very American thing. I’ve only been here 11 years, and at that time, I had only been here five or six years.” I was, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

So I opened my calendar and I counted, and I was like, “Huh, so people were saying, oh, 15, 18, 20. People were like, wow, 20.” I looked and I was like, “Oh, that’s why I’m tired.” I hadn’t really taken into account how much I was working. People were calling me, they needed me, and I showed up and I worked, and they felt better and that gave me great joy. I grew up being very empathic. I grew up having a great resonance for what people need, and I knew how to support them through movement, through teaching them how to both move their bodies, touch their bodies, massage their bodies, hold their bodies in a way that supported them, and also with somatic experience, giving them lots of tools to have a really full life, even after multiple surgeries and injuries.

But at the same time, that wasn’t, I think what you would call my zone of genius. That was just my zone of excellence but I was on such a production cycle, hamster wheel that I didn’t have enough energy to pull back and really feel into what really nourished me and what really was what I wanted. So I would sometimes step into it. I would take a personal retreat or would go take a workshop and there’ll be this feeling of like, oh, what actually nourishes me is teaching retreats and I have a whole, very long history of teaching retreats. At that time, I had already done a couple of what was at the time called emotion and food retreats, which was me testing out whether somatic experiencing, which is a shock, trauma healing modality, combined with movement could support people with disordered eating.

So I was traveling back to Europe teaching retreats there and really feeling nourished by that. But in a way, it felt like my zone of genius, or where I felt the happiest was this escape. It was like this dream that, oh my God, I get to have this once a year, but then the rest of the time, it’s this other space that I worked with and I had no idea how to bridge the two. I started having dreams. I started having dreams, which more felt like nightmares, where my in-person studio, which was this beautiful space, I created a beautiful space where I felt independent and I felt tranquil and I felt like it was my energy in there, and people could come in and experience themselves differently, it was very zen. It was wonderful during the day but then at night, I would go to bed and I would have these dreams that it was closing in on me, and I was feeling claustrophobic, like I was stuck in an elevator.

So all of a sudden the walls of my studio would start pushing on me, and I would start feeling like I’m trapped. So I started listening to those dreams, and then a teacher that you and I share, Michelle in a workshop had me speak about what I do, and I spoke about what I do, and then she paused and she said, “Yes, but that’s not really what you want to do.” Then she joked, she’s got a great sense of humor, she was like, “Don’t listen to Galina. She’s just like bullshitting you about how much she loves her one-on-one work. She’s actually creative and she actually really shines in being a creative person and doing art and poetry and teaching people in a completely different way than what she’s telling you about.”

At the time I was like, “How dare you confront me?” It didn’t feel good. Then I’ve been forever grateful to her for doing that because it actually woke me up a little bit to the reality that what really made me happy was teaching small groups and really being a teacher, not being a practitioner, but being a teacher. I went to school to be a teacher, and I’ve always loved teaching and I’ve always loved putting complex ideas together and translating scientific language into very tangible and practical applicable ideas and that’s always been my gift, but I couldn’t, for the life of me figure out how to do it

[JOANNA]

As a business, I’ll say that you couldn’t figure out how to do it as a business.

[GALINA]

Yep.

[JOANNA]

Let me just review a little bit of what you’ve just talked about, is you’re doing this one-on-one work, and you’re coming to the point at which I met you, a little bit after this, you’ll get there. I want to note that, the things I’m hearing you say are that you’re just going, going, going, going in this one-on-one way, going, people need you, you book these sessions, you’re booking around 40 sessions a week, which is nuts. When you say you had these nightmares, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest bit because it really is this hamster wheel and what I want to put in here is where you were financially, because I know that you were not making much money. You were making like five to $6,000 a month with all your things combined, which is not even a livable wage, really in California anyway. And that’s the gross income, right? I don’t even know what the expenses were.

[GALINA]

Yes, I wasn’t making a lot of money. I wasn’t charging enough for my services. Oh, and by the way, a lot of this was also happening because I was still serving probably about, this is something that you don’t know, I was probably serving, about 30% to 40% of my clients were still in Eastern Europe. So I was making Eastern European money in the United States, which is what made my income so low as well. I had a huge online school in Bulgaria teaching online, teaching workshops, teaching one-on-ones, supporting people and that was a lot. That’s a big reason why my income wasn’t what it should have been either.

So today I can afford to do that, and it feels really, really good. Back then, it was really a strain both on me and my family, and it definitely didn’t feel like running a business. It felt like survival. So at the time that I met you in 2019, I had already figured out how to teach weekend retreats here in the United States to introduce the main concepts around emotions in food, which was the method I was starting to develop to work with the nervous system and disordered eating. Then I had figured out how to teach this one and a half hour paid workshop that I still teach to this day, which was the science behind how nervous system and disordered eating are related. I had started teaching my first group, and I was starting to feel immense possibility and gratitude for the ability to do it, but it was still not a business. It was still me throwing letters against the wall hoping a dictionary appears.

Like I had no systems. I remember you asking me when I first met you, “Well, what’s your sales system,” I was like, “What’s a sales system?” I was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Like, I could talk to you for days about who my clients were or what I was teaching them or what their pains and problems and goals and desires were. I could speak about that, not in their language at that point. Now I can do that. I could speak about it in my language, but I had no idea what a sales system was. I was really focused on being a good teacher and who my clients were. I was actually scared of any idea about money, about business, about sales, because I wasn’t good at it.

As anyone who’s not good at something, I’m very right-brained, I’m very relational. I’m very focused on how to alleviate people’s suffering. Also being from Eastern Europe, many of us have an interesting relationship with money where growing up in a communist space does not necessarily teach you those values through seeing maybe what your family is doing. I know that many people here who come from immigrant families or who’ve immigrated themselves like me become very successful. So these are things you can learn, but they were definitely not woven into my attitudes or my conditioning when I met you.

I remember telling you how much I was charging my group, and you’re like, “Oh, what is that based product?” I was like, “I don’t know.” I don’t know what it’s based on.” It sounded good. It felt right and I charged it and people paid it, and like, what else is there about it? So very much, I think last week on one of our calls in the Leadership Cadre, I told you that I felt very much like a business baby when I was starting with you and now I feel like a young adult or even like, oh yes, maybe like a mid-twenties adult. I’m starting to feel like I have a fully formed business brain now that can continue to develop and grow connections and dent rights and all those good things.

[JOANNA]

Let’s trace that path from business baby to where you are now. What I love is that we’re keeping this container of five years, and really this is now, we’re already in the last three years. So let’s talk about your evolution over the last three years. You said you were scared, you said you felt like you didn’t know that, so tell us about, from there on, so you somehow decided to work with me, which was a hard decision to make at all because of those feelings you had. You want to talk about that?

[GALINA]

Yes, I remember, until I met you, I hadn’t really met a coach who felt so much like they would let me be who I am and would just allow me to feel all the feels without getting overly like tangled in it. Like you’re never in norm, which is one of the modalities that I work with, and I know you work with many nerve practitioners, the neuro effective model. We speak about child consciousness and adult consciousness, the fears and strategies that come up from your adaptive child just to survive and then your capacities as an adult and you just always just stayed with my adult. You let me have my process and all my worrying and crying and being all emotional about it, and you were like, “Okay, I’m here when you’re ready.”

But I think it took me like a good three or four sessions with my therapist to work with, I remember you saying “Are you joining? Are you not joining?” I was like, “I’m joining. I just need the little therapy before I come.” But because I was so scared of starting something that was so foreign, but it also felt like it was time to stop hiding. it just felt very vulnerable to show my work in the world and I was very afraid of potentially being attacked, being attacked by other people in the eating disorder space, being attacked for my ideas. It’s like, where is your studies? Where is the research? Then also I think being asked to make my services more affordable or being attacked for not offering something that everyone can afford.

Because just all of it felt so complex, moving from a space of care to a business felt in some ways like I would be abandoning the people that I should really be serving, which totally a story, in the meantime, I wasn’t serving myself. There was so many immature, and I’m saying immature, not in a critical way, but in a very compassionate way, there were so many immature parts of me that couldn’t really relate to people as a professional, couldn’t relate to myself as a professional that needed to be tended to, that needed to grow up. It wasn’t like I did five sessions with my, four or five sessions with my therapist, and it was all done. It was a continuation and just a continuous process of finding and growing new roots because it wasn’t like I had a steady foundation that I could build on. I had no foundation

I remember those first few months were, really there was a lot of tears, like, it’s not, everybody’s like, “Oh, Galina’s a badass.” I cried my eyes out. It was really, really hard. I felt very vulnerable and I had my partner to talk to and he would listen and just let me spill my guts out and my therapist. Then I also didn’t have the money to invest at the time. It was like a big chunk and I took a loan and as a foreigner who has no credit history in this country, I was very lucky. I was charging, a lot of my online payments came through PayPal and PayPal has a loan program as long as you have a certain amount of money moving through a PayPal account every year and took a PayPal loan out and I was able to pay it back within like, the first five months of working with you.

It’s not because I put myself or gave myself a deadline, it was just a percentage of what the payments that come in and they just come out. That’s how many payments came in in the first half a year of working with you that I was able to pay my loan. That was the first moment that I was like, okay, you’re not a business baby anymore. Maybe you’re a business toddler or something. But it was a lot of emotional turmoil and I did not expect that. Some part of me knew that there’s a reason I don’t have a business, that I don’t have savings, that I don’t have a nice line of credit with a bank for my business.

Some part of me knew that, but it was so hidden from me and that’s what’s really tricky for us as practitioners. We have all these ways to explain our behaviors that are not really what’s going on. It’s not something that you can rush. Development is not something you can rush. There’s nothing you can do in six months or 12 months that can rush it because there is an internal maturation that needs to happen. That is a psycho-emotional process and if you think about it, you need to build new neuro pathways. There’s ways of relating to yourself, to people and many of us who are in the helping profession, healing arts, whatever you want to call it, we grew up in codependent family systems. That’s why we’re so good at taking care of other people.

So shifting that spotlight of care from others to yourself, building healthy boundaries, healthy aggression, learning how to say no, I mean, I didn’t have a business phone until this year. That took me what, like almost four years and half an hour at Verizon. The reality is it took half an hour at Verizon, but it actually took four years of internal maturation to go, I’m just separating my private life from my business life. It took me that long to hire a personal assistant, which didn’t happen until January of this year, which is at year five. It took me that long to hire an education coordinator, which happened in March this year, which is year five.

[JOANNA]

That’s a biggie. We’re going to talk more about that.

[GALINA]

But it’s like, if you start the beginning, the beginning was, it’s like this movie, Me, Myself, and Irene. It was really me with myself trying to figure out how do I become a whole practitioner? And you had a process for that. I had an exceptional coach before you, exceptional, and she really taught me about who I am as a teacher, what my values are, what am I really great at communicating to people and how I want to communicate it. But I was ready for the next step, which was growing the business and I had to come to somebody who understands how to grow a business when I met you.

None of what I learned about myself as a practitioner or a teacher prepared me for the business part. It’s almost like two completely different tracks. You give me an exceptional coach and then learning how to be an exceptional solo business owner and how to build a team eventually is something that’s a completely different animal altogether. What you have, which is structure for how to be, it’s not how to run, it’s how to become a business owner and how to run your business after, and all the structures you have in place really allowed me to go step-by-step and meet my internal challenges step-by-step where I didn’t have to meet all of them at once. For example, the challenge of building a framework is very different than the challenge of how to do sales. or how to deliver and surprise and really please the people you work with or how to send them after you’re done working with them. So that’s something that I really appreciate that because of the way you structured your work, it allowed me also to meet those challenges inside myself one-by-one.

[JOANNA]

I want to stay on this track of this internal stuff that you’re talking about, especially when you’re talking about the codependent families that many of us may come from. You addressed, you talked about that where you were anyway in terms of giving, giving, giving and not actually supporting yourself. I think that the story many practitioners have, or many people have in this situation of I’m a hundred percent available to my clients to just give, give, give, when you need, I’m there to give, even though I’m not being provided for, I’m not being nourished, I’m not making enough money, all of that. I think part of the story there is that if I take care of myself and if I put boundaries around my time and my work with clients, that somehow that hurts them, that I’m being selfish and that hurts them.

That’s actually not the case. I’m curious to hear if you can share, because now you’re well past that, and yet I would say that when practitioners are able to move through that shift and understand the importance of taking care of yourself financially, time-wise, energy-wise, all of that it actually allows you to serve your clients more powerfully and have a greater impact. I think you can actually serve not only clients more powerfully, but more clients more powerfully. That would be what I say. Can you talk to that from your own experience and from your just really deep understanding of what’s going on inside of somebody and any of your experience of moving through that understanding or making that change?

[GALINA]

Yes. It’s actually very complex and that’s why it’s so hard to shift, that the internal bad feeling, there’s a bad feeling for me not putting someone else first. There’s an actual bad feeling inside. When you grow up in family systems where your needs are not adequately met and that doesn’t necessarily mean that your family was harmful, but everyone’s needs need to be met in the way that they need them and sometimes the way that caregivers meet needs and the way we need them met don’t match. What happens is that the relationship becomes more important than your wellbeing and that’s something that you give up very, very early and you can give it up as early as in utero.

You can imagine a baby consuming less through the placenta if mom isn’t taken care of. That’s how early. So we’re talking about adaptations that are preverbal, precognitive that are highly energetic, and there are certain barriers inside of us to nourishing ourselves that literally saved our lives. So in a way, while I am calming myself in some way, by not taking care of myself, taking care of myself feels actually dangerous. This is all happening on such a primitive level, primitive emotional level that it just goes under the radar. So on top of it, we just have all these excuses, or I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t know why I’m drinking. I don’t know, I’m having so much coffee. I don’t know, I’m eating so much chocolate. It might happen in some, or like why I explode at my kids.

There might these behaviors that show up. It’s like, or why you resent your clients all of a sudden on Sunday night. There’s these behaviors or emotions that show up, but you don’t necessarily understand why they’re showing up and it makes it very, very difficult to put yourself first and until you actually work with somebody, which is where norm was very helpful for me, until you work with somebody on the early developmental missions and actually work through the fear, terror and grief that you felt, that created that adaptation or survival strategy to choose the other person first, it’s really hard to be on the other side of that.

Talented, very, very talented practitioners all the time, we see them struggle. We see them struggle, we see them not able to sell their programs that are really good and it’s like, what the hell? This person is so talented. They’re so good. Actually, what you’re dealing with under is this profound terror and grief and fear and those are not things that one can access themselves. It needs to be processed in relationship and it needs to be witnessed in relationship as we move through it. I had to move through a lot of that. I had to move through a lot of that to be able to actually say, “No, I don’t look at my phone after seven o’clock. No, you texted me at 7:30. Well, I’m sorry, this just not the time that I work.”

The other thing to realize is that when you believe that you’re actually helping somebody who reaches out at 10 o’clock at night or on the weekend, if you think you’re helping them, you’re not. You’re just putting a bandaid and at the best, inviting people into a codependent relationship and depriving them of their own ability to have agency and choice and to have a larger support network than just you. Now, the reality is that, one of the reasons why I love being a somatic practitioner so much is that I give people a lot of skills and tools right away for how to take care of themselves and so that’s an opportunity for them to start trusting their own being. Now, it’s true in the beginning. If somebody has a lot of early trauma that they need you, they need you and they need the relationship but if you don’t put a boundary to that relationship, you’re actually oftentimes recreating something that’s not helpful for yourself and for them. But that takes a while —

[JOANNA]

And for them

[GALINA]

And for them. But it takes a while to actually learn to trust that you’re not responsible for that person. Psychotherapists do this very well because they’re trained in it. People like me who are coaches or other helping healing arts professionals. If you don’t have that really strict boundary training that therapists get, which we don’t like, nobody really trains you in boundaries when you’re a coach or you’re a body worker or s nutritionist. Like it’s the 10 o’clock at night, how much popcorn can I eat, which I used to get in my twenties. It’s just really complex and I think people feel so much shame that we haven’t figured it out. Like I’m 42. It took me a while to face that, and I would invite everybody who’s feeling bad in some way for not having figured it out to just remember that we were babies or in utero when these little care tentacles came out into the world and what makes you a good practitioner can also really harm you at the same time. It’s really, really important to take care of that.

[JOANNA]

I will note that at the same time as you’re talking about what deeply rooted systems these are and how much work we have to do on ourselves, I will also note that I’ve had the experience with many practitioners as clients, as students in the Business (R)Evolution Academy, that simply giving them permission to create boundaries and showing them how has actually been the step that has propelled them forward. I don’t know what you have to say to that.

[GALINA]

It’s possible, I can only speak to my own experience and what I had to go through, which was not easy and speaking to the experience of somebody’s really set up in this codependent way. If they’re not, then great, then tools and skills and permission could be enough.

[JOANNA]

You know that I talk about the freelancer mindset, so in the cases I’m thinking about is that as practitioners who haven’t ever, like you’re saying, learned business, come in and start their businesses thinking, my job is to help these people and be there whenever they need, these ideas of like, the customer’s always. Like that’s how I make my money. That’s what I’m supposed to do, is respond to them immediately. It’s even taught in business, is respond immediately to somebody that’s asking for services or asking for help or whatever. So, yes, I just want to note that. Sometimes the permission is the opening, the permission and the explanation of, hey, it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, that’s not only not serving you, but in the long run isn’t serving your clients, actually. You got into some of that, but I want to get deeper into that. That by itself is the doorway, like, oh, let me walk through this door and see what that’s like on the other side.

[GALINA]

That was a different shift for me. What you’re speaking about was really necessary because I remember when I made that shift inside of me where, I remember learning with you that I’m the person that tells my clients what they need. It’s not saying, hey, come for a session and let’s see. It’s like, no, no, I have a pathway for you and if you walk that path, it’s going to support you in these ways and actually, not having a six month or a year path for you is not serving you. If I only had a one session path, or like, people reach out to me and be like, “Can I have a session?” The answer is, “No, I can’t offer you that because that’s not helpful. We need to have —

[JOANNA]

Exactly, because that’s not helpful. Exactly.

[GALINA]

We need to have an arc where I can help you and let’s even see if we’re a good fit. Or people be like, “I really want to work with you.” “Oh, I don’t know that I want to work with you.” Somebody just wrote me and said, “We want to use your book, my doctor wants to use your book for a group of patients.” I was like, for you to teach a program to a group of patients, I said, I don’t know if that’s a good idea and we actually need to make sure that each patient goes through my consultation process and we see if that’s a good fit for them. She was like, you mean you’re not just going to come because the doctor wants you? No. I think before meeting you it would be like, oh my God, I could go to this hospital and I can to this thing and they want my program. Now it’s like, I have no idea who these people are. It might be a terrible idea to teach my program to them.

[JOANNA]

Yes. Let’s catch the audience listening here up to what your business is now so that there’s some context. So we left off, you were teaching people one-on-one in movement and trauma therapy in a one-on-one hands-on setting, and you were doing these weekend retreats. We don’t necessarily need to describe all the step by step, but you did start, you joined the Business (R)Evolution Academy —

[GALINA]

I joined the BRA

[JOANNA]

Yep, and I believe you had already shut down the one-on-one in-person stuff, like you had realized that’s what I’m doing. You had done that and you had some group going. You want to share any of that, but really, I want to get to today and basically what your business looks like today, because it’s beautiful and awesome.

[GALINA]

Yes. The transition was a little scary because at the time that I decided to close down the studio, my partner also lost their corporate job. So it was literally saying, huh, so we’re going to essentially lose the whole family income and let’s just see what happens on the other side of that. I was willing to take that risk because I knew that if I could teach groups, the math would make sense and I could very quickly recover. So I closed down the in-person practice, moved to Colorado so that I could be closer to a school that I wanted to go to when I’m ready and started teaching my first group, at which point I met you. You helped me have a sales process, which allowed me to continue recruiting more people for my group and very seamlessly go from teaching a workshop, which at the time I was teaching once a month.

Now I teach it quarterly, so I teach it four times a year, teaching a paid workshop once a month, then converting from that workshop because so many people who take the workshop, it makes so much sense to them that the nervous system, attachment and sensory system are related to eating disorders. Then they come into a six month, they started coming into a six month program. A year into that I started the essential program, which is a membership where people can come in after they graduate. So right now I am three years into teaching my group program, that is a six month program and two years into having the membership.

The way people are finding me now is I wrote a book about the method that I developed, and lots of therapists have picked out the book and they have shared it with their clients and patients and because it’s well known in the norm, and I see communities, both somatic experiencing and our practitioners are sharing the book as a resource with their clients and patients, that’s how they find me. In the last group that I started in August, everybody came from one single episode of the Transforming Trauma Podcast. Every single person, which is just really a testament to what happens when you have a message and when you have an idea and you share that with people that are ready to hear it.

I would say that the people who listen to the Transforming Trauma Podcast their level of readiness and awareness is definitely palpably a different group from previous groups that I’ve had before the podcast came out. So it’s been very cool to see how the workshop and the book and my appearance as a podcast has allowed the right people to come through my consultation process and then if they’re a good fit, they get invited. It’s been wonderful to teach.

[JOANNA]

Let’s take a part, a bunch of this. So first of all, you just laid out that through our work together, we’ve created this entire marketing cascade of people finding you. You mentioned something about awareness. So this season, episode one of this season, season two is about using the stages of awareness. You just happen to mention this one podcast. Those people were already at a later stage of awareness, but then this just carried them further. But you’ve been really, really good at understanding and applying the stages of awareness to your messaging in your marketing. You’ve been just excellent at that. We will put for sure all the links to follow you, buy your book, etcetera, in the show notes here but for those of you listening, I totally recommend just even friending Galina or following her even on one of the social media platforms that we post, because you can see in action her ability to bring people through the stages of awareness in her marketing, in the messaging.

This is, and you’re in a great example of this Galina, because we’re talking about people who are unhappy with, let’s say, their pains and problems, and you can clarify for me more, are around their feelings of perhaps addiction to food. That’s almost like a later stage of awareness, but it might even be their weight or their body image or how they feel about themselves. In the early stages of awareness, these are folks that might be looking at like diets. What’s the right diet? What are the foods, the right foods that I need to eat, or the right foods that I need to eliminate? Or what about this conscious eating thing? Is that all I need? Body positivity. Like in the early stages of awareness here, people are not going, oh, nervous system regulation.

So you’re offering this service that is way, that requires a very late stage of awareness for somebody to decide to step forward. They have to understand all these other paths they could take and likely have taken, but don’t necessarily know like, why didn’t that work, why didn’t that work, what’s going on here, to get there? So I want to know that and you can speak to that, but I want to get really practical here in talking about what you offer now. So you had gone from this one-on-one to these groups and you run multiple groups a year. This is all online, so you’re location independent at this point. I don’t know if that was one of your original goals, was to be location independent, but you regularly are traveling the world and often lovely places and apparently continue to run your business while you’re on those.

You’ve got multiple groups running and as you stated earlier in the episode, now you’re starting to build a team to actually help run those programs in those groups. So vast evolution here and really scaling, you’re truly in the process of scaling your business right now and I want to talk about your income level. We said that when you were working in one-on-one and working 40-client sessions a week, again, that’s insane to me to hear and now you’re making three to four times that each month. I would love to hear what is your time like now, like your client-facing time, what is it like for you in terms of being able to, I don’t know, do things for yourself perhaps, or even give in other ways because you actually have that time? Tell us about where it’s at now and what that difference is like as a business owner and as a practitioner.

[GALINA]

So the evolution, I’m going to speak to the status of awareness first, for me, as somebody who loves to write, it’s very easy for me to write and I love writing, which is why writing a book was of a very natural part of my business. I could teach people this idea that disordered eating and nervous system health are related and the trauma and disordered eating are related. People have no idea that these two things go together or they can intuit it because trauma is a big buzzword these days. Trauma’s like the new wellness, I don’t know what’s happening out there. It’ll be interesting for those of us who are actual trauma practitioners, how we navigate this. But people read Beso Vanco and they get this understanding that, oh wow, I do have trauma and maybe that’s why I have addiction or maybe that’s why I’m using food to soothe myself and numb myself or energize myself or alcohol or coffee, whatever it is.

But they have no idea what to do, or that anything can be done or it feels overwhelming. Or they try to find a practitioner and they realize everybody has a six month waiting list and it’s out of pocket and it’s really hard to find these practitioners that are actually good. There’s not that many of us. There’s not that many of us, especially who specialize in addiction and disordered eating. So I wanted to write a book that really speaks to the people who have never connected the two things together and I wanted to write a book that’s small enough that it’s not overwhelming, and that is beautiful so people have space.

I created the book with three artists. There’s me and three artists that participated in the creation of the book so that it can be a tool that is actually regulating as you hold it and it’s not a bunch of text that just freaks you out. So that’s been really good. But what’s been really good in my marketing, which doesn’t feel like marketing, to me, it feels like I’m just talking to the people who want to listen, if you go on my Instagram, or if you go on Facebook, there’s no quotes with my name under it and cute little pink boxes. It’s like, I just, like when practitioners quote themselves, I’m like, really? He really did that? Okay, maybe that works for you. I can’t ever see myself do that.

[JOANNA]

I think I just have to say, I think that’s mimicking what people think they’re supposed to do on social media, is they’re supposed to put out this regular content. It’s supposed to be pretty and flashy and again, going to have plenty of episodes to talk about this, but totally unnecessary. So go ahead, keep talking about yours.

[GALINA]

Yes. It just feels so complex, what people do with, with their messaging. Honestly, what I found out with you is that people who don’t care what somatic experiencing is, or what norm is or what somatic practice is, or what touch for trauma is, or what the Vagus nerve is. They want to, or how to, what do people say about the Vagus, how to balance your Vagus, all this crap that just really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. What matters is that people feel seen and felt and heard and gotten, and that they can read in my messaging in their own language what they want or what they’re suffering from.

So everything I write comes out of consultations I’ve had with people, conversations I’ve had with people, sessions I’ve had with people. I’ll change the gender if I’m telling a story about somebody or the age or the circumstances so that they’re protected because people want to hear stories, they want to hear what someone says, and they don’t want to hear about me. I’m not important to the practitioner and how educated they are, how enlightened they are, or how beautiful they are, whatever it is online. This is not important. The practitioner is not important. What’s important is do I understand who you are? And I do understand who people are and what they need and want and what they’re suffering from but for the longest time, I had no idea how to communicate that.

As I think, you probably spent a few months with me looking at everything I wrote and gave me enough guidance to go, “Oh, this can actually be very, very simple.” And as long as I take very good notes, when I speak to people, I will always have something to write about. Usually, when I write on social media, which is a couple of times a week, it’s either when I’ve just taken a walk and been thinking about somebody or when something in session really touched me that I’m just sitting with the emotion about it and I get to write about it. I get to write what people are on the other side of and writing not about what I do because who cares about somatic experiencing or norm? What people care about is that they feel better and that they feel better now and that they have hope that they can feel better and that others have been where they’ve been.

One thing that I’m looking forward to this fall is, I’ve spent the whole summer traveling. I’m having a bit of a Covid rebound travel syndrome. I think it should be called, after, two years of sitting at home. I haven’t been home in two months but as I get home this fall, I’m looking forward to sitting down with some of my students and recording some more student stories to put on my website because that’s who I want people to learn from, is my students. And this is also who the people were when I started looking at how do I build my team. I started building my team with practitioners who were also my students, so people who are trained as somatic experiencing and norm who are therapists, who are wanting to coach people in the way that I teach, who have been through my program and who can do this peer coaching, which is very, very different than our top down coaching.

Even in our team, we don’t have supervision. We have Intervision. I’m not on top of the practitioners that are working on my team. We work side-by-side and that’s just a really beautiful feeling. So in the current structure of my business, what’s happening is I teach the small groups that are four to six people and I enroll multiple groups a year. Then my practitioners teach the one-on-one coaching sessions that people get as a part of their program so they can explore their more, the way that patterns show up individually in their lives. I get so much joy out of training practitioners. It’s probably what I’ve loved the most.

In my previous life in Bulgaria owning a gym, what I loved the most was training the trainers. As a teacher, I’ve always loved teaching practitioners and teachers and a lot of practitioners come through my groups. My groups are probably 50% to 75% practitioners. Lots of therapists come through my groups. I think that that’s normal because so often therapists don’t take care of themselves because we’re so focused, practitioners, so focused on other people all the time and meeting their needs. So it’s a beautiful thing. I feel energized by what I do. I work a lot, I have a lot less client-facing hours. My rule is I only do four things a day. Four things a day can be three groups and a one-on-one or two, one-on-ones and two groups, but only do four things a day and everything, all the other time goes to reading and learning and education.

I’m still learning. I’m constantly learning. That’s very important for me that I have space to learn so I can become a better teacher. My education coordinator and I are spending a lot of time rewriting curriculum right now and making curriculum better and creating new tools for the school. I feel like I have a school now instead of, I have one-on-one clients, which is a very, very different feeling. Whether that becomes a school for practitioners at some point where I can teach others to do what I do, I have no idea. For now, my focus for this year in 2023 is to stabilize my current team and to really have exceptional quality of surveying our clients and our students and then we’ll see what happens next. I’ve had two books requested, Peace with, my book is called Peace with Self, Peace with Food. I’ve had two books requested, Peace with Self, Peace with Work, and Peace with Self, Peace With Sex. So we’ll see when they come and when they come. But hopefully by 2025 we’ll have those two as well.

[JOANNA]

Galina, thank you for for sharing your story. You have truly gone from a codependent practitioner, overworked, 40 plus hours a week. It sounds like if you were seeing clients 40 hours a week, you were probably doing nothing to run or lead the business.

[GALINA]

No, just making sure I pay my bills.

[JOANNA]

Right, and now you shifted to being a business owner and now truly the leader of a business. You are truly the leader of a business now, teaching other practitioners, duplicating yourself in many ways and building a team so that more and more aspects of the business can run without you while you lead. So it’s not about just passing off work. It’s about you getting to lead the business in the direction you want to, you getting to do the things you love, which is the teaching aspect, you getting to write more books potentially. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your evolution over the past five years.

[GALINA]

Thank you for your patient leadership and just the way that, it’s so cool to feel that someone’s got your back and you have been just exceptional at that support. I feel like it’s almost like I can dock my ship, like you’re this dock that I can dock my ship and that I can go out into the ocean and come back and go to the ocean and come back and replenish. Also all the practitioners in the BRA and the BLC have been so exceptional in cheerleading and us, all of us cheerleading each other and having this feeling of community, which I know how hard it is to build the community and I treasure it so much that I get to be a part of it. So thank you.

[JOANNA]

Thank you for being part of it.

Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast and you want to apply what you’re learning here in your business, did you know that you can meet directly with me and ask me questions and get my help when you come to the Practitioner’s Business Round Table? The Practitioner’s Business Round Table is a free gathering for innovative practitioners that I host each month. We meet live via Zoom and when you sign up for a spot, you have the chance to submit your questions beforehand, to get them answered by me at the round table discussion. You can grab a seat for the next Practitioner’s Business Round Table by going to joannasapir.com/roundtable. Let’s go deeper. Come learn more about how to build a fulfilling and profitable practice with long-term clients and stable income. I hope to see your face there.