Glendale Psychologist Incorporates Mindfulness, Yoga Into Mental Health Therapies
Jun 01, 2019 11:03AM
By Sheila Julson
Dr. Susan Trafton
Dr. Susan Trafton grew up on a farm in southern Illinois during a time when career options for women were slim. “I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, when people had a mindset that women would be either secretaries, teachers or nurses,” the psychologist recalls wryly. She decided to go into teaching and discovered that it’s actually similar to being a therapist in that it helps people grow and learn.
Trafton always had an interest in literature, so after completing her undergrad studies at Indiana University-Indianapolis, she worked as a high school English teacher. “I learned about myself in those days through literature,” she says. After three years, she went back to school to get her master’s degree in counseling from Indiana University-Bloomington. She wanted to help students more directly, so she got her doctorate degree—also from IU-Bloomington—to become a psychologist.
While finishing her dissertation, Trafton was introduced to Milwaukee through some good friends that lived here. She loved how Wisconsin’s diverse landscape of inland lakes, woods, prairie and the Lake Michigan shoreline differ from the topography of southern Illinois and Indiana, and she eventually relocated to the Badger State.
During her career as a psychologist, her interest in alternative wellness increased as she noticed the connections between psychotherapy, psychology and spirituality. Trafton worked at the Lighthouse Clinic, on Milwaukee’s East Side, before opening her own practice in 2017 at GreenSquare Integrative Health Center, a community of privately owned and operated complementary healing practitioners.
Trafton provides psychotherapy mental health services for individuals, couples and groups, and works with adults and some adolescents. She incorporates mindfulness meditation and yoga into her approach while providing a safe space for people to open up and heal. She also teaches three regular classes. The class Engage the Body, Open the Heart, Heal the Mind teaches mindfulness to help the participant learn to deal with his or her thoughts, emotions and body sensations in a skillful way.
The Sustainable Happiness class helps people develop skills to heal beyond emotional wounds so that they can learn to find happiness within. “They learn ultimate happiness, regardless of what’s going on outside of us,” Trafton explains. “We can ultimately find happiness inside through meditation, breath techniques, mindfulness movement and positive psychology.” The class brings together Eastern teachings with Western teachings, with yoga and breath work, and integrates current knowledge about positive psychology and neuroscience.
Rounding out the class offerings is Yoga Nidra. “It’s not movement yoga, but yoga of meditation and relaxation to help a person let go of stresses. It’s derived from ancient India,” Trafton explains. “It helps one relax, let go and become still within, connecting with the joy, peace and love that we all carry inside and is our birthright.”
Trafton says she’s seen great results by incorporating mindfulness meditation and yoga to help her patients heal wounds of their past. “In my office, I’m working with people to help them process emotions that haven’t been fully resolved,” she says. “The classes are more educational, and I get to talk to the clients in a direct way to get them to use these skills. In the classes, people struggling with life get the support of other people going through the same issues.”
Trafton sees mainstream American society becoming more accepting of yoga and mindfulness skills, and she notes that area school districts, including Milwaukee Public Schools, are teaching mindfulness and yoga to children in order to help them deal with stress and learn coping skills. At her office and in her classes, Trafton notes that her work helps her heal and grow, as well.
“As I become more connected and enjoy the peace and love inside myself, I know more about how to take my clients down that same journey,” she concludes. “I like the deep connection with other people. They develop a trust in you and reveal their deepest, darkest spots. Being there with my clients and providing unconditional love as they’re opening themselves up and revealing the pain within is deeply meaningful.”
Dr. Susan Trafton’s office is located at 6789 N. Green Bay Ave., Glendale. For more information, call 414-305-7496 or visit GreenSquareCenter.com.
Sheila Julson is a free-lance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.