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Exploring Life & Business with Dr. Courtnay Meletta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Courtnay Meletta.

Hi Dr. Meletta, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I would probably say that most therapists/helpers feel as though our work is a calling. For me, I have always been a seeker. Someone who is drawn towards the mystical and ancient wisdom traditions. I am also highly sensitive (some call this an empath), deeply contemplative and introspective, and I have big feelings. Being this way was not easy for me as an adolescent and teen and I often felt out of place in my own experience. To others I appeared “fine,” but inside, I felt struggle early on. It was once I found yogic spiritual practice and teachings that I began the journey towards understanding my place in the world, my place in my body, really. Yoga showed me that all of the “too big” or “too messy” parts of me were okay just as they are. I couldn’t get there on my own. And I would say that at age 23, while studying yoga at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, I had pivotal experiences that ushered my “calling” as a body-oriented trauma therapist, Doctor of Mind-Body Medicine, into my conscious awareness. There was actually a specific moment at Kripalu that felt really big. I was on my mat in asana (posture) clinic and a teaching assistant offered feedback on the alignment of my body in a particular pose. As her words hit me (and I cannot remember her exact words) all I heard were: “you are doing this wrong” which triggered an immediate translation to me as: “you are no good.”

In that quick moment, my knees fell to the mat and with eyes closed, I (involuntarily) traveled to a forgotten memory of me in my teen years. Now, 16-year-old me was disconnected, angry, and lost, and was using alcohol, pot, and nicotine, to remain disconnected, angry, and lost. The memory I revisited was me in my childhood kitchen receiving harsh criticism and contempt from my father. In that moment in posture clinic, I did not just remember the memory. I instantaneously returned to my 16-year-old self in the kitchen being told “YOU ARE NO GOOD.” My 23-year old body FELT the real-time sensations, energy, and pain of the 16-year old me. It was truly fascinating! What I came to understand from that experience is that 16-year old me “split” as a form of self-protection, described as the trauma response, dissociation. Spiritually, I realized that my soul stepped outside of my body leaving parts of me fragmented until I was able to reclaim them, this is called soul retrieval in Shamanism. What was embedded in that experience for me is that I was unable to reclaim and heal fragmented parts of myself until I was reconnected with my body in a spiritually, spacious, and open way. This incident was one of my first lived experiences of the body’s role in my healing and showed me firsthand how contemplative and embodied practices, such as yoga, can facilitate this healing. Recognizing the role of my body was a peak experience that ultimately led me to leave New York City and my job in the beauty industry and begin a Master’s Degree in Holistic Counseling Psychology.

When I completed my hours to become a licensed psychotherapist, I began my doctoral studies at Saybrook University’s School of Mind-Body Medicine in Integrative Mental Health, which I competed in 2020. So to sum it up…my gateway path to my healing was yoga, but it does not have to be yoga. There is a myriad of contemplative embodied practices that can take you there. My goal with my clients is to shepherd them towards their gateway practices. I make it my work to know and understand the various practices and originating traditions that could be someone’s gateway. Plant Medicine, ritual, ceremony, movement-based practices, manual therapies, etc. I do not push an agenda or sell a one-way model that I have deemed as “right” because I do not believe there is one. What I do know is that it needs to involve the body and it needs to involve belief. In all of my professional experience, I have seen that my clients who believe in something (I don’t care what it is) suffer less than those who refuse to belief in something.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
First of all, life is not smooth. It’s such an interesting misconception that many of us are raised to believe it “should” be painless, it “should” be smooth, it “should” come easy. What a disservice to believe these things! Adversity builds character. Struggle reveals our resilience. A smooth journey would mean we never rocked the boat and I promise you there is a lot of boat rocking when you are learning to be your most authentic self. This is because we have to UNLEARN the many conditions of our childhood that told us how we have to be in order to survive and get the love from our primary people (namely mom and dad). My main challenges have been a result of my own woundedness, which appears in my life as self-doubt, these days often framed as impostor syndrome. Believing I don’t have what it takes. Silly, really, when we think about it, and this self-concern we all have. Which is why perspective, and practices to shift our perspective, are critical for us humans. This leads to an important truth that I talk to my clients about…Our wounds (and we all have them) never, ever fully go away. Our wound is our vulnerable part. Let me use a metaphor to explain. Let’s say you tore your ACL in your knee as a teenager.

Through surgery, PT, and time, the knee heals. However, as an adult, you still know you have a vulnerability in your knee and you likely will pay attention to the vulnerable, old injury because you have learned how you need to care for it, to maintain its health, to strengthen it. Our emotional wounds are no different. We do not ever disown our wounds, rather through expansion and healing we accept them. See how that works? So, my wounds still appear, even as someone who has a Masters, Ph.D. and helps others every day in their struggles and traumas. None of that matters, really. In fact, I always joke that I got my Ph.D. to prove to myself I was smart enough, and it didn’t work!! This may be my challenge, but it is not for naught. It is a necessary part of being a healer and it makes it possible to meet my clients fully. We are all human. Being in the struggle together in a conscious, honest way is where we heal.

As you know, we’re big fans of Integrative Psychotherapy & Mind-Body Consulting. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
I am a clinically licensed psychotherapist that specializes in body-oriented trauma psychotherapy. My work is rooted in the alchemy of ancient and modern healing. I work one-on-one with clients to process their traumas and hold them in deep compassion, acceptance, and non-judgment so that space may emerge in their experience. When space emerges, we have room to inhabit our lived experience in new ways, expand our window of tolerance, form new habits, develop new patterns, and ultimately change our lives. I am also a yoga teacher with 500-hours of training experience and have a bunch of other certifications in different modalities that I meld together to create my work. Presently I am working on building a space (launching post-pandemic) where my client sessions are dedicated to a combination of bodywork and body-oriented psychotherapy. Stay tuned – I am pumped for this! I am also excited to be a part of the therapeutic plant medicine revolution that is making it possible for people to heal in a much deeper way. I think what sets me apart is me. And I don’t mean that from a superior place, at all. I just actually believe that each of us healers have a way of connecting with people that is unique. I am not meant to work with everyone. But I do think it is the collective sum of my experiences personally and professionally, as well as my ability to connect and deliver information that sets me apart. And I would say the same for every healer out there. So, my biggest message to anyone when seeking a healer or helper is to pay attention to the messages in your body when you hear about/read about them. Does your heartbeat a bit quicker? Do you feel energy pulsing through your limbs? Did you unearth a lingering curiosity? Trust the pull. In that vein, if you feel the pull to connect with me or anyone, I urge you to trust that intuition.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
Risk-taking actually appeared as a phenomenological theme in my doctoral research while studying yoga as a vehicle for leader self-development. It is a really important topic. Some people might think risk-taking looks like jumping out of a plane. Sure, that is true. But there is a far more subtle and perhaps seemingly more threatening type of risk we have to take by doing personal development and healing work. All growth is going to require risk. All of it! This is because of a few reasons. Simply stated, going inside to do “inner work” is hard. It takes courage and requires us to become vulnerable. Facing our shadow is painful (until it isn’t). Therefore, most people avoid taking this deep dive inward. But, there is no growth without going inside, taking a deep and hard look, and becoming radically honest with what we learn. Secondly, there is risk in change. Our unconscious parts do not like change. So every growth action we take we are risking the safety of our habitual patterns and conditioning. Every time we step into our more authentic self, we risk our identity as we know it (which is ego) and our relationships that have supported us thus far. Change is risky. Necessary and risky.

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Robyn Ivy

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