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Meet Stephen Dansiger of StartAgain, Institute for Creative Mindfulness, and Refuge Recovery Centers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Dansiger.

Stephen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Almost 30 years ago, I sobered up and left a musical career. About 4 months into sobriety, I was brought to a Zen Buddhist retreat, and I have never stopped practicing mindfulness meditation. I wanted to be in a helping profession, and I started as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY. The Crown Heights Riots occurred down the block from my school, and I became involved in working with non-profits and the NYC school system first to be supportive to my students through those events, and then to help rewrite the Leadership curriculum for NYC public schools. Some of that material remains in place to this day. I worked a three pronged career for a number of years: writing for magazines, playing drums and writing songs professionally again, and providing social justice and conflict resolution education for communities from pre-K through corporate and government agencies. I moved to LA in 2002 and began teaching Life Skills groups at a local rehab. I was moved to go back to school and get my Masters and Doctorate in Psychology. Early in my therapy training my supervisor was an EMDR therapist, and I was trained in EMDR therapy and found it to be the best answer to the question of how to help others, and also found it to be a mindfulness based therapy. Since then I have become a trainer of EMDR therapists with the Institute for Creative Mindfulness, co-creator of a Buddhist/EMDR based addiction treatment center (Refuge Recovery Centers), maintain a private practice, and am the author of two books, Clinical Dharma: A Path for Healers and Helpers, and EMDR Therapy and Mindfulness for Trauma Focused Care (with Jamie Marich). I also regularly teach Dharma classes at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, and other centers nationally and internationally. I present often on clinical topics as well throughout the country and internationally.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has not been smooth, but it seems like each of the struggles has contributed to where I am today. I would say that the main struggles have centered around what it’s like to build your own business, and run your own business. I have had the experience of trying to build businesses and have them die on the vine. Picking myself back up was often grueling, but I have learned through my mindfulness practice to take care of myself, and then keep going. I also have more than once had my idealism shattered by less than ethical colleagues. The same principles apply as when my businesses did not succeed. I take care of myself, try to see where I might be able to ease some suffering in this world, and keep going. If I am to be honest here, my Buddhist practice teaches me that in this world there are no smooth roads, but that internally I can build one for the journey.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with StartAgain, Institute for Creative Mindfulness, and Refuge Recovery Centers – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My business (es) are multi-faceted. My private therapy practice in Larchmont, StartAgain Associates, is where I provide psychotherapy as well as supervision for three Associate MFTs. I am also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant and Certified Therapist, which means I provide consultation for EMDR therapists all over the world. I provide EMDR Basic Training and Advanced Topics Training as Faculty with the Institute for Creative Mindfulness. I am co-founder and Clinical Supervisor at Refuge Recovery Center, which is a Buddhist informed, trauma focused addiction treatment center where I have implemented the MET (T) A Protocol, a new Buddhist/EMDR method for addressing addiction and other disorders. I have co-written a new book, EMDR Therapy and Mindfulness for Trauma-Focused Care that both outlines and drives all the work I do. I provide training for individuals and companies on a variety of topics outside the EMDR realm. I am currently looking for a space where I can hold my trainings, help others to provide workshops, and provide offices to grow the private practice/group practice I have started in Larchmont.

I am proud of all these manifestations of my business life, as they are all the result of all the lessons of my adult work life. I am true to myself in each arena. They are all directed toward the easing or transformation of suffering. I can’t think of a better way to spend my work days.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Refuge Recovery Center is growing and moving to West LA and Venice which is very exciting. My EMDR Basic Trainings are growing in size, and I am going to be presenting at conferences and providing trainings nationally and internationally this year. I am hoping to identify a second location in the Glendale/Burbank area where I can hold my trainings and workshops, provide meditation and yoga, and have additional therapy offices where people can train in and practice the MET (T) A Protocol. I am hoping to complete my third book by the end of the year.

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