Everyone experiences different traumas in their life. Often, they become a blockage that keeps our energy from flowing freely. And because the energy is not flowing, we tend to disconnect ourselves from who we should be and how we are inherently built. In this episode, Dr. Kristy Vanacore, an inspiring trailblazer in the field of holistic psychology, sits with Catherine Kontos to share her wisdom on reconnecting with ourselves through a Rewilding Approach. She also shares that she found the profound love she was missing through the retreat, holding hands with others as they collectively healed. Listen to this inspiring conversation as Dr. Kristy lights her lantern toward the path of healing.
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The Tribe Model Reintroduced To Heal With Holistic Psychology With Dr. Kristy Vanacore
In this episode, I have Dr. Kristy Vanacore, who has been an inspiring trailblazer in the field of holistic psychology for decades. Beloved as a modern-day medicine woman and rewilding mentor, her inventive approach to whole being healing and wellness blends ancient wisdom with contemporary science. Welcome, Kristy. How are you?
Thank you, Catherine, for having me. I’m so excited to be here with you.
It is great having you because, not only do I love what you do, but I’m also aware that you are a retreat expert per se. You’ve done a few retreats. There are a few coming up as well as usual but I love the fact that you’re doing this because you do want to spread that knowledge across. It’s a purposeful way of living your life through your work. I’m sure you feel very fulfilled doing this type of practice.
This is why I’m here. I’ve known since I was a little girl that I was put here to help people. I was always the little girl who brought groups of people together. I would amass the tribe and I always felt most safe and secure in the tribe. It was like I know this is my life’s mission and work. It’s been in me. I believe in past lifetimes as well. It is so incredibly fulfilling every day to be able to do this work and bring people together in a community for powerful collective healing, empowerment, and health and wellness. I feel so grateful that I get to do this and meeting people like you who share in the mission is everything to me.
It warms my heart to be around and surrounded by people such as yourself because we are like-minded. We have a certain mission that we want to accomplish. We’re not money motivated in a sense where some people see that the final dollar. I see the impact that I make on people. I feel like you’re the same from our conversation. Can you explain to me so people can understand what holistic psychology is and how you approach it?
The word holistic has been thrown around a lot lately. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I was trained as a very traditional Western medicine psychologist. We were taught to see every problem as a symptom, make diagnoses, prescribe pills, and therapy and that was the gist of it. Nowhere in there were people’s narratives and stories.
Nowhere in there was anything about trauma and understanding when a person is in a state of disease. It’s a state of disease and where that state of disease is coming from in the system. Nowhere in there was any conversation about how humans are fundamentally energy. Everything is energy and nowhere in there was that conversation about nervous system regulation and getting to the root cause of what caused people to become diseased.
At that time, when I was learning this in school, I was simultaneously going through my own healing crisis. I had suffered from debilitating anxiety for years. I had multiple autoimmune issues going on. I was breaking down physically, psychologically, and spiritually. I felt like an empty vessel. I saw that these traditional approaches that I was trained in and trying to both subscribe to and consume as a consumer, not as a healer in it and as a psychologist in it wasn’t working and helping me.
Not only was it not resolving me my symptoms but I was feeling more disenfranchised. I was feeling very dependent on practitioners, pills, supplements, protocols, and programs and nowhere within me was I able to source any strength or healing. I quickly realized that I needed to do something different. I needed to do something different for me. Also, at the same time, I needed to offer something different to people who were coming to me and putting their lives in my hands and wanting me to help them.
I learned and I studied and what I realized was happening was what I call domestication. We were such in a state as humans of evolutionary mismatch. Meaning that the way in which we were living, and this is still true now, is so odds with the way we were fundamentally built with our inherent programming. In that gap, and that gap is growing larger sadly every day, is where all the problems start.
We are becoming further away from our roots and essential self-healing capacities and that is why 88% of Americans now are chronically ill with multiple psychological and physiological illness. That’s alarming. That’s not even children. That’s adults. Now, it is estimated that between 65% and 75% of children. Children are diagnosed with multiple chronic issues. All of this together, I learned, “There needs to be a different way.” We need to not only get to the root cause of this disease but to do so, to heal, we need to bring people back to their roots back to the essence of what it means to be human.
I’ve called this approach Rewilding. This is what I mean by holistic psychology. It’s the whole person but bringing us back to our roots, where we came from, our lineages, our ancestors, and how we are inherently structured, organized, and built as a mind, body, spirit system. Reconnecting us with those roots so that we can rekindle our connection with our instinctual wisdom and we can ultimately reclaim our sovereignty, the freedom to be boundlessly joyful, full of unconditional love, that ingenuity, our passion, our life vision, and our self-healing capacities.
We, as humans, are self-healers. We are these magnificent beings that are fully equipped with everything we need to heal psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually. Our domestication and conditioning, living the way everybody has wanted us to live. Buying into this hyperkinetic culture that is so hyper-consumed and we’re over-consuming. There’s so much consumption. That domestication has ripped us away and caged us. Once we strip that away, we are reconnected with our ability to heal ourselves so we no longer have to be dependent on anybody.
I tell my clients, “I don’t want you on my therapy couch. I want to get you off the couch. I want to get you off the pills. I want to get you off the protocols and the plans and the dependency on practitioners because you don’t need them. You need somebody to teach you to help you reclaim what is already yours.” Again, that is this journey of rewilding. It is a reclamation. It is emancipating ourselves from the domestication that has caused us to become fearful, tolerant, and distracted so that we can become present and we can tap into all that is waiting for us inside.
I have every single thing you said there because I do believe we have a disconnect from who we innately should be, our core to what the world is offering us now. There are so many options, so many things happening, and so much distress and I feel like the world is in pain in general. It’s not just the US. It’s in general and reconnecting these people back to their original self. They should have been before all the programming came in. It’s the true essence of healing.
Everything that you said resonates with me very closely because when I did open up my addictions center retreat center, that was what the purpose was. It was to bring them back to nature back and to their core because they got lost along the way and this creates all the disease and everything else that happens to their body, mind, and everything. It’s exciting to speak to you. I can interview many people but I loved your approach to how you do this for people.
For our human bodies to run efficiently and to be healthy, energy must flow freely.
Before I go to the retreats, what I want to know is do you feel like what you do heals people from their physical ailments? You mentioned autoimmune disease and maybe other diseases like something that hurts the person physically. We know that stress is often a culprit to many diseases. Once it’s eliminated, it could reduce the symptomology but will it eliminate it? This is my question to you, what do you feel your program has done for these people?
Here’s the thing. I had said a few minutes ago about the disease. This word disease is dis-ease. All illness of any kind, physical or psychological is all the result of an energetic imbalance. Again, because we, as humans are made of energy, we are no different than the wires in the wall that have circuitry running through them and are covered by rubber. We have circuitry running through us and we’re covered by skin.
We are all energy. Illness of any kind happens when there is a block in the system energetically. Now, what that looks like on the surface? When I start to talk about energy, some people get very weirded out. They think it sounds hocus pocus or weird and it’s not science. This is the field of Quantum Physics. What I’m teaching now and what I teach people all day long is physics. I laugh and I say, “If only I knew in 11th-grade Physics class that I would be teaching people physics one day.”
This is physics. If we are to understand that we are energy and a true, healthy system like if you were to take your phone and plug it into the wall. There would be the electrical current going from the phone into the wall and it would charge your phone, and there is a smooth current that’s running through. It’s the same thing for us in our human bodies. In order to run efficiently and healthfully, to be in a state of health, the current, the electricity needs to be flowing freely.
What happens sometimes is energy gets blocked. I’m going to explain how that happens in a minute. There are blockages. There are points of stuckness, for lack of a better word. When that happens, it’s in those places where they’re stuck that disease and illness form. How this happens, one of the biggest ways that this happens for people is through trauma. Now we’ve all experienced trauma. We’re all walking around as humans with a story. We all have a story to tell and we all have an experience of trauma.
Some people hear the word trauma and think, “Nothing major happens to me. Nobody died or I didn’t get raped or something so severe,” but trauma is anything. Anything that by definition caused us to be in a moment where we were not prepared to handle it. Our nervous system became dysregulated and our energy system was blocked. I could talk about this all day, so I’m going to try not to digress too much.
The shamans, the medicine people, have taught us that by definition, trauma disconnects us with our soul because what happens when we experience trauma and the work of Gabor Maté if anybody out there wants to read about this more. Gabor Maté is the pioneer in some of this research. Even Bessel van der Kolk on the effects of trauma on the human and what happens.
Gabor teaches that trauma is not what happens to you. It’s not the fire in your house or the horrible car accident or any of that. That’s not the trauma. Trauma is what happens inside of you because of what happens to you. When this event happens and we are not in a position where we can get ourselves to safety or perceived safety, there’s a disconnect. We rely on coping skills. Those coping skills become our personality but that is not the essence of who we are. Now we’re separated, detached, disconnected from our true self or the essence of who we are.
This is how we end up living in survival mode for so long and we don’t even know it and realize it. We think that’s who we are and that is not who we are at all. That’s who we believed we had to be in order to be safe. These energy blockages in the system, trauma is one huge way this happens. There are so many other ways this is happening to us now. For instance, EMF exposure. Lack of sunlight, lack of circadian living. As humans, we are programmed much like the earth around us. We’re on a circadian cycle.
We’re supposed to rise with the sunset with the sun. We have our cycles coordinated with the moon and the ocean. We are living so far away from that. There’s that mismatch again. That causes our system to come into a state of energetic imbalance. The foods that we’re consuming with all of the toxins and the roundup and all of this are interfering with our system. There are so many ways that this happens. My approach to this work first and foremost begins with teaching people and educating people. As I always say, “If you don’t know how you work, you can’t make you work for you.” What I’m explaining now for instance about energy, as I said before. Some people hear me talk about energy.
They’re like, “I check out. This is woo-woo.” I’m like, “Let me teach you about science.” They don’t want us to know this because if we knew this, we could heal ourselves. I start with educating. I teach people who we are, and what it means to be in this human body, mind, body, and spirit. What is that all about? How does the mind work? How does the body work? How do the two work hand in hand? What does this whole energy thing mean? What is it all about? How do I direct my energy?
We all have the ability to direct our own energy. In the work that I do, again, I start with education. In the process of learning, people have these a-ha moments like, “This isn’t who I truly am.” In my private sessions, for instance, people will come to me who have been living for so long in survival mode or with so many limiting beliefs for a long time and it’s holding them back.
At one time in their life, it kept them safe. Now it’s holding them back, they want more. They see more for themselves. They know there’s something out there and they don’t know how to get it. I teach them what those limiting beliefs are all about, how they’ve become disconnected, how trauma works and how energy blockages occur. I teach them all of this. They’re starting to make connections. I start to teach them how to bring the nervous system into a sense of safety and regulation for instance, before relaxation or thriving can happen. Regulation must happen first.
I teach them all of these not only the wisdom but the actual practices for how they can do this themselves, how they can start to bring themselves into a place of regulation and then I show them. Again, the biggest part of rewilding is bringing people back to their roots. I take them into immersive experiences where they can remember. On retreat when we are gathered around a fire and I put a frame drum in each woman’s hands and we are drumming, they instantly know what to do. Now you might say, “It’s a drum. You beat the drum. What do I need to know how to do?”
The point is women were the original frame drummers. Women were the original shamans. I put a drum in a woman’s hand after having started to teach them all of this. Now there’s space for them to remember. Remember who they were before the world told them who they should be. They start to remember the roots of where they came from. They start to remember and as the sound of the drum is beating and the vibration is vibrating and resonance with the vibration and music within their own energetic body, they’re healing.
It is a profound experience that takes them on this journey of healing. Not only psychologically but physically as well because once we bring the energetic body back into balance, disease can’t live there anymore and it starts to resolve itself. Something like autoimmune disease, for example. If we think about what an autoimmune disease is, essentially it’s the body developing a reaction so to say to itself. Almost seeing your own body as a foreign invader.
Much like the earth around us, we’re on a circadian cycle. We’re supposed to rise with the sun and have our cycles coordinated with the moon and the ocean. We live far away from that, and it causes our system to come into a state of energetic imbalance.
If we look at what that means, it’s like, “I’m so disconnected from myself. I don’t even recognize myself.” Once we repair that rift and we reconnect people with their truth and their essence, that illness has no place to live anymore. It’s this beautiful approach, for lack of a better word, a wraparound approach that targets everything physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually. By spiritually, this is not religion. This is a connection with all that is, with source, and every being that exists because we are all one energy.
What do you do when it comes to the retreat? The people that do come, are they part of a program? Is the retreat part of that program or is it something that people could get introduced to this type of healing? Is it open to everybody? How do you work these retreats?
The retreats are open to everybody but not everybody is open to them. Retreats have been around for the longest time. The Native Americans, however many years ago and the shamans used to prescribe vision quests. If somebody went to a shaman and was complaining of any ailments of any kind and it was determined that they were disconnected at the soul level and to spirit. They were prescribed leaving home. They would leave their belongings and families and they would go into the woods. They would be in the woods with no food, no water, nothing. It was in the process of doing that so they would reclaim their connection.
They would hear their own voice. They would reconnect with their soul and the vision that’s there for their life. They would understand their purpose and the passion would come and their connection with the spirit would be there. This is the way people were healed. The same thing if you went to a shaman and they said, “Come to the fire ceremony. Everyone in the village is going to be there and we’re going to heal together.” Using singing, dancing, storytelling, and silence. Those are the four universal healing staffs and we’re going to heal collectively.
This concept of collective healing experience has been around for as long as time but because we’ve gotten so far away from this, this concept is so far foreign. Not only foreign, but it can be scary to some people who maybe have gotten used to coming into a therapist’s office one-on-one, closing the door, and sharing their secrets in the office. They leave the office, go out in the world, and pretend it doesn’t exist. The retreats are open to everybody.
It is more than a dream and my mission to bring this to every person because I know it is both the most ancient way of healing and futuristic way of healing all at once. It’s that beautiful marriage of ancient wisdom and modern science. I want to bring it to everybody but I also understand not everybody’s ready. The way that I put my offerings out there is that there are people who find me and say, “I heard about your retreats. I’m ready. Sign me up. I’m there.” They come and it is amazing how life-changing the weekend of this work can be. Incredible.
I have some people who come. Their lives radically transform in every way possible and they’re off. They can launch. They’re ready to soar and they stay connected to the sisterhood because that’s the beauty of this. For my women’s retreats anyway. I also do retreats for men and teenagers, but for women, using that as an example. It’s fresh on my mind because I have an event coming up. The sisterhood that forms, this is your tribe.
We do know not that tribal mentality from our elders and our ancestors but modern science tells us that a human’s nervous system regulates in collaboration with others. We know that the ultimate deep healing experience comes in interaction with others. Humans are relational beings. The ancient wisdom knew this. We’ve come so far and I’m saying, “Look what modern science is showing. We have to go back.” I integrate that into people’s lives.
There are people who come one and done. I have had women retreating with me since I began doing weekend retreats. I started doing half-day retreats then I graduated to full-day retreats. As people were getting more ready for this message that I was trying to share with the world. I had to meet people where they were at. I’m like, “People are now ready for more than two hours,” then it was four hours then it was six hours. Now it’s weekends. It’s week-long event sometimes.
It’s a very personal space and a lot of people will be like, “I want to market my retreat.” You do want to market your retreat but you need to find the people that resonate with your message and your program. That’s the most important thing. That’s why the way you did it like little mini workshops then evolved to eventually a few days.
A good way for people to get to know you, this program, and understand all that. Going back to what you were saying. This is an ancient type of healing, the tribes from back then and now when you look at it, it’s almost like a new concept and you have to reeducate people. What happened is it went from tribe to community. Our parents were very community-based and because of technology, distance, and being able to fly anywhere in the world and whatever, these communities broke up and were very individualistic as a society, it’s completely disconnected.
Not only to other people, communities, and tribes but even to ourselves. I agree with you a million percent when you say this needs to be the way to be right now. It is to bring back the retreats and become the normal. Not the luxury or when I have time. This is a necessity for your healing and well-being.
I agree. There are so many people. I had a woman call me and she said, “If only I could take time away for a Spa weekend.” I’m like, “Spa weekend? No.” It’s that domestication that has caused people to see the essentials of what we need to heal and behold as healthy as humans as some luxury that maybe if we have time to squeeze in, we can do it. They don’t see that this is vital. People are catching on. People are seeing. That’s why I say this is both the past, the most enduring form of healthcare, and the future and the most innovative form of healthcare.
With a model like this, again, you are connecting with others, sources, and yourself so deeply. You are reconnecting with those self-healing capacities that you are already born with so that you recognize that everything that you’ve been domesticated to seek from outside of you, you can source from within. That’s why it’s the future of health and wellness. That is why I believe every person has to know about this. I think you could probably tell. I get very excited about this. I have a lot of passion around this and mostly because of everything that I do professionally, I have experienced personally. I wrote a book. It’s called Rewilding: A Woman’s Quest to Remember Her Roots, Rekindle Her Instincts, and Reclaim Her Sovereignty.
There are those three components again. That book is my memoir. It’s my life story of how I took myself from sick, starving, and stifled to thriving. I went through the whole traditional mental health stuff, practice dependency to this rewilding. One of the most profoundly healing experiences that I had was retreats. I tell people to this day that it was on retreat that I learned what unconditional love was. Sometimes people look at me strangely and they say, “You’re a mom. Didn’t you learn that from your kids?” I say, “No,” because I still had some expectations with my kids.
We’re human. We do but when I was gathered in a group from my first ever retreat that I went on as a participant with twelve other women, strangers who came together, shared our story, and held hands. I literally and metaphorically created a safe space and container where I could be myself and let my guard down in every way possible and stripped naked. Be held, received, and regarded unconditionally. That is how I learned unconditional love.
You can’t take people any deeper if you’re unwilling to go yourself. You have to keep digging deeper and diving deeper into yourself.
I experienced such profound healing from that retreat. I felt called to go there because I knew from a very young, I was supposed to do this work. I was supposed to be bringing people out for this healing but I had to experience it myself. I understand the fear that people feel, where am I going? What am I getting into? Am I going to be with strangers? What’s going to happen to me? I get it all. I’ve lived it.
It’s why it’s helped people. I understand and I’m going to meet you where you’re at because I’ve been there too. I also believe so strongly with so much passion with all of me that this is the way to heal because I’ve lived it. I’ve been there and I’m on the other side of it now. I know everything I have lived through was given to me so that I could use it as a lantern to light the way for others. That’s how I do this job.
It takes a lot of courage for someone who’s never been to a retreat. The first time, they go, “People hesitate to go to parties or get-togethers if they don’t know anybody,” and that’s for a couple of hours. Can you imagine an entire weekend or week? It takes courage.
Yes, it does.
The best thing for someone who is a retreat goer is to get to know the person that is offering these retreats. Get to know their program, talk to them, get on the phone and call them. It’s their right to know that they are spending a lot of money because they’re not inexpensive retreats. There are some donated-based retreats out there but in general, you’re usually on a trip somewhere foreign and you’re doing stuff. That comes with a cost.
What’s even more valuable for me is the time they’re going to spend. They want to know that their time is being valued and it’s not a vacation because if they wanted a vacation, they could have done that on their own. What would you give as advice to anybody who has been on a retreat, has had a beautiful experience, and is now thinking of starting up their own thing because they’re in the wellness industry? What would you tell them?
Many more people are coming to me in that boat, who say, “This changed my life and I want to be able to give this as an offering, as a gift to other people because it’s so profound.” One of the things that I tell people all the time, one of the most important things is that if you want to offer a retreat. I look at it as a retreat leader. I don’t even use that word. I use to mentor and guide because I’m there as a guide and mentor and I’m also participating in it myself.
I tell people, “You have to think of yourself as a mentor.” What do all mentors do? They lead through their authenticity and show up. How do they show up? I ask people who come to me for mentoring to do retreats or to do this work in the world. I tell them, “How are you showing up in the world? You have to keep doing your work. You have to keep digging deeper and diving deeper in yourself because you can’t take people any deeper than you’re going than you’re willing to go yourself.”
The number one piece of advice that I say is you have to keep doing your own work. I continue to go on retreats all the time because I have to dive deeper. It’s not about learning what to do, the logistics. How to decorate the room or how to pick a hotel, all of that is easy when you’re in alignment. If you’re not in alignment with your mission and you’re doing it for the wrong reasons or you’re doing it from a place where you are not in it with integrity and authenticity. It’s not going to line up and people can’t trust you.
When you bring groups of people on retreat and I don’t care how big or small the group is. It could be 2, 4, 24, or 104 people. These people are putting their trust in you. You are the lantern lighting the way. That light better be so strong. This is not about perfection. I am by no means, some master, some ascended, or anything. I’m a stumbling human like everybody but I do my work consistently.
I show up for myself every day doing the work. I put my trust in other people for guidance for their retreats. I’m learning and growing as a person. That’s the expertise that you want to bring to a retreat. It’s not about the bells and whistles. Anybody can do that. What’s going to make your retreat stand out is if you can show up and the light, that lantern, is shining so brightly from within you. That is what will make your retreat the most memorable because it’s that authenticity of sharing your truth and story that people can trust.
It goes with what you mentioned before and what you’re mentioning now is about energy again. You don’t see it. They won’t see it but they will feel it. They will feel that authenticity and energy. That is what will resonate with them and for them. How can people reach out to you? I know you have a few retreats coming up. One coming up soon but whether this one or the next one. I’m sure people like to know more about you. Where can they find out more about you?
I have a website. It’s www.KristyVanacore.com. I have information on there about all of my offerings and I work with people all over the world in various capacities. Also, on social media, on Facebook under my name, Kristy Vanacore. I’m also on Instagram under @Vanacore_EmbodyYourWild. I post a lot on social media. I write a lot of blogs. I am a writer. It is one of my passions. It is a way that I have healed also is through the power of storytelling.
I write a lot of articles and I share a lot of my story and my truth because I believe our story is our medicine. To find out more about me, my approach, and what my journey has been, I’m on social media. I have my book that’s out. This is my copy. That’s all worn and torn but Rewilding: A Woman’s Quest to Remember Her Roots, Rekindle Her Instincts, and Reclaim Her Sovereignty. That is my whole life story. I believe again that if we have the courage to show up for ourselves, own our story, and put it out there for the world, that is how we can inspire so much change.
Thank you so much for being on this mission and spreading your wings to create such type of transformation. I feel like the readers will get a new insight into how impactful retreats can be and they know a lot more about you now. If anybody wants to know more, you heard her say everything where to reach her. Thank you once again for being here.
Thank you so much, Catherine. I love this. Again, sharing this mission with like-minded people who are trying to change the world is everything. This was wonderful.
For those who are looking to learn how to plan retreats from the inception of your idea to post-retreat, whether it’s for transformation, marketing, or profiting with your retreats, go to RetreatBoss.com. We offer courses, self-paced or mentorship. Thanks again and until next time.
- Dr. Kristy Vanacore
- Gabor Maté
- Bessel van der Kolk
- Rewilding: A Woman’s Quest to Remember Her Roots, Rekindle Her Instincts, and Reclaim Her Sovereignty
- Kristy Vanacore – Facebook
- @Vanacore_EmbodyYourWild – Instagram
About Dr. Kristy Vanacore
DR. KRISTY VANACORE has been an inspiring trailblazer in the field of holistic psychology for two decades. Beloved as a modern-day medicine woman and rewilding mentor, her inventive approach to whole being healing and wellness blends ancient wisdom with contemporary science. The result of her work is a return to and restoration of one’s natural state of being through the expression of vibrant health of the body, mind and spirit. Dr. Kristy’s clients experience profound and lasting transformation through an integrative approach called Root Cause Psychology. As the individual is guided through the exploration of underlying causes of symptoms, illness, dis-ease, and un-wellness, personalized support is given to resolve and thrive through them. Kristy has certifications, training and expertise in various evidenced-based practices and philosophies including and not limited to:
- Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
- Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Family Therapy and Parent Coaching
- Educational Advocacy
- Nutritional Healing and Functional Medicine
- Quantum physics
Dr. Kristy integrates these foundational approaches into a broad palette of enduring wisdom practices that support her clients in moving through the various layers of physical, mental, and emotional healing, alongside spiritual and personal transformation. With a particular emphasis on somato-emotional release and trauma release work, she incorporates a variety of evidenced-based movement practices into her client sessions in order to help them release stuck energy in the body and restore harmony. Kristy has training and certifications in:
- Somatic Experiencing
- Yoga (RYT-200) for children, teens, and adults
- Shamanic Healing and Shamanic Reiki
- Craniosacral Balancing