Meet the practitioner: Tessa Heine

Meet the practitioner: Tessa Heine

From pain clinic to yoga: how OT Tessa Heine created a referral pathway for people who can fall through the gap after tertiary careOT and yogi Tessa Heine

Occupational Therapist Tessa Heine was working in a Melbourne pain management clinic.  She had introduced yoga into the multi-disciplinary program to help clients with relaxation and stress management and wanted them to progress to yoga outside the clinic.

However, Tessa was unable to find a yoga teacher with the knowledge and skill she considered necessary to work with the complex physical and psychosocial needs of people with persistent pain. She decided to start her own yoga classes for people with pain.

Tessa attended Finding Yoga’s Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training where she:

  • Learnt how to structure a course around a core purpose
  • Accessed templates to help design her program, and
  • Networked with other health practitioners and yoga teachers interested in yoga and pain

Tessa quickly progressed to the advanced assessment stage of designing and piloting a Yoga for Pain course with a small group of clients referred to her by allied health professionals. She was supported in this process through fortnightly mentoring by Yoga for Pain Practitioner Trainer, Rachael West. Mentoring helped Tessa validate her ideas, consider the business aspects she needed in place to successfully implement a new initiative, and critically reflect on her work.

Participants in Tessa’s 6-week pilot presented with arthritis, endometriosis and Spondyloptosis, as well as anxiety and depression. Her course was designed to empower them in the way they use their body and to make their lives about things other than pain.  As well as gentle yoga group classes, participants were provided with individual diagnostic sessions, course notes and a workbook.

At the end of the course, participants said they had less pain, were more confident in movement, and family members have noticed they participate more in activities.

“I am able to go to school more and go out and do more things instead of letting my pain stop me from doing what I want to do” (Participant in Tessa’s course)

One student has now progressed to general yoga classes run by Tessa’s colleague, yoga teacher, Sarah Treadwell. The student participates confidently in all the postures Sarah teaches without a pain flare.

“I am aware of how I have tended to get stuck in my ‘pain’ headspace and that I can try to move out of that and not experience pain with every movement” (Participant in Tessa’s course)

Tessa met Sarah at the Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training and saw a great opportunity to team up: Sarah observes Tessa’s classes to learn how to more skilfully work with people with pain.  And Tessa now has a referral pathway for those clients with pain she thought would benefit from yoga but for whom she couldn’t find an appropriate class.

When yoga teachers who understand pain work with health practitioners keen to see their patients progress, the result can be a referral pathway of holistic health caring.

To learn more about Tessa’s program in Ferntree Gully, Melbourne, contact Pathways Physio.

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