Practitioner Journey: Gretchen BickertSep 24, 2019
Gretchen Bickert, from Arizona in the USA, used to live a very different life working in a zoo. She tells Yasmin Rosales how, given the right training, anyone can change career direction to work with sound.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’m from Michigan, but I’m living in Arizona. I worked in the zoo field for over 20 years working with animal records and data. I also oversaw the transportation of zoo animals. I’ve been involved with holistic modalities for a large part of my life. I started out 30 years ago with aromatherapy and herbs. I have been teaching yoga since 2003, and also have been doing sound baths since 2008. I was involved with what was known back then as the “New Age”. Then in 2015, I switched full-time to working with sound, teaching yoga and doing sound baths. So, I was always very interested in different ways of healing and it just kept growing. I kept adding more things. When my dog got sick back in 2012-2013, I really dove into doing more work with animals as I learnt ways to help him.
How did you discover sound healing?
I have always felt that sound and music is not only healing but that it also has the ability to shift your state of mind and your emotions. Even just by listening to a song on the radio. Back in 2003, I heard some people playing crystal bowls and I just thought; “oh my gosh I want one of those!”. I ended up getting one and I would bring it to my yoga classes. I teach Kundalini yoga and I ended up getting a gong for that a couple of years later. So, I played that in my classes and then I started to play it at sound baths. My journey with sound healing just grew from there.
Gretchen happily plays her beloved gongs.
Sometimes I think what really happened is people were experiencing all these shifts and telling me what happened to them and it really made me wonder what I was doing to make those shifts happen. That led me to study sound healing in more depth, to find out more about how it works so I could replicate what I had started.
I had been studying with Don Conreaux, who’s a big name in the gong world. When he would come to town, I would take his workshops to learn more techniques. I even got to play with him and his ensemble a few times when he was in Phoenix. I also studied at the Globe Sound Healing Institute in San Francisco. Then I found the Sound Healing Academy (SHA). I was able to skip the level one course and go straight into doing the level two diploma because I already had previous training and experience.
What do you like the most about SHA’s approach to sound healing?
I had studied with other teachers and schools and they were great but I really like how SHA has the whole package. It’s not just theory where they teach you what a Tibetan bowl is or what a tuning fork is. It’s so holistic. It includes everything you need to know. It isn’t even just technique. Some books will tell you the ways in which you can play the bowls and you think; “ok you’ve taught me a technique, great”. But it always left me thinking; “Why am I doing this? What’s my outcome?”. I love SHA because I’ve taken so many other classes and this is the only one that is all-encompassing.
At SHA the course covers the philosophy of sound healing; the technology about how sound is working and how sound works with the body’s biofield. SHA also brings in other experts from the field, like Eileen Day McKusick, to find ways to make the program enriching. Even in the webinars, people talk about all the different ways in which they are working with sound and that helps you to get multiple perspectives.
“I love SHA because I’ve taken so many other classes and this is the only one that is all-encompassing.”
How has your experience with SHA impacted you?
Since I discovered SHA, my own clients and group work has really taken off. It was shortly after I started the course that SHA were expanding and hiring new people. I started working for them as a member of the support team, where I am responsible for responding to enquires about the courses. Answering people’s questions has also been great because I’m always diving into the course and learning more all the time. Now I also work as a tutor for SHA.
It’s kind of a dream you know. I get to work from home. I love the flexibility of it all. It’s a magical job and I feel so grateful for it. I recently went to Iowa to help facilitate the level 2 groups workshop. It was so great to share the things I’ve learnt.
It’s really allowed me to dive in deeper with sound healing and I have this global network now of people all over the world. It’s been really fantastic to have this global connection and to be part of SHA’s growth. When I first started working for SHA there weren’t many teachers and it’s just kind of exploded. I was part of that initial growth, adding new courses and helping to come up with new ways of doing things. I came on board at a really exciting time.
Can you tell me a bit more about your work with individual clients?
I’ve been seeing people one-on-one for a couple of years. I use many of the theories, techniques and philosophies of SHA in my work.
Gretchen regularly uses singing bowls in her sound healing work.
A couple of years ago I was asked to consult for a facility called Family Fusion. They asked me to come on board and see clients one-on-one. I’ve been working there ever since, seeing people one-on-one and giving people recommendations for meditations to do. I also have a certificate in counselling for pet loss and bereavement. And I work with sound to help people with depression, anxiety and trauma.
What did you find most helpful for your current work in your training with SHA?
It was super helpful to learn about the different techniques for how to use sound. The nuts and bolts of what is taught at SHA is the integral sound healing process. It has 10 steps and has been found to be successful in shifting energy, making change and creating transformation in people. I found this made things really easy for me. The way it’s set up makes it really easy to incorporate the approach into a session. It really nicely goes over all the things you need to have in your mind when you are doing a session with someone.
How does SHA help you transition from training to working with paying clients?
People need to know what you do or they’re not going to be able to find you. I think being able to go through the academy and getting a diploma which says I’m trained; I have the skills and the knowledge to do this is really valuable.
The beautiful thing about SHA is that students have to do case studies, which forces you to get out there, meet people and do your sessions. By doing that you are already in it. When you complete the course you’re not left on your own thinking; “How do I do this?”. Even though SHA does have a business module which takes you through the whole business part, you’ve also already met with clients and gone through the process. So, people already know what you are doing. You already have certain people that can give you a testimonial on how your session went. It works pretty beautifully to help transition you from training into practicing with paying clients.
“The beautiful thing about SHA is that students have to do case studies, which forces you to get out there, meet people and do your sessions.”
That’s especially true for the group's course! You have to go out there and do sound baths. You have to contact a yoga studio or a business, set it up and invite people. And you have to do that 10 times! By the time you are done, you are pretty well set up. It’s awesome! It’s not like you are just learning how to do it. You actually have to get out there and show that you know how to do it.
What are your future ambitions for your sound healing work?
I love to collaborate with others and create unique group events using sound. I have been invited to play with a local orchestra and I’m super excited about that. Also, I am working very hard to get my acupressure qualification completed, that will add another healing tool to my toolbox. I really want to help create a course at SHA on using sound with animals. And I also really want to start to expand and bring more sound healing into the palliative hospice care work that I do with animals and am really drawn to. Being able to support people with the grief of bereavement through sound is really beautiful and other cultures use it already, through wailing and verbal expression of grief and sadness. I think there is so much that can be done where we can incorporate sound into palliative, hospice care and at the end of life. For me, I really like to be able to share with pet parents’ things they can do themselves if their animals are unwell and offer people simple tools that they can use to be empowered. I also share tools they can use themselves to be sure they also continue to care for their own wellbeing.
Gretchen with her dog in the park. She now uses her love for animals in her sound healing work.
I am also tutoring more and more students in my area. I thought it would be super cool to meet up with all the students local to me who have completed the SHA courses and have a mini gathering or sound retreat soon.
What's the best place for people to connect with you?
I have an email list that I use to invite people to my sound events. You can contact me on [email protected] to be added to the list or simply get in touch about seeing me as an individual client.
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