Member profile: Minky van der Walt

04 October 2022

We profile PACFA member Minky van der Walt, a somatic psychotherapist and music therapist who will be speaking on Day 3 (16 November) of our online Safety Through Diversity Conference, 14-18 November 2022, about the ‘misnomer of self care’.

You’re a somatic psychotherapist and registered music therapist who specialises in helping people manage stress and feeling overwhelmed. Can you talk about how you use these modalities?

Particularly when we are stuck, lost for words or in need of a buffer between our experience and its communication or moving closer to it, these modalities and other nonverbal approaches (like art, movement and exploring tactile experiences), are a wonderful way to go beneath words, and find alternative ways to: express and explore; connect; attune; regulate; and to make the implicit, explicit.

For example, we might not be able to talk about our experiences, but we can find other ways such as: drawing it; finding a shape, colour, image, action, movement, sound or posture that represents it; writing it down; noticing where it is located in or around our body; using gesture: an action, movement or posture, to show what we may have wanted to do in the past, during an event or interaction, or what our body wants to do in the moment; or finding a song or piece of music that expresses it -- music can be a wonderful co-therapist if you select a piece that can hold the felt sense or need in the moment.

Can you say something about your choice to become a psychotherapist and what the work means to you?

I have always been passionate about supporting others. I do feel like I didn’t specifically choose to do this work, but that it has been an evolution over time. As a young music therapist, I always knew that I wanted to support people on a deeper level. But I also knew that I wanted to wait and grow within myself before stepping into it.

To me it is a huge privilege to be able to walk alongside, and work creatively to connect and find new ways to explore, grow and heal. I love this work.

You’re one of the ‘collaborators’ who’ll be generating discussion on Day 3 of our Safety Through Diversity Conference 2022That’s the day themed ‘Politics of Mental Health’ What will you be speaking about?

I will be exploring the misnomer of self care and the need for collective and community care in the face of overloaded, overwhelmed and, in many cases, toxic systems in healthcare. I am interested in joining with others to explore ways that we can support and learn from each other. How can we come together as communities of support to explore our needs? What can we learn from each other? I’m really looking forward to it!

Day 3 (16 November) will be looking at the role of counselling and psychotherapy within the broader mental health sector. As a psychotherapist using somatic and music therapy, how do you see your role within the broader schema of the mental health professions?

In addition to my work with Tempo, which offers clinical supervision, therapeutic support and professional learning for health and education professionals, I also work part-time at a family violence counselling service supporting parent and child survivors. Using creative arts, music therapy and somatic processes are central to all of this work.

I see my role as offering a valuable source of authenticity, and safe connection to self, others and the situations in which we find ourselves. I think it's important for people to access a range of approaches to healing. It is important for anyone seeking support for them to find the right person and approach: the relationship, mix of personalities and style of practice are all part of that process,

Helping professionals are often overstretched, exhausted, struggle to put themselves first, and can be quite intellectual / academic in their thinking. I think the somatic, art and music processes are particularly helpful here as they offer a different way into connection.

What are your practices to stay mentally well?

 Firstly, I want to acknowledge that sometimes this is easy and sometimes it falls off the radar. 

Things that are really important to me are: time with family and friends; playing / listening to music; small movement breaks during the day; getting to the gym and the pool; being in, on, or around water--I love swimming and being out on my kayak in the ocean; and time with my crazy, cuddly dog Pablo

I work part time in a family violence counselling team, and part time in private practice supporting health and education professionals. In addition to regular clinical supervision (internal and external), I love my team support, debriefing and case analyses, and external peer supervision sessions on a regular basis.