At Mindsmith Wellness, they look at the whole person, believing that every individual is more than just a diagnosis or collection of symptoms. Founder Kathryn Millist-Spendlove is a registered counsellor specialising in trauma, with birth trauma one of her focus areas. Using her skills and extensive experience, she works with new parents, particularly mums who have had disappointing or traumatic births, or those struggling to make sense of their new identity. She understands that when a person survives trauma, the survival skills that keep them safe can get in the way of them living a full life later on. At Mindsmith Wellness, their aim is for you to be able to experience trauma-informed, tailored counselling services that help you to re-adapt to your life after trauma.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Over the years, I have worked with countless people who have experienced interpersonal or sexual traumas. I have also heard countless women talk about their terrifying experiences of childbirth, and the injuries that followed, as though that were just part of life and they needed to just try to get on with things. But I realised that what they described mirrored the experiences of some of my other clients. They were sometimes deeply traumatised and felt they did not have the right to be upset. Then I came across other women, friends, clients, acquaintances, whose births went well, but they were struggling to make sense of this new role and the new world of being a parent. These were smart, educated women, and they felt alone and like they were failing. When I came to have my own daughter, I recognised how easily birth can be traumatising and how tough those first months are with a newborn. I realised that women should not have to just accept this and struggle through. That it does not have to be this way. So, I decided to use my skills and talents to work with new parents, particularly mums; those mums who had disappointing or traumatic births, or who were struggling to make sense of their new identity, or whose bodies were no longer the same and they were trying to become comfortable again in their own skin.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I had just finished a contract with a domestic violence service as a sexual violence counsellor at the end of 2021. I had always planned to start my own private practice and the time just felt right. I knew that I wanted to specialise in interpersonal trauma, birth trauma and matrescence, and vicarious trauma. I had already been putting in some of the groundwork to set up the business, so I decided to be brave and follow my gut. As soon as I put it out there, things just fell into place. I had several other local providers in the perinatal space, such as pelvic floor physiotherapists and child health nurses, get in contact with me, so happy that there was someone they could finally refer their clients to. I quickly realised that there was a complete gap in services and women were suffering with nowhere to go. Clients started calling almost straight away and it has just snowballed. I initially only offered telehealth because Covid was still about and it gave me a little flexibility to start with, but now, only 6 months in, I am about to open a gorgeous office in Toowoomba to see clients face to face.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I have had two breakthroughs. The first came with choosing my specialities. I knew I wanted to work from a neurobiological underpinning and to work with an integrative approach, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and somatic therapies. But narrowing down what I was truly passionate about was tough. I am someone that is always curious and always learning, so each new thing would catch my interest! But once I settled down and realised where my real, genuine passions lay, I knew I had made the right choice.
The second breakthrough came in the form of two other amazing local businesswomen: Amanda Carmody at Thriving Families and Kristine Gosden at For Her Physiotherapy. Both had been desperately looking for someone to refer their clients who were mentally struggling with motherhood and the physical difficulties after birth. It turned out they were already looking at working together and when we met it was meant to be. We have recently launched The Parenthood Collaborative to release our innovative Preparing for Parenthood program which is for expectant parents and covers what to expect in the fourth trimester. It deals with everything from caring for baby, caring for yourselves as parents, how to deal with the changes in identity, relationship, roles, etc., and physical and psychological recovery from birth. The first program is running in August 2022 at the luxurious Ravensbourne Escape and we are so excited. It is the sort of program where every parent I have spoken to about it lights up and says they wish it existed when they were expecting.
It also means that we can be working in both the prevention and the treatment spaces. This program will hopefully prevent many parents struggling in the early months which means they hopefully will not need to see me for counselling. But for those that do, I will be available and ready to help.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I think this is a daily balancing act! Part of what allows me to work with trauma is that I hold really strong boundaries. I know myself well and that I need to follow my values to remain happy and able to keep doing the work I love, while being a parent and partner. I have been really blessed with a wonderful husband who is a full equal partner with me in parenting and life, so I do not feel that I need to do it all, or be everything to everyone. As I tell my clients, self-care is also care for those you love. I am the best version of myself when I look after myself and make sure I have my priorities right. Day to day, this is about good communication with my husband and daughter, and negotiating so that everyone has their needs met, even if that cannot always happen all at once!