Bianca Stawiarski is the Managing Director of Warida Wholistic Wellness and an engaging, warm and proud Badimaya woman, whose business initially started as a volunteer endeavour. Now Warida Wholistic Wellness is an established business dedicated to helping people build emotional resilience and wellbeing, and overcome trauma, through a range of services including transformational coaching, equine (horse) assisted therapy, trauma informed counselling and bush therapy.
With over 35 years horse riding experience across a range of disciplines, Bianca represented Australia in USA Horse Archery competitions in 2014 (Texas) and 2015 (Texas and Pennsylvania). She also holds Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and Equestrian Australia (EA) Official & Coach accreditation.
Bianca’s multifaceted qualifications as a Professional Transformational Coach (Dip. Life Coach); Equine Assisted Psychotherapist (EPI model); Counsellor (Master of Counselling Practice); Horse Archery Instructor (Level 2); and Equestrian Australia Vaulting Coach (Intro), allied with her Aboriginal cultural heritage provide her with a range of unique skills and experiences to draw from to empower people healing from trauma.
Why should people learn to be assertive and how have you supported people internationally in being assertive?
There is a lot of misconception about what it means to be assertive, some of this is societal, cultural, or learned interactive behaviours from when we are children. This is specifically critical when we consider gender bias that may occur when women are being assertive. Put simply, assertiveness means that communication values both your needs and the other parties in a respectful manner.
Imagine communication and interaction with each other like that! Quite often as women, we can be told that we are too bossy, dominant or possibly passive aggressive; whereas if a male was communicating in a similar manner he would be described as being assertive – that’s gender bias. Unfortunately, women can be the perpetrators of this stereotype against other women too!
That’s why it’s important that we understand that disrespecting or discounting our needs when we are communicating with others may impact us, and can lead to a lot of negative self-talk. I work with people across Australia and Internationally to improve their understanding of what it means to be assertive, the subconscious thought patterns about their communication style; and to practice their assertive communication in “bite size chunks” from the comfort of their own home. People access my online development courses in their own time, requiring only approx. 20-30 minutes per week.
As a trauma and domestic violence recovery specialist, how have you adapted to support people during lock down?
We are seeing some fantastic opportunities resulting from the COVID pandemic and ‘lock-down’. People are becoming more comfortable in accessing mental health services through online platforms such as zoom, teams, phone, face time etc. This means that many potential difficulties in accessing qualified and suitable trauma-informed counselling services are being lessened. State or country borders are less important, provided you meet the relevant legislations in each area, and physical, language and cultural barriers can be reduced as well.
In the case of people experiencing domestic violence, accessing services online while the individual is not in a safe situation brings its own challenges. I have also found that people are increasingly interested in accessing mental health services that are set outside, such as bush therapy and equine assisted psychotherapy. I have adapted to provide one to one services rather than group sessions with flexible hours – both online and outdoor bush therapy, equine assisted psychotherapy services – and with a bit of creativity and mobile phones, I can offer these other therapies via facetime or zoom as well!
Why is it important for people to connect to country?
For many of us there is a disconnect between the environment and ourselves. We work in temperature-controlled offices with minimal natural light, we may not fully understand the changing seasons, we grumble about seasons like winter and we may not take the time to appreciate the tiny parts of nature. The Japanese have taken this further and long researched the positive effects of “Shin-rin-yoku” (forest bathing) in an attempt to understanding rising stress and anxiety levels, ill health, and what can be done to combat these.
Connection to country goes deeper than the physical environment and seasons. It honours and recognises that we are part of a living breathing organism that has a very long history of ancestors, songlines and energies that are still able to be felt if we just take the time to tune in, feel and look with more than our eyes. It acknowledges whose traditional land we live on, and encourages us to be a steward for the future….that we are intrinsically part of, rather than apart from, the land.
When we are part of something, we are not alone. In today’s world, we see so many people who feel alone for a variety of reasons. I encourage people to tune in and connect, which inevitably leads them to discover more about themselves.
How do horses and animals play an important role in healing trauma?
Horses and other animals, as long as ethical consent is observed for all beings participating (including the animals), can assist in so many ways to help people become aware of their inner world, improve their emotional regulation through role modelling, calming mirror neurons and relational connection with another, where trust can start to be developed. Horses and animals encourage respectful and curious touch (receiving and giving), which can be a huge step for someone who has experienced complex trauma.
Rather than me explain this, I’d love to share a testimonial from a client who shared some pretty powerful insights into how transformative and healing connection to country and working in partnership with horses and other animals can be.
“We haven’t ever experienced anything like what you’ve worked to intentionally create for the therapeutic space. It is just that actually …. space …. safe space. Our body hasn’t ever experienced being in a space where it’s so supported to be calm and connected to deep energies and then to share this with you …. another person. Totally new experience for us all …. It actually helps us trust when there is no pressure from the therapist or agenda or assessment of everything we say into their framework of understanding that they then put onto us to define who we are and what our dysfunction is that requires fixing.
There’s never been safe space in a relationship for us to explore who we might be …. You hold space in such a large way including the earth and elements and nature and the animal beings help because they haven’t ever been so disconnected from it all …. they have so much to show us. Our brain can’t learn to be less fearful if we aren’t actually having better relationships and environments and experiences. Yet no therapy has ever considered this … then our ‘failure’ to think ourselves ‘better’ got us rejected and shamed by the very people who were supposed to be helping us.”
Your greatest challenge?
As a business owner, professional mental health practitioner and a compassionate being, my biggest challenge is to make sure the services I offer not only value each person for their uniqueness, but importantly that each person’s healing journey can look vastly different.
What one person sees as two people “going for a walk through the bush” can actually be a deeply healing and connected therapeutic process unique to the person’s skills, abilities and potential diagnosis, physical, cognitive and/or social limitations. Communicating that to funding bodies who view healing in one way, usually through a medical model, can be frustrating at times. I continue to push through those barriers and challenges, because for me, supporting people to heal through respectful connection, is what I am intensely passionate about!
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