I am currently writing a regular article on practice building, featured in each issue of the AmSAT News, a tri-annual news and journalistic publication of the American Society for the Alexander Technique. Here's my latest installment:
Building a practice in the Alexander Technique
Focus on Kitty Breen from Cambridge, MA
By Rachel Bernsen
Originally published in the AmSAT News, Issue No. 80, Summer 2009
Kitty Breen had a successful career in the non-profit and business world before she decided to become a full time Alexander Teacher. She trained as a teacher in order to heal debilitating back pain resulting from a car accident as a teenager. Two weeks after graduating from teacher training in 1992, no longer in pain, she entered a graduate management program at Yale. After a number of years in Education Philanthropy she decided to teach the Technique full time, but found she couldn’t make a living as an AT teacher. She was dismayed that something so seminal in her own life couldn’t translate into a living wage. She changed her strategy by rethinking her personal mission, asking herself, “What is important to me about this, if not the money.”
Kitty found that it was important for her to separate out the need to make a living (although admittedly a necessity) from what she saw as her real goal: to relieve suffering from pain and to give back the benefit of what she received from this work. Clarifying her goals left her more confident to promote the work instead of herself, or her practice.
Now in her sixth year of full time teaching, her practice is thriving. Her teaching has focused on people with chronic and acute pain, and her attention to this demographic has led to partnerships with members of the medical community. Breen has cultivated her relationships with doctors and hospitals carefully, waiting until she felt assured in her presentation, use, and knowledge of her practice.
She offers a complementary lesson to doctors who attend her presentations. Dr. Don Levy, who spoke at the 2008 AGM and is head of the Osher Clinical Center for Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has become a mentor of Breen’s; he is also one of her students and overcame back pain through regular lessons. Kitty is also now in Osher’s referral network.
In addition to private lessons, which are the foundation of her work, Kitty has organized her practice into several courses as part of “The Educated Back”™ series. “Back to Basics”™ is an 8-week course that includes one group class and one private lesson per week. She also offers a 6-week continuing education course called “Back on Track”™ that follows the same format. She feels this model is much more successful than just a group class or just private lessons, particularly for those suffering from back pain. Another success has been her introductory 2-hour course called “Freedom From Back Pain”™, which includes one private lesson. It is a prerequisite for the “Educated Back”™ series but is also designed to be useful to those who may not be interested or able to pursue ongoing lessons or classes.
Kitty’s syllabi are the result of many years of thoughtful research (her presentation at the 2008 Int’l Congress addresses this research) and feedback from her students, all of whom she asks to fill out comprehensive evaluation forms.
These programs provide students the tools they need to resolve their pain in an efficient and economical manner; their successful implementation has allowed Kitty to realize her goal in serving others while supporting herself.