PACIFIC PALISADES -When you meet Silvi Winthrop, you can’t help but sense there is something special about her. A naturally kind and positive person, Winthrop truly cares about those around her. It’s what brought her to get a master’s degree in psychology after her kids were grown and why she’s now taking a holistic approach to helping others. But, like most people, her life’s journey hit a few bumps in the road along the way.
The earlier years
Winthrop recalls that her life as a stay-at-home mom was fulfilling though exhausting. "I loved being a stay-at-home mom; I was very busy with everyday stuff like driving the kids, grocery shopping and laundry.” During that time, her husband traveled a lot for work. “Sometimes I felt a bit overwhelmed and tired." Looking for some reprieve from her everyday grind, Winthrop took a trip to Sedona, Arizona, to a meditation and mindfulness retreat.
"I left so calm, relaxed and energized. I was less anxious, calmer, a better parent, a better wife."
Winthrop returned to her Pacific Palisades home and continued to practice the meditation and mindfulness techniques she learned at the retreat. The former teacher began to think about the possibility of bringing these practices to moms she knew who could use the recharge too. "I saw positive changes in myself, and I wanted to give that to others," she explains.
Winthrop earned a certification in 2016 to teach mindfulness and breathwork classes. "I started emailing all the mothers I knew, letting them know about future classes I would be teaching."
Her first class was an eight-week series. "It was just fabulous. I loved it. It was gratifying to see these moms take something away from it.”
Winthrop built up to teaching several different courses over the next few years. Among them was a class in gratitude. “It’s being thankful for what we have. So often we're looking at what we don't have, like ‘I wish I could have more of this or a bigger house or a better car.’ But what about looking at everything we do have, like clothes, shelter and health? We often take for granted that we have the necessities that we need to live."
Then in 2020, COVID hit. "I had to shut down everything except for the free online meditation courses I was teaching."
Like many of us, the changes she had to make for COVID also forced Winthrop to reflect on what she was doing. Often, when she was still teaching clients in person, they would open up and share their challenges and life stories, which always made her want to do more. "I always wished that I had some more tools that I could help them with."
That's when Winthrop decided to go back to school. "At first, I thought, I can't return to school after 25 years! I was really fearful. Then my sons asked me, ‘Mom, what's your goal? What's your purpose in life? What do you want to do?' And I said, ‘Well, I love working with people. I love helping people. I love teaching people.’ So, they said, ‘There you go, you have your answer. You need to get your master’s in clinical psychology."
Winthrop applied for the Master of Psychology program at Pepperdine University in Malibu and was accepted.
"I worked so hard because I wanted to do well. I wanted to pass. The subject matter was so interesting—I loved it—so I delved into the work."
Winthrop took classes at Pepperdine for two years, and the second year included working in a residential treatment program. "That was excellent training for addiction trauma because underneath an addiction is trauma, and addiction is just a way of coping with the trauma."
That made Winthrop realize that mindfulness and meditation might be a good addition to the treatment of addictions. "It is an incredible tool. It's all about thoughts and emotions and feelings and how those turn into behaviors and actions. I knew it worked, so I started adding the practice to our facilitated group sessions."
Winthrop then decided she was ready to start her own practice, Silvi Winthrop Counseling.
Winthrop says she wholeheartedly believes that connection in a safe place is the first step to healing. "As your counselor, I will be there to accept you as you are in a welcoming, nonjudgmental manner."
Winthrop says she is thankful for the ability to give to others and for the support she received along the way. As for people who are thinking of their next steps, Winthrop says to follow your heart and believe in yourself. "I believe that everyone is capable of growth and change. No matter where you are in life or on your path to healing."
Practicing mindfulness over the holidays
"Pick a time to go for a short walk," says Winthrop. "Let's say five minutes, and then as you walk, pick something to focus on—flowers or trees, for instance—and when your mind goes to anxiety or your to-do list or what you're supposed to be doing and into judgment, bring your attention back to that flower or that tree so that you're in that present moment."
During the holiday season especially, Winthrop says people should take deep breaths to oxygenate the body, which calms the nervous system. “Pay attention to your breath, even for five minutes.. It helps calm your nervous system down."
Winthrop says that while homes are filled with families and friends during the holidays, setting boundaries is essential. "You don't have to say yes to everything. You don't have to please everyone all of the time. Be true to yourself. What is your intuition or your gut telling you? Listen to that."
For those spending the holidays alone, Winthrop recommends going outdoors and connecting with nature and/or giving back to the community. “Giving back can be such a wonderful experience for both those giving and those receiving.”
Click here to learn more about Silvi Winthrop Counseling.