Susan J O'Grady, PhD

My Yogic Path |  Full Circle

I am a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of  experience in providing psychotherapy for individuals and couples coping with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and various other medical conditions.

In 1999 I took my first professional training in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Several years ago I studied Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with Dr. Zindel Segal and Susan Woods. It has been a great pleasure to integrate mindfulness-informed psychotherapy into my work. Yoga, and other mindful movement practices, are a large component of these approaches.

I began my work in mind-body behavioral health at Kaiser Hospital Vallejo, CA where I received referrals from the Departments of Medicine and Neurology to treat patients with a variety of medical problems including headaches, fibromyalgia, sleep problems, back and neck pain, and other stress-related problems.

In the eight years I worked at Kaiser, I integrated complementary and alternative medicine approaches into traditional psychotherapy.  Using a variety of techniques such as biofeedback, hypnotherapy, relaxation training, and stress management, I developed a program that aimed to help patients reduce dependence on pain medications and addictive muscle relaxants and sedatives. My dissertation research found that using this complementary approach to treating common medical problems reduced doctor office visits by 75%, medications by 56%, emergency room visits by  19% and the effect was maintained for up to five years after treatment in over 100 patients.

I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Eleanor Criswell and Dr. Thomas Hanna, the founders Hanna Somatic Education, and editors of Somatics Magazine-Journal of The Bodily Arts and Sciences.  My mentor, Dr. Criswell, introduced me to yoga therapy during the years I obtained a Master’s degree at Sonoma State University.  Through weekly meetings studying the yoga sutras of Pantajali, I began to formulate ideas for blending eastern and western psychology.   After getting my Master’s Degree in counseling psychology, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in clinical psychology.  I recognized that having a strong foundation in traditional methods of treating emotional problems was necessary to be taken seriously in both worlds.  I wanted to deepen my understanding of psychological disorders and their treatment.

During my internship and fellowship at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, I worked as Chief Psychology Fellow in inpatient psychiatry. This experience allowed me to understand what true psychopathology looks like.  Armed with these very rewarding work experiences, I started a private practice in Walnut Creek, CA where I continued to work as a psychotherapist while raising my twin daughters.  Once my girls were in their final year of high school, and anticipating an empty next, I began a life long dream of studying yoga and becoming a registered yoga teacher and therapist (RYT-200.) I continue to provide psychotherapy for individuals and couples counseling in my private practice, but have been integrating yoga therapy when it is appropriate for some clients. Yoga therapy and mindfulness-informed psychotherapy, as well as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and stress reduction. These  approaches to treating psychological issues  can be woven into more traditional psychotherapy.

I studied yoga at Mt. Madonna Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains under the direction of Baba Hari Dass and his senior images-18students.  This training program is in the classical Ashtanga Yoga tradition, following the Yoga Sutras of Pananjali compiled over 2,000 years ago.  I received my 200-hour teaching certificate and am a registered yoga therapist with Yoga Alliance and The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). At the conclusion of my yoga teacher training I asked Baba Hari Dass for a Sanskrit name. It is with heartfelt gratitude to Babaji, for my name, Niranjana.