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"Physiotherapy Meets Mindfulness" With Georgie Davidson

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Megan Walker: Hello, and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. My name is Megan Walker, and today our very special guest is Georgie Davidson, who is an experienced physiotherapist and who's undertaken further studies in the field of mindfulness. Hi, Georgie, how are you today?

Georgie Davidson: I'm good, thank you, Megan. Thank you so much for inviting me to be here.

Megan Walker: Oh, I'm really looking forward to our mindful conversation. And I know when I try and practice mindfulness in conversations it can go anywhere, and I suppose that's a good thing, isn't it? That we are so in the moment that we are going to be taken who knows where. But what I wanted to do was introduce Georgie to all of you, and so talk about her background in the traditional field of being an allied health professional, and then moving into more of the digital course space. So Georgie, do you want to start us off. Tell us about your background. Where did you study? Where are you based? What have you been doing? Over to you.

Georgie Davidson: Okay. Yeah, thank you, Megan. Hello. Hello everyone. I've been a physio for many years and early on in my career I realised that working with people from a physical perspective it was really quite narrow, and I had a lot of questions around why does this person respond to this treatment and another person won't? And realised that there was so much more for me to learn around how someone was responding to their issue, whether it be pain or whatever. So I went down a really interesting path, still working as a physio over three decades, exploring different ways to work with people. That led me to train as a yoga teacher, because yoga was my passion as a young person. So I trained as a yoga teacher and then discovered the work of John Kabat-Zinn, teaching the mindfulness program in the eight week MBSR course. So I trained to teach that.

So, basically since then, I've been incorporating mindfulness and yoga into my work with clients and been teaching group programs. So I teach the MBSR course. I teach a professional program for health professionals working with people with pain. I teach some shorter wellbeing programs. So it's been really interesting doing a mixture of those different things over the years. And I think because of that I've developed this niche, I think, where being fortunate to have been able to get in on the early side of the mindfulness hype, because I've been teaching it now since 2010, to be able to see a pathway of how we can incorporate it into clinical care. And particularly for physical based therapists, so exercise, vis and physios, because we don't really have a model of what that looks like.

Megan Walker: Oh, how interesting. That's amazing. And so you and I have come to meet each other through being involved in online courses. Tell me about that transition. So you've been delivering programs, you've been working in clinic. How did the digital side come about for you?

Georgie Davidson: Yeah, that's a really good question. For me, I think it was that it also tied in with the marketing side of it, because as a health professional I always believed that if you do a really good job people will find you. And I've realised that that's not really the way that it is. That we live in the world now that there's so many competing bits of information that I had to get on board with being able to promote and advertise. I was really scared of Ahpra, of saying the wrong thing, so I had all this, and I had all this feedback that's just sitting on bits of paper and spreadsheets, and not actually sharing that. So that's how I initially met you, Megan.

Megan Walker: Yes. Okay.

Georgie Davidson: By posting on something about can I put... Because I was seeing people were putting things on social media, I was like, are you allowed to do that? So someone then put me in touch with you, Megan, around the Ahpra guideline course that you were doing. So that's how I got hooked in, because I wanted to be able to promote my courses more fully. And also, I wanted to be able to deliver it to a bigger audience, because I was getting inquiries from people from interstate and some from the UK. And I thought how can I do this when what I was doing was the health professional training, which is what I'm focusing on, was a two day course. And I like, well actually I can see that I'd like to be able to offer this to a broader audience, but also I'd like to be able to roll it out in a way that people can build skills over time rather than just two days, and then they go. So how do we build in those skills over time.

So that was how I then started to look at actually maybe I need to be doing more online and learning how to promote that in a Ahpra safe way.

Megan Walker: Wonderful. And did COVID play a role in you moving into this space a little faster than you'd thought? Tell me about the impact there.

Georgie Davidson: It did. It did. My IT fear had to be worked through because I wanted to run my mindfulness course, my MBSR eight week course. I could see there was a need for that so I decided to run that online, so I started to build the skills around how to work with IT stuff and Zoom. I then also started to learn more about the social media, but the more I learned about the social media the more I realised I didn't quite know what I was doing, so I needed some advice around that. But certainly, COVID took me out of my comfort zone, but helped me to build more skills in the IT arena. Definitely.

Megan Walker: Fantastic. I always think of IT like it's almost like baking a cake. My husband had a big birthday on the weekend and I made this really extravagant cake. I'm not normally an icing person. I'm very industrious. We get the cake done, there was the cake. This thing was layers of different icings. I looked at the recipe and it's this, it's so many step processes. And I thought that's like IT in a strange, bizarre parallel, that we just look at it and we see this list and it's like, okay, the overwhelm is so real when we're faced with will it break? Are we going to make it worse? Is it going to cost us more money to fix this? Once I get into that step, am I creating more time? We just get so stuck looking at this long recipe, and it's like, okay, well what do we know? Get all the ingredients out, What's the first step?

And I think, wow, there's so much help around, with help desks and Googling. Okay, so we just do the first step. Now what's the second one? We have to push ourselves through that, don't we? Because it's so overwhelming that fear of... What was it for you? Is it getting it wrong? Is it breaking something? What is your resistance around the technology?

Georgie Davidson: I think it's more about being seen.

Megan Walker: Oh yes. Okay. I'm putting my hand up.

Georgie Davidson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: What would people say?

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's more around that aspect of it and what people are going to think. And I moved through that now, because it's about offering something that people really need, and I've got that in my mindset that I'm providing assistance and help and guidance. But there is that, how do I put this on Facebook so it is Ahpra friendly, and it connects to people, and it's meaningful for them? There is that, and I'm this okay person in being able to do that. I've got the skills. I mean for me, getting that sense was huge. My area is working with people with pain and the confidence is in that, but it's also in your skills that you've developed over a lifetime too. So it's about putting yourself out there and those skills. And for me, I found that I kept going back to, oh, I need more skills. I need more skills. I'll go and work in a pain service for three years, which is what I did, to make sure I've got those skills.

So you go round and round and then you get to a point with your skill set, but also with your social media and your marketing, that it's like, actually maybe I do know enough. I'm at that point, but soon you won't be here anymore, and you get to that point and you go, if I'm going to do it, I've got to do it now. And I have to overcome that IT fear and just do it.

Megan Walker: Yeah. It's so true. It's so true. I thought, oh, I'm getting more coaching work. I really should go and do a psychology degree. It's like, well, hang on a minute. I'm a marketer. I don't have the skill set for that. How about just a lighter touch coaching program, and then refer people as needed? It's that when is enough, enough? I love how you've made your purpose greater than your fear, and so it is so purpose driven. You've gone from the inside out. Whereas if we look at the fear of what people might say or could go wrong, we get stuck in that focus on me, and the focus is bigger than me. And so in order to get that breadth of people you can help, I'm going to work through that vulnerability and that exposure and the what ifs and go, yeah, I'm going to do it anyway.

So, well done. That's a massive step.

Georgie Davidson: I have a little mindfulness strategy, because that's my topic, so I have a little process that I do and what I say to myself and how I connect in. And this is actually relevant to the work I do with health professionals and the work I do with pain too, in that it is about being present with what's here now, rather than going into the future and going, okay, let's be here present here now in the body, which is noticing that and connecting to the ground. And then when the little doubt goes, it's like, okay, I'm here now, and it's not about me. I find that little process for me is really helpful.

Megan Walker: So helpful. Oh, so helpful. All the what ifs can go away. I can only control this breath.

Georgie Davidson: Exactly. Yeah. And coming back again to working with people, with working with pain, Megan, and I think what you said about baking the cake. Baking a cake and the steps and the layers. I think that's very much the same as my process with my program also is that it is about the layers and it is about skill building for ourselves as health professionals to be able to look after ourselves, but to be able to build skills, to be able to help our clients so that they can then build skills. So it's not a fixed approach. It's about building those skills and those awarenesses that help us to actually intervene in a way that can help take someone from being really stuck in pain to actually feeling so much more empowered to be able to live their life.

Megan Walker: That's a really nice change to the medical model, isn't it? It's not problem, solution, problem, solution.

Georgie Davidson: It is.

Megan Walker: It's forward moving.

Georgie Davidson: It's skill building, and it's resource building those layers. And for me, I see that the skills that I'm building working with you are supplementary to being able to do that, because that's not my skill set. I know you said you know your bit. I know my skill set and I know where I need support and help to be able to bring what I feel could actually be quite transformational for health professionals. But I actually really think it can be really transformational for physios.

Megan Walker: Definitely.

Georgie Davidson: There's this piece in me that feels that we are missing a piece. We're missing a gap in our education.

Megan Walker: Definitely.

Georgie Davidson: And I can see what that is through my own experience and working with health professionals over years. And it's not that hard to fill that gap, but we've got to recognise that it's there.

Megan Walker: Yeah. Oh no, this is a big... I don't want to head down this big conversation because I want to bring you back to what we've learned and where you're going next, but I can hear the impact. As a layperson, I'm hearing the impact on chronic pain, on someone presenting with physical symptoms in physio. But are you saying what's being done to address the mental component of that pain?

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. I think we recognise, as physios now, that we need to be providing a psychologically informed, psychosocial approach. We recognise we need to do that and there is research and evidence that suggests we need to do that, but how do we do that? And what's happening in the physio profession is that we are going, okay, well these are my physio skills. I better go and learn some CBT. I better go and learn some ACT. But those programs are put together for psychologists working in clinical psych positions and we're going, well, maybe we need to be doing this as well. But there is a way we can work with people with the body, with noticing, because pain is in the body, stress is in the body, fear is in the body, that I think matches our skill set in a much better way and fits within our scope in a better way.

Megan Walker: Yeah, brilliant.

Georgie Davidson: That's applicable to all physios, wherever they are, whoever they're working with. And I think we haven't recognised that. We're trying to be physios and psychologists, whereas I think there is a way of being a physio, but addressing the whole picture through the body. The first foundation of mindfulness is the body.

Megan Walker: Yes. And take that pressure off. We're not asking you to be also a psychologist in addition too. Just adopt a different approach.

Georgie Davidson: Different approach.

Megan Walker: Fantastic.

Georgie Davidson: To work for the body.

Megan Walker: Tell me your vision. Oh, so many things. Oh, okay. I want to know what you've learned on this journey of going digital, and where it's going.

Georgie Davidson: Okay. Well, going digital, what have I learned? I've learned part of what we did with going digital was first of all texting and talking to people, which I think was really valuable. And for me, I've learned a couple of things from that. I learned that people that did the course as far as eight years ago with me still say how helpful that was in transforming their practice. So for me it was very confirming, validating, but I also learned that people value a lot of face-to-face. And that's the experience they get through interacting with the practices that I share. It's really powerful. So I've realised that, for me, going digital is also about incorporating coaching sessions one to one. And maybe further down the line, getting people to come live to a masterclass face-to-face session as well.

So I've learnt that bit. I've learned about, oh yeah, how to try and take a face-to-face course and divvy it up into pieces, to be able to provide it online. I'd already been learning more about how to use the technology and I'm still on that journey. Like, how do I load it all in? So I'm still kind of learning about all that part of it. And the group side of it's important too, I think for me. So then that comes back to the coaching.

Megan Walker: Fantastic. And where to from here? What is the name of your program? Where is it at in its development?

Georgie Davidson: Well the course, I call the course BODYMAP because it is about finding the way of the map inside the body to help with pain, and the MAP is mindfulness and pain.

Megan Walker: Right. Lovely.

Georgie Davidson: And mindfulness also has different words around mindfulness, movement, meta, which is kindness and mindset. A also has, and I won't go onto that, but they're all playing fields, I have to admit.

Megan Walker: Very connected.

Georgie Davidson: So I've got the name, and the current name of the program that I'm delivering for health professionals is Clinical Mindfulness and Pain Management for Health Professionals. So fairly straightforward, so that's the name.

Megan Walker: Yeah, that's good. What it is.

Georgie Davidson: So I've got the name. The content I've upgraded because my initial course when I first put it together, which actually was with a work cover grant incidentally was back in 2014, so I've updated it because there have been changes in pain science since then. So I've updated that. I've got all the thing mapped up, and the sessions, and the coaching sessions all planned. I now need to go on and do the videoing of the sessions. I've also been working on my email list, because that was actually something else I learned. I've learned more about how to build an email list.

Megan Walker: Oh, fabulous.

Georgie Davidson: I've been doing some free monthly sessions, which I offer to health professionals, in particular physios. So that's been helping that. So I've got a building community. I've got a building mail list. But yeah, so I've got to finish the course. 

Megan Walker: That's amazing, Georgie. Look how far you've come though. Look at what you've done.

Georgie Davidson: I have come a long way.

Megan Walker: Huge. That's huge.

Georgie Davidson: I have come a way. It is a lot of work, but I feel it's really valuable and it's taking me in the direction I want to go, because my initial vision when I started this originally was that... And this is a very big vision and I'm nervous even putting this out here. Out here and there.

Megan Walker: Yes, I want to hear it.

Georgie Davidson: Is that you know how we have Pilates as a program and people go to Pilates classes?

Megan Walker: Sure.

Georgie Davidson: Okay. I envision that in time people can go to BODYMAP classes. So it's programs that are offered in physio clinics, in different settings, with trained health professionals to teach movement, which is a mindful movement practice, that's specifically geared to people with pain. So it's got education woven into movement.

Megan Walker: Brilliant.

Georgie Davidson: So that's my five year plan.

Megan Walker: That's awesome. I love it.

Georgie Davidson: But it's very big. It's a very big ambitious thing, but it's one step at a time. One layer of the cake.

Megan Walker: Yeah, yeah, that's right. Exactly. Yes.

Georgie Davidson: It's in the icing.

Megan Walker: And you must think of the trajectory that you're on, and time is such a great helper of success because if you're doing something towards it every single day. Someone said to me other day, sometimes it's just a matter of hanging on and you'll get there. As much as forward moving all of the time, it's going to get there. The journey is big, but how else would ... Gosh, Joseph Pilates, or the BodyPump people, or anyone who's .. no, BodyPump is not so much relevant, but anyone who's created a successful mainstream program, it all started with a concept, an idea, and small groups. And then from there and there and there. Great trajectory. That's so exciting.

Georgie Davidson: Very ambitious.

Megan Walker: I love it. I love it.

Georgie Davidson: But it's to fill a need though. I think that we have a huge problem with chronic pain and what we are doing isn't really working on a bigger scale. We know going to a Multi-D Clinic is helpful, but that's not accessible, that's not practical. So if we can have group programs that can really be economically viable as well, I think that there's a need.

Megan Walker: That's so true. Absolutely.

Georgie Davidson: There's a need to be met.

Megan Walker: Yeah. I think, definitely, what you've shared would've resonated with so many people listening and going, oh yeah, we are still siloed, aren't we?

Georgie Davidson: Yeah.

Megan Walker: That's the psychologists, they handle the body work. We handle the exercise bit. We handle that, but where's that combination? So what would you say to other practitioners who are thinking, I want to carve out a niche for myself, but I'm terrified of doing it.

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. I'll speak more to the physio world, because that's the world that I know.

Megan Walker: Sure.

Georgie Davidson: It's a little hard for me, I suppose, because I still haven't... I mean, I'm invited to do quite a lot of presentations and things, so I am in that niche. But I suppose it's about really finding... if you feel that you have something that's a little bit different, that really offers something to your clients, then I think that's there to be shared. I feel that it's identifying what you have. And reaching out to community, I think, is helpful so that you don't feel that you're alone in working in that. So getting some good people around you, certainly like yourself, if you want to do it online, Megan. People like yourself to help support the IT aspect of it. And you've got to do the work behind it too. You've got to look at the research. You've got to work out where it fits in relation to that. But our profession is built on people that have gone outside the square.

Megan Walker: I like that.

Georgie Davidson: Physio is built on that. If we look at the Jeff Maitlands of the world and things, and some people might say that's had its time, but really it's built our skill set as a profession. I think that sitting on the edge and being prepared to stand your ground is important. And I do think things like mindfulness is really helpful in us addressing the doubts and the thinking and the fear that we might have, and going, do it anyway.

Megan Walker: I love it. And the brilliance of learning mindfulness to teach clients is the personal empowerment and discovery of self, isn't it? So people who come and work with you in your sphere, if they're saying I'm coming to learn so I can help my clients, wow, that's a life changing experience for yourself.

Georgie Davidson: You can't separate it. People that come to my courses, right from the beginning we talk about this is not about just what you do, it's not a doing thing. Or yes, it is a doing thing as well, but it really has to come from in here. It's like you can't teach someone to swim if you don't know how to swim yourself.

Megan Walker: Ah, so true.

Georgie Davidson: And mindfulness is not some weird new age. Mindfulness is paying attention and being present to noticing what's happening in your body and in your mind. So I mean, it's a human trait, but in our busy world we can tend to lose touch with that.

Megan Walker: Keep passing. Wow.

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. So it is, it's all. This is where people that have come to the trainings years ago feel that it's been helpful because that was a shift in recognising that other part of themselves, that you don't go back, it stays with you.

Megan Walker: Yeah, that's right. 

Georgie Davidson: It stayed with them and it's brought a different element into their work over years. And in some cases, changed the trajectory of their choices as to how they work with people, and what they've established.

Megan Walker: Absolutely. Yeah. I did a mindfulness course and I'd love to do more, I'm going to be in touch with you, 10 years ago, and it changed my life. And I think about it every day. I do the meditations from that every day, from 10 years ago.

Georgie Davidson: Wow. Yeah.

Megan Walker: It's life changing how you, oh, everyone's out to get me, la, la, la. Hang on a minute. It changes your whole mindset of how you are in your place in the world, and give a dance. We're getting down too deep. Radical.

Georgie Davidson: I think what's happened lately over the last five years or so, because there's a lot of mindfulness in the media it's got diluted. People think it's the relaxation technique. And you and I, Megan, know that that's not what it is.

Megan Walker: It's a way of life.

Georgie Davidson: And I think there's a bit of, oh, mindfulness. There's a bit of disregarding it and going now that's just some light, fluffy thing perhaps, because we don't... it's that lack of recognition of the depth of the practice as a human trait and skill. But when you've explored it, you get it. If you haven't explored it, like people watching this might go, oh, mindfulness, who cares? What is this?

Megan Walker: It's not a huge physio thing.

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. Once you've explored it you really then can understand and see how it's important and why, and what role it can play in your life as a clinician or just as a family member, as a person, as a community member.

Megan Walker: Yeah. And Georgia, you do such great work. You do work that matters so much. How can people get in touch with you if they want to find out more, they want to start joining your email list? Did you hear? Georgie's growing her email list, so come and join it.

Georgie Davidson: That's a great question. That's a great question. Well, I have a webpage, which is [email protected]. I also have a Facebook page. I have two Facebook pages, actually. One is Mindful Movement Physiotherapy, which is more geared at the work I do with working with clients with pain. And then I have one that's BODYMAP, and the BODYMAP Facebook page. At the moment they are both public so you can access them publicly. The BODYMAP one is more geared at health professionals, and I put posts in there fairly regularly around different tips and ways of working with people with pain, and opportunities and things.

Megan Walker: What a star student you've been. Thank you so much. I mean, my vision is I want the go-to people to claim their space. I want pelvic pain. I want the physio mindfulness, body mindfulness. I want the cancer coping person. Whoever they are and whichever space that their calling is, I want them to claim that space. And it would be the greatest sense of pride for me to have the directory one day that any friend or family member says, "Who do I go to for my ACL rehab? But I've also got one leg that's shorter than the other..." I don't know, whatever it is, Georgie, I'm rambling. But who is that go-to person? And that person has, maybe it's a physical clinic, but maybe it's telehealth. And yes, they've got their courses and yes, they've got their community, and people with that challenge can go there and know they're in the right place. That excites me no end, and you are building that, so keep us posted. Can't wait to see this trajectory unfold.

Georgie Davidson: Thank you. Thank you, Megan.

Megan Walker: Thanks so much Georgie. And if anybody wants more information about creating an online course, have a look at my website. We've got the Private Practice Online Course Academy, that Georgie's been a wonderful student and part of. And yeah, Georgie, can't wait to see what's next. And thanks so much for chatting with me.

Georgie Davidson: Yeah. Thank you so much, Megan, and thank you everyone for listening.

Megan Walker: Bye now.

Georgie Davidson: Okay. Bye-bye.

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