Why work with me?
Vivian Kulaga, PhD., is a Pain, Trauma, and Stress Relief Therapist and Trauma Recovery Expert who works with clients to provide relief from chronic pain, emotional trauma, and chronic stress. Vivian specializes in providing natural and effective solutions for relief from chronic pain and emotional trauma based on her personal experience and professional training in order to create a fulfilling way of life.
More specifically, Vivian works as an EMDR therapist, hypnotherapist, toxicologist and holistic health consultant who provides EMDR therapy, consulting, and hypnosis for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), past or present trauma, environmental and complex illnesses, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain conditions. Clients seek out Vivian’s services because of her unique personal history and background medical knowledge in these conditions.
“I believe in listening to the body, following your heart, and using natural methods to heal, recover, and maximize the quality of your life. I believe in the power of the mind and of the human spirit to overcome any challenge. I believe in never giving up and striving for the very best. It is this spirit that keeps me going and giving my very best.”
Education, Certifications, Memberships, Special Trainings and Courses
- PhD in Medical Science and Toxicology, Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto (This is an academic/scientific degree in research and Vivian is not a medical doctor, nor a psychologist).
- Doctoral-level Collaborative Program in Biomedical Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmacology, University of Toronto
- Certified EMDR Therapist, EMDRIA – Approved EMDR Training
- Member of EMDR International Association and EMDR Canada
- Dissociation of the Personality and the EMDR Treatment of Chronic Traumatization Program
- Certified Hypnosis Practitioner, Masters Level, Ontario Hypnosis Centre, Toronto, Canada
- Masters level Course in the Architecture of Hypnosis by Mike Mandel at the University of Toronto
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Depression and Anxiety Course
- Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management Course
- Honors Bachelor of Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Neuroscience and Biology
- Member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists in Ontario (CRPO)
- Certified Yoga Instructor (with Ashtanga yoga practice since 1999)
My Personal Story
So how does a scientist-toxicologist become a Pain, Trauma, and Stress Relief Therapist and Trauma Recovery Expert?
My story in a nutshell… I have to admit it wasn’t exactly a straightforward route, nor a straightforward story, but good ones never are.
First of all, words like chronic pain, suffering, emotional distress, were probably not running through my parents’ heads as I defended and received my PhD in medical science and toxicology. – That’s actually when “Viv” became “Dr. Viv” among family and friends, a loving nickname given by one of my best friends that evolved to “EMDR Viv” as my passion for EMDR developed and my career path started to take shape. But that’s jumping ahead of the story…
Being a scientist, not enough?
Always having been a “keener” when it came to school and science, I always thought that I would just stay on the academic path, doing all kinds of important sounding research and publishing more and more scientific papers – I had already published 11 by the time I graduated. But my desire to expand beyond my scientific world and to connect with people pushed me to other places – all over the world in fact!
Destiny had something else in store for me. I never could have imagined what was about to happen next. Nothing had prepared me for what was coming, not my PhD, not the sports I loved to play, nor the languages I had learned to speak on my travels, nor my life experiences, not even my dear friends and family.
I didn’t anticipate that during the youthful summer of my life, tragedy could befall me and that I could lose everything that I had come to think of as my life…
The world beckons I explore!
Following 10 years of study and work in academia, I decided it was time to travel. I had had enough work and I needed a break. I needed a little “me” time and a break from my fast paced lifestyle of long workdays, late nights that often stretched into the weekends. and “type A” perfectionist tendencies.
South America seemed like a good place to start. I was going to just kick back and relax and learn to be myself again without all the pressure to succeed or need to overachieve that I had been putting on myself.
In South America, I finally had the opportunity to brush up on my Spanish, to learn Portuguese, and best of all, to live with local families and to really learn about the heart and souls of so many people so different yet so similar to myself. I had the privilege and the opportunity to connect with so many different cultures. People from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brasil, Venezuela, and Colombia would all leave a lasting impression on my life, like a permanent watermark in my heart.
I spent the next 3 years down south developing myself, growing, learning, and connecting.
Without warning, I began to fall…
Following my first year in South America, something mysterious began to happen to me, and not in a good way like all the other wonderful good things that had happened to me on my journey.
I started becoming ill. It started off as a terrible headache that wouldn’t go away for 6 months. It was accompanied by tiredness, fatigue, and a slew of skin problems I had never had. Then terrible allergies to everything you can imagine followed. Life slowly became intolerable as I become increasingly disabled. I couldn’t eat and I could hardly walk. My body ached terribly with my newly diagnosed arthritis. I was in chronic pain and even sleep became a challenge.
Life was all but free from suffering between the bouts of daily nausea, headaches and irritability. I became completely isolated from the people and activities I had once loved. The social butterfly I had once been, had her wings clipped. I was relegated to a new kind of life. A life of loneliness, isolation, and unimaginable suffering. Words are inadequate to describe these dark days here. I never had imagined that something like this was even possible and it left me totally and utterly devastated physically and mentally.
It took a couple of years, multiple panels of laboratory tests, a team of international doctors in the US, Canada and Colombia, and my own scientific inquisitiveness and determination to figure out what was wrong with me – and it wasn’t easy!! By the end of it, I had a list of devastating diagnoses that had left me bedridden and virtually incapacitated. For someone who had always been running around the world, rock climbing, hiking up mountains, doing martial arts and practising yoga daily, I could not have imagined it possible for me to be bedridden and disabled before the age of 30! How depressing and how sad was my state at this time… (Luckily, I’ve since done EMDR therapy myself so I now see what a blessing this all was, despite the hardship and suffering it created at the time).
My condition came as devastating news to my family and friends, and most of all to myself. It was easy to lose hope with only questions and no answers to my pain and suffering. But I didn’t give up because I knew that if there was a way out, I would find it. I just had to keep trying and not give up. It was only this BELIEF that kept me alive.
I’m so glad that I found the strength to keep going and believing – even when the light seemed most dim and the darkness surrounded me – because the light did eventually come. It wasn’t overnight, but it did.
Having hope is sometimes the hardest part but I promise it’s the most crucial, so have hope. Always, have hope.
And then there was light!
I spent the next couple of years researching and trying out various therapies under the guidance of some very rare, special, kind and knowledgeable physicians and therapists. As I began my recovery process, I started to see miraculous transformations in my condition. I soon wanted to give back and share the knowledge I had gained with others who were suffering. I started publishing information and resources online and I started a support group for people struggling with similar problems to help guide them towards the path of recovery.
During my recovery, I discovered many beneficial lifestyle changes and treatment strategies that made a profound difference in my health as well as the health of my friends, family, and colleagues. I also discovered within me the deep desire to help people directly and personally, and so my investigation into the therapy modalities began.
But my journey wasn’t over. I needed to learn more, to gain more ground in my recovery that was being blocked by a lot of the trauma I had suffered.
A therapist was born…
That’s when I came across EMDR, hypnosis, meditation, and mindfulness to name a few gateways to accessing the full power and potential of the mind in healing. The MOST critical and vital component to healing is the subconscious programming in your mind.
At first perhaps I laughed and sneered not knowing much about these techniques and therapies – although little did I know that many of them are very old, tried and true, and scientifically-proven techniques.
Being a scientist, I decided to look into the research myself. I soon discovered there was a mountain of scientific studies supporting the therapeutic benefits of these therapies and techniques. The papers talked about the many psychological and physical health benefits associated with these modalities and so I decided to dig deeper. Using myself as a guinea pig, I explored the amazing healing and transformative powers of each.
I used these strategies to change my life and to further my physical and mental recovery by leaps and bounds. I was so impressed with the results and how natural and effortless it was, that I decided to become a student again (despite already having done 10 years of university….). I was particularly fond of how simple these techniques were and how harmoniously they worked with the body’s natural system, without the need for chemical or artificial aids.
The practitioner emerges…
I soon became trained to work as a certified hypnosis practioner and then as an EMDR therapist. I also gained experience in using mindfulness and meditation, hypnosis and EMDR to relieve chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Since that time I have been truly blessed to witness their tremendous transformative powers within myself and my clients. My eyes honestly fill with tears when I think of the lives that have been changed before my very eyes, and my privilege of witnessing and being instrumental in these changes. It’s such rewarding work. I could not have imagined that therapies so natural and easy could be so effective – even though the research clearly supports them!
“Seeing is believing!” 🙂
The magic I’ve observed I think is due to the unique combination of the approaches I use with my clients, and the personal tailoring of each approach to each individual. As I continue to work, I continue to see these amazing transformations in my clients and I am continually convinced of the power and effectiveness of these techniques and my holistic approach. I feel continually blessed and privileged to be a part of this process, and so everything, no matter how difficult or trying, that led me to this path has been my greatest blessing.
-And that’s my story in a nutshell!
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