While a student in grade school, North Shore’s Carolyn Collins read the book Nobody’s Fault? by Patricia Hermes, in which a young girl is treated by a child psychiatrist after the death of her brother. The rest, as they say, is history. “I knew then and there that I wanted to be a therapist,” says Collins.
She later studied psychology at Indiana University, then went on to receive her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University Chicago and eventually, her post-master’s degree in art therapy from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago.
“My practicum supervisor at Loyola said I practiced like an art therapist, and I’d never heard of that,” says Collins. “I’d been working on an inpatient psychiatric unit for kids at Rush Hospital and also with adult outpatient groups, and would bring out expression creatively, like through drawing. I used art as an adjunct to get at root issues.”
After graduation, Collins pursued the art therapy discipline more closely, co-founding the nonprofit Art Therapy Connection and working in Chicago Public Schools as an art therapist for children with mental health and behavioral issues. At the same time, she was raising four kids of her own.
“I was giving a lot of my energy to others but needed to pay attention to what was in my control,” says Collins. “I became very interested in how nutrition plays a role in health and wellness, specifically in its role in mental health. I pursued my health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and then created a company to merge all my knowledge.”
That company is Be Healthy Within, a wellness company that provides educational and therapeutic services including individual counseling for teens and adults, workshops, group programs, and individual health coaching. Collins’ mission is to help individuals balance their lives and improve wellness by strengthening themselves through mindful eating and healthy lifestyle choices, including therapeutic practices for conscious awareness.
Recognizing that each person holds within themselves the innate ability to know what they need for healing, Collins guides her clients toward acceptance and empowers them to make the changes they need to live happier and healthier lives. Working from a holistic perspective, she encourages her clients toward all aspects of self-care.
“I look at our physical body as our first body and where we can be in control,” explains Collins. “On intake with clients, I ask what does self-care look like for you? That means examining your nutrition, exercise, career, connections with family and friends, values, and more. It’s a holistic way of practicing psychology where we take care of ourselves bi-directionally from outside, in and inside, out.”
For those interested in starting a self-care program, Collins recommends checking in with the physical body first. Am I drinking enough water? Am I moving my body regularly?
“Each individual has different needs. It is my goal to help my clients discover what those are and to create balance in their lives,” explains Collins.
“One of my biggest missions in life is to inspire and empower people to really feel their emotions,” says Collins. “When you feel good mentally, you feel good physically and are able to show up in the world and live life with purpose.”
Most of her clients are now 18 years old and older, although she does still host workshops for teens and adolescents. Art therapy, she says, can be misinterpreted as a tactic for children, but she still uses the tool with adults in her practice today.
“Most of my clients are high-functioning and Type A,” says Collins. “If they’re really in their head, I might ask them to draw something for me. It helps to get them into the right side of their brain instead of the left, which is much more logical. This way, you can connect the entire brain and the entire body.”
Last July, Collins and her husband went on a quick trip to Michigan, staying overnight at glamping destination—The Fields of Michigan. The second she stepped onto the property, Collins knew it was where she’d one day host a wellness retreat, and she spent part of her 24 hours on-site writing an agenda for the first iteration, “The Art of Connecting.”
“I spent time with my husband, too,” she jokes.
She hosted the one-day retreat last year with 13 women, who exercised, played, shared meals, explored, and connected to the environment and with each other. Collins will host another “The Art of Connecting” retreat at The Fields in September, but based on popular demand, it will be two full days of health and wellness.
“I’m going to allow more time during this fall’s retreat for internal reflection and for connection with each other. Several women attended last year who did not know anyone else, and it was really powerful to see them forge relationships,” says Collins, who also adds there will be additional activities, like a lavender farm visit or apple picking.
Before then, Collins will “walk the talk” with a four-day solo decompression visit to California, where she will write the retreat agenda and recharge her batteries. She’s also planning to soon launch an “Eat Your Greens” program whereby subscribers will receive five easy and healthy recipes each week.
“I believe in a combination of psychology and nutrition,” says Collins. “What I really want to accomplish through Be Healthy Within is to make people feel stronger and more empowered. That would be a win.”
MADDIE’S BERRY BLAST SMOOTHIE
• 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
• 1/2 cup of dairy-free yogurt (i.e. almond, coconut, cashew)
• 1/2 cup orange juice
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
• 1/2 tablespoon honey
Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add or decrease water for your desired consistency.
Tip: Flaxseed is rich in fiber and omega 3’s
For more information, visit behealthywithin.com.