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An Anxious Kid

As a child growing up in a Colorado mountain town, I was extremely shy and had lots of stomach issues due to anxiety. My sisters always insisted I sit by the window on the way to a day of skiing because I would inevitably need to roll down the window and lose my breakfast as we rolled into the parking lot. 


My strategy as a child and teenager for dealing with anxiety was avoidance of situations that made me anxious. My efforts to avoid feeling anxious, particularly in social situations, resulted in increasing depression and my life becoming more and more limited.


The Turning Point

One evening in my early twenties as I was lying on my bed feeling hopeless and thinking I would be better off dead, I was visited by a spirit being who I saw standing next to me. This being told me that even if I died I would not be able to avoid facing the life challenges that at the moment seemed impossible to face, and that I would be able to find my way through this. Though I had no direct experience with spirits or belief in an afterlife at that time, the presence and words of this being were so vivid and powerful that I accepted both as true without question. I never again considered suicide, and my search for healing and understanding what my life was about began in earnest.


Searching for Answers

Realizing I needed a change in direction, I dropped out of graduate school where I was studying creative writing and became interested in healing work. I eventually became a massage therapist and a Physical Therapist Assistant and worked in a hospital setting. While I learned a lot and became much more grounded doing this work, I also felt restless in focusing exclusively on the physical body. I sensed that so much of the physical suffering I saw in the people I worked with had emotional and spiritual roots that weren’t being addressed.


During this time, I was introduced to a spiritual teacher and eventually took a one year leave of absence from my job to live at her ashram on the east coast. One year turned into twelve years of living, meditating, chanting, studying, and working in the ashram. Far from being a quiet, reclusive setting, the ashram was usually packed with people, and the living and working conditions were crowded, fast-paced, and intense. It was a challenging and important time during which I faced and overcame many of my old fears and social anxieties, and learned to navigate relationships with many different kinds of people.


After twelve years, I returned to Colorado to be closer to my family and to continue my healing journey by getting a master’s degree in counseling. This led to another twelve year life chapter – this time working as a crisis intervention counselor and supervisor in a community mental health center. Due in part to my own mental health history, I found that working with people who were suicidal or experiencing psychosis was especially poignant and meaningful.



My decision to leave the mental health center and start my own practice as both a counselor and a Jin Shin Jyutsu® practitioner grew out of a desire to integrate the physical, emotional, and spiritual perspectives that have informed my journey to find peace within myself and to support others in finding their own way.


Life at Home

As long as I can spend time laughing, having fun, and being silly with friends and family, I’m content to live a pretty monastic life with my two cats Lu and Arnie. Being very much a water person, I love to take walks by streams or lakes and every year spend a week or two on the Oregon coast with two of my sisters, walking for miles breathing in the sea air and listening to the waves and seagulls. I also enjoy learning new things and stretching my understanding and awareness of the meaning of life, energy, and the spiritual world.


Paula Stephani
Licensed Professional Counselor
2299 Pearl St. Suite 402A
Boulder, CO. 80302